Aruba Dive Report, February, 2004
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By: Duane Johnson

 I just got back from a vacation to Aruba for my non-diving wife's 30th birthday. We spend nine days in Aruba, staying at the Bucuti Beach Resort. Bucuti is a really nice resort. The people were great and the beach was not crowded like that at the high rise section. I would strongly recommend staying at the Bucuti if you like your peace and quiet.

I will state one lesson learned. Don't forget to put sun block on your face!!! The sun is very intense and the strong winds don't make you feel hot. The first day we were there, I forgot to put sun block on my face. Well, three days later my face peeled in sheets. Learn from my mistake!!!

Now for the diving

I did seven dives with Red Sail Sports of Aruba. I have to say that I wasn't overly impressed with them. Every day they picked me up late at my hotel. The first day is check in day and they take forever to get people moving. I was scheduled for a 9:00 dive. The boat didn't leave till 9:45. I did four south coast dives. If you get sea sick, you might not want to do these dives. The waves were pretty rough. Red Sail offers two boats in the morning. The 9:00 does two tanks on the south coast. The 9:15 does the Antilla wreck and a second shallow dive. The 9:15 is the cattle boat that usually hauls the tourists from the cruise ships to the dive sites. The most people we had on our south coast boat was eight. So the boat wasn't very crowded. Red Sail also has this rule that all dive times are held to a max of 40 minutes. This even includes people diving computers. So on a few dives, I would finish my dive with around 1000 psi left in my tank. This is one of my biggest complaints about Red Sail. Since the visibility wasn't very good, I decided not to rent a camera. Sorry, no pictures.

Dive 1: Balashi Reef

Max Depth: 115 feet Dive Time: 40:50 Weather: Clear Visibility: 40 feet Surface Temp: 81 F Depth Temp: 79 F Starting Pressure: 2840 psi Ending Pressure: 580 psi Description: Balashi Reef is a decent dive. Had a decent current so it was a partial drift dive. Nothing like Cozumel. The coral looked like it was dying. There wasn't much color to it. The marine life consisted of a few tropical fish. We did see one green moray eel. Overall a decent dive.

Dive 2: Skalaheia

 Dive Time: 41:50 Max Depth: 54 feet Weather: Clear Visibility: Clear Surface Temp: 81 F Depth Temp: 79 F Starting Pressure: 2670 psi Ending Pressure: 1130 psi Description: Skalaheia is a great site for drift diving. The current that day was pretty strong. This one was close to the drift dives in Cozumel. Again, not much to see in terms of coral and marine life. There was a green moray eel again. I enjoyed this dive since it was just a nice relaxing drift dive.

Dive 3: The Fingers

Max Depth: 109 feet Dive Time: 41:30 Weather: Partly Cloudy Visibility: 50 feet Surface Temp: 82 F Depth Temp: 79 F Starting Pressure: 2760 psi Ending Pressure: 990 psi Description: This dive site is pretty cool. The reef looks like a giant finger pointing down to the depths. The coral looked healthier than that of the first two dives I was on, but it wasn't the greatest. Some marine life. Saw a lobster, two green moray eels, and a barracuda.

Dive 4: Mango Halto

Max Depth: 61 feet Dive Time: 43:50 Weather: Partly Cloudy Visibility: 20 feet Surface Temp: 79 F Depth Temp: 79 F Starting Pressure: 2810 psi Ending Pressure: 1220 psi Description: Nothing very interesting about this dive. It did have a little current so there was a small drift. Same coral and marine life. Only saw a barracuda.

Dive 5: Blue Reef

Max Depth: 69 feet Dive Time: 40:30 Weather: Clear Visibility: 30 feet Surface Temp: 82 F Depth Temp 79 F Starting Pressure: Ending Pressure: Description: This was my last day of diving in Aruba. It was a Sunday and Red Sail doesn't offer any boats to the south coast. So I was put on a cattle boat. There must have been 15-17 people on this boat. The dive site itself was OK. Saw a green moral eel. At one time, this reef was alive with color. Hence it's name, Blue Reef. Now after years diving on it, the coral has started dying and not much color remains. It was an OK dive. At least I got wet. Dive 6: Arashi Airplane Max Depth: 42 feet Dive Time: 45:40 Weather: Clear Visibility: 20 feet Surface Temp: 81 F Depth Temp: 79 F Starting Pressure: 2870 psi Ending Pressure: 1390 psi Description: This was supposed to be a dive on a sunken airplane. The only thing that I saw were three props. Here I did see a spotted moray eel and some tropical fish. The viz wasn't the greatest and the dive master decided to do his own thing and left us to follow. This is an OK dive to off gas.

Dive 7: Antilla Wreck

Max Depth: 55 feet Dive Time: 41:20 Weather: Clear Visibility: 10 feet Surface Temp: 82 F Depth Temp: 79 F Starting Pressure: 2760 psi Ending Pressure: 900 psi Description: This is the dive where I had some adventure. The dive plan was to enter the wreck at the bottom and work our way up through the wreck and exit at around 40 feet. There were only four of us on the boat. So it was a small group. It was determined by the dive leader that we follow in a single file line through the wreck. Since I was the most advanced of the group, the dive leader wanted me to be at the end of the line just in case anyone had any trouble. No reels or lifelines were used when penetrating this wreck. We get through the first two levels OK. Some passage ways were completely dark. Thoughtfully, I brought along my dive light. We get to the third level which is a dimly lit passage way. At the end there are some steel beams that look like a grid. With the exit hole just pas the grid. With holes big enough to swim through. Or so I thought. The dive leader and the three people ahead of me have no problems getting through the grid. Well, I'm 6'3" and 235 lbs. Needless to say, there wasn't enough grease to lube myself up with to squeeze through. Not knowing how to get out of the wreck the way I came, I decided to wait for the dive leader to come back and get me. I waited for 5 minutes (which felt like hours). No one showed up. So I realized that I was on my own to get out of there. So I removed my BCD and clipped it off on the other side of the grid. Then I had to pull myself through the hole and put on my BCD. By the time I exited the wreck, only one person was there waiting for me. So we swam back to the up line, did our safety stop. After the safety stop, I was on my way up the line when a sudden up surge pushed me up too fast and my computer gave me a ceiling violation for a fast ascend. So I did another three minute safety stop just to be safe. Needless to say, I wasn't happy with the dive leader and he didn't get a tip from me that day.

Overall, we loved our vacation to Aruba.

The climate is next to perfection. I was a little disappointed in the diving. But a bad day in Aruba is better than the best day in Chicago. Diving in Aruba doesn't compare to that in Grand Cayman or Hawaii. But it was better than diving in Jamaica.


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