If you are searching for a dive destination that also offers an intriguing glimpse into an island’s history, Curaçao is the place to go. This southern Caribbean island, located approximately 40 miles off the Venezuelan coast, is the largest of the former ABC Island chain (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao) at 444 km and is home to more than 150,000 people.
Curaçao was first inhabited by the Arawak Indians and later settled by the Spanish and finally the Dutch. The Dutch and Spanish influence is obvious everywhere on the island, especially in the architecture found in the capital city of Willemstad, which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For scuba divers, Curaçao offers an abundance of options from both shore and boat. The island consistently ranks in the top three for snorkeling and shore diving. Divers arriving on the island face the enviable task of choosing from more than 60 dive sites offering everything from one of the best wreck dives in the Caribbean to deep wall dives suitable for advanced divers only. There’s even an artificial reef made up of old automobiles.
Best Wreck Dive in Curaçao
In 1977, the Superior Producer – a 50 meter cargo ship en route to Isla Margarita from Curaçao – encountered heavy seas as it exited Curaçao’s harbor. Its load shifted, the ship began to list and finally sank as it was being towed back to port. The wreck sits in about 30 meters of water approximately 60 meters from shore, on a sandy plateau. The boat’s deck sits in about 25 meters of water, while the superstructure is the shallowest part of the wreck in 18 meters of water.
Diveable from shore or boat, the Superior Producer offers a fantastic dive experience for all levels of divers. Due to the extensive coral and sponge growth found on all aspects of the ship’s exterior, the wreck is also an underwater photographer’s dream, offering both wide angle and macro options.
Airplane Wreck in Curaçao
Just off the shore in Santa Martha lies the wreckage of a plane scattered on the sandy bottom. To access this wreck, you need to pass through the Sunset Waters Beach Resort. Just let the dive shop know you’ll be diving in the area, and access is no problem. You will have to drop the gear then park your car up a small hill.
Curaçao National Underwater Park
On the island’s southern coast, between Spaanse Water (“Spanish Water”) and Oostpunt, you will find the Curaçao National Underwater Park. In this park, you will find a huge variety of fish and reefs that are very close to shore, making this area perfect for shore diving.
Curaçao’s Military History
When you’re not underwater, you can learn all about the military history of Curaçao by visiting one of the six well-preserved forts that were built by the Dutch in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Fort Amsterdam, Fort Beekenburg, Fort Nassau, Fort Waakzaamheid, Riffort and Waterfort all stand as a testament to the Dutch’s desire to protect their small island.
Some of these forts have been incorporated into modern hotels, while others were transformed into museums and office space. Despite this modernization, much of the original fort construction remains and allows you to get a glimpse into the Dutch efforts to protect the island from pirates, privateers and unfriendly foreign countries. http://www.curacao.com/The-Curacao-Difference/Vibrant-Architecture/Forts
When to Go to Curaçao
Water temperatures average 82-86F between May-December and 76-80F between January–April.
Trade winds blow consistently nearly year-round, providing the island with cooling breezes almost every day. Although Curaçao is an arid island, there is a rainy season from February through April. However, even in the rainy season you can expect mostly brief showers that happen while you’re sleeping at night.
Dive Services in Curaçao
Ocean Encouters Curaçao is a National Geographic dive organization offering a full range of PADI dive courses at three locations around the island. Ocean Encounters has been ranked the number one dive operator on Curaçao by the readers of Scuba Diving Magazine. www.oceanencounters.com
For a different take on Curaçao shore diving, hop on The Dive Bus for an unforgettable shore diving adventure. The Dive Bus is a PADI Project Aware Eco Operator and encourages all guests to make beach and ocean preservation a top priority. PADI dive course are offered here, and non-diving friends and family are encouraged to hang out and chill on the beach at The Dive Bus Hut while divers explore the underwater world. www.the-dive-bus.com