History Aruba is part of the ABC islands in the Netherlands Antilles in the southern Caribbean and is 12 miles north of Venezuela, South America. The island is very dry and desert like, 20 miles long, with some really nice beaches, hotels and a lively night life, and its northeastern coast has one of the most rugged spectacular coastlines I’ve ever seen. The island also has about a dozen or more shipwrecks to explore, most along the southwestern shore, where the waters are much friendlier. There are a number of World War Two wrecks, sunken airplanes, a tugboat, and a barge to explore. All are very accessible and most are in the 30 to 80 foot range.
There are a few older wrecks on the eastern coast of the island, the 17th Century wreck, The French Bark and The Captain Roger. There is very little information on these wrecks and both dives are for advanced divers as the currents and waters are quite strong.
The largest wreck in Aruba–and reportedly to be the largest in the Caribbean-but I could not verify, is the Antilla. The Antilla was a German freighter built in 1939. She was 400-feet-long and weighted in at 4,400 gross tons. She was an unarmed ship used by the Germans to supply their submarines during World War Two. In 1940 The Antilla was moored off the coast of Aruba, which was Dutch territory at the time. The authorities in Aruba demanded that the captain surrender the ship, but made the mistake of giving him a day to think about it. That night, the captain scuttled the ship in order to prevent its capture. Both the captain and the crew spent the rest of the war in a prison camp in Bonaire. The Antilla now sits in 60 feet of water.
The Dive Site and Diving
This is a good size and interesting wreck site and a diver could spend a few dives getting to know the Antilla. It can be done either as a shore dive or boat dive. I recommend the boat dive. The water temperature stays around 78+ degrees most of the year but visibility can vary wildly. The day I dove the visibility was about 50 feet, and cloudy. But the visibility can range from 30 to 80 feet I heard from divers who had been down before. The wreck is intact except for her midship which is in pieces. Her two masts and part of the super structure extend above the surface. The Antilla has many penetration chambers to explore, large and small, and also has some wonderful tube sponges and fish life to enjoy-including lobsters, angelfish, yellow tails, and moray eels. One of the coolest things about this wreck is the air pocket in one of its chambers. Nothing like breathing underwater without a regulator!
I enjoyed my dive to the Antilla and recommend it both to beginners and advanced divers alike. Red Sail Divers was the outfit I dove with, which I found to be a very professional organization with good equipment, a number of modern dive boats and seasoned instructors that know the local waters. If you are thinking of diving Aruba you can contact Red Sail at http://www.redsail.com
Some general information if you are thinking of visiting Aruba. Some hotels offer dive packages on the island: The Hyatt Regency Resort, Sonesta Beach resort, (now called The Renaissance Beach Resort & Casino) and the Bucuti Beach Resort. Best to contact the tourism board of Aruba with any of your questions. They are a great group of people and they like divers. Their web address is http://www.aruba.com
I stayed at the Renaissance Aruba Beach Resort & Casino. There is a Red Sail Dive Shop right on the premises. The hotel and staff were great and there are a number of good restaurants both on the premises, and nearby. Their web address is: www.arubasonesta.com
There is also a great place to windsurf on the island, eleven casinos to try your luck, and a slew of night spots like the Paddock Bar, located right across from the Renaissance Aruba Resort where the cruise ships come in, that will make you feel right at home.