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Alert Diver is the dive industry’s leading publication. Featuring DAN’s core content of dive safety, research, education and medical information, each issue is a must-read reference, archived and shared by passionate scuba enthusiasts. In addition, Alert Diver showcases fascinating dive destinations and marine environmental topics through images from the world’s greatest underwater photographers and stories from the most experienced and eloquent dive journalists in the business.

One of the

One of the mostphotographed waterfront views in Curaçao, the Handelskade features colorful examples of colonial Dutch architecture. Opposite: Green turtles sometimes gather in the shallows near fishing piers, hoping to get an easy snack. proper. When we approach, I figure that solitude has gone out the window. It is a weekend, and the lee of Klein looks like a mild traffic jam, with several other dive boats weaving between moored speedboats and large snorkeling charters. The aqua hue of the shallow water and cerulean tint of the cloudless sky are interrupted only by a strip of powder-white sand upon which a pair of swimsuit models cavort for a photo shoot (no, I’m not kidding). Given the scene, I feel fortunate that anyone’s attention can be swayed by scuba at all. We leave the crowds behind, and by the time we have pulled up to the northernmost point of the island, diving is all anyone can think of. This site, Shark Cave, is accessible only on the calmest days, and it seems that we have hit the jackpot. Green and spotted morays gape from a softcoral- and sponge-covered wall as we descend 120 feet to the (shark-bereft but tarpon-filled) cave. The adjacent reef is dotted with anemones and large purple tube sponges, and a glance into deeper water reveals the nurse sharks, watching us smugly from under a rock. We swim into the shallows for our safety stop, passing narrow ledges caked with cup corals and sea fans, as a cluster of reef squid observe us from just beyond camera range. For our next dive, we head toward South Point on the opposite tip of Klein for a completely different experience. We descend to 110 feet, where we are followed by several large barracuda as we admire a sloping wall thick with vase sponges and black coral trees. The next day we head toward Westpunt to dive two of Curaçao’s most famous sites, and although most of the island’s dive operations run regular trips here, we seem to have the area all to ourselves. Watamula looks nothing like what we’ve seen at either Eastpunt or Klein. The seascape here is composed primarily of hard corals, with so much pillar coral that some areas resemble towers of melting ice cream. A variety of moray eels peer from the reef as schools of grunts and squirrelfish weave past. We surface, and our captain asks, “Want to see something interesting during your surface interval?” We know better than to turn down an offer like that, and the boat motors toward a nearby pier where several small fishing boats are moored. In one, a fisherman cleans a pile of feathery lumps. “What the heck are those?” I ask. “Lionfish,” the captain replies. A moment later, we watch in confusion as a gaggle of snorkelers passes us, shouting excitedly to one another. I am all for limiting the spread of this invasive species, but it seems odd that tourists would be so gleeful about seeing fish carcasses. I look at the captain questioningly, and he laughs and says, “Look down.” We peer into the clear water just as four green turtles swim past. The smallest turtle is lugging around a chunk of fish gill as big as its own head. You’ve never seen two people enter the water faster. An hour (or possibly two) later, after we’ve shot our fill of turtle photos and heartily debated whether we should bother with another dive or stay put, we clamber back into the boat. We’re still hooting with delight over the turtle bonanza when we gear up to dive at Mushroom Forest. This shallow site, like many others near Westpunt, is dominated by hard coral, but with an unusual twist: The bases of the coral heads have been so eroded that they resemble outsized versions of their namesake fungus. Add in some encrusting sponge for a bit of color, and a dive here has an otherworldly Alice in Wonderland feel. This is likely why it is considered Curaçao’s signature dive. But once again we seem to be the only ones in on the secret. We thank our captain profusely and bid him farewell; the next morning we’ll begin exploring one or two of Curaçao’s numerous shore dives. At this point we have yet to encounter a single other diver underwater, but we fully expect that to change when we pull up at the beach adjacent to the Superior Producer, hailed as one of the best wreck dives in the Caribbean. The ship sank just outside of the harbor in December 1977 when her cargo shifted, and since that cargo included quite a bit of liquor, the event kicked off a party that — according to locals — lasted for two glorious days. The Producer has long since 76 | SUMMER 2016

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