Scuba divers prepare for a shore dive.
My plan is to start you with the sharks, then the stingrays, then
the turtles,” explained our dive guide Aline van Kampen at the
Curacao Sea Aquarium.
No, we were not going to be fed to the sharks we were going to
feed them. At that moment, this option hardly sounded much
Built directly by the sea on a coral reef, the aquarium is one
of Curacao’s best attractions and a place where clients can safely
interact with undersea critters, like swimming with dolphins and
snorkeling with sea lions. As for feeding the sharks, the brochure
for the aquarium’s Animal Encounters program assures guests that
this is where their “worst fears” will become their “most treasured
While snorkeling was an option, my companion (who is a
non-diver) and I chose the dive experience. We were first given a
30-minute dive introduction and fish briefing. Then, outfitted in
scuba gear and with cans of sardines hanging from our vests, we
sank down 12 feet to the sand and coral bottom.
Snorkelers feed the stingrays and fish
at the Curacao Sea Aquarium.
As it turned out, it wasn’t the sharks we should have worried
about, but the stingrays. Once we entered the water, they virtually
swarmed us, knowing people meant food. However, Kampen reassured us
the rays wouldn’t sting. Two beautiful gray creatures knocked me
over with their soft undulating wing-like fins, but I recovered my
balance, and the stingrays swam off as I followed Kampen to the
A wire mesh fence with a Plexiglas wall separated us from the
sharks. As instructed, we pushed our sardines through four-inch
holes in the Plexiglas. Immediately, several lemon and nurse sharks
charged toward us and mashed their fierce-looking faces against the
holes. Emboldened by my stingray escapade (and knowing I was safe
behind the Plexiglas), I returned their stare. With my face right
up against the Plexiglas, I peered down inside the open jaws of the
lemon sharks just before their teeth bit into the sardines. The
nurse sharks sucked up the bait and made a funny whooshing sound as
they inhaled their food.
By now, I was thoroughly enjoying communing with Curacao’s
marine life. We moved on to stroke the soft underbellies of the
stingrays as they nuzzled the fish from our hands. And we admired
the giant turtles, as well as gentle “Herbie,” a Goliath grouper
five feet in length who loved to have his photo taken with
The Animal Encounters dive program at the Curacao Sea Aquarium
costs $54 per person. Both divers and non-divers from age 12 and up
are welcomed to participate in this amazing hand-feeding activity.
Clients may not lose their fear of sharks, but, just as promised,
they are sure to take home treasured vacation memories.