Monday, April 23, 2007

The Curacao Cure - Part 7

Mushroom Forest and the Cave

The next dive was right off of our hotel and accessed by boat. Here is the excerpt from Curacao Actief:

One of the most renowned sites on the island and on the top ten list for any dive in the Caribbean, this area can only be reached by boat. Located just south of Santa Cruz on the sparsely populated northwest side of Curacao, a number of local dive shops offer daily trips to this magical site. Spread across a wide plateau, the Forest starts close to the shoreline cliffs in 40 feet of water and runs several hundred yards out to a depth of 60 feet before reaching a steep drop off. The mooring is located in the middle of the Forest. Depending on the current (which is ordinarily light but can get quite strong) you can swim either direction; lacking current we recommend heading right, towards Santa Cruz.

This site earns its name from the giant mushroom shaped coral formations sprouting from the seafloor. These were formed over many decades as the bottoms of the Great Star and Plate Corals were slowly undermined by fish, wave action, sponges, and clams, leaving the appearance of a stalk supporting a big mushroom head. Some have grown to over ten feet in diameter. It’s easy to get lost in the flats, so bring a compass or keep an eye on your dive master. Also don’t forget your camera as the area is populated by Turtles, Cowfish, Spotted Eels, Goldentail Eels, Stingrays, Spotted Drums, Lobster, and Burrfish, to name a few.

Goldentail Eel

Make sure to ask your captain to swing by the Blue Cave after your dive, hidden in the nearby cliffs. It’s fun for snorkeling and cliff jumping, and makes a great surface interval between multiple dives.

This site is also known as the Blue Room or the Blue Cave for the shimmering blue light that greets you once you swim inside and look back towards the entrance. Hidden in the cliffs just inside from the Mushroom Forest, it’s usually possible to snorkel inside the cave, though waves and tide occasionally swamp the entrance and mandate a scuba tank or strong free diving skills. With the cave ceiling stretching 20 feet above the water line there’s an ample air pocket once inside, and there’s enough room to comfortably accommodate 6 – 10 divers; more gets a little cramped.

Look for the schools of Silverfish glittering in the blue light, as well as Squid, Peacock Flounder, and Needlefish cruising the surface. The rocks around the entrance are nicely encrusted with Cup Coral, strong enough to endure the ceaseless motion of the waves. Snorkelers and novice divers will enjoy diving the shallows along the cliffs, reaching maximum depths of 20 feet, home to Parrotfish, Angelfish, and Gorgonians, and Brain Coral mixed with patches of sand.

For those desiring a bit of an adrenaline boost, it’s fairly easy to climb the rocks just to the right of the cave (when facing it from sea). Those with tough feet or booties can then climb up over the entrance and drop 25 feet down into deep water. Makes for a great action shot, and a nice way to spend time between a two tank dive.

The Blue Cave is only accessible by boat; daily snorkel or dive trips are offered by a number of local operators.

Peacock Flounder

Grey Angel Fish


Doug said...

Just beautiful!!!

Y'know, the guy I'm seein' right now scuba dives...I can't wait to get certified!!!

Doug said...

Btw, have you seen Planet Earth on the Discovery Channel? Really incredible series. There will be a Deep Sea episode coming this December. Can't wait for that, too!

Sue said...

Yeah, get certified. You won't regret it. You see all of these wonderful things underwater and then all get together later to compare notes. It is just incredible.

I have seen Planet Earth and you are right it is incredible.