In 2004, with close to a thousand boat dives under their weight belts, PADI Instructors, Mark and Suzy Pinnell had their first ever shore diving experience in Bonaire which changed their perspective of diving forever.
“Having always worked on and dived from boats, we couldn’t believe the total freedom of shore diving. No schedules, no waiting for other divers or cutting our dives short with a half tank of air left. We could totally come and go as we pleased,” says Mark. “We had no idea how much that experience was to influence our lives.”
Their next stop was Curaçao, the “C” in the ABC Islands, a 10-minute flight from Bonaire. At that time, Curaçao was better known as a boat diving destination, so the couple naturally jumped onboard and checked out some great boat diving sites being offered such as such as Watamula, Mushroom Forest and Eastpoint.
As much as they enjoyed these wonderful sites, one afternoon while they were enjoying a post-dive beer on a small locals’ beach, at the edge of a sheltered fishermen’s bay, they had a major realization:
“The drop-off looked really close by,” recalls Suzy. “Much closer than most of the dives we’d made in Bonaire. So, we checked it out as our first shore diving in Curacao. It was amazing, but seriously unloved. Plentiful, amazing corals and sponges and a thousand fish, somehow thriving amongst years of trash, fishing line, lost anchors, tires – and someone’s discarded porn CD collection!”
After that, they shore-dived as much of Curacao as they could, and it was quickly apparent that the absence of shore diving in Curacao wasn’t due to a lack of amazing shore diving opportunities. They were blown away with the easier shore entries, shorter swim outs to the reefs from the shore and how similar the abundance, quality and variety of marine life was to Bonaire.
Long story short, Mark and Suzy’s tiny little dive operation, The Dive Bus Curacao, hit the road in early 2005, with a unique and simple concept: “Seriously fun shore-diving adventures”. They focused on quality, fun shore diving, in small, friendly relaxed groups, with a strong focus on taking care of Curacao’s reefs.
That first, beautiful, unloved Curacao reef became The Dive Bus house reef, taken care of on countless clean up dives, and by working with the local fishing community for sustainable management of the marine environment. These values became the heart of The Dive Bus Eco Policy, a cornerstone of their operation, mandating respecting, protection and giving back to the local community.
When they opened their first dive shop – the tiny little “Dive Bus Hut” on that same beach, word spread, divers came flocking in, Mark appeared as a Project AWARE Clean Up “poster boy” in major dive magazines, PADI welcomed The Dive Bus as an official dive center and several fun years flew by.
In 2010, Mark and Suzy relocated The Dive Bus to its current, much larger location just across the street from their beloved house reef. The Dive Bus became a PADI 5 Star Dive Center and added a dive retail shop, with drive-up equipment rinsing, drying and storage facilities, tank pick up and drop off and a second Dive Bus.
“We did our best to ensure that divers had easy access to anything and everything they needed to get the most of their shore diving adventures – including a cold beer or 2 while their gear drip-dries,” laughs Suzy.
As the dive center expanded, so did their commitment to minimize their environmental impact. The Dive Bus became a PADI Green Star Dive Center, Curacao’s first 100% Project AWARE operator and the first to Adopt a Dive Site through the Project AWARE initiative. In recognition of these efforts and making it easy for divers to join in and make a difference, Mark was appointed as a PADI Ambassadiver in 2016.
“Diving may not be most people’s first idea of a career,” said Mark, “But it certainly turned out to be mine, and I wouldn’t change it even if I could. My mission is to keep on living the dream, encouraging people to fall in love with diving, on magnificent reefs that we all help keep beautiful.”
Earlier this year, Bonaire was voted best shore diving destination in the 2017 Readers Choice Awards with previously little-known Curacao 2nd best. The whole Dive Bus Crew were thrilled and Mark and Suzy decided to take another lesson from Bonaire and put Curacao in first place next time around.
In partnership with a major international car rental company, they’re excited to introduce their new Dive Bus DRIVE and DIVE Packages, saving divers time and money by booking their rental car and diving in one place.
“So many of our divers rent cars whilst they’re here in Curacao that it makes sense to take care of that at the same time as their diving – and save time and money,” said Suzy. “They can choose off-the-shelf guided or independent DRIVE and DIVE Packages or custom-build their own to suit their needs, budget and timescales. Either way, the more days they drive, dive or both, the more money they save. We think they’re going to love it!”
Long-time Canadian Dive Bussers, Jamey and Lori certainly love it:
“As frequent divers in both Bonaire and Curacao, it’s great that The Dive Bus is now offering DRIVE and DIVE Packages for those wanting to spend several days or more exploring the great reef diving accessible from shore in Curacao. We like the independent dive packages that The Dive Bus have always offered, and adding a rental car is a great idea as it saves us a bunch of time and admin during the booking process. As we know from indie diving in both Curacao and Bonaire, the drive and dive concept is really convenient. Just drive to a beach at your leisure and prepare for your shore diving adventures in your own time. While both islands offer great shore diving with similar reefs, for us we think Curacao offers greater choice for apres-dive, in terms of sightseeing and a wider variety of restaurants and night life. A DRIVE and DIVE Package like this enhances the whole Curacao vacation experience, especially whilst diving with The Dive Bus which, in our opinion, is the best dive operator on the island.”
Dive in to your next Caribbean adventure with the first and only, The Dive Bus Curaçao! A truly unique experience where passion for scuba diving adventures is combined a deep connection with sustainable ocean management and conservation. Find out more, contact The Dive Bus Curaçao.