Where to start? The last few days have been amazing. Islas de Aves has probably been the best stopover on our trip so far. And to think that we nearly sailed past those small blobs on the chart! We were heading directly from Grenada to Bonaire but after 48 hours sailing (which was very pleasant with good winds and decent waves) we noticed these two small island archipeligos belonging to Venezuela on the chart, just 50 miles before Bonaire. Although we had been advised not to stop in Los Roques (or Venezuela in general), we decided these uninhabited offshore islands were low risk. So on Saturday afternoon we approached Aves de Borlavento alongside our buddy boat and weaved our way through the numerous reefs and sandbanks into the anchorage. There were two other yachts (one Canadian and one Swiss also with kids) already anchored. The islands take their name after the numerous birds that live and nest here (pelicans, red footed boobies, frigates, herons, and many more). They are perched by hundreds on the dense mangrove trees and make an incredible noise. Soon after we arrived one of the Canadians came over to tell us they were having a bonfire on the beach in the evening and we were welcome to join them. So we all met on the beach in front of a cozy fire and barbecued some fish Taff Tumas had caught. Sandra (who is from the Pacific) also prepared a Tahitian salad (slices of fish marinated in lemon and coconut milk with cucumber, tomatoes and carrots), which was delicious. The kids had their own fire and spent the evening burning sticks and had a great time. The next morning we took the dinghy to explore the mangrove lagoon and admire the birds from close-by. The red-footed boobies apparently are unique to this island and the chicks were nesting in the lower branches. As they get older they move up and than start “flying school” from the top branches. I never imagined myself enjoying bird watching but it was an amazing experience. The day only got better as we dinghied out to the reef and explored some of the beaches there and then went snorkeling off the edge of the reef. This drop-off into the ocean is where most fish and plants can be found and when you dive you descent into an amazing underwater world. For me personally it was the most spectacular snorkeling I have ever done. The colours of the plants, corals and the fishes where unbelievable. And the fact nobody else was there made it even more special. The reef is enormous and inside it’s like one big swimming pool with clear turquoise water which the kids loved of course. We went back to the boat for lunch and cooked a stoplight parrotfish on the barbecue. Delicious! During lunch Stefan came up with the brilliant idea to organize a treasure hunt for the kids on the nearby small island. We came up with questions and a course (based on compass readings the kids would have to follow) and the men went off to set everything up. I’m not sure who had more fun, the dads setting up the treasure hunt or the kids working their way from one milestone to the next by answering the questions and following the compass instructions. Needless to say that we all had a good nights sleep after so much fun in one day.
When we ventured out to the reef we also met one more boat anchored in the next bay. On board was Gert, who has been cruising for thirty years. He lives on the boat on his own and was in a spot of trouble as his boat has been taking in water and needs repairing. It had been patched up but he was worried nonetheless about getting safely into Curacao. So we decided to sail alongside him in case something went wrong. We all left Aves de Borlavento on Tuesday morning and sailed over to Aves de Sotavento and anchored there for the night. On Wednesday morning we left early and sailed over to Bonaire. And here we are. We plan to stay for one or two nights and then continue to Curacao.