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
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
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
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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