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Dive Review of Ocean Encounters Curacao/Lions Dive in
Curaçao

Ocean Encounters Curacao/Lions Dive, May, 2004,

by Mark Webber, Ontario, Canada . Report 1036.

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

Weather windy Seas choppy
Water Temp 81 to 0 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50 to 80 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
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
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 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
UW Photo Comments 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):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments 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 divers.
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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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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