So, you who lived here in Budapest and graduated from university, one day during work you woke up and you felt that you wanted to look around the world? You even spun the globe and just pointed to Curacao, let’s see what life might be like there. I don’t think that’s what happened. As the island is quite small and it is not much in the news either, I think the Hungarian population, even if they heard about the island, at first certainly has no idea where to find it on the map.
G.A.: No, that’s not really how it happened, because I knew quite a bit about the Netherlands Antilles and especially Curacao. The main thing in choosing a place is diving itself and its business opportunity – so we were looking for a place that is not seasonal, so diving can be done all year round – there is no winter and no cold. That’s how the circle narrowed – Europa dropped out, local property laws were cumbersome in Asia, so the Caribbean remained – but at first, we looked at Colombia, including Cartagena. We even went there. The plural is not a coincidence, as my two friends and I made this journey and the base. Saci and Mark. Mark is also a diving instructor and the interesting thing is that he was my instructor when I started diving. We worked together at one of the largest diving bases in Hungary – there is the connection from.
G.F.: -How did you get in Willemstad (Curacao)? What was more difficult to pack and break from the usual milieu, or to get on with the integration and pick up the rhythm of the new place?
A.G.: When I started to look for a place where I can open a dive centre, I travelled a lot around North- and South America – but finally I decided to stay at Curacao. Hardest part is the immigration process. Here as a reel Caribbean island, everybody is really slow and relaxed – you have to slow yourself down for sure.
A.G.: Most of our customers are from the USA or the Netherlands, all of them speak fluent English, also the locals do, so for me, that is not the case.
G.F.: – How much did you know about this place before? Have you ever been here, or as a true adventurer have you begun to try your luck with some information and great determination?
A.G.: I had a few basic information about the islands of Netherlands Antilles, but Curacao itself, I didn’t really know that it existed. We made some phone calls to home who are in the diving circles to find out who knew the different islands and which one they recommended – this is how Curacao became the choice, which is part of the Netherlands Antilles.
G.F.: – What did you like most about this place when you moved here? What do you love about this place now?
A.G.: The underwater life of the Sea, Coral reefs with lots of interesting fishes… For me, the most beautiful things are the underwater wrecks, coral walls and really is that you can do any dive style or discipline at any time, like me as I do the technical dives or Mark who does the freediving. Also, not secondary, it is always summer. Still that is my favourite, I moved here 1 year ago.
A.G.: I built up my own company here – permit process can be a long time. If someone wants to work here then get ready for a 5-month immigration process – but basically if you are qualified you will find a job. They are constantly looking for diving instructors, for example.
G.F.: -How long has it been, before you felt that you were no longer a stranger, that you were at home in the new city?
A.G.: I think here I will feel all the time that I am not a local.
G.F.: – Have you felt homesick, and have you sometimes still have it?
A.G.: I’m lucky. Not really- I go home every year which helps maybe, I don’t know. But of course, family is missing but they visit, friends are missing but they visit occasionally too.
G.F.: – If you were to invite someone to visit you, what would you show them? Just the sights of your place, or your favourite attractions that might not even appear in the travel guide? What they should definitely see?
A.G.: There are little known lookouts to the sea where you can admire the sunset. Christopher Mountain, Shete Boka National Park, Beaches, Willemstad the capitol. Which has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A variety of beaches, diverse architecture, local food and of course a drink called Blue Curacao. In addition, the flamingo park, which is UNESCO protected and flamingos live freely here.
That is a small island – all attractions are in travel books, but normally after the must see things, I would show local restaurants, beaches, festivals, music bars. There are two national parks, one is located on the highest “mountain” at an altitude of around 400 meters is worth climbing here, the other is at a beach in the north of the island where you can really get to know the power of the sea, the waves from the open sea.
A.G.: Not as my choice, during the immigration process, you have to leave the island. What we set as a goal we fight for it, we fight, we don’t usually give up on things, we didn’t do it here either. There have been, and there will be difficulties, difficult times, but together we can get over on them and help each other, without it we won’t succeed. Without Saci and Mark probably I wouldn’t be here anymore and maybe it would be vice versa.
G.F.: -Who or what kind of influence made you stay?
A.G.: Obviously I founded a company that we can’t and you don’t want to leave, the first few years are hard for a new business, we work 6 days a week in good times, and 7 days a week in a busy season, many times with night dives. Why I/we stayed – because we love what we do and believe in the long-term of a successful business.
A.G.: Most of them are really friendly – maximum they do not know how to help.
G.F.: – If you already knew as much as you know now about life here, would you have decided differently than you did it back then?
A.G.: Nothing, I think I did good to be here. It’s a good thing to live here, especially since the weather is very favourable for any activity all year long. Or it’s worth doing business. Obviously, there would be little things we would do differently, but these are little things for the overall.
– G.F.: -What have you learned from the locals which is natural and part of your daily routine now?
A.G.: Slow down, really. Live your life slowly and try to be positive in every situation and smile.
A.G.: No, not really – really just stress-free living, attaching to happiness, career and money are not the central idea.
G.F.: -If I visiting here, what would you show me what I should definitely see?
A.G.: Christopher Mountain, Shete Boka National Park, Willemstad as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A variety of beaches, diverse architecture, local food and of course a drink called Blue Curacao. In addition, the flamingo park, which is level UNESCO protected and flamingos live freely here.
G.F.: -If you have lived in many different countries, where did you feel best and why?
A.G.: Vancouver – I simply fall in love with Vancouver City, just too cold to dive.
G.F.: – If you could choose any country, where would you like to move, where would you like to try life?
A.G.: Definitely Vancouver, Mexico, Florida because of the cave diving, maybe Colombia.
G.F.: -Write down everything you would like to say about your town and its surroundings.
A.G.: The island itself is amazing, huge parties – a lot of amazing beaches, parks, palm trees, white sand… Willemstad as the only city in the island is amazing to see. Try scuba diving – amazing coral reefs, underwater creatures, turtles, dolphins this gives you an unforgettable experience. It awaits visitors with amazing sights, where Dutch architecture is dominant. Although Spanish signs are also significant from the time of colonization. Those who visit here can taste the Blue Curacao, the atmosphere of the carnivals is also unique.
G.F.: Is diving a wonderful but not the safest sport and not one of the cheapest either, am I right?
A.G.: No doubt it can be expensive, but mostly for us because we don’t have a sea at home and because of this we are forced to travel. The pleasure diving itself, because of the standards and limits, I think is safe – obviously, like all extreme sports, it has its dangers, but with a good instructor, proper base and attention, I don’t think it’s more dangerous than any other extreme sport. This is, of course, true for recreational diving.
G.F.: Which was your most memorable dive and why?
A.G.: For me, my technical dives are the most memorable, ship and car wrecks at a depth of 50-60 meters where you are really just you and your thoughts, your heartbeat slows down, as does your movement, wonderful world and feeling.
G.F.: Were there any underwater creatures you saw and could call yourself lucky because you could rarely see them?
A.G.: Basically, Curacao is not famous for sharks and Mantas, but we were lucky enough to see Reef Shark and Manta, which is rare here.
I wish you many more memorable and safe dives!