Curaçao - Exploring The Best Dive Sites of the Dutch Caribbean

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Playa Kalki on Curaçao

The north-western part of Curaçao offers the healthiest and dense coral cover, time to explore some of the best dive sites around here! Watamula by boat and Playa Kalki (Alice in Wonderland) by shore diving!



Curaçao is a country in the southern Caribbean, part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. Two islands shape the country, the main island and Klein (Little in Dutch) Curaçao. Klein Curaçao is a tiny island with only beautiful beaches, a lighthouse and some beach huts, about two hours away by boat. On the main island you can find bustling cities, cultural sights and plenty of beach bars & restaurants. There are about 85 dive sites around Curaçao, boat as well as shore dives, making it a great destination for a full dive holiday!

When you only have a day or two to SCUBA dive here you probably want to get the best out of it, as I did. To see the true beauty of diving around Curaçao. When searching for 'the best' dive spots of Curaçao a few things became clear and were confirmed by locals passionate for diving.

The best area to dive is around Westpunt in the north of the island, about one hour drive from Willemstad. Mushroom Forest used to be the best boat dive site around but because of its popularity (as in many divers visiting every year) it is not what it used to be. Nowadays Watamula is pointed out as the best dive spot of the island, reachable by a short boat ride, with a dense coral cover and plenty of fish. So, that was on the list!

Country Curaçao (Dutch Caribbean)
Dive area name Westpunt (North-West)
Dive center GO WEST Diving Curaçao
Famous for Healthy and most dense coral reef of the island
Price Single tank rental $10,- (Air), $65,- for a single-dive boat trip to Watamula and about $50,- for equipment rental per day.
Discounts apply on multiple day packages.
Hotel recommendation Marazul Dive Resort



Dive guide Curaçao
Marloes Otten

This guide contains write-ups on more than 85 of the best dive and snorkelling sites, along with underwater maps, descriptions and itineraries.

Watamula dive site

Watamula is derived from the Dutch word watermolen meaning water mill. The Northern area of the island is called Watamula, the part of the island that 'breaths' according to locals. Many beautiful cliffs, and even a water or sink hole can be found in this area.

The Caribbean Sea is pretty rough along the North coast but there are many calm bays with turquoise blue water to snorkel or swim easily. Dive center GO WEST Diving Curaçao is located closest to Watamula and they have the trip scheduled on Thursdays. Watamula is the most Northern dive site of Curaçao bordering the Shete Boka National Park.

When I called (right before closing) to ask if it might be possible to dive Watamula on another day Anne-Marie from GO WEST Diving scheduled it for the next day, what a great service! After spending three months diving on Bonaire I was so excited to see the differences and compare these dive areas.

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Dense and healthy corals at Watamula

The next morning we arrived at the beautiful bay of Playa Kalki. With a parking lot right at the entrance and only a few steps down to the wooden platform to the dive center and a beach bar/restaurant we waited for the boat to pick us up. The bay area was calm and since Watamula was only around the corner I did not think I would get seasick, but I was wrong. As soon as they started mooring the boat at Watamula it started to roll on the waves. Whoops, time to jump in as soon as possible!

It was a guided dive with a group of 8 divers. Daniel was our guide and he was very relaxed, everybody with a dive computer could more or less follow his own desired profile and he showed interesting stuff along the way. Since the current can go in various directions we did not have a strict plan except for following the guide. Luckily we had a drift dive, so no swimming against the current - very relaxed. The current was mild with a bit of a surge as we did not dive very deep. The visibility was OK, a little bit less as expected. Here are a few impressions of our dive:

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Watamula dive site Curaçao

The coral cover was impressive, it was very dense and healthy although it was not as colorful as on Bonaire. Especially the height of the reef/coral formations, from the bottom to the highest point, was impressive. You could sometimes look through 2 meters of hard corals before seeing the bottom. The reef was slowly going down, with a low-angle. Sometimes there were sandy patches and often huge coral pillars and sea rods. Many tiny fish were active on the reef.



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The attack of the damsel fish on Curaçao

The Lettuce sea slugs really surprised me, they have a variety of colors here. Almost neon blue, bright white and even yellow ones I found on the reef. Many crab and shrimp species were hiding in the corals and anemones. From the (pretty big) Coral Crab to a tiny Banded Clinging Crab hiding in an anemone. The Spotted Cleaner Shrimps I saw were really big compared to the ones I saw around Bonaire, beautiful! Some spotted murays, even a Stingray (small Southern stingray I guess) were around. After an hour of cruising on top of this beautiful reef it was time to return to the boat.

Playa Kalki (Alice in Wonderland)

Once the sun came out we saw the incredible beautify of Playa Kalki. The sandy part of the bay turned into a turquoise lagoon and the reef/drop off can be spotted from the shore. Snorkelers and divers easily jump in the water from the end of the jetty and many people are shore diving here. Time to do the same!

We stayed a bit shallow and went to the right side of the jetty, both sides are supposed to be great and you can dive at different depths so multiple dives here are diverse and interesting. Purple and azure vase sponges as well as black-ball sponges colored the reef.

Although the part of the reef we saw was not as dense as it was at Watamula it was still very interesting. Because there was more sand and lower coral formations it was a lot easier to take photos and search for small critters. A yellowline arrowcrab was hiding in an anemone while a threespot damsel was chasing me away, check that aggresive look on the photo! A huge porcupine fish topped this nice shore dive.

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Playa Kalki dive site Curaçao



Comparing dive destinations

Bottom structure Reef structure Pelagic
(big stuff in the blue)
Big reef
(bigger stuff on the reef)
Macro
(small stuff on the reef)
Current
(stream)
Flat bottom with bumps/big rocks/pinnacles Hard corals
(not moving)
Sharks Turtles Nudibranchs
(snails/slugs)
No current
Slope (going down slowly) Soft corals
(moving)
Rays Eels/snakes Sea horses and pipe fish Small
(you can easily swim against it)
Wall
(steep but you see the bottom)
Table-/fan-shape Trevally/Jacks/Tuna Groupers Scorpion/frog fish Medium
(you can swim against it for a little while/higher air consumption)
Drop off
(steep and you can't see the bottom)
Anemones Barracudas Lobsters/crabs Octopus/squid Strong/reef hooks
(you cannot swim against it)
Blue
(no reference)
Sponges Sardines/herrings Puffers Shrimps Pumping/washing machine/OMG/hold your regulator
(superman)
* The transparent boxes are the things I have seen down below and / or are spotted on almost every dive in that area.
* The dark blue boxes are the 'things' that are unavailable - things I have not seen and/or that are uncommon in that area.
Click here for more information about comparing dive destinations.


About the organization of GO WEST Diving‎ Curaçao

As mentioned before, booking the Watamula trip went smoothly. Once we arrived at the dive center Julia did the check-in, showed us around and explained everything about the dive area. The facility is well-organized, from a dry room to lockers (free of use for customers) to fresh water rinsing tanks and a shower. There are fresh water buckets for cameras, dive computers and masks on the boat. Coffee, tea and drinking water is free of charge for customers and there is a nice area to sit and relax in the shade. From the dive center you just have to walk down the jetty to hop on the boat or jump in the water, easy!

There were several dive instructors teaching private courses when I was there, all relaxed paced and smiling a lot. A boat briefing (entry/exit procedures for example) as well as a more specific dive site briefing (what marine life species to see, dive site map, etc.) would have made it perfect. Maybe this was explained before our arrival, during the early morning dive. There is a lovely dive shop (AKA candy store) and you can rent good quality dive gear as well.
The restaurant next door has a nice Caribbean vibe and offers a variety of dishes. All went smoothly and relaxed, it perfectly matches the vibe of Playa Kalki! It was a pleasure spending the day here.

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Playa Kalki and GO WEST Diving facilities

Curaçao - Exploring The Best Dive Sites of the Dutch Caribbean


If I would have spend another day diving around Curaçao I would have gone diving at Porto Mari and Marie Pompoen (Car pile) as I prefer reef over wrecks. :) The dive guide book of Marloes Otten is really useful for preparing, planning and organizing all your shore and boat dives on Curaçao, click on the link above for more information.

For more information about Curaçao in general, things to do, restaurant and bar recommendations, cultural experiences and a lot of useful travel tips for your holiday, visit my travel blog! Click here for travel information about Curaçao on Crazy Dutch Abroad.
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Marlies
Dive o'clock "It's dive o'clock somewhere!"
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