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 Islands Information

Place: Curacao

Snorkeling and Diving in Curacao   by Justin Burch

Home to over 80 miles of pristine coral reef, myriad tropical fish, sponges, sea turtles, seahorses, eels and dolphins, the waters surrounding Curacao beg to be enjoyed and photographed. Besides boasting the clearest water in the Caribbean, with average visibility between 80-140 feet, year-round water temperatures of 78-83°F allow the ocean to be enjoyed regardless of season. Whether you want to snorkel or scuba dive, there are plenty of experienced dive operators providing daily boat trips and tours to all the best locations. From quiet coves with shallow reefs perfect for snorkelers and beginning divers, to coral walls with strong currents for experienced drift divers, there are sites in Curacao for everyone. In addition to being recognized as the best snorkeling and scuba diving location in the Caribbean, Curacao was also named the "3rd Best Destination in the World" by Scuba Diving Magazine. With over 80 unique dive and snorkel sites to be explored, this article will merely scratch the surface of what Curacao has to offer.

Porto Marie is a wonderful site for all levels of divers and snorkelers with a quiet, scenic beach to relax before and after your dive. Currents and swells here are light and the visibility averages 80 feet. Porto Marie offers a unique double reef dive, with a 100-foot wide, 50-foot deep sandy valley separating the inner and outer reefs.

Klein Curacao is a tiny, idyllic island southeast of Curacao. Day trips are available from a number of dive shops and charter companies. The island offers a serene day away from civilization with a long stretch of powdery sand, shallow snorkeling areas, an old scenic lighthouse and the wreck of the Maria Bianca Guidesman tanker resting against the rocks. Additionally, visibility is usually over 100 feet, allowing divers the opportunity to observe sea turtles and dolphins.

The Superior Producer is a fantastic wreck dive located near the Mega Pier where cruise ship passengers disembark for daytrips into Willemstad, the island's capital. The currents are strong here, so the site is limited to experienced divers. Roughly 200 feet long, you'll find this wreck sitting upright on a sand plateau between two reefs in about 100 feet of water. After 27 years beneath the surface, the ship is completely encrusted with tube sponges, cup coral and patches of black coral, producing a colorful garden complete with snails, rays, eels and darting fish. Also, the bridge has recently been opened up and is safe to swim through.

The incredibly popular Tugboat is a wreck that can be enjoyed by snorkelers and divers alike. Sitting upright in just 20 feet of water, the 30-foot vessel is accessible from shore or by boat. After three decades beneath the sea, it is fully encrusted with elaborate formations of brain coral, star coral, sponges and Christmas tree worms. The area is also teeming with such photogenic fish as sergeant majors and parrotfish.

Watamula lies off the coast of a national park at the northwestern corner of the island. The reef starts at 30 feet and runs down to a sandy shelf at 100 feet. Sea turtles favor this area, with a huge resident logger head, the barnacle-encrusted "Crush," regularly spotted resting between 30 and 60 feet. 

The Mushroom Forest, regularly cited as one the Caribbean's premier dives, is also located on the sparsely populated northwest side of Curacao. The Forest starts close to shoreline cliffs in 40 feet of water and runs several hundred yards out into the sea, reaching a depth of 60 feet. The site earns its name from the giant mushroom-shaped coral formations sprouting from the seafloor. Formed over many decades as the bottoms of Great Star and Plate Corals were undermined by fish, sponges and clams, some have grown to over ten feet in diameter.

Oswaldo's Drop Off, another of Curacao's celebrated sites, is suitable for all levels of divers with great snorkeling on a shallow terrace. The drop off is only 100 yards from shore with the reef wall starting in 30 feet of water, gradually plunging to a depth of 130 feet. The remains of the Car Pile, an artificial reef created in the 1960s, also rests in this area.
Playa Kalki, also known as Alice in Wonderland, is a fantastic site located on the west side of the island. Sheltered from the wind with minimal surf, this is a great place to rent a diveyak, an inflatable kayak that can hold all your gear.

Playa Jeremi offers a quiet sandy beach with an easy dive entry. The sheltered bay is ideal for beginning divers and snorkelers, with plenty of coral at depths of 3-20 feet. For experienced divers, the outer reef offers a fantastic variety of unspoiled corals and abundant fish populations.

About the Author

This article was written by Justin Burch. Justin writes select pieces about travel in the Caribbean for the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino. -