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A Postcard from Curaçao | Episode 10| Avila Beach Hotel (Watch Video)

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Tenth in a series of inspirational postcards from our friends at Dive Curacao.

Welcome to episode 10 where we are visiting the Avila Beach Hotel which is the oldest operating hotel in Curaçao that received its first guests in 1949 and has a history that dates to 1780. 

Located on the eastern edge of Curaçao’s historic Pietermaai district, the Avila Beach Hotel is an award-winning luxury beachfront property that has been completely transformed over the last 240 years.  In fact, the main lobby and entrance called the Belle Alliance was the first building constructed and it is named after “Auberge de la Belle Alliance”, the alliance against Napoleon.  Interestingly, over the years, the Avila Beach Hotel has served as a private hospital, a boy’s boarding school and even a Governor’s home.  But on February 1st, 1949 with only 18 beds, the “Hotel Avila” officially opened its doors.

In 1959, Dr. Pieter Hendrik “Gungu” Maal, the owner at that time, took the initiative of creating a beach and a massive pier to protect the beach from the destructive powers of the sea. In March 1959, the beach was opened and since then, “Hotel Avila” has been called the Avila Beach Hotel.

Further transformations followed when Mr. Finn Nicolaj (Nic) Møller, a Danish entrepreneur purchased the hotel in 1977.  Starting in 1992, new wings were added, the Blues Bar & Restaurant was built on the original pier, the Octagon Museum was restored and extra facilities were constructed that included a tennis court, a sea terrace and a new sandy beach.


Travel Tip: For special occasions book the stunning La Belle Alliance Penthouse which has open concept living room with French doors that open to a spacious balcony giving you a nice outdoor feeling. This luxury penthouse is equipped with a kitchen with breakfast bar, 2 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. The large balcony offers a stunning view to the sea and the luscious garden below.


In 2007, after the successful completion of the Octagon wing, the hotel opened the Avila Wellness Club, Conference and Banqueting Center, an infinity pool and renewed the Octagon plaza to offer a shopping area and a place to organize concerts, large events and weddings.

Since 2015, the Avila Beach Hotel is owned by the Vogels Family and today it remains to be one of the few family owned hotels on the island where is not only world renowned for its personal touch and the incredible accommodations (that now consists of 143-rooms, 2 private beaches, a full-service spa and gym, and 3 restaurants) but is also now an industry leader in the area of sustainability.


Travel Tip: Dine in style at The Pen which is a unique semi-open air restaurant with an exceptional menu that provides you with a taste of the Caribbean using local and regional ingredients complemented with a stunning view.


Under the guidance of Robbin Vogels, the General Manager, the Avila Beach Hotel is dedicated to lead the way through innovation and the practice of sustainable initiatives such as efficient energy use, recycling, and waste reduction.

Robbin says: “Innovation and sustainability is what we strive for. A higher efficiency is sought after in all business decisions at our hotel, restaurants, spa, and gym, so it is not limited to just saving energy and recycling.  Robbin went on to say, “Being the oldest hotel on Curacao we have a rich history and deep connection with the community. All opportunities for a better environment and both the well-being of our employees and the Curacao community are being fully exploited. Together we can create a better world, even on a small island such as Curacao.”

To further underline this commitment to the environment, the Avila Beach Hotel together with Coral Restoration Curaçao signed a partnership agreement in February of 2019 to repopulate the hotels house reef with staghorn and elkhorn corals.  By doing so, this has improved the quality of the reef and it has added a natural layer of protection against storm surges and erosion.

The Avila Beach Hotel is absolutely steeped with history and tradition, and of course the award-winning quality is obvious from the moment that you step up into the main lobby.  But what really sets the Avila Beach Hotel apart is their personal touch.  Because it is not about the beautiful beach or that comfortable room that makes Avila Beach Hotel, it is their employees or what they call, their “Avila Family” that provides you with that personal touch that creates those lasting memories and an incredible Curaçao experience.

Tune in for Episode 11, where will be visiting the Blue Bay Golf and Beach Resort, a plantation that dates back to the 1800’s, that was occupied and plundered by French pirates.  We will also be visiting with Blue Bay Dive and Watersports to not only dive their beautiful house reef but also to discover more about the sustainability initiatives with Project AWARE.

We hope you have enjoyed this Postcard from Curaçao and we also hope to see you soon.  Don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list and to the Dive Curaçao YouTube Channel to be automatically notified.

Sincere Love from Curacao,

Bryan Horne, Dive Curacao

Tilo and Yvonne Kuhnast, Nature Pics Films


Videos produced and edited for Dive Curacao in cooperation with Nature Pics Films.

Bryan Horne wasn’t born in Curaçao; he’s a Canadian native, drawn to the Island “out of a passion for scuba diving and the underwater world.” Moving was always going to be a life-changing decision, but in diving, Bryan had found his calling. As the founder and owner of Dive Curaçao, he spends his days showing off Curaçao’s hidden undersea treasures – and does his part to preserve them for future generations.

Marine Life & Conservation

Exhibition: Protecting UNESCO Marine World Heritage through scientific research

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From now until 30 October, the photo exhibition “Protecting UNESCO Marine World Heritage through scientific research” features 21 photographs at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, as well as a digital edition.

Exceptional photographs highlight how innovative marine experts and scientists take the pulse of the ocean by exploring ecosystems, studying the movement of species, or revealing the hidden biodiversity of coral reefs. Scientific discoveries are more important than ever for the protection and sustainable conservation of our Marine World Heritage. This memorable exhibition comes ahead of the launch, in 2021, of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (“Ocean Decade”). The exhibition was jointly developed by UNESCO and the Principality of Monaco.

The 50 marine sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, distributed across 37 countries, include a wide variety of habitats as well as rare marine life still largely unknown. Renowned for their unmatched beauty and emblematic biodiversity, these exceptional ecosystems play a leading role in the field of marine conservation. Through scientific field research and innovation, concrete actions to foster global preservation of the ocean are being implemented locally in these unique natural sites all over the world. They are true symbols of hope in a changing ocean.

Since 2017, the Principality of Monaco supports UNESCO to strengthen conservation and scientific understanding of the marine sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. This strategic partnership allows local management teams to benefit from the results obtained during the scientific missions of Monaco Explorations. The partnership also draws international attention to the conservation challenges facing the world’s most iconic ocean sites.

The exhibition invites viewers to take a passionate dive into the heart of the scientific missions led by Monaco Explorations in four marine World Heritage sites: Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Philippines), Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (Colombia), Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau), and the Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France). It is also an opportunity to discover the work of a megafauna census; the study of the resilience of coral reefs and their adaptation in a changing climate; the exploration of the deep sea; and the monitoring of large marine predators through satellite data.

To visit the Digital Exhibition click here.

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Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 7

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for the final part of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

Deptherapy expeditions do not just magically happen, they need planning and they need funding.  This expedition was funded by our long-term partners the Veterans’ Foundation.  The funding is part of a grant they awarded us for programmes this year, which were then put on hold because of COVID.

All charities in the Armed Forces’ Sector are struggling for funds. Deptherapy desperately needs support going forward and every penny counts.

We know what we do works and at the end of this blog you will find details of the research studies into Deptherapy’s programmes and how they impact on the lives of our beneficiaries.  This includes details that are hot off the press about the latest study that reports that what we offer through scuba diving and 24/7 support has benefits beyond those found in other sporting rehabilitation programmes.

Well tomorrow we fly home, late in the evening with the journey home for some of the guys who live up North taking around 15 hours after leaving Roots.

We want to make the most of today but with the tide running we are not going to be able to dive until later this morning which means only two dives today.

Oatsie and Swars about to start their sidemount dives

Things, however are really busy over at the dive centre with Swars and Oatsie putting their sidemount kit together for their training dives with Steve Rattle leading to their RAID sidemount qualification.  It has been nice to be able to offer the guys this extra training, given the amount of work they have put in this week.  They have needed to get through their theory quickly but given the RADI online learning system this has not been too arduous.

Steve came diving with us yesterday to get some more photos and was really amazed at the progress that Corey had made. He was quite open in his praise, as in his view Corey has gone from a non-diver to being a very competent OW diver capable of diving, unsupervised, with a buddy.  Praise indeed.

Other than the sidemount course we are diving as a group today: Corey, Keiron, Michael, Moudi and me. Corey has been given some tasks – SMB deployment on both dives and the afternoon dive will be a ‘naturalist dive’.  Guy Henderson has set Corey a task: ‘to identify three species of fish and record the time into the dive and the depth at which each one was spotted’.  Guy runs Marine Biology courses on the reef and knows where the fish are to be found, how long into the dive, and at what time.

The two Toms are getting put through their paces. They have walked their cylinders down to the entry point, but Steve sends them back to the dive centre to collect other kit they should have brought with them.

Our general dive goes well and the sidemount guys appear from their sidemount dive some 90 minutes after dipping their heads under the water.

Corey enjoying being a RAID OW20 Diver

Lots of bubbly chat at lunchtime, a group of really happy divers. Corey really has benefited from the week and over lunch thanked the team for making him a diver. He has very quickly become part of the family and after returning home he published an amazing post on Facebook about his experience.  Corey really gets Deptherapy and had soon realised that we see past mental and physical injuries and see the person inside and work with that person.  He also realised that we want beneficiaries to see their fellow beneficiaries in the same light.  He knows he now has another ‘family’ – a family of brothers in arms who have two things in common, they served their country and they have suffered life changing injuries or illnesses.

Back into the water for the afternoon dive and Corey identifies the fish and records the details on a slate.  The two Tom’s complete their second dive and qualify as RAID Sidemount Divers. Great!

Kit packed away and it is time to return to the camp for a few well-earned last night drinks.

I am often asked why we use Roots as our exclusive base for diving. I have mentioned before that it offers us an ideal retreat, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We are secluded and there are no distractions such as late-night bars etc.

Roots Accessible Room

The second reason is the amazing welcome we receive from Steve, Clare, Moudi and the team.  We have been going to Roots since 2014 and many of the staff have become good friends, they understand our needs and are the friendliest people you could ever wish to meet.

The third reason is the huge investment Steve and Clare have made in making the resort and dive centre accessible for those with physical injuries including those who need to use wheelchairs.  All our beneficiaries can enjoy Roots and, in fact, love it here.  The reef is perfect for us and in non-COVID times we can travel to the Salem Express and other dive sites to enjoy more of the Red Sea experience.

Accessible toilet on the Roots beach

After discussions with the team I was very proud to be able to tell Corey that his progress had been such that we were inviting him on the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust sponsored two-week Marine Biology Course at Roots in June 2021. There is lots of homework to undertake under the guidance of Dr Debbie McNeill of Open Oceans and Corey will be sent the Red Sea Guide which is the basis for study.

While on that programme, Corey with fellow beneficiary Dale Mallin, will complete his RAID Advanced 35 course.  This all builds to a 10-day Red Sea liveaboard in 2022, onboard Roots’ new boat Big Blue where 18 beneficiaries will compare the coral and aquatic life on the wrecks of the SS Thistlegorm and the less known SS Turkia that is to be found in the Gulf of Suez and is rarely dived.

Paul Rose, our Vice President, is supporting the programme and is seeking the support of the UN and the Royal Geographical Society. A comprehensive report will be submitted to our partners in the project and to the Egyptian Authorities.

Last night and chill

What we do works:

In recent years there have been three academic studies into our work:

2018 – A study by a team from the University of Sheffield Medical School.

2019 – A study by The Centre of Trauma at Nottingham University.

Both these studies reported very positively on Deptherapy’s work both underwater but also in terms of the provision of 24/7 support.

The following is from our press release which was issued on 26th October:

‘A new study into Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy’s approach to supporting Armed Forces veterans with psychological injuries such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through the medium of scuba diving has been carried out by Petra Walker in conjunction with Hanna Kampman of the Posttraumatic Growth Research Unit at the University of East London.

This study, which used Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), demonstrates that scuba diving has rehabilitation benefits beyond those found in other forms of sporting rehabilitation exercise. IPA is a qualitative methodology that examines the experiences of participants and has been used in previous studies of Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) in para-athletes.

Petra is an experienced diver herself and was exploring the wellbeing aspects of scuba diving as part of her Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology when she came across a previous study on Deptherapy. Past studies have mainly focused on the medical aspects of diving, so the opportunity to examine the mental health side of rehabilitative scuba diving was impossible to ignore. The full study is currently embargoed until it is published at a future date in an academic journal, but it follows similar academic research into the work of Deptherapy by the University of Sheffield Medical School (2018) and the University of Nottingham (2019).’

This is amazing news and sets us apart from other sporting rehabilitation programmes.

We are currently working with our VP Richard Castle who is a Consultant Psychologist and our Dive Medicine Advisor Mark Downs to identify further areas of psychological and physical dive related research.

We end the week on a happy note.  A young man who has learned to dive properly with a RAID OW 20 certification, a new RAID Master Rescue Diver, two new RAID Sidemount Divers, 5 new RAID O2 Providers, many assessments for our DMs but most of all a week of learning, of making new friendships, renewing old friendships, and building on our family ethos.

Until we meet again…

For us, Deptherapy is a journey, a journey that continues to push boundaries in the use of scuba diving in the rehabilitation of those suffering life changing mental and/or physical challenges.  On our journey we want to change the way the scuba diving industry views diving for those with disabilities.

In the new year, we will be launching, with our diver training agency partners RAID, a new and exciting adaptive teaching programme that will offer diving to the disabled community. We can’t wait to share it with you!


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

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