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Wrecks and More Wrecks
Scuba diving in Aruba is mostly about wrecks. In fact, the wreck of the Antilla, a 400’ cargo ship sunk shortly after WWII broke out in the Americas , is the largest wreck in the Caribbean and a truly amazing dive site. It’s the main reason for scuba fanatics to visit Aruba .
The Antilla was a German freighter that was scuttled by the Captain in an effort to keep the ship out of Allied hands. The crew decided they would rather be POWs in Aruba (under Dutch care) than take a chance elsewhere. You can read about its history in a lot of places, but for divers, here are the key facts:
The Antilla rests in about 55’ of water off of Eagle Beach (NW coast of Aruba .) It lists to port at about a 45 degree angle. The wreck is so large that it ascends all the way to the surface, so snorkeling and “Snuba” are great as well. There are several moorings around the wreck, and most days there are two to four boats moored there at any given time (some with scuba divers, others with snorkelers.) It can get crowded. There is abundant marine life on and under the ship. Water temperature is about 80-83 degrees F year round.Other Wrecks
Near the Antilla is the Pedernalis, or what’s left of it. This wreck is scattered out, and you can find a few unexploded bombs lying near by. Farther south, there is the Pilot wreck (hard to find), a pair of cargo airplanes (one new, one old), the “Jane C” wreck (a smaller cargo ship that was sunk after being confiscated for transporting drugs), and a few other barges and cargo containers, etc.Reefs
Several reef tracts run along the western coast. Depths range from 110’ to 40’ in most places. There is a mild to strong current in several places, so most reef dives are “drifts”. The reefs are healthy, but nothing more than average. Visibility, ranging from 35’ to 85’, is often affected by turbidity. A couple of companies dive some of the South coast on a regular basis, but JADS may be the only one who dives the exquisite southern tip regularly. Distance to the hotel area (in the North of Aruba) must be taken under consideration however.
Choosing a Dive Operator
Some of the dive operators in Aruba offer more than just scuba. For example, both “Unique” and “Red Sail Sports” offer diving and snorkeling and sunset trips.
If you only plan to make a few specific scuba dives in Aruba , shop around for the best price and convenience. Less experienced divers, or those who’ve been out of the water for a while, will be comfortable with “Pelican”, “Red Sail Sports”, "S.E.Aruba Fly 'n Dive", "Aruba Watersports", "Aqua Windies", “Unique”or "Diveversity Aruba". Any trip out to the Antilla should be great no matter who takes you.
Aruba is known for "wreck" diving, but that is because majority of operators don't or wont take you out of their way to some of the most beautiful reefs in the Caribbean. If you get a chance to dive in Aruba remember to pick an operator that dives the south coast and takes their time with you. If you are looking for a company that will take any type of diver from a non/beginner-diver to the extremely experienced diver, then you should try out JADS located down at Baby Beach, they specialize in diving all the sites on the south coast.
There is also another dive operation that operates from the main terminal in downtown Orangestad (where the cruise ships dock.) Mermaid Sport Divers is supposedly built by divers, run by divers, for divers, etc. This is true. The dive-masters at Mermaid are some of the most experienced that you’ll ever meet. They know where all the hard to find wrecks are at.
Choosing between these two types of operations should depend on whether you want the best experience underwater (dive quality) or overall experience (including professionalism). If you plan your trip around diving and are willing to load your own gear and tanks, give “Mermaid” a go. If the thought of standing around, or riding around, for two or three extra hours a day is beyond your tolerance level, try one of the high-volume operations that run on schedule.