Blue sky, blue sea, dream beach next to dream beach and the tolerant motto “Live and let live” make Curaçao the perfect destination for everyone wants to enjoy spring in paradise.
Curaçao brings back memories of my youth: Especially the bittersweet Blue Curaçao, which was mixed with orange juice resulting in the German cocktail “Grüne Wiese” in the nineteen-eighties. The liqueur is named after its original homeland: the tropical island of Curaçao, 60 kilometres north of Venezuela and two and a half hours by plane from Miami. It is made from lemon peels soaking in alcohol of different strengths, an endless number of recipes being used.
While Blue Curaçao owes its exoticism to the food colouring E 133 (“Brilliant Blue FCF”), the blue that surrounds the island of the Lesser Antilles is 100 percent natural: Caribbean sea and holiday sky. After 13 hours of flight my boyfriend and I land on Curaçao in the evening, leaving behind late winter at home and keen on sun, sea and tropical beaches. But where are the suitcases? “They were too slow – unfortunately,” the good-looking airport employee at the baggage carousel quips and flashes his immaculate teeth with a broad grin. “Don’t worry, guys – tomorrow night you’ll have everything at the hotel,” he promises with a bass in his voice that resounds in one’s stomach. For us it means: to make our way to our resort in a warm night dressed for winter.
The sky: blue as Curaçao liqueur
The next morning paradise seems serve up every imaginable dream holiday cliché: The sky and the sea are almost liqueur blue. The air is hot and smells of warm skin and sun-riped fruits. Hummingbirds buzz around the coconut palms in front of the balcony. That a remarkable number of gays from all over the world are amongst the guests of the island is not only due to the beauty of the landscape. “We have an ideal feel-good climate here. In addition to plenty of sunshine from eight to nine hours a day and clean Caribbean air we are also located outside the hurricane belt,” says Bianca Schaff, who manages our Hotel Rancho El Sobrino and gives us our first orientation. The German lady lives on Curaçao for five years.
Compared to many other Caribbean countries, where homophobia is not uncommon the relaxed atmosphere on the island and the openness and tolerance of the locals are among its greatest advantages. There are no explicitly gay hotels and relatively few designated bars and restaurants, all of which are located in the capital Willemstad. However, many bars, restaurants and hotels are explicitly gay-friendly. A total of 17 of them are even members of the international gay-lesbian travel association IGLTA, more than in any other area in the Caribbean.
But even if Curaçao is one of the most tolerant Caribbean countries: The outfit option “stark naked” is also forbidden here. Nudism on the beach is unknown, and for us, whose luggage is still due to arrive, we have to sweat and wait. We hear the other guests splashing in the pool. Although it is less than twenty metres away, it is inaccessible to everyone without swimming trunks.
Into the sea naked
We therefore have only two options: We either drive an hour back to Willemstad, the only shopping address and go shopping at 28°C in the shade, wearing winter gear – or we go to the beach as we are. We will drive. But to the beach. With our heads lowered and protected by our sunglasses – at least we had those in our hand luggage – we trod to our car past the barely clad guests in the pool.
As there is an almost completely deserted bay at our feet at Playa Forti, we don’t care about swimwear and envy – the sea beckons too much. A quick glance along the beach reveals: The only two other guys in sight are a couple like us. We strip down in no time and we run as fast as we can over pebbles barefoot, only wearing underpants, into the crystal-clear water. Of all things, a boxfish is the first animal to cross our path. With a look that seems to express slight mockery, he looks curiously at us seemingly luggage-less country dwellers.
We could swim, dive, splash in the warm water for hours, but at some point we return to the beach. An older woman walking around there is looking at us and our outfits. As if she were reading the names of men on the elastic bands of our boxers, she says “Biba i laga biba” – and smiles. We will hear this sentence in Papiamentu more often. It means “live and let live”, or more simply: “Do what you want”.
A motto that Curaçao has also adopted politically. For centuries the island and its people were mostly dominated by the Dutch, after independence the culture of Dutch tolerance was preserved. However, this does not mean that the same laws apply in Curaçao as in the Netherlands. Although the age of consent for both heterosexual and homosexual sex is 16 years, there are no laws against discrimination of or for same-sex marriages. And yet: The constantly growing number of gay guests strengthens both the self-confidence of the local scene, which is expected to organise the fifth Curaçao Pride from 27 September to 1 October 2017, and the acceptance by heterosexuals. Last but not least, tourism is one of Curaçao’s most important sources of income.
Discoveries on the beach
When we return to the hotel in the evening, our suitcases are already there. The next morning we go on checking out the beaches with a zest for action, snorkeling gear and lots of changes of clothes. As this island in the Antilles has more than 30 on offer, we want to try at least some after the experience on our first day. The cosy sandy beach Playa Kenepa Chiki attracts with an underwater rocky landscape inhabited by colourful fish. Under the high palm trees of Playa Santa Cruz we watch pretentious pelicans nosedive fishing. Hundreds of pink flamingos stand elegantly in Lake Jan Kok, halfway to Playa Porto Mari. We find coasts without sand, but with bizarrely shaped, sharp-edged lava rock around the North Cape of the island, where huge waves crash into the rock caves of Watamula and Boka Tabla.
But we come closest to our Caribbean dream image on the uninhabited mini island Little Curaçao, about eleven kilometres away from Curaçao. It can already be spotted from the 375-metre-high Sint-Christoffel mountain on the main island in good weather. Snow-white fine coral sand and spray contrasting with an endless sea and sky in the background – bluer than the blue E133.
Text: Carsten Heinke
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