We love SCUBA diving! So when we plan our vacations, more often than not, they include diving.
In Curacao, most diving is from the shore, which means divers gear up and then walk into the water from the beach. So when we were looking for a dive shop in Curacao, we wanted to use the best when it comes to shore diving. Of course, having fun and working with a dynamic but safe group of people is essential to us, which is why we were so excited to partner with The Dive Bus during our trip.
The Dive Bus is the brainchild of the founder, Mark Pinnell, and his wife Suzy, both divers with thousands of dives under their belts. Having completed some boat dives on the island, they realized while sitting on the shore one day after a dive that the drop off from the reefs were pretty close to shore. That realization led to them doing a lot more shore diving and discovering that there were excellent shore diving adventures on the island with easy access and reefs teaming with marine life.
So, in 2005, The Dive Bus was created and was the only shore diving operation on the island. Focusing on small groups and fun, safe diving, they have maintained their status as Trip Advisor’s #1 PADI dive shop year after year. With the mantra of “Seriously Fun Shore Diving Adventures,” they deliver on that on every dive ensuring each diver has the best possible experience through fun, safe, and most importantly, affordable diving adventures.
With several comfortable, air-conditioned “buses,” they transport divers to all the best shore diving locations on the island with all the gear needed, including a picnic lunch. Keeping each dive group small and personal, the team at The Dive Bus strives to make each dive fun. No cattle car diving with them!
Along with the fantastic diving, they are also a 5 Star PADI training facility and teach all levels of SCUBA from the very beginning to the most experienced or Master Diver. They also offer snorkeling excursions for those who may not be ready for diving but don’t want to miss out on the beautiful sea life around the island.
When we arrived at The Dive Bus location, we knew that we would have a great time with the team. The shop is a laid-back, colorful, and fun experience. I say experience because there is so much to see and do that we felt like it was a pre-requisite to hang out and stay awhile. Not to mention the handy fridge stocked with everything from candy bars to beer, on the honor system, of course – because nothing in life is free!
There are also comfy hammock chairs to hang out in, have a cold drink and share dive experiences with our newfound friends. Along with the chairs, there are also several photo op locations such as the bus cutout, fun signs, and more. Of course, I had to make sure I got a picture of Charlie in “the bus”; it was a must. He didn’t think so, but of course, I won!
The next day, we were ready for our first dives of the trip. I was excited to spend the week shore diving and experience all that Curacao offered underwater. Having been boat diving primarily, I couldn’t wait to see how this experience would be.
We met with Adam, our divemaster, who made sure he understood our experience and comfort levels to tailor the dive in a way that everyone had a great time. He then gave us our dive briefing showing us what the house reef looked like, what the dive would entail, and what to look for along the way at different depths. The great thing about the house reef is it sits directly across the street from the shop, so it’s easy to access for the dive.
In addition to the reef being their “house reef,” they have also adopted it through the Dive Against Debris program, which aims to keep coral reefs free of plastic and trash through diving. The Dive Bus was Curacao’s first 100% Project AWARE operator and the first to adopt a dive site as part of the initiative. Mark was appointed a PADI Ambassadiver in 2016 due to his efforts and making it easy for divers to join in and make a difference.
Once we got geared up, it was time to head to the beach and into the water – FINALLY! There was, however, one thing that had to be done before heading to the water, our dive group picture. This is a must for all groups heading out, and we were no exception. I can honestly say that I was looking forward to this as I had noticed others on their Facebook page and couldn’t wait to be part of the club. A big thank you to Zoe for taking our photo and sharing it, just another example of the fun and humor they have.
Photo courtesy of The Dive Bus
The visibility under the waves was wonderful. We could see for at least 50 feet which meant we could see a lot more marine life close up and in the distance. Small, juvenile fish swam everywhere under the reef’s protection, and it was an excellent sign that the reef was healthy and we were going to have a great dive.
The current was just enough to help us along at a leisurely pace, helping to conserve air and extend the dive time. Adam was sure to point out various sea creatures, some in plain view and others hid under rocks or coral. Like the Chain Moray Eel, something that is a bit of a rarity for divers to see, so it was a big treat for us.
Once we made it to the deepest point of our dive, we started back ascending the sloping reef taking everything in. The pace of the dive was nice and steady; never once did I feel as if I was going too fast or losing control of my dive. In fact, at one point, all three of us diving with Adam ended up ahead of him as we were so enthralled with everything we were seeing that we lost track of where we were, not something you want to do regularly during a dive.
After we surfaced, we returned to the shop, switched out our tanks for the second dive, and recapped everything we saw and how we felt about the first dive. The convenient fish identification chart onsite was super helpful in identifying all the amazing fish we saw under the waves. The team at the shop has excellent knowledge of marine life that they can name most without even seeing the picture – something I strive to achieve.
The day’s second dive was along the same reef to the “car pile.” Adam told us that back in the 1970s, old cars and other metal objects were sunk to help build an artificial reef at a deeper level. Some of the pieces still sit at about 60 feet, and the rest trail off down the “wall” to over 100 feet deep.
One thing about shore diving is that unless you are used to the surge underwater from the waves, it’s easy to get a little seasick. That’s what happened to me after the first dive. While I wanted to complete the second dive, my stomach and head told me otherwise, so I sat it out.
Charlie, Jim (our new dive friend who joined us), and Adam went out for the second dive to the car pile, and when they returned, I could tell that they had a great dive. They dove to the car pile and passed by the coral gardens along their way. The coral gardens are areas under the waves where coral is grown to help replenish and sustain the reefs. They are all over the reefs in Curacao, which is a beautiful testament to the conservation efforts on the island.
We continued to dive by ourselves throughout the week but stopped in at the dive shop each day to grab our air tanks and gear. The team at The Dive Bus was always there to answer any questions we had and give us suggestions about great places to dive on the island and interesting things to look for on each dive.
In addition to the daily dose of knowledge and humor we received from the gang, we were sure to pick up a few t-shirts to take home with us. They have a great selection of brand gear and dive and snorkel essentials.
They also offer repair and maintenance of dive gear which is essential to ensuring dive safety and prolonging the life of the equipment. When CCharlie’sdive fin broke during our trip on dive day 2, it was no problem for him to get a replacement piece at the shop, vacation saved.
Our week with The Dive Bus team ended just as fun and friendly as it had started, with a funny photo. Since it was CCharlie’sbirthday during our trip and Red Nose Day, I figured why not include our new dive friends in the fun. We gathered crew and divers together, donned our red noses, and stuck a pose.
Photo courtesy of The Dive Bus
If your vacation plans involve a trip to Curacao, stop by The Dive Bus and say hi to Mark, Adam, Zoe, Collin, and the rest of the gang. They’ll take great care of you, whether it’s a snorkeling trip, diving, learning to dive, or adding new skills, not to mention the fun new friends you’ll make. That’s what diving is all about, the family atmosphere, making new friends, and experiencing and protecting the beauty under the waves. If you can’t make it to the island, check out their videos on Youtube.
This post was written in collaboration with The Dive Bus. While we may have been compensated with either goods or services, the views and opinions are our own.