Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles

Curaçao (pronounced [kura'são]) is an island in the southern part of the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Venezuela. The isle is the largest and most populous of the three so-called ABC islands (for Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao) and belongs to the Netherlands Antilles, a self-governing part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Curaçao’s capital is Willemstad, Netherlands Antilles.

Curaçao has a land area of 444 square kilometres (171 square miles). At the 2001 Netherlands Antilles census, the population was 130,627 inhabitants, which means a population density of 294 inhabitants per square kilometre. In 2004 the population was estimated at 133,644 inhabitants.

Curaçao has a semi-arid savanna-like climate and lies outside of the hurricane belt. Curaçao flora is unlike the typical tropical island vegetation and is more akin to the Southwestern United States. Various forms of cactus, thorny shrubs and evergreens are prevalent. Curaçao’s highest point is the 375-metre (1,230-ft) Christoffelberg in the northwestern part of the island. This lies in the reserved wildlife park, Curaçao Christoffelpark, and can be explored by car, bike or horse or on foot. Several trails have been laid out. Curaçao has many places where one can hike. There are Saliñas, salt water lakes where flamingos fly out to rest and feed. South-east 15 miles off the coast of Curaçao lies the small, uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao (’Little Curaçao’)

Curaçao is renowned for its coral reefs which make it an excellent spot for scuba diving. The beaches on the south side contain many popular diving spots. An unusual feature of Curaçao diving is that the sea floor drops off steeply within a few hundred feet of the shore, and the reef can easily be reached without a boat. This drop-off is locally known as the “blue edge.” Strong currents and lack of beaches make the rocky northern coast dangerous for swimming and diving, but experienced divers sometimes dive there from boats when conditions permit. The southern coast is very different and offers remarkably calm waters. The coastline of Curaçao features many bays and inlets, many of them suitable for mooring.

Some of the coral reefs have been affected by tourism. Porto Marie beach is experimenting with artificial coral reefs in order to improve the reef’s condition. Hundreds of artificial coral blocks that have been placed are now home to a large array of tropical fish.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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