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Diving in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao

Caribbean: Diving off Curacao.'s insider take:

A dry climate and a privileged location south of the hurricane belt have protected the ABCs' reefs from sedimentation and storm damage. Visionary conservation measures also ensure abundant fish populations. Indeed, Bonaire's economy largely depends on diving, so the entire coastline is protected as a national park to a depth of 200 feet. At Bari Reef, just north of Kralendijk, 369 fish species have been recorded—the greatest diversity in the Caribbean. Most of Bonaire's 63 named sites, such as 1,000 Steps, Tori's Reef, and the Hilma Hookerwreck, are accessible from shore, though a boat is required to hit the 23 additional sites on Klein Bonaire, a desert isle one mile west of the capital. Many hotels, such as Captain Don's Habitat, cater to divers with on-site dive shops and boats. They can also obtain permits from the dockmaster for Town Pier, one of the Caribbean's most famous night dives.

Though primarily known for its beaches, Aruba has the best selection of wreck dives in the ABCs. The most well-known is Antilla, a 400-foot German submarine tender scuttled by her crew in 1940. Large hull sections lie in just 40 feet of water and rise nearly to the surface, making it ideal for novice divers. PADI-certified JADS Dive Center leads small groups to these and other sites (297-584-6070;

The finest of underrated Curaçao's 82 named sites run west from Willemstad to Westpunt. Many are shore-accessible, though several of the most famous, like the giant star corals of Mushroom Forest and the Superior Producer wreck (which went down in 1977 just outside the harbor), require a boat. West-end Ocean Encounters West is just minutes from numerous pristine sites. It also leads guided night dives during the brief September coral-spawning season (599-9-864-0102;

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