Curacao, Sunset Waters - good, but no sharks | Scuba Diving

Curacao, Sunset Waters - good, but no sharks

A week's stay and diving at Sunset Waters in Curacao - Sep 26th to Oct 2nd, 2006. Sorry, I don't do photos. SUMMARY The diving was good to very good. The dive operation was very good to excellent. The accommodations and food were good. The service was excellent. The beach was poor to fair. The weather was perfect. The airline flights were on time and we had no problems with baggage. DIVE OPERATION Six day dive package Sep 26 - Oct 1st - two dives in the morning, leaving promptly at 9:00 AM and returning before 1:00 PM. Most dive sites are 20 to 30 minutes away, and the farthest is usually done first, making the return trip fairly short. The week I was there was definitely the slow season. Five divers for the first 3 days, 4 divers the next 2 days, and then a group of 18 divers showed up. Needless to say, the service was very personal the first 5 days, but even with 20 of us on the "Day Dreamer", the larger of their 2 boats, there was no problem. It helped that the large group were all seasoned divers, and that the boat is well designed to handle sizable groups. Entry is giant stride off of the stern and getting back on board is by 2 ladders which are easily accessed and climbed. Help was always there if needed. I did not dive off of the smaller boat which appears to be a bit less convenient (back roll entry and what appears to be shorter ladders). The dive operation, meaning the people, boats, facilities, convenience, rules, etc. were all excellent. The staff takes care of setting up the tanks in the morning and rinsing/storing the BCDs and regs upon return to the dock. The dive shop and gear storage room are adjacent to the dock - very convenient. Fresh water tanks allow you rinse your other gear before hanging the wetsuits, etc., to dry in the storage area which is locked at night (you are given the combination to the lock in case you have an urge to dark dive). Tanks are provided 24 hours a day for unlimited shore diving at no extra charge. Baskets are provided to store and haul your gear to and from the boat (about 20 paces). For shore diving at the house reef, wheelbarrows are available to haul your gear the 100 paces or so to the beach if you would rather not tank up and walk it. On the boat, the pre-dive orientation before hitting the water usually contained the instructions "We'll go 20 minutes out and then turn around, or sooner if anybody gets to 1500 psi". Back under the boat in 35-40 minutes and then the freedom to hang around until ready to come up. However, no there was no requirement to follow the DM and we were free to go our own way and be back in an hour. Surface intervals were spent onboard. The seas were generally calm, so this was never a problem. Water, lemonade and fruit were available. One-tank afternoon dives require at least 4 people, which never happened while I was there. The once-a-week night dive has a similar requirement and also did not happen. I suspect that during most of the year there are enough people to schedule these dives. I was able to buddy-up and get in one night dive and one afternoon dive at the house reef which itself is not a bad dive site. A small thing I liked about the operation - during the arrival orientation, the manager, Lynn, explained their tip policy. Tips should be given to her and would go into a pool for equitable distribution to the staff (which did NOT include her). I like this because it relieves me of having to keep track of who actually participated in which dives. DIVING The diving itself was very good but not exceptional. Visibility was good (sorry, no actual estimate as I'm a poor judge of distances) and water temperature was around 83 degrees. The amount of small stuff was impressive. The coral was mostly in very good shape and aquarium-like in the density and variety of small critters - most of the usual suspects. Spotted drums, always a favorite, were fairly common, both adults and juveniles. A few of the hard-to-find guys like frogfish, scorpion fish and seahorses were seen, but only a couple each. Lots of eels (3 or 4 varieties), flounder, varieties of shrimp, trunkfish of all sizes, a couple of lobsters and 2 small turtles. However, in the 6 days of diving, nobody saw anything larger than the big morays and small turtles - absolutely no pelagics. One has to suspect that they have been fished out (the reef is not protected). My first dive trip ever with no sharks, not one, not even a vague shadow in the deep. Most of the dives were inclined walls with little current. Depths were generally 80 feet max, but this was due to choice not restrictions. Besides the walls, we did one drift dive and one circular dive. The drift dive was Mushroom Forest, a very impressive and aptly named dive site. The current was strong enough to provide a nice glide through the soft and hard coral forest but gentle enough to allow for stopping and enjoying. The circular dive was at Porto Mari. This area has three largish patch reefs (sort of) separated by white sand floors. The topography makes for a nice change from the walls. The overall diving experience was very good and I would return, if only to find a damn shark. LOGISTICS AND ACCOMMODATIONS The following comments on logistics are not necessarily relevant to the majority of visitors who arrive from the north, but for those who don't...My wife and I left Lima (Peru, not Ohio) on the Sunday evening KLM flight for the 3' 45" flight to Bonaire, arriving at 1:30 AM. We had to claim our bags and exit the terminal but we couldn't check in for the 6:00 AM Dutch Antilles Express flight to Curacao until 5:00 AM. Thus, we spent over 3 hours in the middle of the night sitting on cement benches praying for breezes to keep the mosquitoes away. Regarding baggage, we checked two bags just under the 40 kilo total weight limit for two persons and suffered no problems. The 15 minute DAE flight left on time, actually early, and we arrived Curacao before 6:30 AM and were met as promised by the Sunset Waters' driver. Twenty minutes or so to the resort. Arriving before 7:00 AM, the office was closed, but a nice lady knew what room we were in and unlocked the door for us. We officially checked in at the office a couple of hours later after a much needed rest between the sheets. This simple touch of not making us wait until the official 3:00 PM check-in time was much appreciated and indicative of the laid-back but excellent service at Sunset Waters (no shortage of vacant rooms undoubtedly helped). Regardless, kudos to Jim Hunter and his staff. Our room, a Junior Suite, was spacious and comfortable. Air conditioning and ceiling fans were all functioning. The balcony provided both a place to hang bathing suits to dry overnight and a convenient overlook of the walled-in nude beach below (NOT ONE person used this facility during our stay). For those of you who consider voyeurism an art form, or at least a hobby, ask for room 116 or 117. Oh, and there is also a spectacular view of the sunset. The food and service were good. The menu varied daily and included enough variety to satisfy all but the most picky eaters. The service was friendly and efficient, the second beer sometimes arrived before I could ask. Being an all-inclusive resort, there was never a question of going hungry or thirsty. The weather was perfect. Daytime temperatures in the high 80's to 90ish with low humidity. Always a sea breeze so always comfortable, at least near the coast. Nights remained warm, but not hot - very comfortable in shorts and tee shirts. As to dressing for dinner, very casual is appropriate, i.e. shorts, etc. Maybe it was the time of year, but no mosquitoes or no-see-ums - repellent wasn't necessary. There is internet access available in the lobby, but it is expensive. My Blackberry had reception at the airport, but not at the hotel, so I found this to be the perfect opportunity to turn off for the entire week, both electronically and mentally. NON-DIVERS My wife is a non-diver who enjoys vegetating on the beach and going for long walks. Like much of the Caribbean, the beach at Sunset Waters is marginal at best. Coral rubble mixed with the sand make wading awkward and the 2 minutes it takes to traverse the beach doesn't qualify as "long". Hence, she mixed beach time with tours offered by the hotel (Art Tour, Ostrich Farm Tour), plus walking around town. Small fees for the guided tours and free shuttle service into Willemstad. For a week, she was content, though I'm not sure that she would want to return anytime soon (she's spoiled by Provo!). Overall, a pleasant week. And I probably will return, even if it's alone (she doesn't read these reports!) PARTING COMMENT For those of you who really want to see great photos and read an excellent report on Sunset Waters, there was a fairly recent posting in the old Trip Reports which is superb - sorry the name escapes me. Hopefully it will show up soon in the archives. It really is an excellent report and anyone considering a trip to Curacao and Sunset Waters should have a look if it becomes available. My report is intended to update and augment. Steve