Aruba is home to an entire underwater world that offers diving and snorkeling experiences unlike any other. Duck your head under the incredibly blue tropical waters and be dazzled with sights beyond compare. Bright yellow fish darting between flame-colored coral, and fragile sea anemones dancing in the current are just some of the wonders under the waves.
With so much to explore, it's no wonder that Aruba is home to some of the world's most popular diving destinations. In fact, in the beginning of 2011, Scuba Diving Magazine recognized Aruba as the top wreck diving, and third best advanced diving country in the world. Before you dive in, take a few minutes to learn about scuba diving in Aruba's amazing waters. One of the most-talked about aspects of Aruba's waters is that visibility ranges from 60 feet to 100 feet, giving snorkelers and divers plenty to look at below the waves.
Aruba is home to plenty of exotic underwater sights, from shipwrecks to coral reefs. The sights are made even more amazing by the incredible visibility of the water around Aruba's edge.
The, a wooden passenger ship traveling from Liverpool to Central America, ran aground nearly 100 years ago. Though it is sometimes said that the California was the only boat to have heard the Titanic's distress signal, this is not true - that ship was the Californian. This sunken ship is covered in sponges, coral, and anemones; fish dart around and between the currents. Aruba divers beware: Due to strong currents and choppy seas, this site is strictly for advanced divers.
Of course, you'll find plenty more options like this all around Aruba. Many are popular among visiting snorkelers and divers and each has something unique to share.
: This site contains all that is left of an American oil tanker torpedoed by a German submarine in 1942; much of the ship was hauled back to the U.S. for parts. However, cabins, washbasins, and other usually out-of-the-way sights are easy to see. Unusual sea life including squirrelfish and spotted eagle rays can often be seen, as well. This site is a favorite of novice divers and snorkelers at only 20 feet to 30 feet below.
This reef is located off the coast of Oranjestad and abounds with plants and coral. Divers will find the pilot boat wreck and colorful fish nearby. A barracuda and a pair of green moray eels seem intent on keeping divers on their toes. :
Two sunken airplanes add a little mystery to this site because both are unclaimed drug runners and form an artificial reef. Both planes are intact and divers can sit in the cockpit - if they can make it past the eels, octopi, and crabs who jealously guard the seat. Snorkelers will have an easier time taking in the Beechcraft airplane, which is only 15 feet from the surface. To explore the Convair you'll need to dive to 40 feet. There is also a sunken barge at 12 feet under, just a little farther from shore. It is perfect for snorkelers who want to view colorful swarms of fish. :
You'll find this reef - and its incredible array of colorful sponges - near the sunken airplanes of Renaissance Island. Take in the sights of elephant ears, tubes, vases, and baskets in hues from yellow to purple. Coral is also found in this area. :
Only a few miles from Oranjestad, this reef is unique because of its ability to accommodate both divers and snorkelers. It fluctuates between depths of 20 feet and 90 feet and is home to many types of coral, though there are plenty of brightly-colored fish as well. :
Sunk to form an artificial reef, this former Venezuelan cement freighter was caught carrying cocaine and is now encrusted in many different types of coral and sponges. A few safety warnings: Watch out for the stinging fire coral; keep an eye out for moray eels, barracuda, lobsters, tropicals, and gorgonians; and watch your head on low-lying doorways at the radio room and mess hall. :
Off the coast of none other than Mangel Halto Beach, this reef has ledges and ridges that plunge to depths of 110 feet. You'll find plenty of marine life of just about every size, shape, and color. Sea turtles also pass by in early spring on their way to nearby beaches to lay eggs. :
Near the old fishing village of Savaneta, not far from a shore lined with mangroves, this reef is most often swept by a current, keeping visibility high. At its deepest, the reef reaches 120 feet, and you'll find plenty of coral-covered ledges and cave hideaways. :
The cost of visiting these coral reefs is not always small. The following are average costs per person, in U.S. dollars. Scuba divers can expect to pay $30 for a one-tank dive or about $45 for a two-tank dive. Nighttime dives cost approximately $35. Resort scuba courses, if not included, are usually about $70 for beginners. To get PADI certified, expect a course to cost closer to $300.
There are 10 dive operators, a dive shop, and at least 35 good dive sites in the area.
The dive shop worth looking into can be seen in the chart below.
|Dive Shop//12577||(297) 583-5669||2.8 mi. Northwest of Central Oranjestad||Aruba|
If you're ready to dive, you should consider JADS Dive Center. JADS offers PADI certification courses, open water dives, scuba equipment rentals, a dive shop,and more. When you sign up for an open water dive, you have the option of visiting over 24 underwater sites. They are found within Seroe Colarado, in southeastern Aruba.
A second option is SEAruba Fly 'n Dive. Known as the "Friendliest Dive Center on Aruba," SEAruba Fly 'n Dive offers residents and guests of Aruba the opportunity to take PADI certification courses and participate in open water dives with knowledgeable guides. SEAruba Fly 'n Dive also offers snorkeling trips on private boats. You can call them at (297) 588-1150.
Still another option is Diver's Request. One of the smaller dive companies on Aruba, Diver's Request is all about creating the experience for divers who come to the island specifically to see the underwater sites. They only work with groups of three to four at a time for a more personalized experience. They're located in Oranjestad, in western Aruba.
The table right below lists some key facts regarding dive service operators.
|Aruba Watersports Center Diving||(297) 586-6613||1.1 mi. West-Northwest of Central Noord|
|Diver's Request||(297) 582-3914||0.4 mi. North of Downtown Oranjestad|
|Happy Divers Aruba||(297) 733-6570||2.4 mi. North of Central Oranjestad|
|JADS Dive Center||(297) 584-6070||3.9 mi. Southeast of Central Brasil|
|Mermaid Sports Divers||(297) 587-4106||2.9 mi. North of Central Oranjestad|
|Native Divers Aruba||(297) 586-4763||4.3 mi. North of Central Oranjestad|
|Pro Dive Aruba||(297) 582-5520||1.0 mi. North of Downtown Oranjestad|
|Red Sail Sports Diving||(305) 454-2538||3.9 mi. North-Northwest of Central Oranjestad|
|SEAruba Fly 'n Dive||(297) 588-1150||1.0 mi. Southeast of Downtown Oranjestad|
|Unique Sports of Aruba||(297) 586-0096||3.8 mi. North-Northwest of Central Oranjestad|
Be sure to look at this table to get a feel for the approximate cost of typical dive services in this area.
|Offering Type||Low Rate||High Rate|
|Discover Scuba||$ 90.0||$ 100.0|
|Double Tank Dive||$ 75.0||$ 110.0|
|Night Dive||$ 60.0||$ 90.0|
|Open Water Certification||$ 400.0||$ 460.0|
|Single Tank Dive||$ 50.0||$ 80.0|
Look through the table below for a few details concerning some of the area's major dive sites.
|Very Good||Open Water / CMAS *||60.0||12.6016579438||-70.0593990275|
|Fair||Advanced Open Water / CMAS **||49.2||12.4130166667||-69.8792833333|
|Good||Open Water / CMAS *||95.0||12.4716038502||-69.9939102122|
|Very Good||Open Water / CMAS *||98.4||12.4618666667||-69.9666666667|
|Good||Open Water / CMAS *||39.4||12.4947833333||-70.0303333333|
For more information about snorkeling, including suggestions and helpful tips for both "old pros" and beginners, check out this detailed discussion of diving in the Caribbean.
Both snorkelers and divers need to keep a few things in mind while visiting the creatures under the ocean waves.
Be aware of currents and stay watchful of your location. Getting too far off course can make returning difficult.
Wear a watch so you don't lose track of time - it's easy to do underwater.
Don't feed the fish or touch the animals or coral. Their protective layers can be stripped away.
Never stand or walk on a reef, and tread carefully in shallow water around reefs. (Shuffle your feet to avoid stingrays, and watch out for sea urchins, spines.)
Never wear jewelry. Caribbean fish, barracudas especially, seem to be drawn to shiny objects that look like their natural prey, small silver fish.
Avoid jellyfish, fire coral, and other stinging creatures.
Never reach into holes or crevices; animals - especially moray eels - like to make their homes in them.
Shark spottings are rare, and sharks that are spotted are usually passive. If you do see a shark, stay calm, and if necessary, move slowly out of the water.
Never remove anything from dive sites and reefs; it is illegal to do so.
The most important thing to remember is that although often written and talked about together, snorkeling and diving are two very different activities. Snorkelers and divers can actually visit and enjoy many of the same spots, but certain locations are not suitable for both snorkeling and diving. One of the most fundamental differences between snorkeling and diving is your location in the water. Snorkelers float at the water's surface and breathe through a snorkel, while divers brave the ocean's depths with air tanks on their backs. Anyone can learn to snorkel quickly, but to dive, you'll need training and a license.
Many resorts in Aruba offer a Resort Certification Scuba Diving Course. Also, local dive shops in your hometown can help prepare you before you leave, and many resorts have even faster one-day courses that allow you to go out with an expert guide. Once the certification is taken care of and you have your "C" card, you can proceed with diving, which is actually easier on your body than snorkeling - though it certainly requires more equipment. Divers will need Open Water Certification to explore all of Aruba's sights. When you dive a little deeper, the water becomes a little cooler (a constant 80-degrees), and you'll appreciate the warmth a suit provides.
Aruba has plenty of beautiful sights for both divers, but "better than safe than sorry" is a wise cliché above and below the water.
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