April 4, 2006 (RCCL Empress of the Seas)
Rating of 1-5 stars:
Diving ***** (Pierbaai Reef on the way to Car Pile ***** 68ft/42min
Pierbaai Reef on the wall ***** 60ft/59min)
I wouldn’t dive with anyone else on Curacao! What a blast!
Personal dive biases: I am a Floridian with >350 dives, certification through rescue. My diving experience has been under all sorts of conditions, but I no longer dive rough, deep or cold water (why bother?), and avoid weekend warriors whenever possible. My diving preference is drifting on reefs, and I have been known to bring home a bug or two.
I found The Dive Bus while poking around on the web looking for diving on Curacao. The website http://www.the-dive-bus.com was functional, informative, and a whole lot of fun. My initial E-mail was answered within minutes by Suzy. Originally, our intention was to do the house reef and animal feed at the Curacao aquarium with a guide from The Dive Bus, as they could pick us up at the terminal, and we could head over to the aquarium for the dive, lunch, and animal feed in any order, depending on when we got there.
Not too long after we booked, the access to the port was cut off to all but taxi services, and Mark and Suzy expanded their dive operation by opening The Dive Bus Hut on the beach at Marie Pampoen next to the Surf and Turf restaurant. Suzy E-mailed me to let me know the new developments, and we decided to dump the Aquarium dives in favor of beach diving, fresh fish at halftime, and beers and dive stories afterward.
I then proceeded to post the information on our Cruise Critic thread for the sailing, and through many E-mails, postings, and other cheerleading, we ended up with a group of 17 assorted divers, discover/refresher divers, snorkelers, and some folks that just wanted to hang out on the beach. The best part was that there was something to do for the non-divers. Suzy had endless patience with us while we figured out all the details, including my scatterbrain in having us listed for first the wrong month, then the wrong day, and finally the wrong ship docking time. Luckily, between Suzy, and one of my CC buddies, Christine (aka Froggie Q), I finally was able to get all the details straight. We then added four more folks from the ship during the previous stops, for a grand total of 21 people! (6 divers, 4 discover/refresher divers, 6 snorkelers, and the rest to hang out)
In the morning, we met at the Schooner Bar, and got off the ship in one group, right after 11am. We were able to stuff ourselves in 3 taxi vans, and negotiated a price of $4 each for the trip. I paid for the whole group on the way over, and included a tip for the drivers, and everyone paid me ($100).
We crossed that TALL bridge, and worked our way down to the coast until we arrived at the Hut – about a 15-20 minute ride. Suzy, Mark, Frank and Jesper were waiting for us. We made introductions, and Suzy got the numbers of the taxi drivers so they could pick us up in the afternoon.
The divers were divided into two groups – the 3 old hands, (Instructor Chris, Keith and I) geared up and headed off with Frank as DM. The newer group then geared up and headed out with Jesper as DM (Laurie, Doug, and Tom W.). Suzy then started the class with the 4 Discover and refresher divers (Christine, Sam, Tom M, and Li). That’s true personal service! The snorkelers flopped in, and the rest built sandcastles, hung out on the lounges, yakked, and had a good time.
We old hands headed out into the water. Wear thick booties – there are LOTS of rocks on the bottom. Swam out of the cove and dropped over the edge into some absolutely beautiful fairy-tale reef – vis about 80 ft or so, with murky areas at the edge of the vis. Water temp was about 81 F, making me glad that I was wearing a wetsuit. Unfortunately, there was a bit of current caused by some surge and wave action left over from some freaky weather patterns that had been occurring over the past couple of weeks, and that’s what caused the decrease in vis (80 ft a decrease!). There was just enough current to make my head cool, and to make me actually have to fin a bit. We never did make it all the way down to Car Pile as the current started to increase, but the journey was absolutely beautiful! Fish, fish, and more fish of every kind, and then some more kinds of fish, cruising around beautiful corals and sponges. Arrived back at the cove with 1300 left in my tank, which beat all three of the fellas (once again!). We never saw the newer diver group, but yakking over halftime, we found out that they didn’t go quite as far as we did, and stayed a bit shallower.
When we got back, Mark was distraught to hear that the vis was down and there was a bit of current – evidently it was a very unusual occurrence. Mark and Frank then debated on how to do the second dive to avoid the current and get some better vis.
We ordered the fish of the day, and got a WONDERFUL fillet of snapper, a salad of lettuces, carrots and cucumbers with a light, tasty dressing, and fries that were just like I like them – crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Keith and I shared the fish and salad with a few fries, and I gave the rest to the snorkelers as we had another dive, and neither one of us wanted to spend it burping. If the diving had not been so gorgeous, we would have whistled up another plate, some beer, and called it a day. However, the sparkling water beckoned for another dive.
We switched over, geared up again and headed out of the cove to the drop off, and this time took a different route by heading down the wall. The vis was up to 90-100 ft this direction, with no noticeable current. More wonderful reef, and more fish, and lots of eels (my favorite)! Just another day of diving in paradise. Chris’s flash was going off constantly, and I was really missing the camera I flooded back on our first dive of the cruise. On our way back to the cove, we passed the Discover diver group led by Suzy, and traded lots of OK! and WOW! signs.
Got back to the cove with 1500 this time, and I started dip rinsing and packing gear for our return, and a cold Polar beer for me magically appeared in Keith’s hand. I love it when that happens! Unfortunately, we only had about two hours left of port time, so Suzy called the taxis, and we swapped a couple of stories and sunk some Polars while waiting for the taxis to show up. One taxi came almost immediately, and most of the snorkelers headed back. The other two taxis followed shortly, so we had to say goodbye, get soggy hugs, and head back to the ship.
WE WILL RETURN!!!!!! and bring more CCers!
Instructor Chris graciously sent me some of his pictures, and I have posted them on my webshots. Check out his photos at http://community.webshots.com/user/wendyandkeith