Tag Archives: dive

Aruba dive site

Wreck Dives of Aruba: Renaissance Airplane

There are two dive sites with sunken airplanes in Aruba.  The most famous one is the Renaissance Airplane dive site and the other one is called the Arashi Airplane dive site.  Our following blog will be about our Arashi airplane dive-stay tuned.

We did not get to dive at Renaissance airplane site.  But in the spirit of sharing information, I thought I would still post about it with the hopes that one of you can dive it in the future.   Matt and I tried to find this dive spot, looked at 4 different mooring sites where we thought it could be and never discovered the actual airplane wrecks.  The maps all show different locations for this site which does not help either.  So frustrating!

But, evidently, just in front of the Renaissance Island are two submerged planes.  Aruba has intentionally sunk two airplanes an YS-11 and a DC-3 to help create an artificial reef.  Many of the wrecks we have explored in Aruba have been intentionally sunk and are located in relatively shallow waters.

The DC-3 is a small aircraft at about 23 meters long and holding 40 seats.  In the late 1980’s this plane was confiscated during a drug bust and later sunk by authorities.  Originally it was sunk in fairly shallow waters, but in 1999 hurricane Lenny decided to find a better place for it in deeper waters – 28 meters and cut the fuselage into two big pieces. Several other pieces of the plane have been scattered around the sandy bottom reef called Sonesta coral reef.

Aruba dive site

DC3 Airplane wreck Aruba. Photo courtesy of AquaViews Online Scuba Magazine.

Aruba wreck dive

DC3_wreck_dive_aruba. Photo credit star5112.

The second airplane belonged to Air Aruba who donated it to the Aruba Water Sports Association in 2004.  This plane was a Japanese turboprop passenger airliner that was laid to rest on the Sonesta reef.  She is about 20 meters long and weighed close to 13 tons.  The cool thing about this plane is that she landed with its nose in 13 meters of water and its tail section resting at the 28 meters of water so it gives you the impression it is ready for take off.  The cockpit is still intact and provides for great photo opportunity.

Aruba dive site

Fuselage. Photo courtesy of AquaViews Online Scuba Magazine

I cannot tell you how disappointed I am that we could not find the Renaissance airplane dive site.  I am sure we could have paid to go out with a dive group, but that just seems silly when we have all the gear and have found over 50 dives on our own.  This was the first elusive dive spot and it did not help that the dive maps are inconsistent and vague at best.  But nonetheless, it is a cool blog story and I found some great photos online.  Hope you enjoyed it!

Why we couldn’t find the dive site:

Several days later, we went to get our scuba tanks filled at Aruba Watersports and found out that the moorings for the Renaissance airplane site broke off and are no longer visible.  You have to go with a local dive group to do a drift dive in order to see the airplanes.  Phew, at least we weren’t totally off the mark.

Dive Buoyant

Buoyancy An Art or Skill?

Buoyancy is something you have to constantly practice and perfect while diving.  It is not something you learn once and then move on as there are so many different variables.  The water depth, tank weight, BCD, weights, and your breathing all impact your buoyancy.

Diver buoyancy

Photo Courtesy of Diving Frontiers

Matt has it mastered and can literally site Indian style in the water, gently moving up and down with each breath.  Sign of a skilled and controlled diver and flexible yogi.

My new BCD has helped tremendously.  The original BCD was a unisex BCD which did not fit me correctly.  The torso was too long and it sat below my hips and was overall just too big.  I sold it and bought a female Aqua Lung Pearl which fits much better and gives me far more control.

I am pretty flat (or neutral) while I am diving.  But I do tend to struggle when I want to stay in one place to take a photo, look at a critter, or wait for other divers.

Work needed to be done so I jumped at the chance when Eric on “Ad Astra offered to do buoyancy skills with a few of us.  Eric is a dive instructor and has over a dozen certifications (rescue, first aid, deep, technical, side mount, etc…) and is the perfect person to teach us new techniques.

Me diving.

Me, before I learned my new skills, pretty neutral.

Jane from “Cheetah II,” Daryl and Janet from “Maple” joined me at “Ad Astra’s” mooring where Eric had rigged a little skills course.  He put up a diagonal line creating a space that got smaller as the line met the sea bed on opposite side.

Eric had us practice fin kicks where you leave the tips of your fins on the floor and raise your body up with an inhale and down with an exhale.  After we “mastered” this exercise, he showed us different fin kicks.  Most people do the flutter kick which tends to kick up sand and can disturb the sea life so we were learning alternative kicks that are less disruptive to the animals.

Types of Kicks:
  • Flutter kick
  • Modified Flutter kick
  • Frog Kick
  • Helicopter turn

After displaying our new skills, we used the modified flutter kick to get under the line, then helicopter around and swim back under the line without touching the line or the ground.

Next, we used the same kick to swim barely over the line, then we headed straight down (perpendicular to the ground, head first), then swam under the line belly up (tank closest to the ground).  Of course, I looked at him in disbelief when he demonstrated it and indicated I might not be able to do it, but to my surprise, I killed it!

The next skill I had heard about and swore I would never do – but here I am preparing to do it in front of 5 other people.  You swim slowly, just above the floor (18″), up to a spoon that has been buried in the sand (the top part of the spoon showing).  As you slowly approach the spoon, you gently nudge it with your regulator, then slowly and calmly remove your regulator, grab the spoon with your mouth, look at Eric, and then replace your regulator.  I am not sure what the spoon’s problem was but it kept evading my mouth or jumping out of my mouth- it was comedic for everyone but me. Goin in, miss, goin in again, miss, spoon flops on sand – try the entire move again.  Eventually, I got it, but man it was irritating.

For the last skill we slowly swam up to the mooring, 18″ off the floor, hovered at the mooring for 5 seconds.  We then used our breath to raise up over the mooring then headed upside down, holding for 5 count (basically doing a “U” around the mooring.

Mooring Block

Mooring Block – Not Eric’s, but similar.

When we came up to the surface, we were all surprised to learn that we had been down for 90 minutes!  It was an incredibly educational and useful session that we are all very grateful to have received.  It certainly should be included in the basic Open Water or at least in Advanced training – which it is not.

None the less I feel much more equipped to handle my buoyancy and look forward to putting my new skills to work while diving.

Matt upside down

Matt pretending to be a trunk fish – upside down.

Salt Pier dive

Me at the Salt Pier.

Salt Pier dive

Diving the Salt Pier

Another day out on Ad Astra for a diving adventure under the Salt Pier also known as “Waf di Salina”.  The Salt Pier, one of the best dive sites on Bonaire, is also one of the most photographed sites on the island.

Cargil currently operates the Salt Pans which cover one tenth of the island’s surface and produces 360,000 to 500,000 tons of Bonaire salt every year.  The varying colors of the ponds reflect the various stages of production.  It starts with crystal clear seawater which then turns to green, then brown, and then the salt crystallizes turn pink.  The unique pink color us caused by bacteria which are enjoyed by flamingos.  Did you know, baby flamingos are born white until they eat the brine shrimp and bacteria?

Aerial view Salt Pier and Salt Pans

Overlooking the Salt Pier and Salt Pans. Photo courtesy of We Share Bonaire

Diving the Salt Pier takes you to depths between 5 to 15 meters, where you’ll explore a maze of pillars fully encrusted with sponges and corals shooting up, hanging down, and jutting out.  These sponge and coral covered pillars are in vibrant shades of purple, yellow, and pink.  Each pillar provides you with a unique sea community filled with sea life large and small.  Large schools of fish congregate in the shadows created by the salt terminal overhead.

Our first dive of the day was to get the “lay of the land” and give us Salt Pier newbies a quick glance of what the Salt Pier looks like during in the light.  We anchored at Jeannie’s Glory and decided to swim to the Salt Pier.  It was a pretty big distance, but we were able to mark our path by a large cargo ship mooring which indicated the half way point to the pier.  It also had a distinct “clink, clink” sound as the chain links bobbed up and down off the sea floor.

It was absolutely amazing to see the corals and sea life hanging precariously from each pillar which offered new and surprising communities.  We moved on to the 2nd and 3rd set of pillars to get a quick glance of everything before our night dive.  We were surprised to see the large amount of trash and tires, but I guess that is to be expected below a pier??

Salt Pier Dive

Salt Pier looking up from the sea bed.

Salt Pier Dive

Salt Pier Pillar with coral growth

At dusk, we jumped in the water in small groups as there were a lot of us diving (12 divers), we followed our dive plan and headed toward the Salt Pier with torches in hand eagerly anticipating what we might see.  Our goal was to swim slowly to the huge mooring, then over the reef to the first set of pillars.

New and surprising creatures appear during night dives that were not there during the day.  Flowers bloom, sea anemones pop up, eels and shrimp come out and so much more. It is an exchange of sea life where the day fish go into hiding and the night fish come out to play.

Large tarpon surrounded us checking us out – some as large as our bodies.  They have no fear and will often swim very close to you which is unsettling when you don’t see them in the dark until they are in your peripheral vision or right in front of your face.

A delightful slipper lobster was cruising around the bottom of the sea bed in between the pillars.  You can’t tell from the photo below, but at night his eyes glow and his tentacles reflect the light from your torch.  He moves slowly and methodical – pretty spectacular.

Slipper Lobster dive

Slipper Lobster photo courtesy of Info Bonaire.

Salt Pier dive

Salt Pier Pillar coral growth