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Curacao  February 2-9, 2014 

The snow started falling early Saturday morning and continued throughout the day. Even though the driveway was cleared mid afternoon another four inches had fallen by nightfall. Drew arrived later in the afternoon and packed his clothes in preparation for the trip and then we went to Swiss Chalet for dinner followed by viewing “Lone Survivor” at the cinema. It was almost 10:00 p.m. by the time we returned home and the snow was still falling steadily. We made a last minute check to ensure we had everything ready for the morning and then it was off to bed. I awoke at 04:30 and went outside to clear the driveway again. About six inches of snow had accumulated overnight but the end of the driveway was buried under about eighteen inches of heavy, wet snow. By the time the driveway was clear Drew was up and set out for Tim Horton’s to get a breakfast sandwich. Upon his return we loaded the car and headed to the airport. The snow plows had already cleared the roads so we made good time and checked in to the Valet parking lot. We boarded the bus to the airport and were dropped off outside the Westjet gates. Check-in is a simple and effective process at the automated kiosks and I was only charged $20 for having a second bag to check-in. After dropping off our bags we made our way to our gate with almost two hours to spare. It was one of the most pleasurable check-in experiences I have ever encountered.  

Although we boarded on time it was necessary to have the wings de-iced so it was past 10:00a.m. before the airplane actually took off. The flight was uneventful although it took them almost an hour to sort out the in-flight entertainment. We arrived in Curacao and suddenly it was summer, in a little more than four hours we had gone from a temperature of 29F to a temperature of 29C. After making our way through customs we went to the Budget counter for our rental vehicle. There are at least a half dozen different rental agencies but Budget was the only one with a long lineup. After securing the vehicle we set off in search of a supermarket to pick up a few things for breakfast and lunch then it was off to the Bahia Apartments which are situated very near the southwest end of the island. Apparently all the best dive sites are on the south shore of the island.  We checked in, unloaded our gear and then it was time for a couple of cold beverages and dinner. Drew ordered the tuna steak which he said was delicious while my order of ribs was more food than I could manage. It was a delight to sit out on the deck and just listen to the soothing sound of the surf lapping up against the shore line. The view from our apartment is quite impressive, looking out over the cliffs surrounding the small bay. After dinner it was time for a couple of weary travelers to call it a day and drop exhausted into bed. The room had cooled down sufficiently that we thought the breeze through the open doors would be sufficient to keep us comfortable. However, a few hours later we both woke up soaking wet from perspiration and battling the biting insects. We shut the doors closed, turned the air conditioning on and although I woke from dreams several times throughout the night was able to sleep through until the morning. I finally woke up to the sounds of dogs barking and thought that I heard the sound of raining. However, much to my delight, it was just the incessant sound of the surf. I left Drew to sleep since he has long needed this vacation. After I finished setting up the camera and housing Drew got up and we had a breakfast of corn flakes.    

We registered at the dive shop, got our weights and tanks and set off to the house reef. There are forty-four steep steps down to the beach from the deck so we opted to drive the truck around instead. There is quite a long swim out through the sheltered cove to the reef and on the way Drew spied a school of squid so we dropped down to film them. There was also a small barracuda slowly meandering through the cove. Once out to the reef I was quickly reminded as to how good Drew’s eyesight is when he spotted a stonefish, a pair of lionfish, a couple of red banded coral shrimp and a sharp-tailed eel. The reef is made up primarily of barrel and tube sponges with a few coral heads thrown in for good measure. It is in no way as resplendent as the reefs in Bonaire. We completed the dive and surprisingly Drew had consumed his air at a much faster rate than I did. It used to be the other way around with a significant difference to the good for Drew. Once back at the resort we rinsed our gear and went to the restaurant for a lunch of cheeseburgers and fries. Afterwards we grabbed more tanks and set off down the road in search of our next dive site. Playa Jeremi is another pretty cove with a sandy beach. There are steps down from the parking area to the beach making it an easy transition with all the scuba gear on. We set up our equipment, entered the water and started on another lengthy swim out to the reef. Upon arrival at the descent point Drew pointed out the longest trumpet fish that I have ever seen. We descended and had to search for a moment before we re-discovered it so that I could catch it on film. It was at least three feet, and possibly four feet long, marked with alternating light and dark bands with blue spots all across its back. This reef is quite a bit more attractive than the previous dive but there is not as much interesting stuff to see. However, Drew still finds all sorts of little stuff to film. By the time that we finished the dive and loaded the truck it was past 04:00 p.m. so we decided to go back to the resort, rinse our gear and call it a day. It is quite a pleasure to sit out on the back balcony and watch the setting sun. After we had showered and changed we went to the restaurant on the back patio, ordered a bucket full of beer, ribs and a tenderloin steak. As we were dining a fellow walked past us wearing a t-shirt that said, “Life is good”. I couldn’t agree more. Upon our return to the room I went straight to bed exhausted, it was only 07:30 p.m. Unfortunately the no see’ums were out in force, attacking every exposed bit of flesh that they could find and I awoke several times during the night in discomfort. 

We awoke the following morning and after another breakfast of corn flakes set off for our first dive.  Unfortunately we had somehow managed to lose the remote control for the vehicle.  So, apart from the alarm going off every time you opened a door, the car would not start.  We phoned Budget and they said they would send somebody out with another remote.  Peter, the manager at the resort informed us that it would take them at least an hour so we might as well go for a dive.  We donned our gear and made our way down the 44 steps to the beach, entered the water and started the long swim out to the reef.  Shortly after our descent Drew noticed an octopus so we harassed it for a bit but I had not brought the housing so no film is available.  The sun was shining, visibility was good and there was very little current at all so we leisurely cruised the reef.  On our return we came across another pair of divers, the first we have encountered thus far.  We hugged the north wall on our way in and once again Drew’s keen eyesight spotted a golden moray in one of the coral heads.  After finishing the dive we tackled the rather arduous ascent of the stairs; there is no way that I could manage that carrying the housing.  We rinsed our gear and waited for the Budget representative.  It was not much later before he arrived and could open the car with a remote so that it would start but apparently protocol dictates that the car must be returned and a replacement vehicle will be made available.  It is a long way into town and took a considerable amount of time but they got me sorted out and we were once again back in business.  I   stopped at a supermarket on the way back since we were already running low on supplies.  I had forgotten just how much a healthy young man can consume.  After a quick lunch it was time to go diving again.  It was then that I realized that the key to the apartment was on the same key ring of the vehicle that had been returned.  Fortunately Peter, the manager had a group being taken to the airport which is where the Budget offices are so he volunteered to go and pick up the key for us.  That left us open to go diving.   This time we headed towards St. Willibrordus to dive at Port Marie.  Judging by the number of cars in the parking lot this is a very popular beach.  There were probably hundreds of people laying out on the beach chairs and quite a number of divers entering and exiting the water.  This site is a double reef and we opted to dive the deeper part first in anticipation of a second dive here.  Port Marie is a very nice reef with lots of photo opportunities.  We saw several spotted drums, a couple of lionfish and Drew picked out two very photogenic spotted moray eels.  Unfortunately they close the park at 06:30 so we did not have time to complete a surface interval as well as a second dive.  We will just have to come back. 

After returning to the resort, rinsing our gear and showering we went down to the deck for dinner.  The chef had told us previously that his red snapper was one of his signature dishes and he did not disappoint.  Another delicious meal was enjoyed.  As it is, we have not had to leave the resort to find a meal which is a good thing since we are so far removed from anywhere.  But we have earned ourselves a bit of a reputation by persistently ordering our beer by the bucket.  After dinner it was back to the room to catch up on the trip report, respond to e-mails and then it was off to bed, this time generously slathered in Deet.  Although both of us still slept fitfully, the Deet did its job and we awoke to find only a couple of fresh bites which was a significant improvement over the previous night.  After breakfast we went back to Port Marie for our first dive.  The divemaster was taking a couple on a tour and told us to look for him and he would show us the frogfish.  Unfortunately the battery died on the camera about ten minutes into the dive so although he showed us where the frogfish was hiding out I was only able to get a couple of seconds worth of film.  It just means that we will have to go back again.  We went back to the apartment to get a fresh battery, made sandwiches for lunch and then headed towards the west end of the island stopping at Sweet Alice, our next dive site.  Drew had mentioned that he wanted to see a turtle and, not fifty feet from shore, he saw one.  Unfortunately the water was too shallow and the light too strong for me to be able to film.  We made our way out to the reef and it certainly did not disappoint; hard coral formations and numerous reef fish entertained us while we slowly drifted over the reef.  On our return to shore we encountered the turtle again and this time I was able to film.  The turtle led us to another turtle also enjoying a meal of sea grass so I was able to film the pair of them together.  We exited the water and Drew thought it appropriate to do a second dive at this site.  After a one hour surface interval we were back in the water and one of the turtles was still there so I set about filming it again.  At one point it approached the lens of the housing possibly because it could see its reflection.  After a few minutes I left the area only to realize when I looked back that the turtle was following me and made another pass in front of the lens.  We continued our dive and Drew is incredible at spotting all sorts of neat stuff to film and is particularly good at finding moray eels.   We meandered along the reef and near the end of our dive Drew spotted a large lionfish, resplendent with its red colouring.  As we neared the end of the dive we spotted another slightly larger turtle munching on the sea grass.  We climbed the 36 steps back up to the parking lot, disassembled our gear and rushed back to the resort to rinse our equipment, shower and change before 06:30 when the kitchen closes.  There was no need to rush since the kitchen is not open on Tuesday so we had cheeseburgers for dinner.  After dinner I tried to stay awake by watching an underwater documentary on TV but quickly fell asleep.  The mattresses are so uncomfortable that prolonged sleep is not possible and we both tossed and turned and awoke several times throughout the night.  By morning both of our backs were sore once again. 

After breakfast we loaded our gear and went to Playa Kalki in Westpunt.  The West End Dive shop is there and the facilities are very nice but since they charge for the use we opted to enter the water from the beach.  The site called Alice in Wonderland is nice but, in my opinion, pales in comparison to Sweet Alice.  After completing our dive we drove a short ways down the road to Playa Abou.  There are many really nice beaches on Curacao and this is another of them.  We started our dive hugging the rocks on the shore thinking it would lead us quickly to the reef.  However, after swimming more than 1000 metres and still just on the edge of the reef we decided to descend.  This reef is pristine probably due to the long surface swim from shore.  We found several large spotted morays but none of them would pose for pictures.  There were plenty of other photo opportunities to hold our interest.  At our turnaround air pressure we started the long swim back to shore and Drew picked out a peacock flounder against a white sand background…good eyes.  We exited the water and climbed the stairs back to the parking lot and then set off back to the resort to rinse our gear.  On the way we stopped at a few of the sites we dove previously to take some pictures.  Then it was time for lunch.  After we had finished eating it was tempting to just lay down and have a siesta but we forced ourselves to go for another dive. This time it was at Santa Cruz and we both rejoiced when we noticed that there were no stairs to climb up or down to get to the beach and it was only a short walk of fifty yards or so to the water from the parking lot.  However, once we had donned our gear and entered the water we started the swim out to the reef, and then we swam some more, and some more after that and by the time we reached what appeared to be the start of the reef were at least 1 km. from shore.   Once again the reef was in pristine condition, probably due to the fact that locals realize how much work it is to get out there.  Drew spotted a couple of stonefish, lionfish, an octopus and even a group of lobsters hiding out under a ledge.  We swam back to shore arriving with only about 350 psi left in our tanks.  After returning to the resort and rinsing our gear we showered and changed in time for a special dinner presentation.  Every Thursday the resort hosts a traditional Curacao dinner BBQ with stewed chicken and beef, rice and salad.  We were seated with a mother and daughter from Holland so it was interesting to learn about some of our cultural differences.  After dinner we were entertained by a local drum band that were really quite good if just a bit noisy.  By the time that we made it back to our room it was after 10:00 p.m., the latest that we have stayed up so far.  This time I slept reasonably well, being able to fall back asleep each time shortly after awakening.  

Today will be our last full day of diving but we seem to have acclimated to island living and there is no apparent rush to reach the first site.  We head out to Playa Forti, assemble our gear, negotiate the stairs and enter the water.  At first it is quite bracing since the water temperature is only 75F.  We swim out to the reef, descend and are once again immersed in the peace and quiet of the ocean. There are not many interesting photo opportunities but we spend more than an hour at depth.  After the dive Drew wants to go and snorkel the cove that we discovered the previous day so we set off with fins, mask and snorkel.  The cove, although small, provides quite a bit of interest including a couple of coelacanths attached to the coral wall.  A school of copper coloured fish swim about in the deepest section and we dive through a small opening through to the other side.  I snorkel back around the easy way but Drew opts for another dive through the small opening.   We have successfully managed to complete our surface interval so we kit up and head back into the water.  While putting on my fins I lose the Amphibico white balance chart but opt to look for it at the end of the dive.  On this dive Drew finds more spotted moray eels, a golden moray, a flatworm and a couple of stonefish.  Again, after more than one hour underwater we surface and climb the steps back to the car.  From our vantage point at the parking lot the Amphibico white balance chart is quite clearly visible so I head back down to extricate it from its watery grave.  We go back to the apartment, rinse our gear and while Drew makes lunch I head out to the supermarket to get more supplies.  After lunch Drew informs me that he is going to bail on the last dive since he is in desperate need of a siesta.  So, I head out with the camera on a tripod to shoot some video around the resort.  Upon my return I watch the tape from the first few days of diving and then join Drew for a much needed rest. He wakes me at 06:00 p.m. and we head down to the deck to get something to eat.  After another delicious dinner of ribs we go back upstairs and I try to catch up on e-mails.  However, the internet connection is painfully slow so there is not much accomplished.  We try to stay awake as long as possible to minimize the tossing and turning throughout the night. 

We wake up the next morning and are now reduced to buttered toast for breakfast as supplies are running low.  We have decided to go back to Port Marie for our last couple of dives and see if we can find the yellow frogfish again.  When we arrive at the dive shop there are already a number of people gearing up and the area is quite crowded.  The divemaster informs us that he has not seen the frogfish in a couple of days but we decide to go and look for ourselves anyway.  We set up our gear and enter the water and immediately head toward that section of reef.  Within just a few seconds we find the frogfish not far from where we had left him a few days previously.  I film for a bit and Drew gets a close look at this rather interesting example of a fish.  We tour the reef, completing a one hour dive and surface not far from where we entered.  By now the wind has picked up and it actually feels cool.  We wander the beach for our surface interval and just after we set up our gear for the last dive it starts to rain.  By the time that we enter the water it is coming down in sheets but it matters little to us since we could not possibly get any wetter than we already are.  We descend and this time head towards the shallow section of the reef.  The visibility is better here and there are plenty of photo opportunities. After more than an hour we exit the water, break down our gear and head back to the apartment.  It is still raining.  We carefully rinse our gear and hang it to dry and then begins the task of packing.  At 06:00 p.m. we go down to the bar for dinner and tuck into a couple of bacon cheeseburgers and a couple of cold beers.  Then it is back to the room to complete packing and our last torturous night on the mattresses.  To my surprise I find the lost remote for the first car underneath my computer bag. 

We wake up on our last day and by now are reduced to just toast for breakfast since there is no more butter.  Drew drives the car around to the dive shop and we pack up all of our dive equipment.  We go into the office to pay our bill and they show us a promotional aerial video of the resort for their new website.  Then it is back to the room to load the housing and carry-on bags into the car.  By now it is almost 11:30, the time that they open the kitchen so we order a couple of club sandwiches and a bottle of water.  After lunch it is time to say our goodbyes and head off towards the airport.  Drew had wanted to visit the Hato caves which are near the airport and so we drive around in search of the entrance.  Eventually we come upon the location and are just in time for the guided tour.  Good thing too because the next tour would not have left us enough time to catch our plane.  The caves have a rather interesting history since they were more recently discovered by escaped slaves. There is water in the caves but in order to obtain food the slaves would have to venture back into the plantation at night to steal whatever they could.  It was during these forays into the plantation at night that resulted in them getting caught again.  During the tour the guide turned out all the lights and it is absolutely pitch black dark.  Your eyes are not even able to acclimate to the dark, it is like being completely blind.  After our tour we set off to the airport and check in with the rental company.  It was a good thing that I found the remote otherwise they would have charged me $200 for the loss.  We obtain our boarding passes, make our way through security and head towards the duty free.  I pick up a bottle of Glenfiddich but Drew is not able to find the particular vodka that his mother is looking for. Then it is off to the other stores while Drew searches valiantly for a gift for Lisa.  Eventually he finds just what he is looking for and we settle in to the lounge area to await the boarding call for our flight.  Going home presents a bit of a challenge since we will experience more than a 50C change in temperature, from very hot to very cold. 

We arrive in Toronto, disembark and begin the task of making it through customs and immigration.  The new automated system of processing the customs declaration forms leaves much to be desired since, after waiting in line to go through the process of scanning your documents, it then becomes necessary to wait in another line to hand your copied document to an immigration officer.  Seems to me that we are only making jobs for immigrants since none of the immigration personnel appeared to be naturalized Canadians.  Eventually we recovered our luggage and began the trek to the waiting area for the airport parking bus.  However, Drew in his enthusiasm to get out of the freezing cold since he was still wearing shorts, stopped the first bus that he saw.  Fortunately it was the bus for the valet parking lot.  He called the valet parking to let them know to get his car ready but we still had to wait about twenty minutes for them to bring the car around since they had to clear the snow from all the vehicles that were required by the returning passengers.  Eventually we loaded the car and headed for home.  We knew that there had been a storm while we were away but the depth of snow did not appear to be too bad until we reached Brooklin.  The piles of snow at the ends of the driveways were significantly larger than they were when we left and the bottom of our driveway was knee deep in heavy snow.  Drew just gunned the Subaru into the driveway and we unloaded the car, exhausted from our travels. 

The Good:
It was really nice to get Drew away for a week of diving since it had been more than five years since his last vacation.  The warm sunshine, cooling breezes and sounds of surf lapping at the shoreline was a pleasant respite from the bitter cold and snow that we have endured this winter.  The chef at Bahias apartments is simply amazing and we enjoyed every meal that he prepared.  It was a good thing too since there were not many alternatives nearby.  The sheltered coves in Curacao are spectacularly beautiful and photo opportunities abound.  For people wanting to just lay on the beach and soak up some sunshine it must seem like paradise.  Security guards are posted at many of the dive site parking areas leaving us with a sense that our belongings would be safe locked away in the vehicle. 

The Bad:
The Bahia apartments are rather spartan in their furnishings and there was no place where you could sit comfortably for extended periods of time.  There are no screens on the sliding doors so it is necessary to keep them closed to keep biting insects out.  Unfortunately this blocks out the cooling breezes and the air conditioner only cools the bedroom area and running it entails additional cost.  The dive sites are quite a distance apart from each other requiring long drives between sites and many of them have forty or more stairs and are quite a distance from the parking area to the beach.  At some sites a swim of several hundred meters is required before reaching the beginning of the reef. 

The Ugly:
There is little respite from the biting insects at night.  After the first night when we were literally a feast for the little blighters we slathered Deet all over our bodies before going to bed.  Apparently the mattresses were new but I have never experienced such discomfort while trying to sleep.  Even after several nights of interrupted sleep neither of our bodies were able to adjust to the firmness, or lack thereof, of the mattresses. 

      

 

 

Katyk Briceño
"Amazing!!! Beautiful!!" 
 
Daniel LaFrance  
"Beautiful, akin to an underwater spiritual experience of sorts."
 
Walter Marshall   
"Whenever I watch your videos I am just taken away." 
 
Shaun Diaz   
"Well done, very well done. Mysterious, gorgeous and deeply inspiring... The best part is I am not naming any of it. It is nature in its most perfect and beautiful form." 
 
Christie Lopez  
"David...the video is beautiful and so is the music!! I love the music!!!!" 
 
Brian Dodd
"I just wanted to thank you for the moments of peace and beauty these clips brought to my hectic life."