Published: August 6th 2007May 31st 2007
Someone, sometime long, long ago, decided that the center of Willemstad, the capital, was the ideal place to situate an oil refinery. Maybe it was because a natural deepwater harbour was located here or maybe someone thought that upper respiratory tract infection would be trendy for the locals in 2007. We think the former was the reason and that the latter was an unfortunate side effect. The Isla refinery, formerly owned by Shell who sold it to the government for USD 1, is now a Venezuelan concern. Its furnaces and phallic chimneys belch black smoke high into the air and spew fire 24 hours a day, everyday. Wind shift would send pungent fumes in different directions. Huge oil tankers sail thru the narrow Santa Annabaai and under the impressive Emmabrug which spans the canal and on into the harbour. There, they would load or upload their shipments or do whatever it is that huge oil tankers do.
Despite its relatively small size, Korsou (the local Papiamento pronunciation) does have a fair bit of activities. 'Clubbies' could head over to Club Zanta, Façade or Mambo Beach. But beware, just like how the Isla huffs and puffs, so too do the revelers.
The large Dutch population certainly lends to the smoky atmosphere. Being neither club fans nor fans of lung cancer from second-hand smoke, we avoid these places and explore the natural side.
The beaches are cute; small but cute. Some are private property and entry fees of up to Naf. 12 per car (almost USD 7) are charged. The most popular FREE beach is Grote (big) Knip. It is a remarkably scenic bay with white sand and clear blue water. On weekends the beach is jammed packed with people, mostly locals. Our favorites are the little-known beaches of San Juan. These are five, mostly rocky beaches with patches of sand and cool, clear water. The attraction of San Juan is in its peaceful nature. The bumpy, unfinished road is best suited for SUVs and few people ever visit them. Plus, when we did find a beach with 10 people, we'd just move on down the line to the other. San Juan afforded us a peaceful, tranquil respite from a bruising week.
Equally, if not more relaxing, is diving in Curacao. Surprisingly, the reefs and marine life here rival most every place we dove including Saba, Bonaire and Dominica. Vibert
A great experience
did both his PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses at Silent Immersion
. Shanna was AOW certified in Thailand a few years ago. The instructors were strict and fabulous including owners Jaime and Miriam who "don't take (themselves) too seriously". We dove Tug Boat and Director's Bay, Radio City and Slangenbaai, Car Pile and Porto Marie. But our undisputed favorite dive was the 100-foot descent to the Superior Producer - a cargo ship that sank in September 1977. The ship currently sits upright almost perfectly intact. We made a video of our Producer dive and we will upload it at a later date.
Really beautiful big and dumb birds and unbreakable eggs are at the Ostrich Farm. The safari-like tour passes adult and juvenile ostriches and three Nile crocodiles that eat all the scraps. A trip to the Seaquarium is also recommended. There are flamingoes and baby turtles, sea horses and moray eels, a really big, old snapper and sea sponges. There are shark tanks and ponds and playful dolphins and sea lions.
The caves of Hato are timeless and enchanting and they used to be the hiding place for runaway slaves. The Hotel Kura Hulanda is
Shanna and Ozzy
A great experience
also, in and of itself, a lesson in history. It is beautifully laid out in a once old, decrepit barrio in Otrabanda. Now refurbished, it has been listed as a World Heritage site. There is also a really excellent museum at the hotel that chronicles the slave trade and 'The Kingdoms of Benin'.
Curacao is many things to many people. For us it was home and the jump off for this adventure. We converted colleagues into friends and spoke a funny, practical language. We maximized on what the island had to offer and we soaked up the Curacao experience.
Masha Danki Curacao pa tur kos. Another video is added to this blog, click the link above to view 'tug boat turtle'
There are more photos below