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Dive Review of Ocean Encounters West/Lodge Kura Hulanda in
Curaçao/Westpunt

Ocean Encounters West/Lodge Kura Hulanda, Jul, 2009,

by D. Tan, NY, USA (Reviewer Reviewer 5 reports). Report 5154.

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

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, no currents
Water Temp 80 to 83 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 40 to 60 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions 60 minutes dive time
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 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

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

Conclusion
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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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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