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If you’re looking for a great time on the water, Pelican Adventures is just the ticket. We recently booked Pelican’s Spanish Lagoon VIP cruise, a five-hour experience aboard their 100-foot Monteforte III, a luxury schooner brought to Aruba from Bahia, Brazil in 2015.

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A colourfully-painted Blue Bird open school bus awaits us outside Bucuti & Tara Resort in the morning (for snorkeling tours, Pelican also picks up from Casa del Mar Resort). Driver Victor brings our group to the launch point at Palm Beach.

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First Mate Jonathan Fernandez and crew greet us with a glass of champagne punch (a mocktail version is also available), tropical fruit skewers and a variety of Gouda cheese, an excellent choice for a quick protein fix.

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We’re excited to be on this particular guided tour, since Mangel Halto (aka Spanish Lagoon) has a reputation for potentially strong currents on both sides of the reef.

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[Pelican offers National Geographic-branded snorkeling equipment for use on tours]

Once we’re briefed on safety and the day’s agenda, the bar opens to offer unlimited rum, vodka, whiskey, local beer, fruit juice, sodas and water during our time at sea.

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The music and conversation flowing, we make our way to Mangel as Jonathan points out local spots of interest and historical tidbits en route.

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We learn that the island, with a population of 120,000, is 32 km (20 miles) long by 9.6 km (6 miles) wide and only 15 miles from Venezuela. Aruba also relies heavily on shipments from abroad: 95% of goods are imported here.

Once our gear has been handed out and safety vests attached, we head down the ladder, into that impossibly blue water and keep in a group as we enter the Spanish Lagoon barrier reef.

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[Approaching the reef at Mangel Halto]

The wind and current are especially challenging today; many of us hang onto the floatation rings as guides pull us along the initial swim going against the current until we can circle into the reef, slowly heading back with the current on our side.

The aquarium below comes to life as we gaze deep down and take in an abundance of coral and fish. About a half hour later, we close back in on the Monteforte and relax a bit as the chef prepares lunch.

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Before heading out of the water, I get a quick snuba lesson (aka third lung); there’s also a couple of double kayaks on board though kayaking will prove challenging today. Jonathan gets the rope swing ready for those game enough to grab hold and swing into the water.

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A lunch of mahi mahi and chicken kebabs, pan bati (a local Aruban corn pancake that I quickly grow to love here), polenta, salads and veggie skewers are delicious and most welcome after our snorkel.

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And soon enough, it’s time to raise the sails and begin to make our way back up the coast. Lots of “sea” tunes (think Kokomo, Margaritaville plus a whole lotta reggae) accompany lively conversation between passengers. There’s plenty of space to spread out, from the nets up in the bow to the tables and built-in benches in the stern.

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If you opt for this cruise in the evening (with a snorkel in Malmok), there’s a four-course dinner sailing with live entertainment. Day tours cost $139 US per person; late afternoon/evening tours, $149 US per person. The Spanish Lagoon tour is currently offered three times per week.

Other tours include a champagne brunch aqua safari, starlight dinner cruise, beach and cave tour, as well as jeep safaris. Land tours will pick up and drop off at any hotel on the island. Pelican has offered land and sea tours since 1986. Visit them online for current tours, pricing, dates and availability.

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Our Spanish Lagoon VIP cruise was provided by Pelican Adventures for the purpose of this feature. Opinions, as always, remain our own.

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