|Diving is 'dushi' in Curacao|
WILLEMSTAD, CURACAO -- It goes without saying that the diving is definitely ‘dushi’ down in Curacao. Before anyone reaches for a dictionary, let me explain.
I was introduced to this highly-used word by local resident Dylene Esprit who explained its meaning in Papiamentu, a blend of Portugese, Dutch and local dialects.
This Dutch colony has become a hotspot for scuba divers seeking out its pristine underwater conditions and relatively unaffected ecology. Curacao has only recently been developed as an active tourist hub.
Never ones to spend too much time above the water, divers are lured here by several great sites.
The dive site known as the Mushroom Forest is located around San Nicolas and is renowned for the star coral which have become mushroom-shaped due to extensive erosion.
With visibility that averages around 26 metres and depths between 12 and 18 metres, divers look for aquatic life such as porcupinefish, moray eels, lobsters and anemones. Some even keep their eyes peeled for the odd nurse shark, while others try to keep their encounters with the predators to a minimum.
Nearby, Hell’s Corner offers some great underwater scenery for the more experienced diver. The area gets its name from its dangerous visitors, including barracudas, morays and spiny lobsters, not to mention the fact that waves break freely against the rocky shore, playing havoc with divers.
Fearless scuba enthusiasts frequent the site for the amazing array of brain coral, schooling jacks and sea turtles.
For those looking for a more tame dive, the site off of Playa Kalki in the town of Westpunt, known as Alice in Wonderland, is about a five minute swim from shore to a wall that drops about 18 metres. The site is notably calm with minimal currents and is frequented by green moray eels and various types of reef fish. The big attraction for divers is the mushroom-shaped star coral.
Probably the most appealing aspect of a dive trip to Curacao is the fact that the island offers a great deal to do on land, as well as in the ocean.
The capital Willemstad is a vibrant city with pastel-coloured buildings and some interesting history.
The buildings were given their colourful coatings after a Dutch colonial governor insisted that the city’s whitewashed walls were giving him headaches in the blistering sun. He demanded that every building be painted pastel blues, greens, yellows and pinks.
The island’s tourist industry has been thanking him ever since.
I was fascinated by sites like the Kura Hulanda Museum and its array of artifacts ranging from rare cuneiform tablets to an extensive documenting of the island’s slave history.
Self-made millionaire Jakob Gelt Dekker, owner and curator of the Kura Hulanda, opened the museum out of a passion for history. Of the rare cuneiform carved bricks unique to his collection, Dekker humbly explains he translated the inscriptions himself “because it was fun.”
After a walk around the Kura Hulanda, divers-come-tourists can take a stroll over to the local synagogue, unique in the fact that it is the oldest continuously operating Jewish temple of worship in the western hemisphere.
But after some sightseeing, it’s clearly time to get back in to the water, the main purpose of the trip.
Fans of wreck dives have a couple of different options here.
The Superior Producer was a cargo ship that sank just off the coast of Curacao, just west of the entrance to the harbour in Otrabanda. The wreck can be accessed from the shore, but waves and currents here can be treacherous, so diving with an experienced local is strongly advised. Once away from shore, the water offers great visibility (usually about 30 metres) and the ship lies under about 30 metres of water. The ship sits upright and a dive here is a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of sea life like grouper and barracuda.
For a more relaxed wreck dive, the Tugboat, as the site is known by local divers, is located in the Curacao Underwater Park. At only five metres, the wreck is ideal for scuba divers, and even snorkellers, to explore. You will need a boat to get out to the site, but once there the wreck features some beautiful corals and a chance to get a photo underwater with something less than an outrageously expensive underwater camera.
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