Diving in Curacao

Bruce Campbell

Bruce Campbell

For the third night in a row I found myself drifting off to sleep with visions of a small emerald island in the Caribbean Sea. In my mind’s eye, I could see a plane gently gliding in for its final approach. We pass slowly over the vast majority of the 40 mile length of the island.

The sea was deep blue except as it approached the island where the water was shallow and became a turquoise blue.

Everything but the diving is like Amsterdam

After landing and catching a cab, our cabbie quickly informed us that the buildings we would begin to see would be in a wide variety of pastel colors.

The short drive from the airport to the resort was interesting. While we were driving through the City of Willemstad I noticed that many of the buildings reminded me of buildings I had seen in Amsterdam. I should not have been too surprised because Curacao is a Dutch Antilles island.

There are quite a few resorts in Curacoa. We had selected one which was all inclusive and had a close connection to the dive shop that we had read about, Ocean Encounters.

Diving the House Reef

We got settled in at the resort and we where ready to begin diving the next day. Our first dive was on the “house reef”.

I had relatively low expectations for this dive because in my prior experience of diving “house reefs” they had been pretty beaten up by divers who had abused the reef, and with fish life being almost nonexistent.

This dive was quite different.

Scuba diving in Curacao

Bruce Campbell

The reef was in good shape and the fish life although small was substantial. I was quickly immersed in looking for many of the reef’s small inhabitants. They included small fish.

For instance, there were many blue chromis as well as peppermint gobies which were not much longer than a fingernail.

The corals included brain coral, star coral and pillar coral. The corals attracted many small schools of fish. I quickly lost track of how many angel fish I had seen, and began to take photographs of as many animals as I could in the hour we were underwater.

Shooting wide angle or macro

As we continued diving during the course of the week, it occurred to me that the most difficult choice I had to make everyday was whether I was going to shoot wide angle or macro photographs.  The benefit of shooting wide angle was that anything large such as a dolphin, a turtle or a moray eel could be captured with some surrounding reef structure.

However, if the only wild life that showed up on a dive was small, shooting wide angle was like taking a picture of a pea in a box car. While you might see the pea it was lost in the box car. Thus, shooting a Blue Chromis with a wide angle lines meant it would be hard to see the fish in the picture.

On the other hand, if I where to use a macro setup I would be able to get up close to many of the small reef animals, but it meant that if there was a large animal the best I could do would be to capture a partial portrait.

In my experience, if the toughest decision you have to make is whether to shoot macro or wide angle, it is going to be a great day.

Regardless of my decision, I would miss some shots that I would love to have, but there was always an abundance of subjects to shoot during every single dive.

Diving the mushroom forest in Curacao

Scuba Diving the Mushroom forest

Bruce Campbell

One of the dives that I knew I would have to shoot as a wide angle was the mushroom forest. In the dive site known as the “mushroom forest” there are a number of large star coral formations many of which are over six feet in height.

Many years ago the bottom of a number of these large star coral formations was attacked by a disease. The disease ate away at the bottom of the star coral, but left the top more or less intact.

Eventually the disease died out, but left many of the large star corals looking much like mushrooms. The day we dove the mushroom forest the water clarity was gin clear. There were fewer small fish in the mushroom forest dive, but we saw quite a few moray eels, all of whom looked well fed.

Scuba diving with Dolphins

One of the other dives that we did was a night dive near a site known as the tug boat. This was definitely a macro dive. There were nudibranchs and other small molluschs that were available for shooting. There were also banded shrimps that were hiding in the crevices of the coral.

One of the highlights of the trip was when we encountered two bottle nose dolphins. The dolphins swam around our group of divers for five to ten minutes to see whether there was any danger involved in coming near us. Eventually, they came closer and closer to us.

Over the course of about 20 minutes they swam in an around our dive group. I was amazed at how long the mother and her baby could stay under water on a single breath of air. I was equally amazed at how fast they could move through the water.

It reminded that this was their home and I was a stranger. With a single flipper beat they could move easily 10 to 15 feet through the water. It would take me 10 to 15 fin kicks to get the same distance. Eventually the dolphins seemed to grow bored of us and moved on.

Wreck diving in Curacao

On our final day of diving we went back to the Tug Boat site during the day. We explored around the pier near the tug boat where we found sea horses and squid. The squid were very quick and it was very difficult to get close enough in order to take a picture.

Scuba diving on Tug Boat in Curacao

Bruce Campbell

They were numerous. There were easily 40 squid in the school. Towards the end of the dive we made our way over to the Tug Boat. It has been on the bottom for about 30 years. The Tug Boat is in about 15 feet of water which allows both snorkelers and scuba divers to observe it.

On the starboard side of the Tug Boat there is a whole in the hull. Inside the hull of the Tug Boat were hundreds of glassey-eyed sweepers. They moved slowly within the Tug Boat, paying little attention to the divers.

What about you

With all of the possibilities for diving in Curacao it is only a question of how long it will be before I return.

Have you dived in Curacao? Or do you have any plans of diving there in the future?

The author

Bruce Campbell

Bruce is a Rescue Diver and avid underwater photographer he began  diving 10 years ago. He has been fortunate enough to travel and dive throughout most of the Caribbean.

You can see some of Bruce’s photos here at Flickr  or on shutterstock.

More articles by Bruce Campbell

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3 Responses to “Diving in Curacao”

  1. Thomas Bang Petersenwrote on January 27:

    I was in Curacao last year, and stayed at Lions Dive & Beach Resort (I guess it's the same place you stayed with Ocean Encounters right next to the resort). The diving was great, and the night dives on the house reefs always spoiled us with octopus and lobsters. We had hoped for sharks and other large animals, but I guess Curacao is not the place for this - we met a local diveguide at one of the many divesites, and he told us he usually sees one (1) shark per year. The diving center was not in best form the time we stayed there. We had rented 2 cars to drive around the island for different divesites, and we just to had to inform them how many bottles we needed and how many of those should be nitrox. There was no point in giving them specific nitrox mix, as this would vary from bottle to bottle - and not match what we ordered. More than one time we found out, that a bottle was only half full or less - not fun after hours of driving to the other end of the island :-( But none the less a great trip, but I will not be coming back to Curacao, as I prefer Egypt with better visability, bigger animals and more sun :-) Pictures from the trip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pudekamp/sets/72157638151789633/

    Reply

  2. Bruce Campbellwrote on January 31:

    I understand your desire for bigger animals. I hope to one day get to Egypt. Here is a link to the video I shot while in Curacao of dolphins. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENZhF0nC64Q

    Reply

  3. Ashley Hauckwrote on March 08:

    How awesome that you saw dolphins while diving in Curacao! We have been to the island several times, and have been graced by the occasional turtle or eagle ray, but never a dolphin.

    Reply

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