To all future visitors to Aruba whether you arrive via a cruise ship or are taking a land based vacation.
Please do not us Watapana Tours. Let me explain but a little background first:
We were a group of 7 travelling from New York, split by 4 adults and 3 teenagers (14, 16 and 17). A planned cruise was cancelled due to Hurricane Dean so we booked an 8 day/7 night trip to Aruba during the week of August 21-28, 2007 at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort.
For the first couple of days, we rented cars and saw most of the Aruba sites (caves, rock formations, natural bridge, and snorkeled at Arashi Beach and Baby Beach). We wanted to do something adventurous so we decided an ATV tour would be just the adventure. Since we had seen the sites, we requested a customized tour that would take us by ATV only to the Natural Pool and back, a two-hour tour from 10 am to 12 noon. The trip was confirmed the night before through our De Palm Tour Agent who set the trip up with Watapana Tours.
The Two-Hour Tour Disaster:
Our De Palm Tour agent assured us that our tour would not start until we started out on the ATVs. The tour bus picked up at our hotel and took us to the ATV yard. We paid the agreed upon amount for 3 double ATVs and one single ATV and were escorted to the ATV â€śgraveyardâ€? which had what appeared to consist of many non working ATVs strewn around the yard. Our ATVs were not ready when we arrived. As we waited, mechanics seemed to be working feverishly to get working ATVs readied for us. A compromise was made as they could only get 2 doubles and one single working. They â€śgraciouslyâ€? gave us a dune buggy instead of the third double. At 10:45am, we were on the road. Our guide (donâ€™t remember his name since I do not think he ever gave it to us) got us to the natural pool. We swam and snorkeled. We could have used our guideâ€™s help getting out of the rocky area that protected the natural pool, but he was busy getting the ATVs ready for departure. Upon arriving at the ATVs, our guide tells us he canâ€™t get the single rider ATV to start. While heâ€™s calling into the office to bring a new ATV, one of the other ATVs stalls out. He insists itâ€™s not out of gas, and gets it to run again. Our group member who was supposed to ride the single ATV hitched a ride from another safari tour company and they kindly took him up the very steep hill in the back of a truck and not on an ATV that we paid for. Approximately 45 minutes later (approximately 1:30pm), we meet the guy (a mechanic) from the Watapana Tours office who brought another ATV. We head on out again. Approximately 20 minutes into the ride, the ATV that stalled earlier, stalls again, obviously out of gas. Our guide almost didnâ€™t see us stuck on the roadside until he was a good 100 yards ahead of the group. Again, our guide calls his office to notify them of the situation. Itâ€™s approximately 2:30 pm. Weâ€™re hungry, tired, and in dire need of bathrooms. Our guide leaves us on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere for about 20 minutes while he goes and tries to find the mechanic who is bringing gas to us. He brings another ATV which he uses to siphon gas out of it using the water bottles which were meant for us to drink along the tour. We start out again. As we travelled, we see a storm developing ahead of us. As our guide takes us to sites we didnâ€™t want to or agree to see, the storm is rapidly getting worse. So much so, we see a tornado directly in our path back to the tour company. Thankfully we got back to the tour company without further incident or rain. The time now is approximately 3:15pm. Over 3 hours later than we had scheduled for. This ruined the remainder of our day. We had other things to do in the afternoon.
We attempted to address the situation while at the tour office but it was mobbed with angry people whose tour was cancelled due to the weather and no refunds were going to be given even for people that had just paid cash prior to the storm. Needless to say, we could not get to speak with anyone, so we were given a name of the manager to call. Ironically, the tour bus that was supposed to take us back to our hotel would not start and we had to move to another bus. It was raining now and the bus had no windows.
The next day we spoke to our De Palm Tour operator and told her our story. She got a hold of someone at Watapana Tours who listened to our complaint. Supposedly a manager was going to call us back with a resolution. No one responded to us that entire day. Unfortunately, we had to leave the following day and never got any feed back. Our De Palm Tour operator was going to keep pursuing the situation and took our email address to contact us.
We have not heard from anyone since. Nobody but nobody has tried to contact us even after I sent an e-mail to the president of the company, Mr. Edgar Croes. All we wanted was a partial refund of our tour price equal to the cost of one ATV tour rental.
There are so many tour operators in Aruba why book with a company that does not care about the customer. We met a De Palm tour representative on the beach at the holiday Inn and trusted her so much we gave her all our business during our stay. The only issue we had with De Palm was that for our ATV tour, she contracted out to a third party and that was Watapana Tours.
Note that, when the ATVâ€™s were working, we did enjoy riding them and seeing the sights, but at what expense?
I would be very happy to address any questions you have about our little adventure. Otherwise, Aruba is absolutely beautiful and would return in the future, I just would not use Watapana Tours Schotland Straat # 50, Oranjestad, Aruba D.W.I. Tel: (297) 583 5191