'tablecloth' on a mountainBy Claire Smith...

MY BEST SHOTA

February 28, 1999

MY BEST SHOT

A 'tablecloth' on a mountain

By Claire Smith, Baltimore

Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, is one of the most photographed natural objects in South Africa. While preparing for my trip, I had read about the "tablecloth" that hovers over Table Mountain. On my last morning in Cape Town, I awoke to this view. The clouds draped over the top of the mountain, just like a "tablecloth." A view of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront adds to the scenery.

MY FAVORITE PLACE

A giant among parrotfish

Mary Jane Mitchell

Special to the Sun

Hovering over a forest of elkhorn coral, watching the interplay of shadows and sunlight, and the choreographed movements of a large school of blue tangs, I suddenly spotted the largest midnight parrotfish I had ever seen. About 18 to 24 inches long, he was a granddaddy of his species. Uninterested in my proximity, he moseyed along, biting chunks out of whatever coral interested him, a solitary beach-making machine in action. Later that morning as other members of our party took a breather, everyone spoke of sighting this same fish. All agreed it was the largest parrotfish any of us had ever encountered.

Our group consisted of three married couples with a common interest in snorkeling and island adventures. The villa we had rented at Captain Don's Habitat on the peaceful Caribbean island of Bonaire more than fulfilled our dreams and expectations. Easy access to a pristine reef just a few steps from our patio, with an astonishing variety of all forms of sea life, kept us entertained and mesmerized an entire week.

Each day brought new and amazing adventures, of both the aquatic and dry-land variety, as we toured this fascinating island from end to end in a rented van. We negotiated dirt trails of the 13,500-acre Washington Slaghaai National Park, which encompasses the northwestern end of the island. There were breathtaking views of flocks of flamingos in their natural habitat, wild parrots, native orioles (called trupials) with vibrant black and orange plumage, 10- to 20-foot tall cactus trees, groves of aloe plants, magnificent lignum vitae trees and many more exotic examples of fauna and flora.

That same day, we were able to locate an isolated beach with access to excellent snorkeling. We dubbed it our "National Geographic" spot and spent several tranquil hours there. It was the quintessential experience of the trip.

Another day we visited the southern part of the island, where acres of saltwater ponds are used to make salt, which is shipped to the eastern United States and other parts of the Caribbean.

We were happy to learn that most of the leeward coastline is maintained as a marine park, with strict monitoring. Fees paid by scuba divers for admission tags are used to fund research as well as protection of the marine environment. If you enjoy scuba or snorkeling, you would be well advised to visit Bonaire while it is still off the beaten trail. It is a delightfully unspoiled vacation spot with little commercialism, few tourists, a friendly and congenial native population, and at least one truly mammoth parrotfish.

Mary Jane Mitchell lives in Ellicott City.

READERS RECOMMEND

Sanborn, Minn.

Mrs. Royce Hanley, Eldersburg

"The Little House on the Prairie bed and breakfast was the perfect start to our five-week vacation out West. No water, no electricity, rolling plains and the outhouse made us feel like pioneers. No TV led to sitting on the bench, enjoying the outdoors and family discussions. The home-cooked breakfast was the best ever."

Barbados

Stas and Robin Mecinski, Forest Hill

"We enjoyed our visit to the island with other members of the Maryland Bar Association. We stayed on the rougher but scenic east coast, but found fabulous restaurants and resorts on the calmer west coast. The Barbadians, extremely friendly hosts, love their chicken and flying fish, the national dish!"

LET US HEAR FROM YOU

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Send by fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

Pub Date: 02/28/99

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