Pam and I are staying at the Royal Sea Aquarium this week. A stay-cation if you will as we are still on the island, but at the opposite end to where we live. We don’t often get down here, and it’s been a nice change.
We had a nice snorkel off the Sea Aquarium and the water was amazingly warm. Saw all the usual suspects, although we saw a group of larger squid. Most squid we’ve seen lately have been of the smaller variety, but these were quite large.
The resort has evolved a little since we’ve stayed here last. They have a nice poolside bar, with breakfast service. Taco Tuesday is a new day long special as well. The suites are as amazing as always.
The only downside was that they have discontinued the free entry to the aquarium. Most disappointed with that. We used to go and watch the dolphin shows a couple times at least.
Still, a nice little get away. Nice to sleep in. Nice to “see” this side of the island!
We had a nice dinner out at our favorite pizza joint, Il Forno’s and it didn’t disappoint. A very nice dinner.
Wednesday we swam at the Royal Sea Aquarium. This is really a remarkable site, and we’ve always snorkeled here every time we come. The sea was a bit rough, but the water was so clear! It was a lot of fun. The place has amazingly huge coral formations, and just tons of fish.
The one fish that always stands out for me is the black durgon. We saw some coloration on them today that was just remarkable. I have a brief movie, that is far too jerky, and I apologize for that, but it’s worth it just to see the amazing color on this fish! (Remember: you can always put the movies in full screen mode, and see them in full 1080p HD mode.) The deep orange face, the bright blue and black body and the white striping — just wow. Love it.
We saw a blue fish with black highlights that we rarely see, and yet there were tons of them here today. We think they are creole wrasse, and this is the juvenile phase. (NOTE: this is a blue chromis, actually, not a wrasse.)
Not a lot to say about this great snorkel site, since I’ve talked about it lots of times before. I’ll just let you watch a couple movies and you can see what I mean. It’s pretty darn phenomenal. Of all the places we’ve snorkeled, this is top two… I can’t decide if Smith’s Reef on the Turks and Caicos beats this. One thing the Sea Aquarium hasn’t given us is turtles. If we saw a turtle or two, there would be no debate!
This next movie is of a school of surgeonfish, blue tangs and several black durgons join in the fun. I’ve posted lots of movies of these fish, but they are so cool. They just fill your vision with shades of blue and purple. Very relaxing to watch them cruise through the area!
We walked around downtown Willemsted in the afternoon. It was crowded with shoppers from the two cruise ships in the harbor. It’s a protected World Heritage Site, due to the unique architecture of the building lining the streets. But it’s also lots of fun. Lots of little shops, a big local craft market, restaurants of every flavor, street entertainment – just lots to do and see. There is even a floating market of boats from Venezuela which dock right by the downtown area. They sell everything from fresh fish to handicrafts.
Today we headed just south of our hotel and snorkeled at Caracasbaii. Pam and I have snorkeled here before, and it’s kind of cool. There is a submerged tugboat, and it’s a very close to shore. You can park within five feet of the beach, and just walk right into the water. It’s a nice sandy entry, very level. The ocean was calm and warm, and really clear – the visibility was astonishing! As soon as our faces hit the water, we saw a flying gurnard, only the second one I’ve ever seen in the wild. Quite a cool sight!
The wreck is not very deep and it is covered with coral, Christmas tree worms, and fish! We saw a couple of moray eels hiding near the top, close enough you could reach down and touch him. The Hull is filled with lots of schooling fish.
We saw all the usual suspects, parrot fish, chubbs, sergeant majors, trumpetfish, filefish, wrasses, morays… And being so shallow you can can really see everything up close! It’s really a great place to snorkel. I’d say it is on a par with the Royal Sea Aquarium, but for different reasons.
The bluehead wrasse is a quick, darting fish, that is difficult to photograph. Seems every time you point the camera at him he darts quickly away. I’ve included this photo because somehow I managed to nail him! Shocking!
We saw several morays, but this gold colored fellow was only about 3 feet from the surface of the water. He kept his eye on us, and would retreat into his little cave if we got too close with the camera.
Another fish we have trouble getting a picture of is this red colored guy. I’m not sure what is name is, but he’s very shy, and usually hides under rock, shelves or pieces of wreck. He only came out into “the light” because he was chasing another fish and I happened to be there with the camera turned on.
I have purchased an underwater housing for the camera this year and I’m quite disappointed with it. It bulky, cumbersome and heavy. It’s awkward to use the zoom button, and every operation requires both hands. It’s impossible to dive down, and use one hand to take a picture, so I’m not getting the shots I want. I would not recommend you get this housing if you’re a snorkeler. It’s also impossible to use any of the special feature buttons, like macro mode. And turning on the film mode, is hit or miss at best.
For the afternoon swim we headed back to the Royal Sea Aquarium. It was just terrific again. The highlight was seeing the largest green moray eel I’ve ever seen! Mike said he was big as a house, but I think he exaggerated, he was as big as a small apartment! The pictures we took of him do not do him justice, but I’ve added a movie at the end of the post… pretty impressive beasty.
We saw another queen angel, and she was very large too! We’ve seen some impressive examples of this fish so far, but this beauty is the best so far.
We spotted a porcupine fish, another shy fish. They hide in small caves, under ledges, or wherever they think you can’t see them. It’s difficult to get a good shot, because you always have to dive down to get the shot, and as I mentioned, this housing has made those shots even more problematic for me. But here is a funny one of him – it looks like we’ve photoshopped some white teeth on to him, but no, this is really the shot!
Snorkeling on Friday was the MOST AMAZING thing I have ever seen… I am still in shock about how magnificent it was. I’m still trying to find words to describe it – simply amazing. In all the times we’ve been in the water, in all the islands we’ve been to, I’ve NEVER seen anything like it, or even close to it.
I tell you – the snorkeling in Curacao is so much better than Aruba – Pam and I have already decided if we do the 4 week thing again, we’ll do more time in Curacao — it is more expensive there – the car rental was more, food is more, but the ocean is totally superior. We stayed at a place called the Royal Sea Aquarium, and they’ve talked about their private reef and how wonderful it is, and we’ve snorkeled around 4 or 5 times there, and never really saw what they were bragging about – I mean it’s nice but…
Well on Friday we actually found the “coral forest” – coral 30 feet high, 20 feet wide, and it goes on for acres – thousands and thousands of fish – think of the most crowded area we saw, and multiply it by about 500 per cent, and you’re starting to get the idea…. even when we went out to the Cayman Islands and took a boat out to a coral forest, it was NOTHING compared to this… and THIS was within 10 minutes swimming of our condo!
This movie is kind of a compilation of lots of things we saw. From the towering coral, to the black durgons, to the smaller fish – it was really a great swim today!
We were so in awe of what we saw, we really didn’t take enough pictures to give you a clear idea of what we saw. I feel bad about that, because it really was something amazing. I honestly never dreamed there was something like this to see in the ocean. I thought we’d seen it all – and then this – I tell you – I wish I had the words to tell you what we saw.
We even had an awesome sunset to complete the day! What a treat this day was.
Here is another brief movie of the coral forest. It’s like nothing we have ever seen. I do hope these movies have given you a sense of what we saw… I wish we’d done better, but we were really in awe. We kept saying to each other, “Do you believe what we just saw??” then we’d swim another hundred feet and then we’d say “Do you believe what we just saw??”
It’s been a busy couple of days here in Curacao. We arrived late on Saturday – we were supposed to be here at 1:20 pm, but the flight was delayed and didn’t take off til nearly 3:30. Ah well – stuff happens. It was a fun flight, quite short, about 25 minutes. It was funny to see the reaction of a couple of Dutch women to the size of the plane!
Since we’d flown this route last year, we knew what to expect. But they were getting restless in the terminal, and when I saw the plane land, I pointed it out to them and said “Shouldn’t be long now, they’ll refuel and we’ll be off.” She looked at the plane, her fave visibly paled and she said, “You’re kidding?? That’s soooo small!” She turned to her friends and they gave me this sick little look… Priceless!
We didn’t get in the ocean, but we took a nice swim in the pool and spent some time in the hot tub. We had dinner at Augusto’s, even though we had not particularly enjoyed eating there last year. But this year was very good. I had the chicken parmigiana and Pam had the seafood pasta, and both were very good. Service was excellent, and it was a nice ending to the day.
Saturday we snorkeled out front of the Sea Aquarium but it was a little cloudy. There has been a lot of rain here this year, more than Aruba. There were a lot of fish, of course, but we didn’t get many good photos. We did see a spotted drum, and some interesting fish, including a couple of barracuda.
The shoreline opposite us, which is a five minute swim across the water, had some of the largest surgeonfish and tangs I have ever seen, anywhere. HUGE! Shockingly big…
In the afternoon we toured the Sea Aquarium. They have added some new attractions, and some new fish tanks. Pam got to feed some sharks, and actually petted a few nurse sharks. There were some lobsters that we soooo big, they must have been seventy years old or more. Just humongous.
We had a nice relaxing dinner at El Gauchos, and Argentine steak house. We’d had dinner there last year, and they had the same impeccable food. Really glorious. They are in a lovely elevated location, so we had a nice view of some of the island.
The service was not as good as we remembered, but it didn’t detract from the quality of the food. A recommended place to eat, for sure.
Tomorrow we have scheduled a cruise up the coast to the main town of Willemsted, which is a World Heritage sight. Curacao is not as dependent on tourism as Aruba is… they say 90% of the economy of Aruba is dependent on tourism, but Curacao has only a 25% reliance. They are big in communications, housing a lot of the sports betting websites on the internet. They are also a world leader in supplying paint! When you see how boldly the homes are painted, it’s not much of stretch to believe it!
Here is a small movie Pam took in the Sea Aquarium of a Cubera snapper.
We have arrived in Curacao! I’m sitting on our deck, looking out over the ocean, having a cup of Timmy Horton’s coffee, typing this report.
We took a little 16 seat puddle jumper over to Curacao from Aruba – they said it would take 40 minutes, but it took about 25. Was a neat little trip – kinda reminded me of the puddle jumpers we took jumping the Greek Islands.
Curacao seems a lot bigger than Aruba. Willemstad seems quite large, compared to Aruba’s towns. We had a bit of an adventure finding the place – we didn’t really get lost, we just thought we were lost!
The condo is really nice – very large, 16 foot ceilings. A 400 sq ft deck out the bedroom has an outdoor dining room and 2 couches on it. It’s got good internet from out here too.
We’re going to go hop in the ocean in about 15 minutes. Hopefully, the water is clear and lots of fish are hanging about for us to capture on film!