Bon Bini – Welcome to the Caribbean!

At 2:30 p.m. local time we reach the Aparthotel “Dolphin Suites”. At home it is now 9:30 p.m., we have been on our feet for 19 hours. The taxi stops in front of the entrance.

The lobby of the reception has no doors. Why should there be, on Curacao the temperature is always 30 degrees Celsius, the hurricanes of the Caribbean pass above the ABC islands, the “islands under the wind”.

“Bon Bini” is written above the reception, “Welcome” in the local language Papiamento. Karen, the head receptionist and good soul of the house, also welcomes us with a smile on her face. While she takes care of the usual formalities with us, a little girl with blond braids and a gap in her teeth comes rushing towards us and gives Adina a powerful hug. Dumbfounded we look around and see the laughing family continuing their way to the beach. We should meet again later and experience a touching story. Karen* shows us the way to our room, right next to the reception.

Rooms suitable for wheelchairs

“Drum Dushi” is written in big letters above the comfortable box spring bed, “sweet dreams”. And indeed, our bodies signal that it is now time to go to bed: the jet lag trap. We resist the powerful urge, however, even though we are no longer clearly aware of our surroundings, we first explore our apartment, unpack a little, freshen up and set off to look at our immediate surroundings. It is oppressively hot, the humidity further increases the jet lag. But a few meters further on, passing the Sea Aquarium, to which all guests of the Dolphin Suite always have free entrance, we are standing on the beach.

Caribbean! Without shoes we quickly put our feet into the water – which is unusually warm. We decide to stroll a little further along the paved promenade and discover Mambo Boulevard, a new centre on the beach with bars, restaurants and numerous shops, mostly maritime souvenir shops, in addition to other beach bars. Fortunately, many facilities are also wheelchair accessible.

Lions Dive Beach at Hemingway

The house beach next to the beach bar Hemingway

The next morning we are already awake at 6 o’clock – wide awake. The jet lag is in full swing, although we fell into bed shortly after 8 o’clock in the evening and made up for the lack of sleep. This condition should continue for a few more days. The modern bathroom is spacious, we got a shower seat from the reception – it simply hangs on the holders in the shower. For the first time we experience here that a wheelchair accessible bathroom does not have to look like a nursing home, but is also possible in modern design. Just like the whole hotel, by the way. Dolphin Suites is completely wheelchair accessible, in order to offer especially the patients and their companions a pleasant, comfortable accommodation close to the Dolphin Therapy Centre. It has a total of 20 apartments of different categories, ranging from simple twin-bedded apartments with bathroom and kitchenette to comfortable family suites.

After the morning toilet comes the hunger. Coffee is available in the room. We did without the offer to book an all-inclusive breakfast in the beach bar Hemingway, because we want to be flexible and try different offers. But our early riser phase makes it a little complicated, as most of the shops also at the Mambo Boulevard only open between 9 and 10 o’clock. Thus, we first walk alongside the sea until finally a bar with poffertjes, sandwiches and churros opens and relieves our growling stomachs. First we visit the Sea Aquarium, to which all guests of the Dolphin Suite have free entrance – the key tag (of course a dolphin!) is enough as an entrance ticket. The Sea Aquarium Park is in a way the heart of the centre at the end of the street in Bapor Kibra. Here, on this raised lagoon, everything comes together: the Sea Aquarium itself, where exotic fish and sea animals can be admired, the Ocean Encounter, where swimming with dolphins is possible. The Animal Encounter, which takes visitors on snorkeling trips through a tank with rays and allows them to feed turtles and sharks. The Pelican Express, a wheelchair accessible boat for excursions, and last but not least the Curacao Dolphin Therapy Center. We will go into more detail about these facilities in another report. First of all, we turn back to the Dolphin Suites, our hotel just around the corner, where Brucker Biofeedback is also offered. More on this later.

Strandrollstuhl in der Karibik

Beach wheelchair in the Caribbean

The hotel manager of Dolphin Suites, Alette Borger, also welcomes us. And she suggests plenty of activities for the next 12 days: Dolphin swimming, a boat tour, a bus tour with a wheelchair bus, snorkeling with rays, an island tour with a wheelchair accessible rental car. And she has many more tips in store: she knows the best restaurants, the most beautiful beaches, and the hippest clubs. She knows her island, and knows how to promote it. All her tips should prove to be real pearls! But first of all, you go to the beach in one of the hotel’s own beach wheelchairs: a bit bulky and difficult to steer, but the path is short and the wheelchair is even floatable. Perfect for non-swimmers to splash around in the warm Caribbean water!

After a few days we have settled in well. In the evening, when it cools down by two degrees, we almost feel chilly, we start to live the Caribbean peace and serenity. The Dolphin Suites also contributes to this: the reception desk helps with all questions, small problems are solved immediately. After all the excursions we return to the hotel in the evening full of beautiful memories – and fall asleep to the sound of the sea and singing birds in front of the open balcony doors.

In the future, Dolphin Suites will have more space – and even more offers. The service is already extensive: breakfast, half or full board in one of the three surrounding restaurants can be booked in addition if desired, Caribbean BBQ evenings or children’s events are regularly offered. The reception organizes additionally needed aids, provides an ambulant nursing service if required, arranges boat tours or rental cars of all kinds, and also passes on a shopping list if guests are not mobile at all. Excursions with a wheelchair bus can also be booked, and twice a day shuttle buses (which are unfortunately not wheelchair-accessible – you will have to change seats) go to two supermarkets. The same applies to the minibuses, which run four times an hour into town.

Next year, the starting signal for an expansion will be given: a large new wing will not only create new rooms, but also accommodate new service facilities, so that catering or shopping will also be possible directly in the house. But: “Not too big – in any case it must remain familiar here”, emphasizes hotel manager Alette Borger.

The Brucker biofeedback method

On the last day we have distraction program, so that we can only get really melancholic in the plane. At the last minute we got the chance to get a demonstration of the Brucker biofeedback method – which is offered here directly in the house. Ricarda, the head therapist, emigrated from Germany to Curacao many years ago and after her physiotherapy training in Munich, she did further training as a Brucker biofeedback therapist.

She first explains what it is all about: muscles are stimulated with electrical impulses via the nerve tracts. Electrodes are used to measure how strong the currents are with which certain muscles are stimulated. The currents are continuously displayed as a curve on a monitor, and acoustic signals can also be set when a certain value is reached. In the case of muscle diseases or nerve damage, for example, the training can be supported because the additional information has a motivating effect, as Ricarda explains: “Without this method, the patient only notices that nothing happens despite his exertion. But this way he can see exactly what is happening on the monitor and can try to direct his strength differently”.

Hauskatze im Schatten

The house cat relexes outside

Adina with her muscle disease is the optimal test candidate for this, so she is wired to the forearm. She has difficulty in tilting her hand upwards in her wrist and stretching her fingers. Ricarda attaches electrodes to the flexor and extensor muscles and asks Adina to tilt her hand upwards. The monitor shows that the extensor muscle is working, but the flexor works against it much more strongly. As a result, she hardly manages to stretch her fingers. Ricarda now sets two boundary lines: a high line below which the value of the flexor muscle should fall, and a slightly lower one which should be exceeded by the currents of the extensor. And indeed: already after a few attempts she manages to tilt the hand slightly upwards and slowly make the fingers a little straighter.

Ricarda explains to us what possibilities this opens up for patients in physiotherapy: “The Brucker biofeedback method can be supportive, especially when therapy approaches stagnate. We cannot replace physiotherapy, but we can support it. And after a few sessions, many patients again have clear successes in physiotherapy, which they have not seen for months in some cases – or parents of mentally challenged children suddenly see that their child is after all realizing and trying to implement something they have told them. There are more often tears of joy…”

We are impressed. It is difficult to describe how this method, which is also offered in Rotterdam, actually works. To experience it and to actually see an immediate success has inspired us. Despite available scientific studies, which prove the effectiveness in many cases, the costs are unfortunately still not covered by health insurance companies. Unsuccessful physiotherapy units, however, are paid for. We are a little surprised about this fact, although we are not too much surprised anymore with regard to health insurance benefits.

It is clear that the Brucker biofeedback method cannot perform a miracle cure. But it does not promise this either. Every patient is examined in advance to determine whether he or she is even eligible for this therapy. And those who are accepted have a high success rate, so that patients can return to their regular therapy with new possibilities. Now it also became clear to us why this therapy is offered here at Dolphin Suites: it is the ideal complement to the holistic, sustainable and interdisciplinary approach that is also pursued at the Dolphin Therapy Center.

At the airport we have only little time until boarding. We get ourselves some souvenirs, when suddenly a little girl with blonde braids and gaping teeth scurries by and waves to us.

In the plane we now have plenty of time to let our thoughts wander and revue the holiday more passively. In the last two weeks we have experienced an incredible amount and have gathered many new impulses. We have met great people, both in the hotel and on the road, made new friends and carry many wonderful memories in our hearts. The hotel has contributed a lot to this. We are almost certain to be here again one day and are looking forward to this day…

* In memory of Karen, who had to leave way too soon. We will never forget your warmth and your smile. Rest in peace.

This post is also available in: German