By Henry Hall, courtesy of the Dive Curacao
The first time I visited Curaçao was for a quick weekender in July 2011. My plan was simple, to see as much of the island as possible during my short stay, explore as many bars and restaurants, and make sure I found my way to the infamous Mambo Beach on the weekend. After this first visit, I knew I had only scratched the surface. I quickly realized that I needed to return to Curaçao to see more of what topside had to offer and, to bring my dive gear to discover the beautiful fringing coral reefs and drop-offs that surrounded this relatively unknown Dutch Caribbean island.
Since my initial visit, I have returned to Curacao now six times with my last visit in November 2017. Curacao has so much to offer both above and below the water which is the reason I keep coming back. The people are extremely nice, the food and drinks are tasty, and I always seem to observe something new and exciting underwater.
I don’t know if this is an anomaly but no matter how great my experiences are at a hotel or resort, I never stay at the same at the same place over consecutive visits (unless it’s for business travel). I feel this travel choice allows me to explore, meet new people and I believe this decision also keeps my appetite wet for exploration.
So… when I decided to return to Curaçao this time, the Scuba Lodge Boutique Hotel & Ocean Suites was my choice. I decided on this hotel due to its proximity to downtown Willemstad and because it has a Curacao Tourist Board approved dive shop.
After completing the standard legal dive due diligence, I loaded my gear on their Scuba Bus and we headed to a dive site called Kokomo located at Vaersenbaai. Kokomo is a private beach famous for a monthly full moon party that is the largest in the Caribbean. The beach also has a nice restaurant serving standard dishes and an array of beverages.
When we arrived, there were not that many divers, snorkelers or even sun-seekers since it was a week day. So, it was decided to do two dives. With an easy shore entry and the relaxed feeling of the warm turquoise waters, I began to observe incredible macro life all around me. As we progressed further from shore we saw large and healthy corals, Parrotfish, Trunkfish, Grunts, Groupers, Filefish, Christmas Tree Worms, Butterflyfish, Angelfish and beautiful Anemones with bright purple tips. These first two dives of my holiday were fantastic!
Later that evening, I decided to explore the Pietermaai District which is the neighborhood around the hotel and found this wonderful street, lined with a row of restaurants and bars, called Nieuwestraat. Here I discovered Miles Jazz Café, a unique bar with a distinctive local vibe where several times a week they have live musicians playing their delightful tunes. (I would spend a lot of post dive hours here during this trip but not many late nights because I had to be prepared to dive each day.)
The next day we boarded the Scuba Bus and headed to Westpunt with the plan to dive Playa Piskado (aka Playa Grandi) and Alice in Wonderland. At each site, we saw a ton of sea life and healthy corals. I observed a lot of beautiful Damselfish and active Sea Urchins crawling on the sandy ocean floor.
Next day we were off to Porto Marie another one of my favorite sites. I enjoy returning to an island and diving the same site in a different month. I believe the last time I dove this site was in February a few years back. Sometimes you can notice migration and/or life-cycle changes. We waded into the turquoise water and observed more Seahorses, schooling Creole Wrasse, Sand Divers, Spotted Scorpionfish, and Banded Coral Shrimp. I made a short video highlighting the beautiful Seahorses I observed. (Seahorses of Curacao)
Next up was Tug Boat located in Caracasbaai. After unloading our gear, we were greeted by a family of Iguanas. I dove the Tug Boat on a previous dive trip to Curaçao from a boat with Ocean Encounters. Boat diving is equally exciting as shore diving in my opinion. However, safety stops can be far more interesting than hanging out in the blue on a boat dive. During my last visit, there used to be an abandoned ferry at the dock. It was removed and replaced with a decaying drillship, waiting to be stripped down for its materials.
A drillship is a merchant vessel designed for use in exploratory offshore drilling of new oil and gas wells or for scientific drilling purposes. This was one the coolest dives of my life! From shore we dove underneath the vessel and surface in the middle of the ship called the Moon Pool. All Drillship’s have what is called a Moon Pool. The Moon Pool is an opening on the base of the hull used to pass through drilling equipment, small submersible crafts and commercial divers.
Since the ship was basically out of operation, our dive guides lead us underneath this awesome commercial vessel. I hope I’m not getting them into any trouble because the sign from the beach did say do not dive under the docked ship. It was awesome to surface in the middle of the ship. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do that dive again. After spending a few minutes there we descended and continued our dive under the dock. Here we saw Lettuce Nudibranchs, Arrow Head Crabs, Parrotfish, Anemones, Octopus and more Seahorse’s.
My final dive of the trip was at Director’s Bay, which was not that far from the Tug Boat dive site. This dive was by my request. We didn’t take the big red school bus but a non-descript faded red pick-up truck. It was perfect to navigate the narrow road leading to the dive site. After gearing up, we descended a flight of stairs to reach a beautiful beach with a very few scantily clad and beautiful sun-worshipers. Once again, we waded in from the shore to a large ball of schooling fish. As we dove we saw, Trumpetfish, Arrowhead Crabs, healthy Anemones, Lettuce Nudibranchs, large Brain Coral with Christmas Tree Worms protruding from the sides, Staghorn Coral, Bluehead Wrasse and large Sea Fans.
And now, I’m at the end of my stay. One more stop at the Miles Jazz Café and I’m back to NYC. I’ve put together a short video of some of what I observed during this visit. Watch & Enjoy… but most of all, Discover and Dive Curaçao!
I can’t wait to return to get another chance to observe the fantastic bio-diversity Curacao has to offer and continue my topside restaurant/bar exploration. Until next time, Curaçao!
Photo Credit: Turtle & Ray Productions