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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.

een relieved of her

een relieved of her booze, but divers still flock here to admire this upright, intact behemoth in 110 feet of water. The building of a cruise-ship pier adjacent to the site about a decade ago created a bit of an obstacle: Divers are not permitted at the site when a cruise or military ship is present, and this can limit access quite a bit. Our research has revealed only a single day during our weeklong visit when we can dive the site, so we head there early in anticipation of a crowded wreck. We are shocked to discover that we are the only visitors on the beach, but we don’t spend time discussing matters. Instead, we gear up and enter the water before we can say “sleeping in.” We approach the majestic ship from the stern, noting incredible visibility, several dozen large tarpon overhead, sponge and coral covering the superstructure, and a watchful spotted moray peering from the engine block. The adjacent reef is equally gorgeous, so when it’s time to turn around, we swim in slowly, admiring cowry-decorated sea fans and anemones hosting colorful shrimp in the shallow water. We emerge to discover a significantly more congested beach, and several people approach to ask us about visibility and current (factors that can occasionally make this a challenging dive). By the time our surface interval is complete, however, nearly all the others have returned from their dives, so our second exploration is as private as our first. On our final dive day, we’re drawn to dive a site that we know we’ll be sharing with others: the Tugboat. This small wreck is situated in 20 feet of water next to a sloping reef, so it’s visited regularly by classes and novice divers, and it is also a common destination for groups of snorkelers. Sure enough, despite an obscenely early arrival, the beach is packed with people donning gear. A bit of speed on our part gets us a blissful 10 minutes of alone time on the pretty site, and we are able to appreciate the glassy sweepers crowding the wheelhouse, the grunts schooling next to the propeller, and an octopus hunting before a large group of snorkelers materializes above us. We begin swimming back toward the beach, but when we spot the structure of the Baya Beach pier, we can’t resist a closer look. Our impulse is a good one: We are rewarded with beautiful sunrays filtering past pilings laden with sponges and feather duster worms, and we have the small area all to ourselves. We can’t bring ourselves to pack a minute before it’s obligatory, and the lure of our resort’s house reef becomes too much to take. Snake Bay harbors an incredible array of small marine life including frogfish, a seahorse or two, a snake eel, arrow crabs and shrimp. During the swim in, we are distracted by the fleeting sight of a tight baitball swirling past with a couple of ravenous jacks giving eager chase. We’re rinsing our gear when a couple approaches. They are divers from Arizona, and they want to know all about our visit. Which was our favorite site, they ask, and was it amazing? We rave about Eastpunt and Westpunt, Klein Curaçao, and the incredible shore diving. One of the pair looks at me, his voice lowered, and he stage-whispers, “So give it to me straight — are there going to be crowds of divers everywhere we go?” I can’t help but channel my inner Dutch expat as I half smile and reply very simply, “No.” AD 78 | SUMMER 2016

Clockwise from above: The only underwater crowd in Curaçao, a school of grunt, gathers next to a sponge at Klein Curaçao. A hunting octopus steals attention from the tarpon at Tarpon Bridge. The sponge-covered pilings of Baya Beach pier are well worth a closer look. 7 6 Caribbean Sea 1 - Love Cave 2 - Tarpon Arch 3 - Guliauw 4 - Shark Cave 5 - South Point 6 - Watamula 7 - Mushroom Forest 8 - Superior Producer Opposite: Playa Kenepa Grandi (Knip Beach), located on the western side of the island, provides a glimpse of this idyllic, uncrowded paradise. 10 Curacao 9 - Tugboat 10 - Snake Bay 11 - Baya Beach 1 2 8 11 9 Klein Curacao 3 4 5 HOW TO DIVE IT GETTING THERE AND GETTING AROUND: Many airlines fly into Curaçao, and a number of car-rental agencies are at the airport. WATER TEMPERATURES AND EXPOSURE GEAR: Water temperatures range from the high 70s°F in the winter to the mid-80s°F in the summer. A shorty or 3 mm wetsuit is adequate for most divers. For shore diving, thick-soled booties are a good idea. SHORE OR BOAT: Curaçao boasts a fringing reef, which means that a staggering number of fantastic dive sites are just a short swim from the beach. The shore diving here is phenomenal and should not be missed, but several popular sites, such as Mushroom Forest and Klein Curaçao, can be reached only by boat. Many dive operations offer packages that include a combination of shore and boat diving. SURFACE INTERVAL: The city center of Willemstad, Curaçao’s capital, has been recognized as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site. A stroll along the waterfront to view the colorful Dutch colonial architecture is a must. ALERTDIVER.COM | 79

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