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Outer Islands in the Data Stream:
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By Joe Harkins - Aug 19, 98
Thousands of web pages have sprung up around the fertile subject of the Caribbean. However, much of this typically topical tropical abundance was created by someone in North America with an airplane, hotel or cruise boat to fill. Advertising is doing to the Internet what it did to television and radio, not only as a rising tide of clutter, but also by limiting the variety of information a site offers.
Fortunately, the democracy of the web has inspired sites that speak for, by and to Joe Sunblocker and Jill Bikinithong. A growing number of them originate outside the USA, a trend that is starting to fulfill the promise behind the name "World Wide Web." These off-shore sites still flaunt ad banners but local perspective more than makes up for that. Also, page designs are sometimes amateurish, but the variety of information is rewarding.
One of the newest Caribbean resources has neither of those limitations. Orientation comes from Hong Kong in the form of a "portal" site. Portal is the latest buzzword in the Internet business. Portals such as Netscape, AOL, Yahoo, etc. are designed to be the first advertising-laden page you see when you start up your browser.
Orientation is an exciting new door to parts of the world that are poorly represented by USA-based portals. Dont be intimidated if it occasionally delivers Caribbean or Latin American pages entirely in Spanish. Alta Vistas Babelfish translates those sites into stilted but serviceable English with one click.
Business travelers and vacationers to the Caribbean can look beyond typical tourism packages at Latin World. Its devoted to business, culture and the daily lives of that regions residents.
Sites built by enthusiasts are a mixed bag. For example, if diving is your sport, ScubaMom Lynn McKamey, whose day-gig as a web designer supports her diving habit, beautifully combines generous links and pleasing graphics with transparent navigation. On the other hand, Dick Zebos gloriously disorganized Turks & Caicos Center may be the longest uninterrupted scroll this side of a roll of Charmin.
Does it surprise you that people who live in paradise also go on vacation to "get away from it all?" Go to Santo Domingo-based Emely Tours, click on the Cybertours button and then select Mammal Sanctuary. Emelys links to whale watching information, most of which are in Spanish, are worth the small effort it requires to have them translated at the Babelfish web site. Whale watching in the Caribbean, from mid-January to mid March, is the most spectacular youll find anywhere in the world.
Youll get a local perspective on life in the tropics from Such Is Life. This sunny site, built by a web-based community of residents on various English-speaking islands, promises (and delivers) a genuine Caribe experience. Ive bookmarked it, should I find myself snowed-in at home some winters day.
No tropical travel column would be complete without a visit to at least one of the hundreds of sites that claim to be "the Caribbeans Best Kept Secret." I nominate Los Roques Paraiso Azul whose hotel operator guarantees each visitor a choice of an entire private beach or a complete island. The Paraiso Azul of the web sites address is a jealously protected National Park of 200 or so tiny islands and sandbars off the coast of Venezuela and east of Aruba that comprise a Blue Paradise. If you go, dont bother to ask about car rentals. Autos arent allowed in Gran Roques, the only town in the archipelago. -30-
(note: The material that appears below may or may not have been published in your local newspaper depending on the available space in this week's edition.)
Outer Islands in the Data Stream:
Welcome to Puerto Rico
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