Ever been surrounded by 15 jack as*’s closing in fast? If you bring a bag of carrots to Aruba’s Donkey Sanctuary, you could be! My husband and I recently spent a week in Aruba, and our visit to the sanctuary was definitely one our trip’s highlights. What fun! Aruba’s wild donkeys are descendants of those brought over for transportation purposes before there were cars on the island. Over the years, the donkey population has suffered due to disease, accidents and even mistreatment, so the Donkey Sanctuary opened its doors in 1997 to protect the donkeys from harm and to better their conditions. Now, they have over 70 donkeys happily living on the grounds, and they depend on donations from visitors to help keep them going.
Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by a herd of donkeys at the gate, and the numbers will multiply rapidly if they discover you have brought some tasty carrots or apples with you. I’m an animal lover, and I’ve been around large horses and donkeys a bunch of times, but it was a bit intimidating to be surrounded by literally 15-20 donkeys who wanted a carrot! The key is to not panic and just walk right through them. Do not do what I did and yell to your significant other “HELP!” They will just laugh at you and keep walking.Don’t worry though — I was wearing flip flops and didn’t get stepped on a single time.
Once you make it through the herd, follow the dirt path to the house, where you can safely view the donkeys from the gated in porch. You can use a cutting board to serve up your carrots in more bite size pieces. The donkeys are eager but very gentle and sweet. They will nuzzle you and they love to be petted.
Adopt a Donkey!
For $200 a year, you can choose your very own donkey to adopt. Your money will pay for the donkeys food and any medical treatments needed throughout the year, and you’ll get a handwritten thank you note from the donkey. If the $200 price tag is a bit steep, please donate whatever you can, every little bit helps!
IF YOU GO:
The Donkey Sanctuary is free to visit, but they gladly accept donations. You have to rent a car to reach the sanctuary, which is in Santa Cruz near the center of Aruba, and it’s a bit hard to find. Bring a good tourist book or a map and don’t be afraid to ask for directions if you get lost (we did three times). It’s worth it though! Bring a bag of carrots for the donkeys to nibble on and they’ll love you forever. If you arrive early in the morning you can even help out with some of the chores like feeding the donkeys, making sure they have enough water and cleaning up donkey droppings.
Photos: Jenny Bengen-Albert