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Dive Review of Ocean Encounters West/Lodge Kura Hulanda in

July, 2009, an Instant Reader Report by D. Tan, NY, USA
Reviewer   (5 reports)
Report Number 5154
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
101-250 dives
Where else diving
Aguadilla, PR; Bonaire, NA; Curaçao, NA; Desecheo, PR; Ft.
Lauderdale, FL; Grand Cayman, KY; Heron Island, AU; Key Largo, FL; La
Parguera, PR; Roatán, HN; Rocquebrun-Cap Martin, FR; Saba, NA; Saint
Martin, FR/NA.
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, dry  
calm, no currents  
Water Temp
80   to 83    ° Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
40   to 60    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
60 minutes dive time  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
Boat Facilities
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
3 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
5 stars  
4 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars    
5 stars   
4 stars    
Lodge Kura Hulanda
Very nice enclosed luxury result in Westpunt, with restaurant, pool,
poolside bar, and beach.  Access to the dive shop is via the stairs down to
the beach, with a gate that’s padlocked after hours.  We stayed in a Garden
View 1BR, which was nicely appointed with kitchen and large balcony.

We opted NOT to get the all-inclusive plan. Unless you're a heavy drinker
(>3/day), it’s NOT worth it! That allowed us to venture out for a couple
nice dinners at Daniel and Fort Nassau, which were actually cheaper. The
hot breakfast buffet is excellent, including omlettes, at $17 after tax;
continental option $8. Lunch ran ≈$20-25; baguette sandwiches
were good, but pizzas did not sit well. Dinner ran ≈$45-60 and
was hit or miss, ranging from very good to
overcooked/oversauced/oversalted. Biggest issue was the service; other than
a couple good servers, the rest were generally slow (beyond just being on
'island time'), inattentive, and inept.  You get hit with the standard 12%
service charge on every meal, with the option of adding a bit extra for
your server.

Ocean Encounters West
Dive shop is next door to the resort at beach-level with steps up to its
own parking lot.  The dive staff was absolutely superb. They were friendly,
outgoing, helpful, and went out of their ways to accommodate us. They
respected each diver's abilities and preferences, looking after our
less-experienced divers, while letting those with more experience dive
their own computer profiles.  Dive shop is open 8am-5pm and has good Cressi
rental gear, large common room for gear storage, lots of BC and wetsuit
hangers, two rinse tanks, and freshwater shower. Nitrox was partial
pressure blended (30-33%) and cost $10/tank extra.

Boat Diving
We did the 2-tank AM boat dive every day (they also run a 1-tank PM dive)
on their 20-person boat, the Palavos, usually with only 5-10 divers. Boat
has O2, first aid kit, marine radio, and cell phone to call the shop. Cabin
does get wet, but there’s plenty of dry space. Light drinks and snacks
provided. Look for TONS of flying fish on every trip!

We usually had 2 divemasters (+captain), and dove as one or two groups.
Entries were giant stride off the stern, with a very steady ladder (never
saw it bounce once) for exits. Max dive time 60 minutes; depths
≈40-60ft, although the reef goes down to 80-90+ft at some sites,
then thins out near a sandy bottom at 100-110+ft; temps 80-83°F; waves
6-12"; currents mild to non-existent. Most dives ran on a rectangle
(deeper outbound, turn at 1/2 tank, shallower return), although we did a
couple drift dives. Surface intervals were a full 60 min.

We dove Mushroom Forest, Black Sand/Catherine, Plane Wreck, Radio City,
Paradise, Sponge Forest, Hulu, Jeremi, and our favorite, Watamula (way
better than Mushroom Forest, which all the dive magazines write about). The
coral was dense and healthy with the usual assortment of tropical fish, and
lots of schooling fish. We were lucky to see a pair of cowfish spiral 30ft
up the water column mating, and several steely gray sergeant majors
aggressively guarding their purple egg patches. Also many corkscrew
anemones with Pederson and banded coral shrimp, but not many larger
crustaceans; lots of eels; one 18" hawksbill turtle; three spotted
eagle rays; pair of reef squid; some big 2-ft pufferfish.

The Wreck of the Catherine is also worth exploring, with good penetration
opportunities, at 20-25ft, perfect for Wreck certifications being done in
our group. We found a 4-ft dog snapper living in a compartment amidships on
the North (port) side (ship is inverted), and there is a larger compartment
toward the bow (light, but no egress, to starboard or aft). We did not dive
the Superior Producer because it required a long, early morning drive and
the OE(East) divemasters were unsure of how good the penetration training
opportunities were.

Shore Diving
Another big plus at OEW is the great house reef, Alice in Wonderland. Easy
entries off the pier or via ladder (which needs wider rungs and a better
handrail). There is a large sandy area in 8-15ft with four buoys that's
great for training and also has some interesting critters. About 15ft to
the left/S of the first buoy, is a small 2-ft round coral head where an
octopus sometimes lives. Closer to shore, there's an engine block that some
shrimp have turned into a cleaning station. Lots of sharptail eels in the
coral rubble, and iridescent blue lettuce worms. We did a couple night
dives, and the coral polyps start coming out between 7:30-8:00pm. Top of
the reef is about 25ft and it continues down to 80+.

A few caveats to shore diving at OEW: First, if you want to leave/return
after the shop closes, you need to move your gear and tanks to the hotel
locker room, next door at beach level. The individual lockers are large,
but have no hangers and limited ventilation. Second, be sure to let the
hotel front desk know what time you'll be back, or the KH guard may padlock
the gate on the stairs as early as 6pm. Third, if the rinse tanks get
emptied, you can hike your gear up to the resort, where there’s a shower
near the top of the stairs.

We were a bit disappointed that the ‘off-campus’ shore diving was not as
straightforward as in Bonaire, and only went once, but the great house reef
made up for it. Theft has become an increasing problem in Curaçao,
even in the parking lot of OEW, so we were advised not to leave anything in
the car/trunk except towels and spare tanks. It also turned out that many
of the beaches are either private or require an entry fee, and close at

Overall, we very much enjoyed our trip to Curaçao and would
definitely return to KH and OEW!! The reef is in great shape, the diving is
easy, and the OEW staff are top notch!

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