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Reefs and Wrecks


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Two sunken airplanes sit just offshore not far from the airport runway. The standard joke is the pilots landed a little prematurely. But they're apparently confiscated drug planes donated by the government to serve as diver attractors.

The planes are shallow: the smaller at only 20 feet, the larger closer to 40. They are located adjacent to each other so it's possible to view both on the same dive.

Already the shiny exteriors were taking on a mottled appearance as marine growth begins slowly to take hold. It's possible to swim inside both craft, even squeeze through the door of the small one, and so far there isn't much growing overhead for exhaust bubbles to disturb.

Since visibility was severely reduced due to surge, only about 25-30 feet, I spent most of my time photographing the smaller plane since it stood out better.

A couple of other shipwrecks of note in Aruba, fascinating as much for their history as their diving potential. The California off California Point Lighthouse on the north coast is in only 30-45 feet of water. Currents and choppy seas make the California an advanced dive. This is not the same California that received but did not respond to signals from the sinking Titanic.

The Perdenales wreck has a section of wreck spread out between coral formations; at 25 feet, it's a good novice dive. Lots of artifacts still remain: cabins, sinks and toilets. The oil tanker was torpedoed by the Germans. The U.S. military cut the wreck into 3 sections, leaving behind the torpedo-damaged middle part.

The other 2 sections were towed to the U.S., welded together to create a smaller vessel which, ironically, took part in the Normandy invasion in Europe.

Aruba also has many reef sites, most on the south coast, an area most operations seldom visit because of the boat time from the luxury hotels. One of the best reefs and one of the farthest away is off Baby Beach.

It's a place to see sharks, sting rays, lobsters, morays, large formations of elkhorn corals. Sea fans and gorgonians start at 60 feet. Because of its location at the tip of the island, there generally is good visibility (80 to 120 feet). The current is usually under 1 knot.

With more than 25 designated dive sites, it's surprising more people don't come to Aruba just to dive, but apparently the land attractions are just too appealing. Beautiful beaches, exciting casinos and excellent duty free shopping are stiff competition for the wrecks and reefs.

Most visitors add diving to their vacation but don't make it the number one reason for visiting Aruba as travelers do on Bonaire and Curacao.

Understandable, but there's more here underwater than many realize. Check out the

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