Dominica’s majestic mountains go deep into the sea. They offer magnificent diving walls and homes for many aquatic creatures. What is more, the deep, clean and crystal-clear waters of Dominica offer amazing clarity. The visibility of Dominica’s underwater life is truly amazing. There are many dive available and easily accessible dive sites.
Sporting several rainforest-clad peaks well over 1000m, the island rises almost vertically into the sky on the Caribbean side and drops into the depths just as quickly. In one place particularly, a 300m cliff face drops at sea-level to a further 1600m straight down. You can explore the reef and be hiking in the rainforest washing off in a waterfall that afternoon.
In a good year, members of the Dominica Watersports Association may get a combined 4000 divers, the reefs are all in very good condition and virtually untouched as a result. Those who visit do so more than once, with many returning annually to become family friends and the only ones on the reef.
As the youngest island in the arc of the Caribbean chain, diving in the Commonwealth of Dominica is as different as you will find anywhere in the region. No matter what experience you have; there will be a dive site to suit you. There are also three distinct areas to choose from, so pack your certification card and equipment and “come on down”.
In the north of Dominica, at Cabrits National Park, there are gentle slopes extending from the peninsula out to sea that then begin to drop into the blue. The colors in this region pop, large elephant ear, azure vase and yellow tube sponges crate a vibrant palette of colour to offset the hard corals on the seafloor. The Toucari area is known for its lava tube and swim through, however the surrounding reef is definitely something to be enjoyed first. Other sites to enjoy as a slow and enjoyable first dive include Tube Reef, Split Rock, and Five finger rock.
The central region has the only continental shelf on the west coast. The reef extends out to about a mile offshore and a mix of reef flat and walls are the norm. Highlights here include Nose reef for its proboscis like protrusions into the blue, Whale Shark reef which is a lovely reef flat and a short but beautiful wall cloaked with goodies and hidden invertebrate life. Because the area extends seaward, you never know what will pass you by. Turtles, big tuna, schooling jacks, rays and others are the norm here, even whale shark. One of the unique sites in Dominica is at Rinas reef and is something you have to experience if you are diving the area.
The south of the island is completely different and rather more dramatic; all sites are within a volcanic crater, encompassing the Soufriere Scotts Head Marine Reserve. Sites are all markedly different and quite dramatic. There are vertical walls at La Sorciere and La Bym (the Abyss), pinnacle dives at Danglebens, volcanic vents at the appropriately named Champagne and, for the more adventurous, Scotts Head Pinnacles and Craters Edge take you along the rim of (or through) the crater wall with the Atlantic on one side and the calmer Caribbean within the bay. Depending on operator and conditions, you could also dive around the corner into the Atlantic, where the reefs are totally different,
I made mention that the reefs are young, they are sponge dominated communities on a granite/andesite base, coral cover is secondary but by no means diminished. Diving in Dominica is a slow process, searching for critters not normally seen by day. Seahorse and frogfish are some of the usual suspects but up to 7 species of shrimp, and a wide variety of other hard to find creatures are the norm on a dive. The mantra of, “the slower you go the more you see” has never been truer.
Dominica is also known as the whale watching capital of the region, incredibly deep inshore waters mean a lot of food close to shore, huge pods of dolphin and a resident population of Sperm Whales are seen year-round. The researchers say that 27 species exist but most of us have rarely seen more than 16 throughout the year. Sport fishing is also available on full or half-day charter.
Flights arrive daily from the region and Puerto Rico, most recently direct from Trinidad and from December will be direct from Miami. Phase one of the international airport construction (August 2021) has begun, so, by 2025 we will have the capacity for direct from Europe and beyond. For the time being, the island remains one of the untouched areas of the region, protected rainforest with numerous hikes to suit every level, some part of the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Eastern Caribbean, and protected waters, a rarity in the age of mass tourism and crowded boats. (COVID currently notwithstanding).
All Photos courtesy Arun Madesetti.
Author and Photographer:
Dominica-based Arun Madesetti is a Marine zoologist, scuba diver and photographer, specializing in Marine EIAs, reef surveys and monitoring, published travel writing, He is an award-winning photographer for model portfolios, nude/fine art, event, corporate and concert, weddings, underwater, wildlife, landscape and scenery. He specialises in community managed marine tourism development, Marine Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) projects, Underwater inspections, Reef monitoring, Land and marine photography.