Aruba is a wreck-diving hotspot known for its many sunken ships and planes to explore. We recently finished a dive at The Jane Sea Wreck and Barrell Gardens/Tire Reef and it was one of my favorite diving experiences as of yet. Read below for a short description of the dives and for a video with highlights of all the sights!
The Jane Sea Wreck
The Jane Sea Wreck is a 190 foot long cargo ship launched in 1959 and underwent a number of ownership changes until it remained in the hands of S&D Shipping Ltd. beginning in 1980. Legend has it that the ship was used for transporting cement between Venezuela and Aruba but eventually was used by drug smugglers to ship in cocaine. This led to the ship being confiscated and after the owners failed to pay their fines, the local dive operators took initiative to have she ship sunk in 1988. That version is disputed by some, but true or not, it’s still a beautiful dive site and considered by many to be one of the top dive sites in Aruba.
The bow is approximately at 60 feet and the propeller is at about 95 feet. The ship sits next to the reef which I think expedited the coral growth that now encrusts much of the ship. This was my first wreck dive experience and it was surreal to see such a massive man-made structure underwater. It’s a bit eerie, a bit mysterious, but very intriguing to see in real life.
Divers were permitted to explore the interior of the ship but after it began to degrade I’m not sure that it’s allowed (at the very least it doesn’t seem recommended.) In fact, the dive instructors recommended keeping our distance from one side of the ship that is tilting and perhaps will soon be on its side.
The currents can be strong here and is recommended for divers with a bit of experience. On our dive, I didn’t feel like we struggled with the currents at all, although when we began drifting back toward the reef I could feel the current pushing us along.
The coral can be found all over the ship and is even more beautiful than I imagined. I thought I’d see a patch of coral here and there and maybe some small fish nibbling around, but the ship was teaming with wildlife.
I caught my first glimpse of an octopus in the wild that we saw at the propeller of the ship. It was flashing white and stretching its body to maximize its size. At one point, it camouflaged into the coral covering the ship and was virtually impossible to find.
We also a some large barracuda patrolling the site, tons of rainbow and stoplight parrotfish, and tons of other fish. Coral sprouted in bunches from the decks, and certain parts of the ship were absolutely blanketed with globs of different coral and looked like something you’d see in Pirates of the Caribbean. I could have stayed down there investigating all day.
Barrell Gardens/Tire Reef
This area earned one of its names due to the several coral-encrusted tires that were once there (now removed). The other name comes from the big barrel sponges that can be found at certain parts of the reef. This reef goes from 10 feet to about 80 feet. We found mostly soft corals on our dive and went down to only about 60 feet. Marine life spotted on this dive included tons of trumpet fish, a large pufferfish (perhaps a porcupine fish?), several lion fish, parrotfish, lobster, trunkfish, and many other small fish.
This was also a drift dive and I felt like the current pushed us a little stronger.
This was my first time concentrating on capturing video and with my new GoPro video rig and so it was challenging at times. (I’ll have a more detailed write-up on that to follow.)
Drift dives are an amazing way to experience the reef since you can just glide along with minimal effort but for video and photography it requires much more anticipation for shots and greater skill with controlling buoyancy since you might have to contort yourself to get shots as the current pushes you past your subject. I definitely learned that I have a lot to learn when it comes to underwater photography.
Here’s a video with some of the highlights from our two dives.
We booked our tour with JADS Dive Center Aruba and were pleased with the instructors and service offered by the company, they seem to be among the leaders in Aruba.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.