By Sarah Sekula
If you’re serious about getting away from it all, a vacation spent under water should do the trick. More specifically, try diving in Curacao among yellowfish, sea turtles and sting rays. Anyone can do it (as long as you’re cool with a little bit of studying, training and braving the open waters for a few days).
Getting certified to scuba dive is easier than you think. In fact, once you’ve fallen in love with it, the toughest part is getting out of the water. As for me, I’ve always thought snorkeling was fascinating, but I was really ready to explore a bit further down.
First, my sister and I found a reputable dive operator, Go West Diving (www.gowestdiving.com), at The Kura Hulanda Lodge & Beach Club (kurahulanda.com). It’s a luxe beachfront getaway located on the western end of the island and super close to loads of killer dive spots. Then, we hopped on a quick flight to Curacao, a small island off the coast of Venezuela.
The evening we arrived, we looked out onto the water (the resort is perched on rugged cliffs overlooking quite a dreamy view of the Caribbean) and imagined what we’d see the next day. After all, Curacao is known worldwide for its marine life and unique dive locales.
To maximize your water time, consider going online first to take PADI’s eLearning course. It is 12 hours worth of slides on nitrogen, water pressure, buoyancy and the like, so it’s ideal to get that out of the way. Once you see the inviting turquoise water, that’s where you’ll want to be. Not sitting inside cramming for your tests.
My sister and I made the mistake of not doing the online course ahead of time. But we managed to get that done and all the open-water training in three days. Day once consisted of classwork and then two dives where we practiced things like removing our masks underwater (not fun). Basically, we shut our eyes, removed our masks, held it out in front of us, put the masks back on and purged the water by blowing out of our noses. All this while not freaking out.
Soon after, though, we spotted a school of silvery fish passing by, and any qualms I had washed away instantly. And I remembered my reasoning for doing this in the first place: to see the other 70 percent of the world, you know, the part that is covered in water. It would be well worth it. Even if we got stung by fire coral along the way (which we did).
Come lunchtime, by sister and I studied a bit at the hotel’s beachside restaurant while munching on the catch of the day. Then it was back in the water again. We practiced more skills like equalizing our ears as we went lower into the water. We practiced sharing air with each other and how to recover our regulators if they got knocked out of our mouths. The backdrop throughout the dive involved purple oven pipe sponges, brain coral, sea slugs, parrotfish and Christmas tree worms.
At the end of the day, being able to relax at the resort during our down time was such a bonus. After we had our fill at the open-air breakfast buffet we headed out for a morning dive and afternoon dive at a spot called Alice in Wonderland. And, after seeing a large spotted eagle ray overhead, I sure felt like the tiny version of Alice. After seeing black and white trunk fish, moray eels and scorpionfish, though, I was back to feeling my normal size.
On our last dive, at Watamula, I truly felt like a diver. As the juvenile drumfish, yellow coronet fish and blue tang gracefully fluttered by, I relaxed. I was certified now. I’d be doing this for the rest of my life. •
Where to stay:
The Kura Hulanda Lodge & Beach Club
If you’re a diver, this beachfront luxe hotel is right up your alley.
Go West Diving
Kura Hulanda Hotel & Spa
Kurá Hulanda Hotel & Spa is an 80-room luxury boutique resort located within an adorable village. It’s not a beachfront property, so keep that in mind, if that’s what you are after. It does, however, have a lot to choose from when it comes to entertainment. There are restaurants, an anthropological museum, a spa, courtyards and gardens. And you can easily walk into town, too.