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I'll be in Curacao in February, and was looking for some advice for shore diving. I'll be a solo diver, and was hoping to find partners to buddy up with. Is that best handled through a dive shop? I'll be staying at the Marriott Feb 15th-24th if anyone would like to meet up.
carib_traveler is spot-on about the Marriott and The Dive Bus. In addition to being a fine hotel, the Marriott is a good base for diving operations. And Suzy at the Dive Bus is setting up a web site for locals looking for dive partners. If you write her and propose it, she might set up a bulletin board specifically for vacationers looking for buddies. Itís worth a shot.
You might also find The Dive Busís services to your liking. Their shop is on the beach adjacent to two of the islandís best dive sites and they run trips to many of the islandís best shore-divable sites. Plus they run north side trips through the only boat operator who works that side of the island. Diving with them likely will put you in contact with other vacationers who also are interested in shore diving.
The Marriott also is about a five minute walk from Hookís Diving, which runs regular guided shore dives; some locally and others around the Willemstad area by van. In fact, when the current is right thereís a nice drift dive from the Marriott down to Hookís.
The island is not difficult to navigate if you have a decent map. Regardless, Willemstad is a PITA because most of the streets have no signs identifying them, and the Antilleans drive like schizos on crank. Most of the rural roads are distinctive enough that you can compare them to the map and find your way. There are commercial beaches at Blue Bay, Cas Abou, Porto Mari and others, which makes them all the easier to find.
Iíve just come from four days diving on Bonaire and I live on Curacao so I feel qualified to state unequivocally that Curacao is not the shore diving haven that Bonaire is. Nonetheless, it has more than a few exceptional dives that are shore-accessible and, if youíre partial to shore diving, itís well worth the trip.
Iíve not yet dived all the sites The Dive Bus visits so Iíll only comment on those I know personally. And Iíve only been diving here part-time for about three months. Mark and Suzy have been diving the same waters pretty much daily for my piddling few months plus another four years. Just between us, Iíd put more stock in their choices than my own. That said, hereís my favorites:
Both the reefs that are out The Dive Busís back door are great dives, and they share the easiest entry on the island. I especially like Car Pile, which is Ė- as the name implies -- nothing more than a bunch of junked cars and construction equipment. Like many reefs on the island that have been ravaged by storms or careless construction, Car Pile exemplifies how remarkably resilient the marine wildlife here is. All those artificial nooks and crannies give shelter to an amazingly diverse collection of creatures.
Tugboat is a great dive thatís on the ďfavoritesĒ list of just about every local diver I know. Iíve done it in both daylight and dark and itís on my top 10 list both ways. Plus, Iím an octopus junkie and I manage to find them there regardless of the time of day.
Iím as fascinated with the little critters that live on the reef as I am the big ones. Thatís one of the reasons Iím so fond or Porto Mari. It feels like swimming in my dentistís waiting room aquarium. The double reef reminds me of Bonaireís Angel City, in structure and in quality.
Playa Kalki/Alice in Wonderland is difficult to describe, except to say that the coral formations are unusual to the point of bizarre (makes you wonder what them little polyps was smokiní that day). Theyíre also very healthy and teeming with about every species of fish known to live on Curacao.
And to me, the Mack Daddy of all Curacaoís shore dives is the Superior Producer. On paper, it doesnít have a lot going for it. Itís too deep, the entry is too rocky, the surf is typically ...ahem ...challenging and the current is usually pretty stiff. In practice, itís just a fun dive. I dived it last night with two of my divemaster buddies from Hookís Diving and we had an absolute blast. The other visitors we ran into while over the wreck were Spanish lobster, crab, shrimp by the hundreds and one very large tarpon. A large green moray usually hangs out in the winch room on her foredeck but last night he mustíve been out selling Amway.
We all were diving air, which limited our bottom time on the wreck to just over 20 minutes. But once the NDL forced us into shallower waters, it was as if weíd begun a whole new dive, this one on the healthy reef that flanks her. Superior is another of those places where I routinely find octopus and last night I found two. The larger one obviously was on the hunt and tolerated our nosiness for more than 15 minutes before he decided to vanish into an impossibly narrow crevice.
Anyway, those would be my choices, for better or worse, and in no particular order.
being a preferred shore diver due to seasickness that I cant get rid of....what are the not to miss sites with the dive bus?
Besides Playa Kalki, Porto Marie and Tugboat, my pick would be Varsenbaai.
Easy entry, the reef starts right offshore, there's a pair of easily found seahorses, a pontoon boat/barge wreck at 80' to the east and eels of all types. Coming back in I saw a turtle surface and followed him to a sandy area just offshore where there were several eating sea grass in 6' of water. And I saw better than 100 squid 50' off the divedock. The dive operator said they live there.
Playa Jeremi is ok also, but no facilities and a longer swim out to the reef from the beach. We went west and found some vertical wall with a substantial drop-off.
My friends dove Playa Lagun the night I arrived. But no one wanted to go back even though we stayed just up the street.
The better diving IMO on Curacao is out to the west. It's a lot more spread out though since to get to most sites you drive in from the main road. It takes all day to do 3-4 dives at 2 different sites/day like we were.
Habitat has a nice reef if you've got a car to get there.
We used Caribbean Sea Sports last week. It cost $98 for cattle boat service and they were rude to me as well. They are quite rigid about how they do things the result being that everyone spent a lot of time waiting on the surface simply to accommodate their idea of how a dive boat should be run.
I can recommend Seascape next door at the Hilton. Much lower prices, longer dives, no underwater police mentality and no crowds.