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Hot Off the Press: Reef Smart Guides Curacao

The only dive and snorkel guidebook you’ll need if you’re heading to Curacao

By Candice Landau | Created On November 3, 2023
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Hot Off the Press: Reef Smart Guides Curacao

Candice Landau

If you love Bonaire-style diving and want to explore a location that also has interesting things to do above the water line, Curacao is the destination for you. Thanks to the team over at Reef Smart Guides, for the first time, there’s a complete dive guide to Curacao packed full to the brim with information on where and how to dive its many sites.

You’re probably familiar with Reef Smart Guides even if you don’t know it. Ever purchased a waterproof card with a map of a dive site on it? Chances are it was made by Reef Smart Guides. Behind the Reef Smart Guides is a small but multi-talented team. According to co-founder and CEO Ian Popple, a lot of work goes into these books. “It can be exhausting at times, especially when we’re trying to hit our deadlines, but we love every bit of this work and by the time we’re done, we feel like we know the places we have visited inside out and they start to feel like a second home to us. We’re so lucky to be able to do this!”

To give you some more insight into both Curacao and the new guidebook (just launched) I sat down with Ian and asked all the questions you probably want answers to.

An example of a map from the Guidebook. This image features the Saba Wreck in Curacao.

Courtesy Reef Smart Guides

The perfect destination for shore divers

The Curacao guidebook is the eighth book in Reef Smart Guides dive and snorkel travel series and a natural fit to round out some of the best-loved diving destinations in the Caribbean.

When asked why Curacao specifically, Ian says, “We always knew we wanted to add Curacao to the series. We had heard countless reports from visitors about how the diving and snorkeling in Curacao is just as good as in Bonaire, so it was a natural fit for us as our guides are essential reading for those who like to shore dive and snorkel.” While work on the book began 18 months ago, it’s clear that a lot has gone into it. Detailed maps of reefs and wrecks, information on diving safety on the island, reef life guides, and so much more.

Related Reading: The Best Scuba Destinations for Beginner Divers in 2023

An example of a site access map to assist with easy entries and exits.

Courtesy Reef Smart Guides

Not your average dive guide

The Reef Smart Guides team does not simply write guidebooks. They also map the sites they write about, and they do it well. This guide in particular makes use of their new 3D mapping process. “Many of the maps in the new guide are created using photogrammetry processes, which involve creating 3D models from thousands of individual 2D images. The quality of the maps is therefore exceptional,” says Ian.

The Curacao guide contains descriptions of every single dive and snorkel site on the island, including access images for 46 sites and 3D maps for 38 of the island’s most popular sites. Add to that a 31-page-long species guide and a list of recommended bars and restaurants and you’re set. When Ian says, “No other guide on the market comes close to being as complete and detailed,” I can’t help but agree.

An example of a reef map featuring Blue Bay Wall in Curacao.

Courtesy Reef Smart Guides

The Curacao edge

According to Ian, Curacao is a great place to dive and snorkel for a number of reasons.

Firstly, most of the sites are easy to access. A simple walk down a beach.

Secondly, the quality of the reefs is exceptional. “Many of Curacao’s sites have incredible coral cover, even in places you might not expect it, like the site known as Fisherman’s Wharf, which is adjacent to a busy fishing village, but has some of the healthiest corals we’ve seen in the Caribbean. The diversity of sites is also incredible, ranging from fringing reefs to wall dives, to a number of different wrecks, including freighters, tugboats, car wrecks and even aircraft.”

Finally, there’s great professional support in Curacao and many of the sites have a dive operator present to provide advice and rental gear. It honestly couldn’t be an easier destination to vacation.

Environmentally conscious

Reef preservation is a significant concern for many divers. To assist with preservation efforts, the guide also highlights many of the conservation organizations on the island, including various coral restoration projects, research institutes, national parks, and more. “All of our guides feature eco tips, which provide important information that visitors should remember when visiting the site. The hope is that this information will help limit damage to the ecosystem and raise environmental awareness.” Says Ian.

Who should buy the book?

Apart from the obvious target audience—divers and snorkelers—the guidebooks help provide a revenue stream for the local businesses and dive shops that sell them.

In addition to guidebooks, Reef Smart Guides also create maps that dive shops and operators can use as briefing charts, digital 3D models for operator websites, apparel equipped with detailed maps, and slates that are easy to use, sell and carry.

What’s next for Reef Smart Guides?

While the entire world is still ripe for the taking, Reef Smart Guides has been doing a lot of mapping work in Roatan recently. “A guidebook for the Bay Islands might be available in the future,” Ian says. “We’ve also had discussions about a Cozumel guide. The Caribbean is in our own backyard so to speak, so we have been focused on this region over the past few years. There are so many other places we would like to map, however, including Europe, the Red Sea and the Indo-West Pacific!”

Related Reading: Seeing in Depth: What it Takes to Create Underwater Maps

Courtesy Reef Smart Guides

Where to buy the book

Reef Smart Guides Curaçao: (Best Diving and Snorkeling Spots in Curaçao) is available on Amazon as well as all major book retailers across North America and Europe. The book can also be purchased in Curacao and will, as of November, be distributed on-island by Palm Trading

Book launch date: October 24, 2023

Official publication date: November 24, 2023

Price: $39.99 USD