The Low-Down on Aruba Scuba Diving
The main reason people look at an Aruba scuba diving vacation is for the wrecks. In fact, Aruba is home to the largest of all the Caribbean wrecks, the 400 foot Antilla, which was a German freighter scuttled by its captain to keep it out of Allied hands in the Second World War. It may also have had something to do with the fact that being held captive by the Dutch on a Caribbean island was a pretty good way to see the war out.
Aruba is one of the Lesser Antilles islands and is still a Dutch colony. It enjoys fantastic tropical weather as it lies 12 degrees north of the equator, so apart from your Aruba scuba diving gear you won’t have to pack many clothes.
Aruba scuba diving vacations do not involve much traveling because the island is only 19 miles long by about 5 miles wide, meaning you can easily get to any dive sites for a bright and early start to the day.
The island has a population of 89,000, and it is a beach-lover’s paradise with white powder sand and beautiful turquoise waters. The interior is mostly desert, but there is enough on the coast besides Aruba’s scuba diving sites to keep you busy. You could always visit the capital, Oranjestad, and uncover Aruba’s safe and chilled-out vibe, with its steel drums and tropical flavor. But don’t expect everything to be quiet. As the sun goes down, you can enjoy a great nightlife, including casinos and Vegas-style shows.
Location of Aruba scuba diving sites
The vast majority of the Aruba scuba diving sites are situated on the south- and west-facing coasts of the island, a short distance from the hotels of Palm Beach, and running from the northern-most point right down to the southern tip. These are well-protected dive sites that are rich in exotic marine life, including stingrays, moray eels, manta rays, barracudas and yellow tail.
There is a large, shallow sand plateau surrounding the island, making boat travel the best way to access the best of the Aruba scuba diving sites and off-shore reefs. Coral formations can be found from 20 feet up to 100 feet, and you have the added benefit of little or no current and flat calm surface conditions in most locations.
Wrecks ‘n’ Reefs
Antilla Wreck (60′ deep)
As mentioned, the biggest draw for Aruba scuba diving enthusiasts, and the biggest wreck in the Carribean, is the Antilla. This is referred to locally as the “Ghost Ship”, and it was a brand new vessel when it was scuttled on May 10, 1940 when the Germans invaded Holland.
The Antilla rests in about 55 feet of water off Eagle Beach, which is on the north-west coast of Aruba. There is abundant marine life around the ship, which lists to port at an angle of around 45 degrees. It is so large that you don’t need to visit Aruba scuba diving to enjoy it because it comes right to the surface, thus making it great for snorkeling and “Snuba” as well. It is also ideal for penetrations because it has large compartments to explore.
There are several moorings around the wreck, and as you can imagine this is a popular site on the Aruba scuba diving map. Most days there are up to four boats moored there, with a mix of scuba divers and snorkelers. Water temperature is a balmy 80 to 83 degrees F all year round.
Pedernales (25′ deep)
Near the Antilla is the Pedernales, an oil tanker that was torpedoed in 1942 during World War II by a German submarine. This wreck is spread out between coral formations, and anyone visiting Aruba scuba diving for the first time should find this a beginner’s paradise.
California Wreck (30 to 45′ deep)
This wreck is almost 100 years old and surrounded by large coral formations and a myriad of tropical fish, but due to its currents it is a dive for advanced divers only.
Lockheed Lodestar/Arashi Reef (35 to 40′ deep)
A great reef for newcomers to the Aruba scuba diving experience that includes parts a sunken Lockheed Lodestar. Coral formations, parrot and angelfish surround the wreckage and coral heads.
Fuel barge/Blue Reef & Debbie II (70′ deep)
Known for its huge lobsters, stingrays, schooling fish, barracudas, and giant barrel sponges in purple, orange and green, Aruba scuba diving enthusiasts will also see a 120′ fuel barge which sank in 1992.
Jane Sea Wreck (20 to 100′ deep)
Another Aruba scuba diving wreck is a 250′ cement freighter sitting upright in 90′ of water. A good place for taking pictures, with schooling tropical fish and large barracudas, and deep water gorgonians, sponges and coral growing on the wreck.
There is a great variety of reefs to explore on your Aruba scuba diving vacation. In fact, there are 23 reef dive sites in addition to the reefs you will find around the previously mentioned wrecks.
Depths range from 15′ to 120′, and therefore all skill levels are catered for. No matter what you are looking for in terms of underwater reef formations and marine life, an Aruba scuba diving trip will satisfy even the most demanding diver.
The deepest Aruba scuba diving reef is the Lago Reef at 120′, where you can find deep water gorgonians, sponges, sea anemones, and all manner of marine life. However, many of the other reefs also drop to this depth, some taking a steady downward gradient from 15′, whilst others have sudden drop-offs.
With so many sites to choose from, your Aruba scuba diving vacation would need to be a month long for you to test each site at a rate of one a day.