Disclaimer: I want to encourage you guys to do your own research especially when it comes to tourist traps that involves animals. A lot of companies nowadays exploit animals to make a profit and that’s why I try my best to avoid those places. I’m writing this post to share my experience.
Travel tourism is experiencing an all time high thanks to an online platform we all know and love/hate, Instagram. I’m sure by now you all have seen photos of these beautiful birds circling around the app and you have to admit, it got you a bit curious and maybe even envious, right? Part of the reason why I wanted to go to Aruba was to see the insta-famous flamingos up close. How did they get to the island you ask? I tried to read up as much as I can before our trip but most of the articles I read were inconclusive. So here’s what I found..
Where did the flamingos come from:
There are two theories as to how the flamingos got to the island:
- Flamingos are not native to the island and were bought and flown from another country by the hotel. Some people say their wings were clipped so they would remain on the island. Although this process of “clipping wings” isn’t harmful to the birds, they also prevent them from flying away.
- They came on their own 15 years ago and made the island their home. They are not in captivity but rather live in their natural habitat in the mangroves on the island. Some actually have flown away which is why there are only few of them left (6 total).
Where are they located:
The flamingos can only be found in Flamingo beach in the Renaissance hotel’s private island, a boat ride away from their property in Oranjestad, Aruba. If you’re hoping to see them everywhere, then sorry to say you won’t find them anywhere else. We drove around Aruba and didn’t see any roaming around.
How to get there:
The hotel offers complimentary boat transfers with pickup points at the Renaissance Marina hotel lobby and Renaissance Ocean Suites docking area. You would need your room key (per person) in order to board. It takes about 10-15 minutes to get to the private island.
How to see the flamingos:
Guests of the Renaissance have free access to the island, anytime during opening hours (7 am- 7 pm, daily). If you’re not a hotel guest, you can purchase a day pass for $100 at the front desk. However, if the hotel is at full capacity, they will not issue day passes for non-hotel guests. The day pass includes: round trip boat transfer, beach towels, loungers, lunch + drink and 1 hr of non motorized water sports.
Pre-booking day passes is not available. You would need to visit the front desk the day of and ask for availability. If your sole purpose is to see them, then I suggest staying at least one night at the hotel to guarantee a spot. We stayed at the Renaissance for 4 nights which enabled us to visit the island twice.
What else is there to do in the island:
The island has two private beaches: Flamingo beach and Iguana beach. Flamingo beach is mainly for adults but kids can go see the flamingos from 9-10am. Iguana beach on the other hand caters to families and has the only restaurant in the island, Papagayo bar and grill, where they serve breakfast and lunch. Their breakfast is pretty good but I can’t say the same for some of their lunch items. The Iguana beach area also has bathroom and spa facilities, outdoor tennis and gym. Floats, kayaks and paddle boards can be rented in the island for a cheap price. If you want a more private experience, they have cabanas that you can rent out for the whole day.
My experience on the island and with the flamingos:
Since we stayed at the Renaissance, we were able to go to the private island twice. The first time we went, we woke up early and got to the island around 8:30 am. Apparently not early enough because we were already on the second boat and by that time a bunch of people were already on the island. We didn’t read the sign so instead of heading towards the Flamingo beach, we went to Iguana beach instead. 30 minutes passed before we realized we were at the wrong side of the island. After noticing the diminishing crowd behind us and of course, the lack of flamingos, we got up from our loungers and walked towards the other side.
And there they were. Six flamingos just casually frolicking on the beach with a group of people swarming them, each trying to get a selfie with these beautiful birds. It was difficult to get a shot without anyone in it so we waited till everyone grew tired of following them. Finally, we got our chance and I must say, they were quite friendly. Although, there was one flamingo that kept trying to attack me and was obviously not amused by my presence.
I also noticed that they won’t really go near you unless you have food. I forgot to bring my quarters so I just stood in the middle, hoping my husband could get some shots with them in it. After getting my photos out of the way, I sat at one of the loungers and just watched them continuously get followed by people. Ultimately, I felt bad because some people didn’t know when to stop and kept harassing the flamingos to get their selfies.
The second time we went, we started a bit early and got to the island by 7:15 am. We practically had the whole Flamingo beach to ourselves. I quickly got my quarters out and ran towards the small vending machine to get some food. After feeding them, we took pictures and went on our merry way. Don’t get me wrong, they really are beautiful and it was nice to see them up close. But after a while, the novelty wears off. We ended up spending most of our time at Iguana beach, swimming and lounging under the palm trees.
Is it worth it?
Seeing the flamingos? I’m 50/50 on this. It was such a cool experience getting to hang out with them. On the other hand, I felt bad at how some people were harassing the birds to get their selfies. I wanted to tell them that there are other things you can do in the island, aside from following the flamingos all day long. Some people were pretty good about interacting with them though. They gave the flamingos their space and only took pictures when approached.
Spending the day in the private island? Personally, I think it’s worth it. The hotel limits the amount of people that can go to the island so it doesn’t get crowded. Some of the public beaches we went to were packed and the companies operating on the beach, charge for everything – from the loungers/chairs to beach umbrellas. At the hotel’s private island, all are part of the package. Plus it also has a full functioning restaurant and bar plus clean restroom facilities. If money is no object for you when on vacation, then I say go for it! But if you’re more of a budget traveler then skip this and head to one of Aruba’s public beaches instead.
PLEASE be respectful and don’t touch the flamingos. If they walk away, just let them be and don’t follow them around or harass them. Chances are they will come back on their own, which they did for us eventually.
What do you guys think? Would you spend a day at the Renaissance private island to see the flamingos?
How to See Flamingos in Aruba
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