CURAÇAO TRIP REPORT
Lying forty-five miles off the North coast of Venezuela, the alphabet starts with A and ends with Sea. These are the “ABC” islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. The Netherlands Antilles are comprised of Curacao, Bonaire, Saba, St. Eustasius and the Dutch portion of St. Martin.
We have never stayed on Curacao, only passing through en route to Bonaire for diving. A couple of weeks ago I found myself with some free time and decided to check out the diving in Curacao. Jeanie was off to Las Vegas trying to win enough money at the crap tables to pay for the two Subtronic strobes we just ordered, so this was to be a solo trip.<
There are lots of places to stay on Curacao, but I chose the Habitat (http://www.habitatdiveresorts.com/CuracaoHome.htm) as it looked like a perfect home base for exploring the reefs of Curacao. Like Bonaire, the leeward side of the island is where all the diving is concentrated.<
Curacao is easy to get to with direct flights via Miami on American Airlines and ALM and KLM has a direct 747 flying in from the Netherlands for Eurodivers. Unlike many of the islands in the Caribbean, the baggage restrictions are generous, particularly appreciated when you are bringing in a lot of diving and camera gear.<
The hotel has rental trucks available for sightseeing or shore diving and there is a thrice-daily shuttle bus going into town. The accommodations are clean, roomy and contain a little kitchenette with refrigerator, stovetop and sink with dishes, pots and pans etc. All the rooms have quiet, computer controlled aircon and ceiling fans. There is a large veranda attached to each room with outdoor couch, chairs and table. The units are set up so that all the rooms have a nice ocean view. The Oceanview restaurant provides excellent meals and the package price included an extensive breakfast buffet. At the center of the resort is a large, freshwater freeform pool.<
The slogan for Habitat is “Home of Diving Freedom”. Many resorts talk about similar policies and “unlimited shore diving” but this is not just talk at the Habitat. Their approach is that the diver is responsible for their own activity and although the staff will cheerfully provide whatever support or guidance you request, divers who are comfortable with their skills are welcome to dive their own profiles, computers are welcomed and solo diving is no problem. Habitat truly provides unlimited shore diving with tanks filled and available 24hrs a day at the dock, a storage area with gear lockers that are available 24hrs a day and easy entry and exit at the water. If you want to put on your gear at 3AM and see what the critters are up to…no problem. <
Each day there is an 8:30 boat and a 1:30 boat from which to choose and this is great for those that like to sleep in or maybe took advantage of that 3AM dive. The boats are large, comfortable and well laid out. The staff is friendly and helpful and all the dive sites are within about 20min boat ride. The reefs are in excellent condition with great soft and hard corals and teeming with fish of all sizes, zillions of busy cleaning stations and lots of invertebrate life.<>
The house reef right in front of Habitat was my favorite spot. The usual shore dive consisted of following the line to the drop-off, turning right or left along the wall, enjoying a great dive, turning around and spotting the line on the way back and following it directly to the stairs. Perfect for night dives! The visibility was quite good and although the fine white sand could get stirred up in the shallows, the water cleared nicely at the wall. <>
The reefs of Curacao are a macro photographers dream! Many of the best critters are in 10 meters or less water and you can spend as long as you want setting up just the shot you want and letting the little guys get used to you. Most of my dives lasted about 90-100+ minutes. This was the first time I have done only solo diving and it was nice not to have to worry about fellow divers becoming bored while you wait 30 minutes for a Blenny to pose just right. Cleaning stations everywhere provided lots of shrimp and crab subjects, eels everywhere and about halfway along the guide rope to the wall in only about 10ft of water is a whole community of Sailfin Blennies. I spend two whole dives doing nothing but Sailfin shots. They were there all day, but about 5-6pm they started popping up over their holes like little Jack-in-the-boxes and flashing their large dorsal fins.<>
Chris Richards is the photo pro and runs an excellent operation with daily E-6 processing, rental of UW camera gear and photo seminars and classes. It was great to be able to shoot a few rolls, drop them off and see how things were coming along. Especially with the shore diving, it was easy to go back out a try again for the shots that you missed the first time around.<>
All in All, Habitat was a great trip. Good accommodations, excellent food, good photo support and best of all, some of the best diving I have done anywhere in the Caribbean. I can hardly wait to get back with Jeanie so we can catch those crazy little Sailfins on Video!<
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