The last time I had a absolutely ‘WOW’ birdwatching experience was in Sulawesi, Indonesia. That was almost 2 years ago. So when we decided to head to the island of Curaçao in the Caribbean, I knew I wanted to spend my time birdwatching while hubby got his Advanced Open Water certification. (More about why we chose to visit Curaçao, in an upcoming post.)
Curaçao is separated from mainland South America by a deep ocean trench and is only about 40 miles north of the nearest point in Venezuela. The island has an interesting mix of subtropical and semiarid vegetation, which provides refuge to over 200 birds species. Of these species, a few are endemic to the Caribbean region, while several are common to South and/or North America. Curaçao has no endemic bird species, but a few sub-species are known to be local to the island, like the Brown-throated Parakeet (Aratinga pertinax pertinax) and the Yellow Oriole (Icterus nigrogularis curasoensis).
Before I get to my birdwatching experiences on the island, I must mention Sombré di Kabana, the cozy B&B we stayed at in the capital Willemstad. The tropical garden there, lovingly cared for by hosts Jolanda Schoeber and Walter Roesink, attracts a wide variety of birds. On our first morning at Sombré di Kabana (and every subsequent morning), we had ‘breakfast with the hummingbirds’ that visited the garden outside our casa. My very first sighting of a hummingbird! Such magical, fascinating creatures!
With that great start to my birdwatching on Curaçao, I was excited to connect with Bird Watching Curaçao and plan my trips with Michelle Pors-da Costa Gomez, Curaçao bird expert and co-founder of Bird Watching Curaçao. She, along with her enthusiastic colleague Rob Wellens, ensured that I got to see several bird species in the week that I was there. It also turned out to be a great way to see parts of the island that are completely off the tourist trail, like the stunning coastal cliffs, erstwhile plantations, the salinas (salt pans), even the grounds of a couple of golf resorts.
This being my first time birdwatching in the Caribbean region, every little rustling in the bush, held the promise of a ‘lifer’! I saw over 70 different bird species, all for the very first time! Here are a few of my favourites:
And what better way to wrap-up the birdwatching session than a meal at local restaurant Jaanchie’s. The bird feeders in the restaurant’s outdoor area attract a host of birds, keeping diners entertained throughout their meals. The owner Jaanchie is a jolly, bespectacled gentleman, who will come to your table and take your order. He’d also like to have you believe that iguana soup is vegetarian 😂 (the iguana is vegetarian, the soup is not!) But he was more than happy to customise my meal. The homestyle krioyo (Creole) food is hearty and delicious, even my vegetarian version!
And if you are still craving for some more avian action, you can visit the home of bird guide Rob Wellens and spend hours watching the antics of birds that visit the feeders in his backyard. Rob’s passion for birdwatching is rivalled only by his love of dogs (he has 5!). Rob is Curaçao’s very own ‘Birdman’! 😉
Beyond the all birdwatching, it was such an absolute joy to meet Michelle and her film-maker husband Leon Pors, who have dedicated themselves to the cause of conservation and environmental education on the island. It is always heartening to meet people who care so deeply about the world around them!
Most of my days on the island ended with watching the glorious sunset by the beach, blue cocktail in hand (made from the world-famous Curaçao liqueur), talking with hubby about his underwater adventures and the birds I had seen that day. Sometimes, an iguana would join us to watch the sunset! What more can this girl ask for!
Truly Dushi Kòrsou! 💖 (Truly beautiful Curaçao!)