This trip was taken by members in the Dive Club but was not a group trip.
The diving in Curacao was good, not spectacular but the sites were nice and we saw a lot of variety. The coral had been damaged by some severe storms years earlier and Curacao was still in the process of restoring the reef. Curacao had started a major reef restoration and we saw many coral nurseries. There was an abundance of stag coral which we had not seen much of before in other areas. Visibility was okay but not Cozumel clear, probably because we were there in late November and there had been some storms and runoff. Most days of diving were clear. We visited many sites, saw wrecks and the famed Mushroom Forest.
Photos below were taken by either M.Havens or D. Pitalo.
We used Ocean Encounters as our dive operator since they are right next to the resort we stayed at. There are plenty of dive operators in Curacao to choose from though. We also dove in their aquarium. The aquarium was located right near the dive boat operation and dive shop. In the aquarium, which is fed by the ocean, we swam with rays, fed them out of our hands, fought off the greedy French Grunts, checked out the Goliath Grouper and fed sharks and turtles through a barrier. The vacuum cleaner suction of nurse sharks was impressive and we were warned not to put our fingers in the holes and harms way. The reef sharks were more polite and kept being pushed out of the way by the nurse sharks.
We also saw a submarine under water! We were heading off the reef to be picked up by our dive boat and heard this sound, a low motor getting closer …. not far from us we saw this large fat cigar shape emerge from the depths and chug on by us. At first we thought it was one of the semi-submarines that tourists ride in but it turned out to be a real submarine! We were never in danger but it was rather exciting all the same. And nobody got a picture of it! We were told it was a research vessel being used to survey the walls and trenches around the island.
Dive Encounters was a good operation in most respects. At the time we were in Curacao dive operators would not pick up divers if they were over the reef so getting off and on the boat meant being away from the reef over deep water and you’d have to do a bit of swimming. This may have changed since our time there but it may be a permanent way of doing diving in Curacao. This was explained to be a rule for the island because of the damaged reef and their need to preserve it from any damage. Due to the time of year some days were a bit rough and it made exiting the water a bit difficult. Going in was never a problem, get up, jump in, go down. Dive Encounters at that time had a policy that the boat would not come in close for a pick-up until every single person was on the surface. We were usually picked up over water that was 250-300 feet in depth at least. Due to the rough water some people preferred to stay 3 or 4 feet under the surface where it was a bit calmer. We were told this was not acceptable as the boat would not come until every head was showing and stayed showing. After the first three or four dives everyone on the boat realized they were serious about this rule and would come up and brave the surface. This was annoying as you would get beat up by the waves, not to mention a bit of motion sickness for those susceptible to it. Once everyone was showing the boat came in and threw out a line and you were expected to hang on it, everyone in a row. We banged about and hit each other with each wave and moods deteriorated. It was explained to us that because we were over deep they wanted to be sure everyone was accounted for and both the reef and the divers were safe. We had one mishap on the boat we were on that was devastating to the woman it happened to. She was handing up her camera to the boat crew person before going up the boarding ladder and it slipped out of ?’s hand. She says theirs, they say hers….. She had not made her camera neutrally buoyant and it plunged like a rock to the bottom. Several people went after it but it was gone so fast there wasn’t a chance. This happened on the last day. It was a brand new high dollar camera and housing with strobes and is now resting peacefully in 300+ feet of water. The worst part….. she had not downloaded a single photograph. Lesson of this ……
- Don’t let go of your camera when boarding the boat or handing it to someone in the water until you have verified they have it in hand.
- Make your camera buoyant. There are systems out there that attach to your strobes and camera housing to ensure that your camera doesn’t disappear like a rock.
- Download, download, download.
Curacao is the “C” in the A.B.C. Islands just ? of Venezuela. Part of the Netherland Antilles it is a safe and very modern island in the Caribbean to visit. English is spoken on the island and US dollars are accepted as currency so there’s no need to visit a bank or currency exchange during your stay. While they do have a native language in Curacao (Papiamento) almost everyone speaks English. Spanish and Dutch are also spoken and occasionally Portuguese.
We stayed at LionsDive Beach Resort in Willemstad. It was easy to get to from the airport and also within walking distance of all the activities in Willemstad. The resort had a variety of types of rooms. We stayed in spacious rooms that were closest to the dive operation. Getting to the dive operation was just steps away. Other rooms were more focused on the beach portion of the resort. A large private beach could be accessed by walking out your door. There were several restaurants and bars along the beach as well as cabanas that had massage therapists available for appointments. The resort also had a spa so you could get a massage without baring it all on the beach. Warning – the beach allows topless. The resort also has two pools. A “family” splash pool (no topless there) and a lap pool.