Manta Divers February, 2017- Curacao Trip Report!
Once the dust settles from the holidays, and our homes are returned to their everyday décor, here in Wisconsin, the winter can really drag on. The days are short and Mother Nature is stingy with the sunshine. That is why January is a perfect time to take a dive trip. Team Manta just did that, enjoying a week in Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles, diving, shopping, touring and generally soaking up warmth and sun.
We flew out of Chicago, connected in Charlotte and then arrived at Curacao International Airport. Curacao is attempting to streamline the immigration process by offering online “ED-Cards.” Travelers may use in flight WiFi to check in at www.edcardcuracao.com. It syncs with the automated boarder Management System, or “eGates”. I can’t really say how this works, though, since American Airlines did not share this information until we were out of the range of the on board Wi Fi. From the looks of it, though, it would get travelers through the lines much faster. If you go to Curacao, try it and report back!
After collecting our bags, we boarded a transport bus which took us to Lions Dive resort, located about 13 miles from Willemstad, Curacao’s capital and the main tourist spot for shopping, dining and nightlife. Our rooms were fairly large, with safes, a TV (which got the Packers game) and a small refrigerator. The resort has a shuttle that goes to and from Willemstad twice a day, but for divers, the schedule is not all that convenient. We
rented cars or scooters or taxied to get where we needed to go. Mike and I rented a car for the week with another member of our group, so we were able to pick up cold cuts, cheese and other necessary supplies as needed. We were also able to make excursions on our own schedule to see the island, go to dinner or whatever. Breakfast at Hemingway’s, one of Lions Dive on site restaurants, was included in our package. They served cold cuts, cereal, a variety of breads and pastries, vegetables, fruit, and other usual breakfast fare. Guests could also order eggs or omelets as they wanted. They started serving at 7am sharp, with not even coffee available until the stroke of 7.
I did not eat at the other restaurants at Lions Dive, Piazza or Nemo’s, but we did eat a Hemingway’s for lunch and dinner a couple of times. On our first night at the resort, our entire group ate together. I made a reservation to be sure they were prepared. The service was so-so, even by “Caribbean time” standards, mainly because our server was not particularly friendly, and it was really difficult to get water or drink refills, the check, etc. They were very accommodating, however, when our group wanted to watch the Packers on Sunday, setting up a long table for us and turning up the volume so we could hear, but once the Sunday evening entertainment started, the TV had to be turned down, so we finished watching in our rooms. (Totally understandable)
Limoncello’s, which is next to the SeaAquarium, was great, however, and a good alternative to onsite dining. It is just a short walk across the bridge from our rooms so in between the morning and afternoon dives, we could scoot over there for lunch. The food there was very good, Italian mainly, but also very delicious burgers. The staff there was so much fun and very accommodating. Located at Mambo Beach, the Bollywood, an Indian food restaurant, has delicious food, served in the open air. Mam
bo Beach is a good spot to shop or to dine, as it is a mall with a many food choices available. When on Curacao, a trip to the Ostrich Farm is mandatory, at least for Team Manta. We were picked up at Lions Dive and driven to the Aloe Vera farm first for an informational talk and a chance to pick up some aloe vera products. Then we went to the Ostrich farm and we piled into an open air truck for a fun, informative tour of the operation. We finished the evening with a wonderful meal featuring ostrich meat and other African dishes. (The pumpkin soup is not to be missed!)
Oh, and we dove there, too. :) Ocean Encounters is the onsite dive operation. We had about 12 divers on the boat and dove together as a group with on divemaster leading us. It was leisurely and uncrowded diving, as most everyone respected the other divers’ space. We did quite a few drift dives, but they were the nice, gentle types that require little effort to move along. When the boat came to pick us up, they threw out a line that we all could grab onto so we did not have to struggle to stay by the boat. We pulled ourselves to the boat and our divemaster would take our cameras or fins and hand them up so it was easy to board the boat. My husband, newly recovered from extensive back surgeries, needed a little help with his gear. He usually jumped into the water and then the crew handed his gear to him to don. To get out, he did the reverse, doffing his kit and the crew hauling it into the boat, and then climbing the ladder without all the weight. Pol was our divemaster the first day, but for the rest of our stay, it was Karen. Both were attentive, professional and fun!
My favorite dive site was “TugBoat”, a relatively shallow dive, but with so much to see! We dived this site also for our night dive and saw two octopuses and squid eggs! I had never seen squid eggs before, but they looked like a giant, purple, floating large
intestine. We had an upgrade that included the Mushroom Forest dive and lunch. The ride to the mushroom Forest is about 1 hour, and as I love boat rides, that was fine with me. This site is called Mushroom Forest because many years ago, there was some sort of blight on the coral that ate away at the bottoms of many of the formations, then, as it started to recover, the coral grew as a kind of mushroom cap shape on the top. I fondly remember this site from the first time I visited Curacao, but sadly, now, it is not very healthy looking. Lions Dive also has a nice house reef, too. It is a short walk from the dive shop and across the beach. We did two leisurely dives there and even spotted a seahorse! The dive shop supplies divers with a flag to carry to make sure groups are visible to boats coming in. There is a rope that guides divers along the edge of the breakwater to the reef drop off, making navigation a snap, even for the less experienced diver.
The water was a consistent 81F, with air temps in the upper 80’s. I wore a 3mm jumpsuit with a sleeveless, hooded Sharkskin and was toasty warm. Others were comfortable with just a 3mm jumpsuit.
We also opted to add the “LSD Experience” or Lionfish Scuba Dive Experience to our adventure. After a short presentation by Pol regarding the spread of lionfish in the Caribbean, and a short tutorial on how to use a spear, we headed out to get us some invasive fish! Spearing is a fun, but it requires excellent buoyancy and patience. In addition, divers must remember that they are still diving and need to pay close attention to their air supply and depth. As a group, we were quite successful, and since the other hunters not interested keeping the fish, Team Manta got to enjoy them!
Neither Nemo’s nor Hemingway’s were willing to cook them for us, so Jerimiah, the manager of Ocean Encounters, delivered our catch the to the Iguana Café in Willemstad and arranged for us to have a discounted lionfish dinner there. The fish were served fried with French fries and cole slaw. Very tasty! This restaurant is right on the water with a view of the Queen Emma swinging bridge. As it happened, we planned to go Thursday night and in Willemstad, they were going to have fireworks and a bunch of live entertainment in the downtown area. The Iguana Café’s preparation of the lionfish was perfect, and the setting could not have been better! It was a wonderful night out!
I am happy we traded our winter blues for Caribbean blue waters this January! It was the perfect get away! Now, on to Fiji!
In other news……..
Don’t forget to sign up for the Buoyancy Clinic, Feb. 11 & 12. On the 11th, we will have a short presentation of ways to hone buoyancy and dial in weighting. On the 12th we go to the Rec Plex to practice and play some underwater games.
ANNOUNCING! Everyone whose taken navigation class with us knows the importance of a good compass, well, for a limited time, Suunto is throwing in a compass with every Zoop Novo wrist or combo dive computer! This is a $100 savings!
If you get a new compass, you should learn to use it! On Sunday, June 4, we are holding a Navigation Clinic and fun event at Pearl Lake. This clinic includes a dry land presentation and practice followed by a test of skills, with participants navigating from one underwater item to another in a sort of scuba scavenger hunt. The cost is $75 and includes bratwurst lunch and a T- Shirt. Prior registration is required!
ANNOUNCING! Rental Equipment Clearance. If you’ve been wanting to get your own gear, or upgrade the ancient stuff you learn with in the 70’s, now is the time to get into some relatively new gear for a song!