||Curacao, September 2011||
Watching coral not spawning is hard work—it takes perfect buoyancy and patience. Reminds me of a manta ray dive in Hawaii with no mantas and a “blue water” dive in Hawaii where that’s all we saw—blue water!
Twenty-four of us headed to Curacao in September where our home for the week was Lion’s Dive & Beach Resort, twenty minutes away from the airport and right next to the aquarium. After checking in, the divers hurried to the dive shop to hear the briefing before they closed—one less thing to do the next morning.
Ocean Encounters has a first class dive operation. With three large, comfortable boats, they can handle over 60 divers. We rotated through a few Captains and guides, except for Jeremiah who was with us for six days of diving. We set up our gear on the boat each morning; staff changed tanks between dives if we wanted. No coddling as far as lugging and rinsing our gear at the end of the dive day, but that’s OK. There were two large rinse tanks on the dock, plus two showers and fresh water hose.
Lion’s Dive is not a dedicated dive resort—there are lots of beach lovers that travel there from Europe and Venezuela. Most of the staff seemed to be multi-lingual, able to understand English, Dutch, and a few other languages. The rooms are comfortable with double or king beds, mini-refrigerators, a couch, TV, and patio or balcony. There’s WiFi, but it’s expensive and slow. The resort is on a lovely beach and also has 3 pools, including a 50 meter pool. Our card key got us into the nearby aquarium for free, where we watched the dolphins cavort and some of us were kissed by a sea lion (they have very soft lips).
There are three restaurants on the premises. Hemingway’s, right on the beach, is where the breakfast buffet was served each morning, and was a popular place to gather at other times. They had a Cuban buffet and band one evening, and the food and music were excellent. Piazza is the casual spot for pizza and sandwichs, open until 5pm. Nemo’s is the more upscale and romantic restaurant, overlooking the ocean. Other places to eat were next to the aquarium, down the beach at Cabana, in town, or at a couple of nearby Italian restaurants. The food was good to excellent.
Two boat dives each day for six days were included in our package, along with unlimited shore diving. The steeply sloping wall began in as little as 20 feet and had mostly healthy hard corals and lots of beautiful soft corals. I saw thousands of Christmas tree worms, and small tropicals abound. The only large fish I saw was a black grouper far below on one dive. There were a few turtles, a couple of small rays, and quite a few of the more unusual fish, like cowfish, filefish, glassy sweepers, two-foot puffers, and spotted drums. We also spotted several eels, including a snake eel. Jeremiah found a pure white mantis shrimp that stayed at the top of its hole while we took pictures. And of course there were lionfish. The guides were always on the lookout for them; the dive sites that are visited often are pretty clean, but other places had a dozen or more.
Shore diving was pretty good. Each group is required to tote a dive float as a warning to boats and wave runners, and divers are required to stay on the surface while in the boat channel. We either jumped in at the dock (more paddling) or walked in off the beach (more walking). As soon as we hit the end of the boat channel, we submerged and headed to the left, to the right, or down the slope, only a two minute swim away. There’s some wreckage, lobsters, an octopus den, and lots of fish. I wasn’t bored on any of the dives (well, maybe the coral spawning dive a little) and they were all relaxing and pleasant with enough to keep everyone interested. And there were always lionfish to hunt.
One special dive was to the Mushroom Forest, over an hour from the resort. The coral there was eaten away by bacteria from the bottom up before the bacteria disappeared, so the hard corals looks like—mushrooms. That makes the eels and other critters that hide inside the coral easier to see. During the break we snorkeled into the Blue Room—a cut out cave with glassy sweepers in the back.
Curacao exceeded our expectations, with fairly painless travel, easy diving, good food, nice rooms, other things to do, and pleasant staff. Lion’s Dive goes into our rotation of fun places to visit.