If you are trying to choose your next dive destination, you may want to look no further than Curacao. Who would have thought that an Island just over 171sq miles would constantly be named one of the top dive destinations in the Caribbean so many years in a row by so many divers and so many dive related publications?
The word Curacao is thought to drive from the Portuguese word for heart, but we believe that it stands for “choices”.
As divers we like the fact that Curacao has 17 main shore dive beaches with some beaches having multiple dive sites adding up to some 40 dive areas; you can almost double this number when you include boat dives around Curacao and it’s little deserted companion island of Klein Curacao. Some of the top voted dive sites include: Alice in Wonderland an easy shoredive from the pier of Go West Diving, a PADI 5 star dive operation located at the diver friendly Sandton Kura Hulanda Lodge and Beach Club at Westpunt. Here expect to see lots of colorful fish, small invertebrates, and a resident turtle.
Almost all of the dive sites offered by Go West Diving are short boat rides with average underwater visibility of 100ft and provide unlimited opportunities for every photographer.
At a dive site named Mushroom Forest, many of the coral formations resemble snow covered dwarf pine trees, but since snow is unheard of on an Island that averages 28.9°C (84°F), we’ll just call these unique displays of multi-colored coral growth mushrooms too. Keep your eyes peeled here for eels, lobster, and octopus.
At Rediho expect to see slipper lobsters and seahorses near the coral heads, and southern stingrays half hidden in the soft light colored sand. Watamula, on the most western point is virtually unspoiled and teaming with life down its slopes and a great place for macro-photography. Also, the fuselage and remaining parts of a small plane rest between Watamula and Playa Kalki.
If you want to dive through something with more legroom, then dive the Airplane Wreck at Santa Martha. For more fin room there is extra cargo space on the 200ft long ship Superior Producer near the mouth of Williamstad Harbour. The cargo ship suddenly sank and was caught with her pants down at 100ft. On that last voyage, she carried a cargo of soon to be exclusively coral washed Levi’s jeans as well as valuable yoyo’s. For those on the island that benefited from the rescued jeans, the expression “wear your salty clothes” came to mean “casual attire.”
We haven’t had a chance to mention the double reef system at Porto Marie also known as The Valley, or the drift diving at Klein Curacao where you may spot Shark Cave, or the other fringing reefs that descend quickly from shore down to depths giving you a wide view of all the coral gardens and the local inhabitants, or mention that pilot whales and dolphins have recently been seen on the island in greater numbers, but we have to take you topside for a moment if we are even going to mention a fraction of all the cool attractions and activities you can do above water.
First, do you feel the need for speed?
We thought you might.
Curacao is home to the annual Amstel Curacao Race on bicycles and the Heineken Regatta Curacao with streamlined sailing vessels. You can also go ATV riding across the dunes and cliffs, or take a guided horseback riding tour; island style in the scrublands and along the shoreline or in the shallow waves.
If you’re more comfortable traveling by foot, perhaps you’d like a hike at Cristofel Park where you’ll find white tailed deer, orchids, and the Palabrua native barn owl. If you like really big birds, then you’re in luck, because the biggest ostrich farm outside of Africa, is right here on the island. You can hold emus and ostrich eggs, touch less than week old chicks, feed juveniles, and take photos of adults. There is a Zambezi restaurant where they serve African style ostrich cuisine and this is also where you just might see a slightly smaller sized humming bird fly by while you have lunch.
For another interesting hike, walk, or tour, you can visit the Hato Caves, which have limestone formations, a waterfall, pools, a famous Madonna statue, and a colony of long nose fruit bats who would rather ignore the tourists and keep to themselves. The Indian Caves near the tennis court of the Sandton Kura Hulanda Lodge is another cave and grotto area with fresh spring water and is thought to be an early shelter site of the early native Arawak-Taino islanders. For a walk through a botanical garden filled with exotic life, take a walk through the Curacao Zoo & Nature Reserve.
Of course you can always walk around the historical Dutch forts built from 1634 to 1828. The Riffort has currently been turned into fortified stores, shops and restaurants complete with cannons too big to bring home as souvenirs. A hotel was built right on top of Fort Waterfort which guarded Sint Anna Bay, the entrance to the harbour between the Punda and Otrabanda quarters of the capital city of Willemstad.
Visiting the Curacao Sea Aquarium and Dolphin Academy is a must for all divers and non-divers alike. Besides visiting aquarium tanks, touch tanks filled with stingrays and/or nurse sharks, you can feed sharks, dolphins, flamingos, and turtles, watch a sea lion or dolphin show, train dolphins, visit the Shell museum, or view the undersea in an air conditioned theatre.
Without a complete history lesson which you can choose to read later while sitting on a beach, it’s important to tell you that Curacao has one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean and it’s GDP is ranked 46th in the world. The population is comprised of a majority of Afro-Caribbean descendents with sizeable minorities of Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, French, East Asian, South Asians, and others. This makes the food served in restaurants internationally wide in variety with plenty of choices. You might like to try something delightfully unique like one of three weekly Pincho nights at the Sandton Kura Hulanda Lodge & Beach Club where Brazilian style grilled beef is sliced right on the beach area with Caribbean pasta salad and potatoes.
Now all the aforementioned cultural infusion has also given rise to a class of local cuisine simply known as Krioyo which you can order at one of many authentic local restaurants complete with a scenic view, or you can try a wide variety of local seasoned Krioyo items at the Old Market Food Court where you order straight from individual vendors/cooks.
Well, we ran out of time, but not choices. The Curacao Liqueur Factory has a tour and five choices of liqueur you can choose to purchase. You can visit the Sandton Kura Hulanda Museum and visit 15 buildings, which house cultural art, historical relics, and the chronicle of the Origin of Man, or you can choose to just relax on the beach and watch an iguana contemplate the Origin of Species.
No matter what you choose to do, we think you’ll like your choice of Curacao as your next dive, dine, and discover destination.
For more on special package promotions to experience your Curacao choices, click on any of these links: Curacao, Sandton Kura Hulanda Lodge and Beach Club, Go West Diving.
Maduro Dive Fanta-Seas, www.madurodive.com