Trip Report Sunscape Curacao, Ocean Encounters Diving A++++++

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Jayfarmlaw

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Tuttle, Ok
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Wow, it actually sucks to be home and I have never said that after ANY vacation...ever. I go into any vacation somewhat jaded because we love Cozumel. We love everything about Cozumel, so even after a few days of being somewhere else, I always say, "It's nice...but it's not Cozumel" Spoiler alert....Not this time!!

Getting there- That was the biggest deal. This trip had been canceled by Covid 5 times in the last year and a half. We flew American out of OKC to Charlotte NC (3 hours-ish), then on to Curacao (4 hours). We were a group of 14 and no issues. They checked our Covid Tests in Charlotte before we could board, but that only added 10 to 15 minutes. No big deal. Flights went as planned within reasonable variations on time.

We landed in Curacao and cleared Customs easily. 2 of our group were directed to the wrong line (residents line) and that took 10 minutes or so to get sorted out. Bus was waiting with an XCEL Scuba sign and 25 minutes later were walking into the resort. Nice place. Typical resort facilities. Rooms are nice, beds are a little small but comfortable, we did all inclusive so the first stop was the bar for me. That is where I met my Jamaican Sister Norma. Absolutely one of the sweetest people I have ever met and hands down the best bar tender we have ever had. She remembered me everytime and took care of me even when I didn't know what I wanted. The beer was decent, but Norma's cocktails were excellent...everytime.

The resort food was excellent. After the first night we usually had the same waitress most of the time and Verona remembered our drink orders perfectly, even after a night off. Again, the service was the best we have ever had. The food was always better than any resort food we have had, and the Tuna salad at the grill, fried grouper, and everything on the breakfast buffet was always great. The one true standout was the Tuna Steak at the Resort Restaurant called Oceana. I raise Angus Beef and it hurts me to say this was one of the best "steaks" I have ever had.

Now for the good part- the diving!!

Ocean Encounters has a satellite shop on the resort. Jorge or "George" runs the shop and he absolutely made my vacation. Tanks and weights are always available and they will give you a key to the shop for afterhours diving. They are open mostly from 7:30 to 4ish. Air fills were always 3000+, Nitrox was always with 1%. The rental gear was newer and in excellent condition. Most of us had our own gear but I ended up needing a shorty and one our divers wanted to use a different BCD. We also had the obligatory High Pressure hose failure (spool orings) on one of our personal regs and they loaned him a SPG console at no charge.

The house reef more than saved us. After 3 days of boat diving, they shut the island down and canceled the boat dives. George went out of his way daily to make sure he knew how many tanks we would be needing and made damn sure they were there. Frankly, the word "House Reef" means little more than "Weight Check" to me. I was wrong. THE HOUSE REEF IS AS GOOD AND HEALTHY AS ANY I HAVE EVER DOVE, ANYWHERE, AT ANY PRICE!!!!. There is a breakwall that runs East-West and serves as an excellent navigation reference. The reef is flat out to 30 to 40 feet, then drops to deeper than most will want to go. We covered probably 1/2 a mile at various depths and usually kicked to the edge, and worked our way at depth for 40 minutes or so then came to the flats and worked our way back at 20 feet-ish for a long swimming safety stop. I had over 15 dives on this reef and it never got old. From night dives at 20 to 40 feet to a froggy deco dive down to 165, non of the dives ever got old. The wall reminded me of Santa Rosa in Cozumel, but with some steeper sections. It was amazingly healthy, but there was some brain corral bleaching starting.

Continued in Part 2 in responses
 

Jayfarmlaw

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Part 2-

There were all the typical reef critters, far more scorpion fish and trumpet fish than you see further north. Lionfish were plentiful, but the juvenile reef fish populations were still healthy. We did our part to cull the LF population as well as a few more divers we met. We did not see any octopi on our night dives, but we did see an amazing frog fish and a sea horse on a boat dive.

About 200 yards down the reef West, (wild assed guess) there is a debris pile at around 50 feet. This debris pile continues in a line down to a barge at 180 feet. cars, trucks, vehicle frames, steel beams, boats, and probably everything else lies in this pile. A friend described it as looking like a city exploded down there. I made it to the barge, but there is supposedly another sunken boat even deeper. I was feeling froggy....but not that froggy. Anything deeper will have to wait until I have a set of doubles or side mount.

I was damn near despondent (self medicated with Norma's fruity tropical drinks made it better) when I heard that they were shutting the island down on Wednesday and boat diving was canceled. After playing on the reef a little, I could have cared less about the boats. The reef is that good. The beaches were beautiful with no biting critters at anytime.

The day before we left, we all went and got antigen tested at a shipping container turned medical office across the street from the resort at no charge to us. I believe the resort picked up that expense. We all had the results back within hours.

The only bad thing was the music went late into the night, sometimes 2 am with private Bluetooth speakers later than that around the pool. Our room was particularly close so it made it worse. I don't travel well with limited sleep so that was the only drawback to the entire trip. The resort was not crowded at all and I think several buildings were empty.

No drama on the way home other than American delays only allowed us about 3 hours in our hotel rooms in Dallas.

I'm a fanatical diver. Like a healthy crack addiction....but worse...much worse. I went to dive, and the reef was absolutely everything I could have hoped for and more. I spent over 18 hours diving in 5 days on this trip and only surfaced because my wife would have hidden my regulators had I pushed it further. Night dives, morning twilight dives as the sun came up, and day dives at all depths never ceased to be "The Best Dive Ever!!", But the service from Norma, Verona, and George absolutely made the vacation incredible. Beyond Incredible. Should they ever see this, Thank you again!!

We will definitely be back. When the world returns to whatever normal lays ahead, if the resort was a crowded my opinion might change, but the reef was amazing and worth the trip alone. If you go, George likes his coffee with a lot of milk in it, no sugar, and not too hot. Coffee with George every morning was a highlight of the trip!!!

One love my Jamaican Amigos!! (Fist bump and tap your heart twice...you are now Jaimerican!!)

https://www.sunscaperesorts.com/en/resorts/curacao/sunscape-curacao-resort-spa-casino/
Curacao's Premier 5 Star Dive Resort ★ SSI & PADI courses for every level

Safe travels guys!!

Jay
 

Newdiv

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Good to hear, I’ll be there in July
 

Altamira

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Excellent report. Going to Sunscape in late summer, Covid permitting.
 

rick00001967

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we stayed at a sunscape property in puerto plata. although we enjoyed our stay, we only found the food service to be "acceptable". most of the food was not hot etc. but overall it was ok. so it is good to hear such praise for this location. we have talked about staying here if / when we are able to return to curacao.
 

morecowbells

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Loved your report! Poolside music at 2 am-hell no! I would have changed rooms.
 

drrich2

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Nice trip report! Glad you guys had fun. Sunscape Resort Curacao is a nice option to take a family; when we went to join a Scuba Board Surge event there one January, we had a good time and I was the only one diving. A few comments to add...

1.) My little girl loved the kids' club; apparently the staff worked well with them.
2.) The beach, while not real large, is large enough, sandy and nice.
3.) It's a fairly short walk down the road out front to Mambo Beach, if you want a larger, more crowded beach and a strip mall.
4.) It's a fairly short walk further down past Mambo Beach to get to the Curacao Sea Aquarium, which was nice. A chance to show our kid some sea life, and for a fee she and my mother-in-law got a dolphin kiss. They had dolphin shows there.
5.) It was a fairly short walk to a nearby excursion place where we did an ATV tour. It was fun, but at times extremely dusty (those optional bandanas were some of the best $5 apiece ever spent) and they were loud.
6.) Not far from Willemstad, so you can catch a cab there to walk around and gawk, experience the swinging bridge, etc...

It's a much different kind of experience from what I read in reports of those who go to the Westpunt region.
 

tkaelin

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It's a much different kind of experience from what I read in reports of those who go to the Westpunt region.
Having stayed in both locations (Lions Dive and various location in and near Westpunt) it is two different worlds and experiences.
 

billywinter

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"After 3 days of boat diving, they shut the island down"

Wow, can't believe you guys did ANY boat diving. With one or 2 exceptions this is a shore diving place. Glad to know they still allowed tank rentals during the lock down. I assumed with the beaches closed, the dive shops would be too.
 
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