Choosing Curacao in Hurricane Season
Fall is hurricane season in the Caribbean. It seems that one just passes through before the next one is in the news. We often just don’t think about heading south during the fall. We have travelled to Bahamas and to St Lucia in the late summer and we accept there is a risk of having to make changes in our plans. One year we settled on Curacao in hurricane season for a scuba diving escape.
Curacao is part of what we think of as the “ABC” islands – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Located just above Venezuela, they are in a spot before the winds really pick up moisture. They have not seen a hurricane in over 20 years. We were hoping luck was with us on this visit!
We ended up with great weather on Curacao once we finally made it there. Our fall air travel adventures proved less satisfactory. We were delayed for a long time getting out of Toronto due to a mix of weather and bad pilot decisions. This meant we missed our connection in Miami and got dumped in an airport hotel that was under construction. The airline didn’t even cover that cost since they believed the delay was not their fault. And we lost a night at our diving resort. A lesson learned about booking connecting flights through Miami. Especially if heading to Curacao in hurricane season.
Choosing a Dive Resort
Curacao is renowned for almost unlimited shore diving. This would untether us from dive boats and dive charter schedules. Most of the time when we head south, we are in resorts that offer resort scuba diving as part of the included water sports. Sometimes we get really surprise, like the awesome scuba diving in St Lucia. But often, resort diving is not your best scuba diving vacation. On this trip we decided to book at a dedicated dive resort.
Our dive resort provided us with unlimited shore diving. We added on a boat tour package for 4 days of 2 tank dives. We figured this would give us a good variety of scuba diving in Curacao in hurricane season.
Even though we missed a day due to our delayed arrival, we managed to book diving for the days and locations we wanted. The facilities were good. There were unlimited tanks on the dock and tanks available if you wanted to head off-site to shore dive somewhere else. The dive lockers on the dock meant we didn’t have to haul gear back and forth from our room. The dive boat could pull right up to the dock so we didn’t even have to leave the resort for boat dives. It may not have been “concierge diving”, but it was pretty good. Had it been concierge diving, I would have never had to lift gear. But then, this was not a live aboard experience.
Even though we were in Curacao in hurricane season, the weather was good for most of the trip. There had been no major storms so visibility was good at most dive sites.
Step Off the Dock and Scuba Dive
I really loved the shore diving and the ability to just jump off the dock and dive. We could dive when we wanted and for how long we wanted as long as we watched our dive limits. I used the first shore dive to test my weighting and ensure I was perfectly trimmed.
David had brought his full face masks for us to play with on this trip. The face masks included an underwater communications system so we could chat as we explored. This was great when we were off wandering on our own without a dive master. It was nice to be able to talk underwater but I had to be careful not to chatter away and destroy the quiet peaceful dive.
While it was a little scary to dive without a guide, we knew if we surfaced it would always be easy to see the resort in front of us.
The shore diving from our resort offered lots to see in all directions. The variety of sea life was good in the shallow water. So while we could dive deep, we really did not need to. It was a great supplement to the boat diving we did. It is a great reason to stay on a dedicated dive resort when you visit Curacao in hurricane season.
When you climbed out of the sea and dumped your gear, it was a short walk to the endless pool for a drink as the sun set!
My First Night Dive
One of the great things about being able to dive from your resort is the ease of doing a night dive. This would be my first night dive. We went down on our own so our underwater communications system helped a lot. I was careful not to stray too far from David. His underwater navigation is far better than mine!
Scuba diving at night you get to see some things that never come out during the day. In the middle of a large sponge we discovered what looked like a flat crab about 6” in size with eyes on the top. We later identified this as a Slipper Lobster.
There were lots of curious fish, attracted by the lights. They came to play with us. At the end of the dive we turned off our lights. When we waved our hands, we stirred up tiny bioluminescent particles that danced in the water. It was an interesting experience.
Boat Diving in Curacao
The dive boats went out for a morning and afternoon dive. We managed to see a different dive site on each trip out while in Curacao in hurricane season.
Harry’s Hole was apparently the spot to find sea horses but not on our dive. Mike’s Place was the former home of a giant sponge, reputedly as big as a satellite dish. Witch’s Cauldron was filled with large cauldron-like hard and soft coral and sponges. The Mushroom Forest was an amazing collection of giant towering mushrooms. Many were taller than me!
An early morning dive at Hell’s Corner provided us with a great variety of fish. With our fish guide in hand, we were adding to our list. At Porto Maria you start on the first reef at 35’ and sink down to the second one below 100’. We saw lots of eels at this site. David kept trying to get me close to the eels but I was not cooperating!
On our last diving day we went to Rediho (aka Radio City). This was a shallow dive but was very colourful. When you went a little deeper you could find black coral.
On this trip we went down as deep at 115’! It was amazing how quickly we got deep when the visibility was so good. I was certainly glad we had rented dive computers to keep track of our nitrogen load, the basic cause of decompression illness aka “the bends”.
The Dive Bus
One day when we went into town and found the Dive Bus. It was run by a couple, Suzi & Mark, that would take you around the island to the various shore diving sites. We met the owners and talked about diving while we sipped on a cold beer. They were helpful in giving us tips about places to see around the island. We even found our recommend for the romantic dinner on the beach. It had not been much of a romantic vacation!
We never did get back to dive with the Dive Bus. Having missed one day stuck in Miami, we found our week in Curacao went far too quickly. But if you are visiting and not staying at a dive resort, this would be a great way to see the shore diving sites. It is great if you have problems with boat diving.
Our dive resort was out of town. If you wanted to see anything on the island, you really need to rent a car. We headed off a few times, map in hand. The road signs are minimal to non-existent. We just looked for signs that pointed to locations in the general direction we wanted.
One time we went in search of snorkel sites around the island. Diving & snorkelling sites were marked at the roadside by large rocks painted red like the diver’s flag with a white strip across them. We found several lovely little bays and beaches. As we had found diving around Curacao, the current in many locations was quite swift. So we were careful not to drift too far from shore.
We visited the main city of Willemstad one day. The ferry will take you from one side to the other. Both sides of the harbour had multi-coloured buildings in pastel hues. It reminded me of the colourful beach towns on the Amalfi Coast.
Willemstad is a cruise port. We found a cruise ship in port and posed.
To keep the chocoholic happy, we did not pass by the Hagen Daz ice cream shop! It was a great break from the sun.
With the cruise ship in port, we found the downtown area overrun. The crowed main drag was blasting out music for “Cruise Ship Wednesday”. Wandering off we found a great little warren of cafes around the museum at Juru Hulanda for dinner.
Head to Curacao For A Great Scuba Dive Vacation
We went to Curacao in hurricane season. While we had some rain on the island, the weather was great. The travel from Toronto may be more of a challenge. The diving for the week was great. We saw such a wide variety of underwater life. It would spoil us for many years. Most of the resort diving sites just couldn’t compare to Curacao!
A dedicated dive resort is perfect for an island like this with great shore diving. The small island offers a little town life when you need a break from diving!
Have you visited Curacao in hurricane season? If you went scuba diving, did you find this to be a great spot?