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Dive Review of Ocean Encounters Diving/All West Apartments in
Curaçao/Westpunt

Ocean Encounters Diving/All West Apartments, Dec, 2010,

by Paul Selden, MI, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 11 reports). Report 5914.

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

Weather rainy Seas choppy
Water Temp 75 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 40 to 70 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
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.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

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
UW Photo Comments 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):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 5 stars
Snorkeling 3 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments 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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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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