How Curacao Changed My Life
By Susan Campbell
Pictured here, I am riding an underwater scooter supplied by Aquafari at Piscaderaweg. It allows you to explore the marine world at 30 ft. below without having any diving experience. But though I was nervous at first, it was nothing compared to the fear I felt during my first underwater adventure here some 15 years ago when I was expected to hand-feed SHARKS!
I’d been invited to the Curacao Sea Aquarium to shadow the staff in order to write about their operations for the Curaçao Nights magazine. Being from central Canada, I knew nothing about marine life, and more importantly, I vowed never to set foot in the sea since I’d seen the movie Jaws!! But I was there to learn.
So despite absolute panic, I finally did go down into the Animal Encounters lagoon to do the shark-feeding adventure. But suddenly, the sharks didn’t matter- I simply threw the fish at them- because I was instantly blown away by the magical world that surrounded me. Huge swarms of colorful tropical fish, adorable sea turtles, even a stingray- it was surreal, and I was enchanted. And ever since, I haven’t been able to get enough of the underwater world.
That adventure changed not only my life, but also the entire trajectory of my writing career. I decided to specialize in the Caribbean right then and there. And that’s exactly what I‘ve done.
But that’s not the only reason I fell in love with Curacao. It was also the people.
I had wanted to explore the topside of the island, and fortunately for me, Chadia Hammoud- the PR girl at the sea aquarium-made it her personal mission to ensure I did so. On her only time off, and with her own gas, she took me to every beach, every neighborhood, every attraction and every natural wonder. She left no stone unturned. I mean, who does that for someone they just met? (Apparently, a lot of the people in the ABCs do I have since discovered. That’s just the way they roll!) Over the years, I have never met so many friends for life so quickly as I have throughout the Dutch Caribbean. And each visit down… I meet more!
The myriad of adventures here has been unforgettable, and I brought my daughter and her boyfriend down so we could all swim with dolphins at the Dolphin Academy. They also took an intro to dive with Ocean Encounters and dove the house at the reef at Sunscape Resort where we were staying. We also went to Westpunt to snorkel the cool “Blue Room” underwater cave.
And each visit, I endeavor to do as much new as possible. Last trip, I revisited Avila Hotel to see the new upgrades and snorkel their house reef for the first time. I revisited Kura Hulanda to check out their new Happy Hour in the courtyard- I had written the very first article in English on Jacob Gelt-Dekker and his museum years back, and I also spent time at the charming new PM78 Urban Oasis to explore the amazing transformations now taking place in Pietermaai.
I also snorkeled the cute little sunken tugboat with Ocean Encounters for the third time. (That NEVER gets old.)
I also checked-in to experience a wonderful new vibe at Santa Barbara Beach Resort where I also had the best short ribs of my life at their Shore Dining Room. And I must say, the culinary scene on this island has become seriously cosmopolitan in the past few years. So many great chefs like the one at Baoase Luxury Resort and his creative fusions! Also the delicious local fare at family-run Primas- set in a gorgeously restored plantation house- is not to be missed. And don’t get me started on the decadent delights at the new Royal Dutch Cheesery at Rif Fort! I also visited the new Curacao Beach Blvd complex- and what a fun place to be and so many eclectic dining choices! It’s no longer all about keshi yena, goat stew, and iguana soup!
I also discovered Touracao Tourism Services that showed me how opting for VIP airport pick-up means skipping the customs line so you have lots more time at the beach. They also took me out to the Rainforest Mystery at L’Aldea, which is awesome.
Unfortunately, I ran out of time to see the new Punda Museum, the new Acoya Hotel, the new café at Landhuis Chobolobo, and I never had a chance to make my own “ChiChi®” at Serenas’s Art Factory. But I did manage to stop in to say hi to all my friends (including the sharks) at the sea aquarium that made me face my fears so long ago.
So, thanks Curacao. My life wouldn’t be the same had I not taken that first plunge. Be back soon!
Follow Sue Campbell’s travels on twitter: @suectravel