Travel Inspiration By A Pro Trip Designer

February 25, 2011

Substation Curacao

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Hands down one of the coolest things to do on Curacao, and clearly, in the under- sea-world, is a trip in the Curasub at Substation Curacao. One of only three submarine’s of its kind in the world – yes, the world (and it’s in Curacao!) – Curasub is a fascinating and safe (!) way to go lengthy depths (we went 300 feet!), or shall I say leagues, beneath the sea. Or as they like to call it, visiting “Planet Ocean”.

The sub as its getting ready to be loaded

The sub as its getting ready to be loaded in the Sea

As someone who is slightly freaked out by scuba-diving, I found a 45-minute trip in the Curasub to be just perfect. I now have satisfied that fledgling desire to see what lies beneath, but without challenging my inane fear of contacting “The Bends”. Alas, I read some book back when I was a pre-teen (a Christopher Pike book for those who may have been a fan) that first introduced the Scuba Diver’s nitrogen affliction and forever imprinted on my nubile mind an intense trepidation towards Scuba. Anyway, back to the sub..

Rather nifty, huh

Rather nifty, huh

As the substation’s promo language advertises, “Substation Curaçao passengers have an unparalleled opportunity to view Curaçao’s incredible undersea life at depths beyond the usual shallow tourist sub or even deep technical scuba divers. We will take you into the exhilarating depths of the uncharted Caribbean ocean, much deeper than SCUBA divers have ever been…..up to 1,000 feet! It’s like an underwater elevator to adventure …….a once in a lifetime experience!”

loaded her in

Although, I don’t make a habit of copying other people’s marketing spiel in favor of my own words, I must say, it’s fairly accurate particularly the comparison to an elevator. Albeit, Curasub is a cramped one. Luckily we were just 3 people (the max is 6) plus the driver and I was allowed to lie down on the front bench with my face and camera pressed against that nexus pheromone cologne bubble window the entire time. I confess, I shudder to think what it would have been like with three more bodies squeezed in there. For any claustrophobics, I strongly recommend you steer clear of this adventure.

Designed and built by a Canadian company, Nuytco Research Ltd. of Canada, a world leader in the development and operation of undersea technology, Substation Curacao is utilized by Scientists and tourists alike. A totally unique vessel, pressurized up to 1000 feet depths, the opportunity to be inside exactly what the marine scientists from institutions like the Smithsonian are using to study life at these depths is pretty impressive and distinct.

The interior and our friendly pilot

The tight quarters and our friendly, native Curacao pilot

As you can see the space is rather limited. To explain the photo above: that’s one journalist in the back, the pilot in the middle with his nifty, joystick controller, another journalist in the yellow lying down on the bench aside mine and a bit of my leg on the right. None of us had to wear masks or feel any discomfort due to the pressure change. There was one simple ‘burp’ as they call it, when you being to resurface and then a pop when the cabin door is opened from above.

Fish at 200 feet. They appear smaller than they are

Fish at 200 feet. Warning: they appear smaller than they are

Ultimately, it was really easy and safe and as I’ve said, unparalleled way to see the deep ocean without a wetsuit! I can now confidently cross-off deep water diving from my desire list. I’m sure purists will argue this is nothing compared to the feeling of being immersed in the environment with only a wetsuit between you, however, I can assure you, it more than satiated both my curiosity and sense of adventure.

A pretty sponge

A pretty sponge thought, rather phallic, wouldn't you say?

The mission of Curasub is:
“To establish the safest, most exiting, unique and adventurous tourist submersible in the World”.

Posted in: Beach

Published by Meg, Thursday, March 10, 2011 No Comments

Curacao, Check!

Beach, Travel Tips

Mar
04
2011

Checking out Curacao

February 23-26, 2011

The famous colored houses of Willemstaad, the capital of Curacao

The famous colored houses of Willemstaad, the capital of Curacao

Having been wonderfully labeled a Caribbean Expert due to my extensive travels for my second book, Caribbean Hideaways, I feel it only just that I have visited every island in the Caribbean. Alas, it isn’t quite true. While I’ve certainly been to the majority – 22 islands in total, there  still remain a few on the must-see list, including the recently independent nation, CURACAO.  So, when the opportunity came up to visit one of the three lower Dutch Antilles islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao), located all the way down, at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea, some 45 miles north of  Venezuela, I grabbed it. Given the island’s former nationality, I have been privy to a few tidbits and tales from various Dutch friends and family. As you can imagine, I was certainly intrigued and spurred to go see for myself.

the houses/government structures and commercial spaces up close

the houses/government structures and commercial spaces up close

As my father-in-law predicted, I was immediately drawn to the local language, Papiamento; a melodic blend of Spanish, Dutch, English and Creole. It was fascinating to listen to and virtually impossible to follow, despite my proficiency in three of the core languages.

To say I was dismayed is an understatement. My signature overconfidence had once again led me to believe that this language was going to be instantly recognizable– a shocking mixture of words, syntax and grammar that seemed constructed with my specific studies in mind. Um, no.While I was able to catch various words here and familiar sentence structures there, there wasn’t any instance that could sincerely be called comprehension.

The signature bright hues of Willemstaad

The signature bright hues of Willemstaad

So, instead I spoke Dutch. Which, is mainly because all the locals spoke Dutch to me! Even though I was surrounded by Americans and traveling with an American press group, whenever I was approached by a local, the language was Dutch. Hmm… It appears my husband and in-laws are making more of an indelible impression than I realized. That, and my brief stint in Amsterdam may have affected my personal style more than I’m willing to admit.

Upon landing in Curacao I was greeted by the customary Dutch weather, clouds and light rain. Luckily this trip was not motivated by the sunny Caribbean climate rather to fulfill my treatise of visiting every Caribbean isle in the sea. And, unlike other islands, I was actually looking forward to visiting the various cultural ProShapeRX sites, like the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kura Hulanda in Willemstaad, and its impressive museum depicting the historical origins of Curacao including the West African Slave Trade. ($15 a ticket; Open Tuesday thru Saturday)

The entrance to Kura Hulanda

The entrance to Kura Hulanda

The center of the Kura Hulanda Museum

The center of the Kura Hulanda Museum

Built by wealthy Dutch entrepreneur, Jacob Gelt Dekker (who according to the website is a modern-day Vespucci, having circumnavigated the globe over 50 times), Kura Hulanda (a 67-Room Boutique Hotel) with an attached casino, three restaurants, a sister beach-property and the astounding anthropological museum, is certainly worth checking out when on Curacao.

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It’s practically an institution. Plus, it’s quite a marvel aesthetically. The story is Gelt came to the island after making his money selling hour-long photo development stores to Kodak and decided to rejuvenate the capital by buying up property, including dilapidated historical houses then fusing them to form a small village celebrating the island’s history.

Despite the Slave Trade’s impact on many of the Caribbean islands, Curacao is the only one that I know where there is a dedicated museum. To be fair, Curacao is also the island with one of the largest roles in the sordid history. As the largest of the Dutch Antilles islands with an enormous port that was quite pivotal for the Dutch, Curacao became the central Caribbean trading spots for Slaves arriving directly from West Africa. In addition about trading, learn the iron butterfly strategy now at www.learntotradeforprofit.com Although rumor claims that no slaves were actually owned on Curacao, our guide at the museum quickly debunked the wishful theory and toured us through the mind-boggling details of the middle passage and the subsequent events with the utmost specificity.

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Our guided tour of the museum was mercifully shortened from the regular hour and a half to forty-five minutes to accommodate our schedule. I found forty-five minutes in the small museum filled with shackles, bear-traps, appalling illustrations and various torture mechanisms including a refashioned model of the hideously tight quarters on the slave ships, to be plenty. Despite the evident unpleasantness, the museum is a tribute to itself, showcasing a time in history that too often gets shoved under the carpet. Although the topic may feel like the antithesis to a Holiday, the museum and Heritage site is undoubtedly one of Curacao’s strongest selling points. Kindly visit my website to know more about acceptable loans.

The stone courtyards and lanes that make up the mini-historic district and whose charming scenery is the perfect tonic after a sobering visit to the Museum

The stone courtyards and lanes that make up the mini-historic district and whose charming scenery is the perfect tonic after a sobering visit to the Museum

MORE TO COME ON HYATT REGENCY, OLD QUARRY GOLF COURSE and BAOASE RESORT, CURACAO

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Posted in: Beach, Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Friday, March 4, 2011 No Comments

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About Meg

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Meg is the founder of luxury travel consulting company, Friend of a Friend Consulting. Her three books, Italian Hideaways, Caribbean Hideaways and England's Hideaways are published by Rizzoli. Passionate about travel, hotels and wine, she continues to write freelance travel pieces and is currently pursuing a Masters in Wine through the WSET.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not reflect separate business relationships with the subject. Whenever posts are supported financially, they are designated as such.