Aruba is an island located in the Caribbean Sea, 15 miles from the coast of Venezuela. It’s commonly referred to as one of the ABC islands – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. A majority of the Aruba dive sites are to be found along the western and southern coast. There is typically little or no current. It is usually more convenient to do boat dives than shore dives, since Aruba is surrounded by a big, shallow sand plateau. There are however several dive sites, such as the Mangel Halto Reef, that are accessible from the shore as well. Water temperatures are around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 27° C). Visibility is very good, usually at least 80 feet (24 metres), but up to 100 feet (30.5 metres) is not uncommon.
A lot of divers come to Aruba to dive among the fabulous wrecks or watch the coral formations. One of the most well frequented wrecks is Antilla, the biggest shipwreck in the Caribbean Sea. It is sometimes called the “Ghost Ship” and is a 400 feet (122 metres) long German freighter. The ship was sunk during the early stages of World War II, on May 10, 1940, when the Germans invaded Holland. (Aruba was a part of the Netherlands Antilles until 1986, when it was declared “status aparte”. The queen of the Netherlands is still head of state for Aruba and the rest of the Antilles and Dutch is the official language.) Antilla is very suitable for penetration dives, since it is equipped with rather large compartments.
At Sonesta Airplanes you can experience an extraordinary type of wreck diving. Dive into two airplanes; a Convair 400 resting in 40-60 feet (12-18 metres) of water and a Beech 18 located at 15 feet (4.5 metres). The surrounding reef slopes down to 100 feet (30 metres). Other ship and air plain wrecks, more or less scattered, near Aruba are the California Wreck, the Pilot Boat, the Lockheed Lodestar and the Pedernales. The California Wreck more than 100 years old and is home to loads of tropical fish, but is unfortunately only for advanced divers since the currents can be quite strong and the seas unpredictable. The Pilot Boat is resting at Harbour Reef, which is a favourite spot for many underwater photographers. Astonishing formations of hard and soft coral grows here, and the slope is gradually dropping from 40 to 100 feet (12 to 30 metres). If you are lucky, you will encounter spotted eagle-rays and stingrays. This place is also home for several huge green morays. (If you wish to encounter big green morays, you should also check out the Plonco Reef where a lot of morays and large lobsters live.) The Lockheed Lodestar is scattered over the Arashi Reef. This reef is very suitable for beginners. The oil tanker Pedernales was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1942. Today, you can still see cabins, toilets, wash basins and the whole pipe line system scattered between the coral formations.
If you wish to see a lot of breathtakingly beautiful coral combinations, the Mangel Halto Reef is a good choice. It consists of a pronounced slope from 15 to 110 feet (4.5 to 34 metres) and is filled with sea anemones, gorgonians, sea horses, tube and vase sponges, octopuses and of course larger and smaller schools of colourful tropical fish.
Sponge Reef won’t disappoint a sponge lover. This is one of the best places to watch soft corals, such as orange elephant ear sponges, purple vase sponges, yellow and purple tube sponges and tiny basket sponges. This site is not only loved by divers, the turtles like to hang around here as well.