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Accessible only by a small schooner, this island is filled with flamingos.

June 30, 2017

I would not describe myself as a "bird person." Blame it on an early viewing of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" or the gaggle of seagulls in my hometown of Boston that were always trying to steal my sandwiches as a kid, but I kept a healthy distance from all things aviary starting at a young age.

So when I first read about tourists traveling to the Caribbean island of Aruba to swim with flamingos, I must admit it didn't top my bucket list.

Flamingo Island, as it is referred to by many tourists, is a spit of land off the main island of Aruba that's privately owned by the Renaissance Hotel. Accessible only by a small schooner that takes guests and visitors who pay the ticket price of $99, the private island is home to several beaches, including one that is filled with flamingos.

 Photo by Jess McHugh

The hotel sells only 30 tickets per day to visitors not staying at the hotel, so in order to have a shot at nabbing a ticket, it's necessary to arrive at the hotel's main area by 8 a.m. sharp.

After a bit of waiting in line, we departed on the boat that safely accommodated about 10 people (not much larger than the dinghy occupied by Tippi Hedren's character in "The Birds," some might say). Breezing through the water in the early morning gives visitors a view of the island's many beaches, alongside the multi-colored boats anchored in the harbor, as Aruba's notorious winds whip across the waves.

Following a quick ride to the island and a few minutes walk down a boardwalk, you arrive on the beach. In the early morning there were only a handful of other intrepid visitors there, along with about half a dozen flamingos wading around in the shallow end of the water.

 Photo by Jess McHugh

With their stilt-like legs and bright pink feathers contrasting against the bright turquoise of the Caribbean Sea, they make for a striking sight. Seemingly unfazed and uninterested in the visitors, they strutted around, bobbing for food.

As visitors take dozens of pictures — one young couple took turns posing for over an hour — the flamingos carry on about their daily business.

There is something both uniquely terrifying and exciting about being up close to such a beautiful animal, and as I swam out toward the jetty past the Instagram models and their unwitting photographers, I felt grateful to be able to see flamingos somewhere else beside the zoo.

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Should my fear seem overstated to you, birds are technically dinosaurs. And flamingos are pink dinosaurs — tall, large-beaked, pink dinosaurs.

If that doesn’t make you want to see them up close, I don’t know what will.

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