Scuba Diving Curacao
The spectacular “Underwater Park” includes miles of aquatic scenery and diverse marine life.
Curaçao is an island in the southern Caribbean Sea, north of the Venezuelan coast, that forms part of the Dutch Caribbean. The Country of Curaçao, which includes the main island and the small, uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao (“Little Curaçao”), is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It has a population of over 150,000 on an area of 171 sq mi (444 km2) and its capital is Willemstad.
It is a long and generally flat island, stretching some 40 miles The island is about 10 miles (16 km) at it’s widest point, making it the largest island of the Dutch Caribbean islands.
Curacao’s capital city, Willemstad, provides a memorable cosmopolitan experience in a tropical setting. While the Dutch influence is clear from the local architectural style, the buildings’ bright blue, orange and yellow colors are uniquely Caribbean. Willemstad has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Sights worth seeing in Willemstad include numerous museums, the Floating Market and the Queen Juliana Bridge. With a height of 185 feet (55 m), the Queen Juliana is the tallest bridge in the Caribbean and allows shipping to pass into the inner harbor without disrupting traffic with a drawbridge. Driving across it affords you picturesque, panoramic views of Willemstad’s unique architecture.
With Curacao’s cosmopolitan flavor and international influence (more than 50 different cultures), it’s no surprise that island cuisine is both excellent and varied, from road-side stands selling tasty local dishes to sophisticated restaurants offering world class fine dining.
You’ll also want to explore the coves and caves along the coastline, as well as the interior of the island. In the Christoffel National Park, you’ll see Indian cave paintings, numerous species of iguana and, if you’re very lucky, the small, white-tailed Curaçao deer. In Christoffel National Park, you can also visit the plantation Savonet, with one of the island’s few remaining 19th century landhouses (in restoration).
SCUBA DIVING CURACAO
Curacao offers a wide variety of diving adventures with walls, wrecks, reefs and more. Both the experienced and new diver will have much to explore.
There are more than 60 identified dive sites to choose from, with about 40 of them accessible as shore dives. Wreck, reef and deep diving are all available along the reefs and walls that encircle the island.
The shore is mostly rocky but contains bays and beaches. The reef drops off close to shore along the Southern shore. Along the Northern shore the drop-off is farther from shore but still reachable while swimming.
A lot of the sandy beaches are home to a dive shop. There you can get information about diving at that location, about special attractions and you can rent tank, weights or a complete set. Most dive shops also offer guided dives.
You will experience calm conditions, good visibility, healthy reefs and beautiful macro life, plus, the entire island is a shore diver’s dream. Because Curacao is surrounded by a fringing reef created by geological events long ago, dozens of dive sites are within steps of the road.
The southern area is a protected underwater marine park and, throughout the island, dive centers ask that divers make a voluntary donation (currently US$10) to help protect the environment.
HIGHLIGHT DIVE AREAS
A majority of the dive sites on Curacao are located on the west side of the island. Many of the sites can be dived either by boat or as shore dives. The dive operators throughout the island will rent tanks and have maps available to help find the shore dive sites. The island is long enough so that renting a car to get around, including to shore dive sites is a practical plan.
However, many of the dive sites are located far enough off shore that it is pleasant to enjoy them as boat dives. Even though many are described as either shore dive or boat dive, it is far easier (and many would say more pleasant) to dive from a boat with all the diver support that a dive operator can provide.
Klein Curacao (Dutch for “Little Curacao”) lies 15 miles off the southeast point of Curaçao. From a distance, you can see Klein Curaçao’s landmark lighthouse and a shipwreck that was lodged on the beach many years ago. As the boat approaches the coast, you’ll see a few huts, which are used by the local island fishermen. It offers spectacular drift diving. There usually are stronger currents here then on Curacao. The reefs on the eastern side are very lush with lots of soft and hard coral. Around the two tips there are large caverns and overhangs where nurse sharks can be found. The currents provide excellent visibility and there are usually schools of larger fish like barracuda, wahoo and snapper. The sandy beaches are a nesting ground for sea turtles and these beautiful animals can be seen here year round.
DIVING SEASON: All year around. However, September- December is when most popular dive sites are at their calmest. The island also lies below the hurricane belt so it is not affected by the season.
VISIBILITY: Visibility runs from 50 to 100 feet.
WATER TEMPERATURE: Average Water Temp: Low to mid-80s in summer; mid- to high 70s in winter. In the colder months you may need a full 3 or 5 mm suit depending on the depth of your dive. In the warmer months you can wear a skin or 1.6mm shorty.
WEATHER: Constant trade winds keep the island at an average temperature of about 80-82F (26-28C), with a bit higher temperatures in summer. The island’s average rainfall is just 22 inches (56 centimeters) per year, with the rainy season being October-February.
SKILL LEVELS: Dives are available for all diver skill levels.
MARINE LIFE: Manta ray, stingray, eagle ray, turtles, octopus and even seahorse are all frequent Curacao’s reefs and wrecks, along with numerous other species of reef fish. You may even see dolphins or pilot whales, if you are lucky!
CLIMATE: Since it lays below the hurricane zone, Curacao has a truly tropical climate. Summer temps average 85 degrees and drop to the mid-70s in winter.
LANGUAGE: The official languages are Dutch, Papiamentu, and English. However, Dutch is the sole language for all administration and legal matters. The most widely spoken language is Papiamentu, a Portuguese creole spoken in all levels of society.
ELECTRICITY: Electrical current in Curaçao is 110 to 130 volts at 50 cycles (AC), which is close to the United States standard of 120 volts at 60 cycles.
CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: The Netherlands Antillean guilder (also called the florin) is the national currency. It is pegged to the US dollar at a stable rate of US$ 1 = NAFl. 1.77. Many major international credit cards are accepted. Most vendors such as shops, hotels, restaurants, and other services will accept credit cards, and some even accept debit cards. ATMs that dispense guilders are readily available on the island and accept cards on the major networks.
GRATUITIES: When your bill is presented to you, at the bottom there will be a 5% charge (its called OB) this is the tax and goes to the government. If a service charge is NOT included on your bill – a 10 or 15% tip will be appreciated
PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: While Curacao has cellular phone service, roaming services can be very expensive! Most of the hotels and resorts have internet service available. There are some internet cafes in the towns, as well.
VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: All visitors to Curacao must have a passport. Visas are generally not required, except for a few, very specific countries.
CUSTOMS: The following items may be brought into Curacau without incurring customs duty: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigarillos or 25 cigars or 125g of tobacco. 1L of spirits over 22% (but no additional wine or beer), or 1L of spirits less than 22% plus 2L of non-sparkling wine and 8L of beer. Gifts up to a value of US$500 (or US$150 for children under 15).
DEPARTURE TAX: Airport departure fees are assessed for International destinations of USD $39.00
GETTING THERE: Hato International Airport (CUR) is located on the island. It can accommodate commercial jet aircrafts as large as the Boeing 747. The island is served by a number of airlines, and connections can be made to any part of the world. The major air carriers servicing Curacao are American Airlines, Jet Blue, U S Airways, Air Canada and KLM.
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