There is more to Aruba than its dazzling white sandy beaches, luxury resorts, and legal gambling. The island is also known for its shipwrecks that make for incredible dive sites. If you are looking for an exhilarating underwater adventure, these are the 11 most noteworthy Aruba shipwrecks that should make your itinerary.
1. SS Antilla Shipwreck
The SS Antilla was a German Cargo ship built in 1939 for HAPAG, a transatlantic shipping company in Hamburg. It was taken over by the Dutch Marines on May 10, 1940, after the German invasion of the Netherlands. The 400-foot-long wreck now lies in Aruba’s Malmok Bay, at a depth of 15 feet at its port side and 55 feet at her propeller.
Antilla is the third largest shipwreck in the Caribbean, surpassed by the Antilles and Bianca C, cruise liners measuring 600 feet. The wreck is now split into two sections, resulting from storm damage and over 75 years of saltwater damage.
The wreck has abundant marine life, and the gentle currents surrounding it make it a popular site for divers of all levels. Some of the sea creatures you will see at the site include corals, tube sponges, hawksbill turtles, lobsters, blue tang, and giant groupers.
2. SS Pedernales Shipwreck
The Pedernales was a British-owned oil tanker that sunk on February 16, 1942, following a torpedo attack by a German U-boat. The vessel’s fore and aft sections were salvaged, but the middle section remained because of severe damage. It now lies in Aruba’s Palm beach at a depth of 25 feet.
Divers of all levels can explore the site but will require a surface buoy. Many of the ship’s fittings are still in place, including toilets, the pipeline system, and washbasins. You will also encounter large groups of angelfish, moray eels, and damselfish.
3. Debbie II Shipwreck
The Debbie II was a 120-foot oil barge owned by the Bonaire Shipping Company. It was built in Vlaardingen and transported oil and gasoline from Curacao to Bonaire three times a week. The vessel was named after the granddaughter of Mr. L.D. Gerharts, Shell’s trade representative on Bonaire.
It was deliberately sunk in March 1991 to become an artificial reef and dive site. The shipwreck sits at a depth of 70 feet next to Blue Reef. It is still in good condition, and you can explore most of the ship’s sections. Several marine species inhabit the vessel, including barrel sponges, lobsters, string rays, sea turtles, and seahorses. Companies offering trips to the site include Pelican Divers and Happy Divers.
4. SS California Shipwreck
The SS California is one of the oldest wrecks in Aruba, at over 100 years old. The British vessel was a wooden steamboat that sank off the northern coast of Aruba in 1891. The California Lighthouse was named after the wreck and was built to prevent future disasters.
Most of the wreck has been destroyed due to the strong ocean currents, but some sections still exist near Arashi Beach, at a depth of 45 feet. Most diving operators avoid visiting the site because of the unpredictable waters, but some do when the sea is calm. The site is teeming with marine life, including large coral formations, various coral fish, and the occasional hammerhead and bull sharks.
Other marine species you can expect to see at the site include green moray eels, eagle rays, and turtles. Despite the wreck being in shallow water, you will need an advanced diving license with several logged dives to explore the wreck.
5. Jane C Shipwreck
The vessel was a cement freighter operating between South America and Aruba. It was launched in 1959 as the Blackthorn but was renamed Jane Sea after S&D Shipping Limited took over its ownership. Legend has it that the name was changed to Jane C after Aruba’s customs agents found cocaine hidden between the cement.
It was purposefully sunk in 1988 to create an artificial reef. The 190-foot-long wreck lies off the coast of Aruba’s Palm Island, with its bow at 60 feet deep and propeller at 90 feet. Sea life is abundant at the site, including colorful coral formations, shoals of silversides, barracudas, and jacks. You will also find spotted eagle rays, hawksbill and green turtles, giant groupers, octopuses, and sleeping nurse sharks.
The current around the wreck is relatively strong, requiring you to have an advanced diving license and a dive partner when exploring the site. Night dives are popular at this site because the coral polyps emerge and surround the wreck with beautiful colors.
6. Star Gerren Shipwreck
The 225-foot-long German cargo ship was built in Papenburg and launched in 1965. It suffered catastrophic engine failure in the Aruban coastal waters and was towed to Barcedera harbor on July 1996. After attempts to contact the owner failed, The Aruban Port authority decided to convert the ship into an artificial reef in August 2000.
It was towed 2 miles west of the Holiday Inn resort and Hadicurari beach area and was deliberately sunk to a depth of 65 feet. She is now home to several marine species, including grunts, barracudas, eagle rays, and angelfish. You can reach the site via boat charter, and you will require a surface buoy when exploring the site.
7. Kappel Shipwreck
The Kappel is a small tugboat purposefully sunk on November 2000 in the Mangel Halto Reef. It sits at a depth of 35 feet and is visible from the surface thanks to clear water. The site is popular with amateur divers and snorkelers because of its calm ocean current.
It sits 65 feet from the yellow buoy in the lagoon, and the easiest way to reach it is by entering the water from the beach stairs. Coral has just started to settle on the wreck, but you will still enjoy schools of reef fish and green morays patrolling the area.
8. Baboo Shipwreck
The Baboo wreck was a cable boat deliberately sunk to create a new snorkeling site and relieve traffic on the Antilla. It resurfaced in November 1999 after Hurricane Harvey passed through the area. The wreck now sits approximately 164 feet from Malmok Beach at a depth of 10 feet.
Baboo is one of the safest shipwrecks in Aruba because of the shallow and calm water. There is plenty to see at the site, including different species of reef fish and green moray eels that inhabit the coral formations. You can also find pelicans sitting on the visible sections of the wrecks as they hunt for fish.
9. Tugboat Shipwreck
The vessel was an old pilot boat deliberately sunk in the 1980s to create an artificial reef. It sits 2 miles southwest of Oranjestad harbor and is next to Harbor reef, at a depth of 90 feet. You will find various coral species lining the boat’s surface, providing homes for French angelfish, green moray eels, and stingrays. Diving at the site requires you to have an advanced diving license.
10. Captain Roger Shipwreck
The Captain Roger is an old tugboat wreck that sits off the coast of Seroe, Colorado, on the southern tip of Aruba. It sits next to Baby Beach reef and is home to several marine species, including brain corals, sponges, and angelfish.
11. SS Vera Shipwreck
The vessel was a freighter that sank off Aruba’s coast in 1954 on its way to San Pedro in the Dominican Republic. Records state that an Aruban captain rescued the crew before the ship sank. It now sits at a depth of 3000 feet and is rumored to have been carrying Nazi gold and valuables.