Relaxed Curaçao interviews Bryan Horne, the Founder and Managing Director of Dive Curaçao and Dive Travel Curaçao, about individual diving trips and unforgettable dive vacation experiences in Curaçao. The following is the authorized translated transcript from the interview titled “Carefree Diving in Curaçao”. The original German language version can be found on the Relaxed Curaçao website.
Relaxed Curaçao Interviews Bryan Horne about Carefree Diving in Curaçao
Bryan has been successfully organizing unforgettable and personalized scuba diving vacation experiences for many years. He and his company, Dive Curaçao/Dive Travel Curaçao works together with the top dive resorts and dive shops on the island. Bryan offers you carefree diving in Curaçao, via his website, that provides extensive information and impressive videos for all dive spots in Curaçao. Through his excellent connections to the leading hotels/accommodations he can arrange your whole trip whether it is “pure luxury” or “just diving”. And: He is on site and always at your disposal. An invaluable advantage!
In the interview, Maike Rosenthal from Relaxed Curaçao asked Bryan about his offer and what makes it special or unique. Maike recalls that Bryan patiently answered their questions for about an hour. Let’s look back together on a June afternoon at Hemingways located at LionsDive Beach Resort:
Introduction and Background
Relaxed Curaçao: Our visitors know nothing about you, so may you introduce yourself, please.
Bryan: Sure. My name is Bryan Horne. I am originally from Canada and I moved to Curaçao about 17 years ago to follow my passion which was diving. And I came here to start working, to Ocean Encounters at LionsDive, and I instantly fell in love with this island.
Relaxed Curaçao: What did you do before coming to Curaçao?
Bryan: My main career for majority of my life, before coming to Curaçao, was sales. I looked after a car dealership in Canada. I was also in the the oil and gas business when I graduated from college. And now, after close to 17 years being here on Curaçao, I couldn’t have landed anywhere better in my life.
Relaxed Curaçao: Did you dive before you came to Curaçao?
Bryan: Yeah, to be clear: When I was in Canada, I was diving a lot. I did probably 80% of my training, in Canada, in the cold waters of the Great Lakes. I educated myself through divemaster. Also, I did some IANTD and TDI technical courses too. And then, when I left Canada, I worked my way to become a PADI Master Instructor, and commercial boat captain. So I kind of melted all of my assets together to continue in the diving industry.
You know, the diving industry is about divers. It’s not just about being a dive master or instructor. Today I relish having all these various skills and abilities. Because now, I am not only still working with my partner accommodations and the dive shops but I am also actively engaged with promoting the Curaçao diving industry in six, or more, different countries. Bringing travelers to Curaçao and giving them really awesome experiences with our hotel partners and dive operators. So, it’s really cool!
Relaxed Curaçao: This is what you are doing with Dive Curaçao, which is a passion project. What have you done before here on the island?
Bryan: I was a PADI Staff Instructor with Ocean Encounters. I also managed a couple of facilities for them. Then I went to work with GO WEST Diving on the west end of the island. There I managed that dive operation for about seven years and became a PADI Master Instructor.
Then I got a really awesome opportunity to come back to Willemstad, to do some consulting work for another dive operator, but also to go on expeditions for about three years with Substation Curaçao. So we traveled and we did a lot of work here on Curaçao. We traveled to Klein Curaçao, Bonaire, St. Eustatius, Saba, and Dominica. We did some really cool deep sea expeditions up to 300 meters, researching, and working with the Smithsonian Institute.
Relaxed Curaçao: When you went deep diving with the Substation Curaçao, how long was your longest stay under water?
Bryan: Maybe eight or ten hours in average depth of 800-900 feet (250-275 meter). That was pretty cool. Really interesting life down there, also the structures.
Having had these opportunities over the years, has really given me or fueled my passion to keep going: working with cool organizations, really active organizations, for sustainability, for marine conservation and also leveraging all of those relationships inside of the business that I have today.
“That’s the great thing about diving. It doesn’t matter whether your are in ten feet or a thousand feet: The underwater world holds so many secrets but also so many opportunities… our life is so interconnected to the land and the sea.”
Carefree Diving with Dive Curaçao
Relaxed Curaçao: The business that you have: You are the founder of Dive Curaçao. Maybe you can explain how that works and maybe about your partners. Who is partnering and how did you come to the idea to create the Dive Curaçao website?
Bryan: The reason I founded Dive Curaçao was that largely over the years that I have been going to Dive Shows, whether it was in Europe or also in North America, there are a lot of people that are really unaware of the diversity that Curaçao offers. And in some cases, they were really unaware that Curaçao even exists. So the reason I founded it, was to create a platform where everything becomes merged. Not only the diving, but also the history, the culture, the restaurants, the shopping, everything. It brings everything under one umbrella, while it is dive-centered.
You can go to Dive Curaçao and now see over 70 world best dive sites listed. You can see videos, you can see pictures, you can see descriptions. Descriptions are not only about the dive sites. Directions are also provided plus what to do when you get to the dive site and the unique history behind that particular dive site or the area the dive site exists in. For instance, Willemstad has a really cool dive-site called Tarpon City where events like Punda Vibes take place. Normally nobody knows about that this dive site. So, it’s nice to tie that in and make it part of the culture.
So that’s really why I founded Dive Curaçao because I have a lot of clients, that were always asking me what to do and where to go, how to get there, renting a car, where to stay, dive packages, who to use. Are the dive operators reliable, are they quality driven, are they priced friendly etc. All of that you can find on Dive Curaçao. Developing that and really bringing it forward, I launched Dive Travel Curaçao which brings that second element in there which is the whole travel concept.
About Dive Travel Curaçao
Relaxed Curaçao: Can you make a travel Booking with Dive Travel Curaçao?
Bryan: Exactly, you can go there, click to book. Part of that now is the 6 major dive resorts and also 4 major dive operators on the island. And its diversified from boat diving to shore diving.
“I am still diving, not as much as I would like, but I’m still diving.”
Relaxed Curaçao: Your close partners – maybe you will mention?
Bryan: Now I work with the Sunscape Curaçao Resort which is an all inclusive, their partner hotel which is Dreams and Zoetry Curaçao plus LionsDive Beach Resort which is where we are now. The great thing is that these hotels also have dive shops right on the resort.
The other ones that I deal with is All West Apartments and Nos Krusero Apartments on the west end. Their dive shop partner is GO WEST Diving at Playa Kalki in Westpunt. In addition to Ocean Encounters, The Dive Bus provides shore on the east side, and GO WEST Diving out in the west end. Therefore, we have the ability to package everything up to give an offer to anyone.
How I picked these partners or how I do business to this partners? I used the criteria I just mentioned about sustainability, quality, ease to work with, customer friendly etc. They also really have to be dive-centered as well. To understand more, consider reading “Choosing a Curaçao Dive Shop” and “Choosing a Dive Resort in Curaçao“.
Best Dive Resorts in Curaçao
Marketing Dive Curaçao
Relaxed Curaçao: To be the founder and the leader of Dive Travel Curaçao is your full-time profession now?
Bryan: Almost, because I also do consulting work for several dive operators on the island, in terms of destination management. I also do digital consulting as well as forming digital strategies, website design, maintenance etc. It’s about creating the whole digital strategy, packaging things up for them so that they can re-market and be successful.
Relaxed Curaçao: A kind of Marketing?
Bryan: Yeah, for eleven years. So that’s the other part that I do.
Relaxed Curaçao: What is special on your Website? You have every interesting website, you have outstanding videos. Tell me about your USP. What makes you different from the other diving centers here on Curaçao?
Bryan: The short answer is: everything. The real unique selling point for Dive Travel Curaçao or why somebody would even consider using Dive Travel Curaçao is because of the fact that we are not offering you just a dive package or a holiday stay at a hotel. We are offering you a dive vacation experience. Essentially, bringing both things and putting it together like maybe two dive operators on different sides of the island all in one package. The difference then really becomes: I am bringing you the diving, I am bringing you the accommodation and then I am offering you the ability to rent a car. I am also partnered with DAN Europe, so that we can offer you dive insurance. We are also partnered with Reef Renewal Curaçao and we donate 1% of your booking cost back to support the coral restauration here on Curaçao. Essentially, Dive Travel Curaçao is a one stop service for all your dive vacation needs.
Relaxed Curaçao: Oh, this is a good thing!
Bryan: And you can also opt to add more to that donation through your own personal means. But Dive Travel Curaçao is in fact donating on your behalf. So it comes back to Curaçao.
On top of that I live here and I am inside of the dive community. I know pretty much everybody on the island and I can ensure that I will be at the airport, make sure about your transport to the hotel, make sure that your diving is exactly what you want. When you pick up the phone and call me or you email me, I am sitting here in Curaçao and I even look after you as soon as you land until the point that you leave. So, it’s a very unique selling proposition because it brings that whole personal and social part straight to the door. Nobody is bringing all of those factors together.
And now I’ve just recently partnered with the Caribbean Shark Coalition so that we are now gonna be – on behalf of my consulting company – representing Curacao along with 35 other countries to push an agenda of not only registration but also education and also protection for sharks and rays here on Curacao. So we are really trying to bring everything together so that you understand what you are buying is not just a dive package or a hotel stay. It’s an experience.
Curaçao Dive Site Video’s
Relaxed Curaçao: And the posts of the beautiful pictures and beautiful videos – where do you get them from?
Bryan: I partnered with a company called Nature Pics Films, a German company, based out to Westpunt Curaçao. They are wonderful people to work with. We have set up a program for last four years and I’ve been working with them directly. I know exactly what we need and want and then we both create the footage. We cut it all together and it really worked out well for both companies. We can really provide the viewer or the client or whoever wants to come to dive Curaçao a really quick understanding of what you are gonna be seeing at that particular dive site. And it was because of that we did a sixteen week run for “Postcards from Curaçao“.
We did video postcards which really worked out well during Covid. But we didn’t just focus on dive sites. We involved the dive shops, hotels, restaurants, bars plus things to do and where to go. It was just great.
The videos on Dive Curaçao I am very proud of and we are not stopping. We’ve practically got about 70 dive sites… if you really look at the Curaçao dive site map, there is 76 to 80 dive sites that are not only world class dive sites but they are accessible either by shore or by boat. We can add to that too. For the average person that is coming here I think 80 dive sites on the island is a lot. I mean you would have to dive every day for I don’t know how many days in order to get to them all.
Personal Experiences in Curaçao
Relaxed Curaçao: The visitors have their own culture and a cultural background. Maybe you have an anecdote or a curious odd story about a special thing that happened to you that you didn’t expect?
Bryan: It’s going back a few years. A great friend of mine was visiting from Germany with his wife. I was managing Go West Diving at that time and I get a phone call. He says: “We have a fisherman’s boat that is being stolen by a manta ray.”
Maike: Ooops – ok (laughing)
Bryan: It’s true. At that time I just hung up the phone. And then I get the phone call back: “No, I’m serious. This fisherman’s boat is been stolen by a manta ray.” And I walked out in the end of the dock and looked down because it is near All West Apartments which is about half an hour from the dive shop (on foot). So I am looking out on the sea and I see the small boat going through the water… without a person on it! I grab a crew member and get on the boat, drive out and we get out to the small boat. I backed up the boat to the smaller boat. I looked underneath and a manta, probably at least four meters wide from tip to tip, was swimming underneath in dark blue water.
Maike: But the manta was connected with the boat?
Bryan: Yes… The rope got caught in one of the fins, the anchor. Because they like to scratch their back, it lifted the anchor and as the manta swam away, it took the boat with him. So we unhook, we tied up to the boat and drag it back in the shore. Where the story really get’s interesting is the fact that my friend and his young son, they come out from All West Apartments and they come down onto the beach. They are watching us ’cause we get really shallow with the boat. And this four meter manta starts playing in the shallows. So when you see it playing in the shallows, the fin tips come up and looks like two sharks, right? It swims really close to shore (right in front of) the child – my friends child, he is like maybe 4 years old – and it swims right underneath the water. It was such a mind blowing and memorable experience because you never ever get to see something like that. Who could ever make that kind of story? I mean it is just a crazy story… And I think you actually know. He is a friend of yours as well.
Maike: It’s Alex? Can’t be true!
Bryan: Yeah! We have a video from Alex! It was many years ago but it was really cool!
Maike: This is a really cool story. So what would you say when people come to Curaçao. What is typical German or what is the typical Dutch, Canadian, or North American? Style of behaving or things wishing for. Is there anything?
Bryan: No. You know the great thing about Curaçao, and I think anybody can tell you the same thing: Curacao is very open and friendly and really so are divers. Here on Curaçao, it’s really just a melting pot of everybody. Really, come and enjoy it.
One of the biggest things I always saw especially with some North American customers to come is: They are very accustomed to go, go, go and answers on the spot etc. When you come try not to think in those terms. Relax, enjoy, be patient. Be considerate and it’s gonna be awesome. Everything goes slow here. I mean, and if you have an appointment at three o’clock, chances are: It’s gonna be three or five. Right? I’m just saying. It is just the way that it goes. And in some cultures, that’s rude. Meaning, you should be five minutes early or you should be on time.
“Hey, just relax! We ‘re gonna get there.”
What’s Next for Dive Curaçao?
Maike: And where do you wanna go with Dive Curacao next? What are your next aims? What are your future expectations?
Bryan: I tell you when I get there (laughing).
Maike: Secret – top secret, o.k.
Bryan: To be clear about it: I enjoy being an ambassador for Curaçao, for the diving here on Curaçao. I really enjoy helping people come to Curaçao and helping them create out of the box experiences. I really enjoy customizing trips for travelers so that they can really see all of Curaçao. And at the end of day I think everybody should have that opportunity to explore Curaçao above and below the waterline.
Maike: Then I have some other personal questions. You ‘re not only doing business here. You are also living here. This is a hot island. How do you recreate from work or how is your strategy to cool down, coming down, feeling fresh…
Bryan: The great thing about living here is that you become really accustomed to the climate. With Curaçao, we have some really, really hot months. We are coming into August and September which is hurricane season in the northern part of the Caribbean. That means that a lot of the wind that we normally experience will disappear. Basically, the eastern trade winds keeps the island cool, now the winds will start to disappear gradually through the month of September. We gonna start to heat up. But you know, we live outside, so the most part we always find shade somewhere and I think that’s really the key. We move a little bit slower in general and we always have a cool beverage at 5 o’clock.
Maike: Do you prefer Beer or wine?
Bryan: Definitely beer.
Maike: What do you think is the national beverage here – alcoholic and non alcoholic? What is the favorite drink here on Curacao?
Bryan: A lot of people tell you, because it is very famous worldwide, it’s the Blue Curaçao and the different flavors of the Curaçao Liqueur Distillery. But I think one of the favorite beverages is truly without a doubt beer. Different people have different ideas about it. The most popular brand on Curacao is Polar.
Maike: Your choice?
Bryan: Yes, I always enjoy it. But for Non alcoholic? The (Awa di) Lamunchi is pretty much the most popular. You know, people drink a lot on regular basis, both at home as well as anywhere because you can make your own very easily.
Maike: A typical question in Germany is: When you had to go to a lonely island take three main things with you, what should that be. But I will ask you, when you go to Europe, in a cold capital from Europe, what are the three things that you would take there?
Bryan: Oh wow – I took…(laughing) a knit cap because I don’t like cold and I suffered frostbite years ago on my ears when living in Canada. So I definitely need a cap. (2.) Shoes ’cause I don’t wear shoes here.
Maike: Real shoes?
Bryan: Yes, real shoes. I don’t wear shoes here. Wearing sandals most of the time. Third thing – I think my phone – to call a taxi to take me to the nearest warm place. (laughing)
Favorite Local Food
Maike: We have covered the beverages. What is your favorite local food here on the island?
Bryan: It really depends. Anyone would say that there is all the food of the different nationalities. There is several dishes that are local but there is so many different standard fill as well. I can’t really tell you specifically about a particular food either but I have my favorite places to go like Kome as an example.
This is one of my most favorite places to go. They have a brisket on the menu that I can’t remember how many days that they slow roast it or cook it for before serving it – I think it’s like four or five days. When you bite in, it’s like butter in your mouth – it just melts.
There is other places like BBQ Express which is open from 7 or 8 o’clock at night which is a favorite of mine as well. Because that’s a real Curacao food truck experience.
Maike: What is that?
Bryan: It’s a street vendor. Where you go up there and you order from a guy and he hands it to you. Now they have sustainable packaging for take-away containers which is fantastic. You know, it’s really great food. It kind of warms your belly. It makes you feel good. Comfort food I guess.
One of my other places to go would be downtown to Iguana Café. They have a meat platter there, or mixed platter. But it is not even so much about the food there because it is really good but it’s also about the ambiance, sitting at Iguana Café. Because you are sitting on the Handelskade looking at the bridge (Queen Emma Bridge) or the water (St. Anna Bay). It’s so good, just to hangout and relax with your friends.
And I guess the last place would be Sol Food up in Westpunt. I love that place merely because I know them very well. They are great friends. But it’s also because have lionfish plus their famous pizza. And again, that’s what all the restaurants have in common… they are really nice to be in. You can hangout with your friends, be social and really enjoy fabulous meals just in the comfort of the surroundings.
Maike: What’s your most favorite radio station here on the island?
Bryan: I think Paradise FM. However, I usually listen to Spotify in the truck.
Beaches of Curaçao
Maike: Your favorite beach?
Bryan: It’s Shon Mosa or Manzalina in the San Juan Plantation. Mostly because of the fact that it’s remote and not a lot of people go there. For a public beach I’d say probably Cas Abao, Porto Mari, maybe Blue Bay as well.
But here at LionsDive and Mambo Beach, I honestly tell you that I love the shore diving here and my daughter loves to hang out here because she has got some friends in the area. It’s a nice safe place where we can go snorkeling, diving, that sort of thing.
Maike: Do you know three secrets of Curaçao that are not so popular that you would recommend to visitors? Secret places or hidden places, hidden secrets maybe…
Bryan: Yeah, probably what I just mentioned: San Juan. Not a lot of people know about it. It is definitely not on the touristy circuit. It’s a bit of a drive-in through the plantation and then through a bumpy road into like four different beaches where you can choose one, but the two middle ones is the ones that I just mentioned, Manzalina and Shon Mosa. They are just like little secret preserves.
But there is probably another secret place, out at Watamula, a beach called Playa Gypi that is completely off the grid. Again not a lot of people know about it.
And I would also say Black Sand Beach (Playa Santu Pretu). One because you don’t have to take the normal road. Some people take a kayak over there, some people take a day trip going to the Blue Room and Mushroom Forest by boat. There is a nice little secret trail, a hidden trail, you can walk to Santu Pretu. So you can take a little backpack, you know some day stuff and go and hang out on the beach. But it is black sand, because it is a volcanic sand, so it does get hot. So use water shoes and take a hat: Take a lot of water if you do those little adventures.
Maike: Getting back to the beaches or the sea. Big fish or the small things, what do you prefer?
Bryan: I gotta be honest: I love seeing big stuff. Over the course of my career, I have been fortunate to dive in the Galapagos and several places with sharks, rays, and whale sharks – yeah, everything.
But that is what’s great about Curaçao. So what do I mean by that. I mean that here on Curacao, you can always expect and understand that Curaçao is largely known for as being a macro paradise. So you can see lots of reef fish, you can see lots of small creatures along the fringing coral reefs, healthy staghorn/elkhorn corals, large displays of soft corals as well, sponges, so all of that is here. And you get surprised once and a while when a shark will appear or a whale shark will come out of nowhere or a humpback whale will greet your presence or eagle ray, stingrays, manta rays will be around. So you never ever know. That’s what I love about Curaçao.
Maike: What is your favorite animal then under water?
Bryan: Probably I’d say an octopus because they are so interesting and how they move, the way they hide, highly intelligent creatures.
Maike: And above the water? Not just Curaçao, you could say an elephant if you like.
Bryan: No, leave it here to Curaçao: White tale deer. (You may find them in the Christoffel National Park.)
Underwater Statues in Curaçao
Maike: Back under water. We heard about there is a Chichi under water…
Bryan: It’s at Playa Kalki. Serena’s Art factory in combination with Go West Diving, they put it down (about the beginning of the year 2021). But there is a video you can watch on the Dive Curaçao YouTube Channel. It’s a beautiful statue. There is also at Playa Kalki, in addition to the Chichi, an art product of a Saxophone that they put down there as well in a different occasion and of course King Neptune (at Playa Piskádo which is not far away).
Maike: The Chichi is made from Gypsum. Is this material o.k. for putting under the sea, would it not ruin?
Bryan: No. Coral may start to attach on it.
Maike: That’s the point they wanted to do it: that corals come…
Bryan: Yeah, eventually maybe in ten years that should be nicely covered. I hope.
Maike: Do you know how long the Stature of Neptune, at Playa Piskádo has been under water?
Bryan: That’s gonna be about – at least twenty years – twenty, twenty-five maybe. And it’s very well covered now. It’s got some beautiful tube sponges off the head giving it a nice crown effect. That’s really cool.
Most thrilling Experiences
Maike: What was your most thrilling situation under water or with an animal in the sea?
Bryan: Here on Curaçao?
Maike: In your life…
Bryan: As a diver I must say the Mount Everest of diving on most people’s bucket list is diving in the Galapagos. It is a mind blowing experience where from the moment you get into the water to the moment there you get out you are completely – it’s a 360 degree experience. I mean you’ve got whale sharks, you’ve got Galapagos reef sharks, you’ve got Caribbean reef sharks, you ‘ve got seals… there is everything and all at once! You know that’s an experience.
Here on Curaçao where we dive here every day: When you get surprised by a whale shark or my most interesting experience was a humpback whale. Well, it’s usually big but this was like a juvenile maybe about 10 meters. That was amazing. I wasn’t diving but I did quickly free dive with it. But I was there and that was just mind blowing. You know, humpback whale, it wasn’t the first time that I had seen one here but this was the first time I actually was physically in the water with it. That was just a mind blowing experience.
Maike: Do you have any further wish for an experience under water? Maybe doesn’t matter how much money it costs. Is there something you would like to see?
Bryan: Yeah! I still like to do the Sardine Run in South Africa. I’d really like to do that but that’s another wish list, private. But hopefully, you know, without the work that we are doing around here: By the time my daughter who is seven years old now, hopefully by the time she goes up to Holland in ten years, we can dive with sharks here on Curaçao. I think that would be really cool. That’s a wish.
Maike: Your favorite Papiamentu phrase?
Maike: Of course Dushi. When you think about a souvenir of Curaçao. What would you tell people to bring back with them? Remember they don’t have much place in the luggage…
Bryan: Hmmh – I think the biggest thing is memories. Honestly: What you can take away from here is hopefully a fabulous vacation experience. So much so that you wanna come back. Because we all know that a trinket or a piece of stuff is only gonna collect dust or sit on a shelf or whatever. It is to be forgotten, And I don’t think that Curaçao should ever be forgotten.
“Curaçao should be deemed unforgettable so that you will come back.”
Thank you Relaxed Curaçao!
Relaxed Curaçao: Bryan, thank you very, very much for this long interview and answering all my questions.