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Dive Review of Ocean Encounters Diving/All West Apartments in

December, 2010, an Instant Reader Report by Paul Selden, MI, US
Sr. Reviewer   (11 reports)
Report Number 5914
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
Bonaire, Florida Keys, Vancouver Island, California, St. Vincent, St.
Lucia, Galapagos, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Utila, Roatan,
Andros, Belize, Playa del Carmen,  Ceynotes-Akumal, Dominica, Holbox
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
75   to 82    ° Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
40   to 70    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Boat dives typically wanted you back on the boat in 60 minutes but they
weren't harsh about it.  Very experienced divers could linger and not stick
with the group.  Solo diving was forbidden and/or strongly discouraged.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
3 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
Large Pelagics
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
4 stars  
Mostly did shore diving so setup for UWPs not a factor.  Tubs on boat and
rinse tanks on shore at OE facilities very good/kept fresh, but rinse tanks
at Porto Mari and Cas Abou were very briny after noon.  All West’s “house
reef” just north of Playa Grandi has a huge concentration of giant anemone,
crabs that call the anemone home, lettuce sea slugs, and nocturnal tube
worms.  Gave shore diving and subject matter a "5" for this
reason.  At this point, for me it only takes a few novelties to make the
trip worthwhile.  Otherwise, subject matter similar to Bonaire.  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
5 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
5 stars  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
4 stars   
3 stars    
We’d been meaning to go to Curacao, but in no particular hurry.  There have
been other places we needed to check off our list, first.  But let’s face
it.  There are only so many islands in the Caribbean that have more or less
guaranteed warmth when Michigan is in the icebox, and Curacao is one of
them.  It has a lot going for it: clean drinking water, low crime, fairly
convenient access, and an interesting mix of town and country for
sight-seeing on land.  Undercurrent’s June 2008 feature article turned us
on to All West Apartments, which we would never have discovered on our own.
 What we found can be summed up quickly.  The underwater topography is
similar to Bonaire, as are the reef fish, with the exception that I’ve
never such a congregation of a handful of certain species.  All West
Apartments (clean, very roomy, with well equipped kitchen) is a tremendous
bargain, especially for people like us who like quiet lodgings with low
room counts.  Our package included unlimited shore dives and a rental car. 
Dive operator Ocean Encounters keeps tanks at All West Apts, in a dedicated
room unlocked by guest keys.  Curacao is a large island, with some of the
most breath-taking scenery in the world on the one hand, and some of the
most picturesque cityscapes you’ll ever see, on the other.  The dining
experiences were fantastic.  We enjoyed our stay.  To get local intel up
front I did four boat dives with the Ocean Encounters’ shop in Westpunt. 
Their well-stocked shop was just a short drive from All West Apartments. 
The advantage of boat diving on Curacao is it gives you access to some of
the well-known sites that are difficult or impossible to get to from shore,
like Mushroom Forest and Watamula.  The boat dives were drifts in very mild
current.  The reefs were recovering from last August when the water temps
hit 88 degrees F.  The amount of coral bleaching was shocking--Mushroom
Forest indeed resembled a forest of giant (pale white grocery store!)
mushrooms.  I did my shore diving in four areas, all worthwhile.  Two were
at lovely beaches that sported diving and restaurant facilities about an
hour’s drive from West Punt; both required modest entrance fees.  The dive
at Playa Porto Mari featured a must-see double reef.  The dive at Cas Abou
was along a wall some 25-100 feet deep, reached after swimming over a long
sandy bottom.  The shore dive at Alice in Wonderland in Westpunt was also
very pleasant, accessed without a fee from the beach between Ocean
Encounters’ dive shop and upscale Kura Hulanda Lodge.  But the shore dives
I found myself making again and again were right in front of All West
Apartments off their tiny beach, reached via steps that begin just after
leaving their dive room.  Access was relatively easy through mild surf. 
You may need to enter carefully sideways to avoid missteps while pausing to
brace against the (small but forceful) waves and subsequent backwash.  For
whatever reason, All West’s “house reef” just north of Playa Grandi has a
huge concentration of giant anemone, crabs that call the anemone home,
lettuce sea slugs, and nocturnal tube worms.  The full-sized apartment we
called home was approximately 1000 square feet, featuring a counter with
stools for eating space, living area with couches (no TV, but free
internet), a king size bed and sitting room (more couches) facing a patio
area (with table, chairs, and lounges) and the ocean beyond.  Waking up to
see the fishing boats bobbing and swaying at anchor made sipping coffee in
bed a pleasant way to start each day.  Taking our sundowners on the patio
facing the setting sun was romantic and relaxing.  Ocean Encounters handles
the dive-related billing for All West Apartments.  They were pleasant,
professionally managed, reasonably priced, and stocked well enough to sell
me a CR2 camera battery just when I needed one.  They can put any tips you
might like to offer on your credit card when you’re done diving for the
week.  From what I could gather, all the dive enterprises on the island I
visited discourage solo diving, either by outright forbidding use of their
tanks when solo diving, or through policies that require that all solo
diving best practices be adhered to (such as diving with an alternate air
source).  They suggested trying to bum a nominal “same ocean” buddy, as an
alternative.  Whether my fellow Undercurrent subscribers find such policies
off-putting or not, I’m simply reporting them so readers can act
accordingly.  In practice, everything worked out for me, even with my
confirmed UW photo habit.  If you dive from All West Apartments, take
whatever tanks you need with you to shore diving expeditions elsewhere; it
will save you money and hassles in case (say, if you happen to be a solo
diver) you can’t get one from a more local shop.  You will find lots to see
and do on the island.  All West rents you a vehicle (various sizes
available), and greets you and gives you your vehicle on arrival at the
airport.  We got a "larger" car, a Korean job that barely held
all our luggage.  Driving is on the right, and roads are decent enough to
make driving on your own no problem when touring about.  At 38 miles long
and nine miles wide, with major national parks in the north and a big city
in the south, it takes longer to explore than one day.  Make sure you pick
up a good map somewhere before you go too far; it would be easy to get lost
without one (or a GPS updated for road details in Curacao).  We highly
recommend an afternoon’s excursion to Willemsted to see the history of
slavery museum located off the Kura Hulanda hotel in the Otrobanda district
and the pontoon bridge spanning the channel between Otrobanda and Punda. 
Make sure you feed any meters you park at; cars get booted shortly after
their time runs out.  We used to think that the Place of Refuge National
Park in Hilo, Hawaii had the most hypnotically enchanting water line that
we’d seen; it now shares that distinction with Shete Boca National Park in
Curacao where we spent another afternoon exploring and hiking.  There,
waves spill through narrow inlets, crash over the iron shore in spectacular
displays.  Westpunt may seem remote by comparison to the southern part of
the island, but the restaurants are notable, nonetheless.  The places we
went were intimate, friendly, and full of atmosphere, where owners mingle
with their guests.  We highly recommend Landhuis Misje, set in a converted
plantation house, Sol Food, run by Sunshine, a warmly embracing hostess who
will give you her personal guide to local sites to see if asked.  Husband
Dave cooks up delicious lamb chops.  Jaanchie’s offers decent local food,
including fish, goat, and iguana, but a real eye opening floor show.  At
night the place swirls with hundreds of (inoffensive) bats--a once-in-a
lifetime experience--until the next time you go.
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All Curaēao Dive Reviews and Reports
Diving Guide to Curaēao
Diving Reviews for All Dive Destinations

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