All About Dominican Republic
The Caribbean is well known by divers for its colorful and shallow reefs, and laid back vibes. The Dominican Republic offers up both in abundance. With almost 800 miles of palm tree lined beaches, there is no shortage of opportunity for divers to hit the water. In fact, every coast has something different and exciting to see underwater. In addition to the colorful coral reefs and walls here, there are numerous wrecks and caverns to explore. Around the islands, even the snorkeling is spectacular!
The Dominican Republic is also one of the most affordable destinations in the Caribbean, so divers are sure to get the most for their money both above and below water. We spent a week diving around the island, and never ran out of fun sites to visit!
Even the most seasoned reef divers like to find something a little different on their dives. The shallow and well lit local sites around Bayahibe are perfect for macro enthusiasts and photographers. We encountered numerous species of crab and shrimp on every dive. Most sites here contain large gardens of Gorgonian fans which provide shelter for many masters of disguise. Juvenile filefish, bearded fireworms, and flamingo tongue snails were all found hiding out on these large soft corals. We were also pleased to encounter and photograph a spotted drum. These unique Caribbean fish have both spots and stripes! The sand channels in these areas were also full of interesting finds. Surprise encounters in the sand included mantis shrimp and scorpionfish. These dive sites were a very short boat ride from either Punta Cana or Bayahibe, making them perfect for a quick afternoon trip.
The island also offers opportunities to dive on a large variety of wrecks, both natural and purpose sunk. The twin wrecks of Hickory and Limon, found in the Boca Chica area make for a great two tank option. The sandy bottom surrounding the Hickory is a great splace to spot a stingray or two, as well as a large colony of garden eels. The Limon has transformed itself into an impressive artificial reef, and is a great place to spot small tropical fish and communities of secretary blennies. To the east, the Monica wreck near Punta Cana was sunk with her cargo of railway ties and plantation machinery. This site is an excellent destination for unique underwater photography! In this same area, the tiny Coca wreck is situated at only 13 meters making it perfect for beginners or wreck specialty courses. The site is littered with the ship's cargo, but also offers some interesting coral reef with sand channels as well.
For those who don't mind an all day adventure, dive trips can be organized to the Catalina and Saona islands. Catalina island is entirely uninhabited, and has been designated as a nature reserve. The two main dive sites here are the wall, and the Aquarium reef. The wall only drops down to around 30 meters, but is a great place to spot pelagic species passing through out in the blue. Turtles and mantas are occasional visitors here as well. The Aquarium is a shallow and well protected reef, and some of the nicest diving we did in the area. Almost every coral head had a few juvenile moray eels hiding out in its crevaces! Saona island can be quite a bit busier, with catamarans full of day trippers stopping to drink and snorkel on the sandbars. The reef here is also part of a natural reserve, and still has plenty to offer despite the crowds. Nurse sharks are frequently spotted here, as well as free swimming morays and eagle rays. The shallow sand flats are a great place to spot large numbers of starfish and sea urchins, as well as passing pelagics.
If you'd like to get a little adrenaline rush on your holiday, most dive shops can put together a lionfish hunt for your group. This invasive species is delicious, and relatively easy to spear (even for beginners). Our adventure started with a detailed safety briefing, and a little practice using the spears. Our guide helped us locate the first couple of lionfish, but before long we were spread out and hunting in our buddy pairs. After spearing a fish, the guide helped us safely remove and contain our prey. In the end, our group speared over 20 lionfish. The afternoon was a fun way to help protect the delicate balance on the reef from an invasive predator. Local restaurants are more than happy to clean and cook your catch so long as it is large enough!
Generally mild conditions make the Dominican Republic a year round diving destination. However, storm season can be unpredictable. Divers may want to consider the prevailing winds and low visibility that are possible during these fall months. Otherwise, plan for warm clear water and almost no current. Really, a divers paradise!
@ This article above is written by Jessica Merrill (PADI Instructor #351781), please give respect to her copyright!
This article & photos are not to be reproduced or distributed without written permission of Jessica Merrill.