Saturday meant diving day, again. Our trip is soon to an end, but we have booked dives for the remaining days, so we will make the most of it. Today, it was just Kelly, me and our guide, Mark Pinnell, going for a dive. Mark is also the owner of The Dive Bus, and we have talked a bit about business, payment methods and marketing over the last few days, since that’s kind of what we do. Since it was just the three of us, we could go diving pretty much anywhere we wanted today. Well, Mark is the one who knows best of course. He took us to a dive spot called the Director’s Bay. Director’s Bay used to be the private beach of the directors of Shell, hence its name.
The drive really took us out in the boondocks. Dusty dirt roads and cacti as far as the eye could see (well, at least until it was stopped by the ocean in the distance). I was pretty fascinated by the landscape actually. I have never seen so much terrain covered by unfriendly thorns; it was like something out of the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty”. Before we got to that part however, we drove past the Spanish Water on one side of us and the Caracasbaai (Caracas Bay) on the other. Caracasbaai is a free, public beach and apparently very popular with the locals. It also is temporary home to an enormous monstrosity of steel; I’m not familiar with these types of things, but I now know that it’s a semi-submersible pipeline laying ship. I wouldn’t call it a pretty sight as you hang out on the beach…
As before, Kelly and I left all of our valuables, including phones and thereby cameras, in the hotel room since car break ins seem to be common. So, no pictures unfortunately. I have to borrow some from other people… This is not the best photo ever, but it shows what Director’s Bay looks like. To be honest, it doesn’t look like much right there. But that’s only because you can’t see what’s below the surface ;).
We parked and geared up, and had to walk down a few stairs to get to the beach. That was the hard part. “Oh, now we have a long surface swim ahead of us”, Mark said. “Two kicks!” And after literally two kicks with my fins, it was already time to descend. Wonderful! That also makes this a great place for snorkelers, because you really just get in the water and there are beautiful things to look at right there.
There are some stories about this place. Some say, that the directors of the oil company were so paranoid about sharks, that they built a big fence in the water to protect them from the non-existing threat. I’ve also heard that it was Queen Juliana of The Netherlands who came to visit the island and build a swimming pool for herself in the sea, after the beach and all other property was left to the Curaçao government when Shell left the island. In either case, the important thing is that the poles are still there, and they are home to an abundance of sea life.
We had two amazing dives. The absolutely only fly in the ointment (an expression I found when I googled English synonyms for “smolk i glädjebägaren”) was, funnily enough, flies. Or maybe they were gnats. Anyway, there were plenty of them and they ruined at least my break. They seemed particularly fond of me, and my sandwich. A very small problem though, in an otherwise fantastic day. We saw so many fish, it was like being in an aquarium. I mean, even more than normal. Imagine swimming in this, for example:
Kelly said it was his best dive, maybe ever. Not because we saw something particularly amazing, but because there was so much of everything. We were also able to take our time and look at whatever interested us, since we didn’t have to keep up with a group. Even Mark said that he preferred diving like we did today, slowly exploring the marine life without having to “go somewhere”. He explained that most groups want to go to some point far away and then head back, because then they feel like they’ve “seen something” or achieved something.
On our first dive, we saw long schools of Creole wrasse that created a flowing river over and between the rocks. Mark pretended to be a traffic police who were directing traffic (always the joker ;)). Here are some other highlights:
We saw two Queen Angelfish
I found a spotted moray eel moving through the rocks
Kelly showed me some very healthy, nice brain corals on the aforementioned poles; we also saw nice anemones with spotted cleaner shrimps, and quite a few peacock flounders on the sand. They are pretty hard to spot but they were so close to us that we could almost touch them. When they move, they flutter like butterflies over the sand.
As I said, pretty difficult to spot a peacock flounder…
When you do see them though, they look quite amazing with their fluorescent patterns.
On our second dive, we saw a huge French angelfish. Kelly is usually not that impressed by French angels, but this one was so magnificent that he had to reevaluate that. He also discovered some baby trumpetfish.
When we were ready to head back, there were some guys with spearfishing equipment who got a visit from the police. Spearfishing is illegal in Curaçao, but those guys were only hunting lionfish. Lionfish is an invasive species in the Caribbean and a disaster for the ecosystems there. Apparently they have a huge appetite and no natural enemies. So, people are encouraged to hunt them and kill them, and we’ve been told that this is the only exception to the spearfishing laws. It doesn’t seem all that clear cut though. I think you might need a special license to spearfish lionfish. Either way, the police confiscated all the spearfishing gear, even though they were shown that lionfish was the only kind of fish that was caught. I don’t know if they were fined as well.
Lionfish: beautiful but invasive
We were very sleepy when we got back to the hotel after our dives. For a while we sat in the café on Octagon square. Then we sat in the beach bar. When we had been sitting around enough, we decided to go for dinner at Rozendaels again. It turned out they were closed –on a Saturday! Well, I’m guessing it’s their only day off a week. We ended up at the Blues Bar again.