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Dive Review of Ocean Encounters Curacao/Lions Dive in

May, 2004, an Instant Reader Report by Mark Webber, Ontario, Canada
Report Number 1036
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
Bonaire, Cayman Brac, Little Cayman, Provo, Nevis, St. Kitts, Jamaica,
Andros, St. Lucia, Hawaii (Big Island), British Columbia
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
81   to 0    ° Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 80    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
60 minutes max, whether air or Nitrox. Depth was left to the divers,
recommended 60 ft 1st dive, 50 ft 2nd dive  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
3 stars  
Shore Facilities  
2 stars  
Boats have separate rinse tank for cameras, no dry table; uwp shop in
nearby seaquarium, but not at or through dive shop itself
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars   
4 stars    
     Site: I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity and condition of the
reef - very good coverage with hard and soft corals, sponges, crinoids,
very little sign of bleaching or disease. Little reason to go below 70-80
feet. The currents were manageable but sometimes required drift-diving -
one advantage of the currents was very large christmas-tree and
featherduster worms. Fish, too, were plentiful and large, especially the
midnight and blue parrots. Lots of little critters as well as larger crabs,
lobster, squid, and the occasional octopus. If you like beautiful and
varied reefs, and don't need sharks, wrecks or deep dives, this is a good
place to come.
     Operation: Ocean Encounters Curacao (OEC) is a well-conducted,
friendly and safe operation that does a lot of advanced instruction
(including thorough rescue diver courses and divemaster qualifications).
There are lockers, bathrooms, showers, and rinse tanks available at the
dock/diveshop. The fills varied from 2700 to 3200 psi - it pays to check
out two tanks before the boat leaves. Usually there is a two-tank dive in
the morning only (leave 9:00, back by 12:30 or 1:00), but occasionally
there was also a one-tank afternoon dive. Nitrox was available. The boat
was a standard diveboat - a bit bouncy for some, but basically fine. They
supply water, fruit, and some spare equipment along with oxygen and
first-aid equipment. Some of the dive sites are suitable for snorkelling by
non-divers; others are not - OEC can advise you. But the actual dive sites
may change from those scheduled due to wave conditions. It pays to chat up
the office staff each afternoon to stay current (no pun intended). Divers
are treated as adults - you are welcome to dive your own profile, but not
to keep others waiting: max bottom time is 60 minutes. If you want to go
with the divemaster, most of whom are very good about finding stuff, that's
no problem, but navigating with this reef system is also no problem. Raul
and Naldo were especially good in finding interesting critters, but all DMs
were friendly and competent. If you have a car, there is good shore diving
on the island - the double reef at St. Marie is especially recommended.
Organized night diving was more problematical - cancelled one for lack of
     Hotel / Food: Lions Dive (LD) Resort is comfortable, clean, friendly,
and very convenient. The staff are extremely eager to please. Rooms have
all the amenities from air-conditioning to real hot water, room safes,
phones, and a few TV channels (most in Dutch, Spanish or Papiamentu). It's
not as luxurious as the nearby Breezes all-inclusive (same dive operation
at both places), but may be more friendly than Breezes. LD is pretty Dutch,
so if you need to believe that the world speaks English without exception,
it may not be your cup of tea. The food was perfectly acceptable but a bit
limited in choice and often heavy on the garlic. The breakfast buffet
(included in our room package) was excellent, with lots of hot and cold
offerings; lunch and dinner were less creative yet relatively pricy. The
better place to eat is the Mambo Beach Club, about 5 minutes by foot down
the beach towards Breezes - Mambo's food was superior and less expensive,
and the ambience was better.
     Overall: A very good place that had everything we needed and did what
it took to make us feel welcome. We still prefer Bonaire overall, but for
those who want some city life too, Curacao, Lions Dive and Ocean Encounters
are a good choice (there is a shuttle-bus into town twice a day). It's not
a great exotic adventure, but the reef is full of interesting sealife if
you take the time to look, and the whole thing is just a very non-hassly
and pleasant vacation.       
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