Curaçao, A Special Scuba Diving Destination In The Caribbean!
WILLEMSTAD – Curacao is special to me because I received my Open Water certification there ten years years ago when my local dive shop referred me to The Dive Bus, one of the most popular local operators. In the intervening years I have widely traveled around the world, and the rest of the Caribbean. These experiences have given me the benefit of contrast and hindsight, and so I decided to return to Curacao last summer for a week of diving.
Why? Curacao has lots to do-above and below the water. For photographers like me that want some independence, you can enjoy unlimited shore diving. If you want to reach the more inaccessible sites then you have the option of boat diving. You can also relax with an easy dive, or challenge yourself at the more advanced sites. And you always have the option of a quick snorkel.
On surface intervals, I’ve visited the Nurse Sharks at the Curaçao Sea Aquarium, joined an awesome dune buggy tour through the desert interior, explored historic sites, and toured the colourful colonial architecture in the capital of Willemstad.
But here I want to focus on the diving. I believe that the secret to enjoying your stay, and getting the most out of your diving, is to stay close to activities, be mobile and carefully choose your dive sites. This way you can avoid long boat rides, enjoy some great diving, and avoid long car rides as the shore diving sites are not that close together.
We based our stay at the all-inclusive Sunscape Curaçao – Resort, Spa and Casino (formerly Breezes, Curaçao) in Willemstad, a beachfront hotel with five different cultural restaurants, four bars and three pools. You won’t be in want for anything, and you won’t waste time travelling anywhere for meals or snacks. You can ask for a room close to the dive shop which also helps.
The other real advantage to staying at Sunscape Curaçao is that the resort is partnered witha Ocean Encounters Diving Curaçao which is conveniently located right on the resort grounds. Within minutes you can be in the water enjoying a nice reef, quite often all to yourself! We did several days of diving with them, and found them to be friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful in all things. They even gave us a key to a storage room so that we could do our own night dives. They have covered bench seating, cold drinking water, fresh water showers, rinse tanks, and a dock that makes getting into and out of the water a breeze.
The House reef, Oswaldo’s Drop Off, is an easy and fun dive, but it gets better the deeper and further West you go. On your way through you will see numerous (rare and endangered) elegant Staghorn corals, and many re-planted Staghorn corals that have been out-planted by the Coral Restoration Foundation Curaçao. At this reef we were visited by Reef squid, a large Tarpon, a large Southern Stingray, a Chainlink Moray Eel, Blennies peeking out at us from their homes in Brain Corals, curious Spotted shrimps in anenomes, and all the other usual suspects that you’d expect in the Caribbean.
You have to pass through the House reef to get to the Car Pile site, which is a “must do” dive. It’s an artificial reef consisting of old cars, boats, and trucks and other construction materials that were sunk in the 1970’s. If you love to “poke around” and explore, then this site is for you. I got such a “kick” out of diving this reef that I spent half my week here. And again, most times we had it all to ourselves since the site is not moored for dive boats. It begins at 45’, and goes to more than 100’. It’s full of life. For the first time ever I saw numerous purple masses of eggs being guarded by Sergeant Majors on the Barge, the biggest wreck you will come to. Here you can expect to find massive tube sponges, loads of colourful fishes, and schools of Snappers and Jacks.
I can also recommend diving the Watamula! This at the extreme West end of the Island and we had the pleasure of boat diving this site with GO WEST Diving Curaçao. Part of the fun was the Sunday drive getting there through the peaceful, cactus- studded desert terrain. Watamula gets its name from the Dutch word for “Water Mill” because of the currents that flow there. These currents nourish a very healthy reef, mostly of hard corals, and attract schools of fishes. This is one dive that I could do over and over again. The slow drift felt like a continuation of the relaxing drive up, only through a lush reef exploding with life. Like its name-sake neighbour in the west, Mushroom Forest, you can expect to see large mounds of mushroom-shaped Star corals, huge Barrel Sponges, and fields of massive Sea Plumes almost 6’ tall. There’s so much here, you don’t know where to look.
We finished our last day with boat dives at the Lost Anchor (no, there’s no Anchor to see, as it’s lost!) and Saba Tugboat. Lost Anchor makes for a nice Wall dive, filled with lots of sponges and soft corals. Close to the boat mooring, my wife spotted a large moray eel in the process of swallowing prey! It was relaxed enough to allow us to watch and get an up-close pic.
The nearby Saba Tugboat was sunk intentionally as an artificial reef and as an alternative to their busy signature Tugboat site. It sits in about 20’ of water and is filled with lots of colorful small fishes that now call it home. It makes for a nice safety stop after doing the nearby wall dive. It was also encouraging to massive colonies of growing Staghorn coral here, which is a real success story for the Coral Restoration Foundation Curaçao. I would highly recommend learning more about this important coral reef restoration initiative and even adopting a coral fragment, because when you “Adopt A Coral” you contributing directly to the restoration of the Curaçao coral reefs. Since my visit, the Coral Restoration Foundation Curaçao has expanded their coral nurseries. Now, the Foundation’s coral nurseries include their initial site located on the Ocean Encounters house reef (Stella Maris) and now, the house reef of Atlantis Diving.
Curacao is a place that I will keep coming back to! It’s easy to get to, it’s safe, it has a great cultural mix and an amazing balance of everything you need. And, the diving is exceptional, rich with biodiversity at a very reasonable cost. The best part is that the Curaçao diving community is committed to sustainable dive tourism initiatives so that these beautiful reefs will be around for years to come!