Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, this volcanic island is a part of the Lesser Antilles and located between Martinique and Guadeloupe. Despite its small size (about 754 sq.km), Dominica has a long list of sights which attract travelers from all over the world. They don’t call it the “Nature Island” of the Caribbean for nothing. Gorgeous mountain landscapes smoothly range down to the water, where it takes on new colors. Diving in Dominica is very popular and if you learn more about this island, you’ll probably want take at least a few dives here. The primal forces of nature have worked hard in shaping the landscape of the bottom; you’ll find arcs, caves, volcano craters and various marine dwellers. From November to March, magnificent whales come to Dominica’s coast. This country would certainly deserve a place on any top 10 list of the best countries for whale-watching list. If you dream of seeing the biggest mammals in the world, Dominica is the place to go to make your dream come true!
Conditions for diving are good all year round. More often than not, thanks to the tropical climate, water temperatures are generally the same as those on land; averaging 25-27 degrees Celsius. Visibility ranges from 15 to 30 meters and can be worse off the northern parts of the island because of the big waves.
All dives off Dominica takes place in the Marines Reserves: Soufriere Scotts Head in the south and Cabrits Marine Reserve in the north are the most popular among them. Underwater landscapes and diving difficulty can vary a great deal, so let’s discuss them in order.
Scotts Head Cape separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea. It forms a bay with various dive sites for both newbies and experienced divers.
What’s the first thing we see when we fill a glass with champagne? Right! Lots of bubbles rising up from the bottom. At Champagne Reef, hot gas bubbles make their way through the depths and cause the water to resemble some sort of natural jacuzzi. This water is even warmer than in other places! This unusual natural phenomenon attracts not only divers and snorkelers but also an assortment of marine life. Frogfish, seahorses and turtles like to bask in the bubbles. On the sandy bottom, you can see squids and flying gurnards. A great variety of healthy corals is located at this dive site. Another feature of Champagne reef is it’s being located near the set where the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest was filmed, so fans are sure to be exited!
This is the second dive site on our list and it’s also very popular among divers. This dive site is an underwater volcanic crater. During your dive, along outer wall 10 meters down, you’ll see a vaulted pass. In this place, there are so many soldierfish that they form a “curtain” in front of you. After passing through the fish, you’ll find yourself in the heart of the crater. The opposite wall falls away down to a depth of 36 meters. The surface of the wall is covered by deepwater sea fans and other colorful gorgonians. This dive site is suitable for divers with an Advanced Open Water Divers’ certificate or higher.
Diving in this place is not as popular as off the southern part of Dominica. Divers, who choose this locale will likely feel the spirit of discovery. Hard and soft corals, sponges and seaweed cover every dive site here.
The depth ranges from 18 to 45 meters. Here, just like at Champagne reef, billions of warm gas bubbles rise up from the volcanic bottom. Massive snappers and starfish dwell among brain corals. Because of the sulphur deposits, the sand is colored and, indeed, the whole environ is a riotous display of colour and vivid forms! You’ll always be wanting to take photos at every step of your dive and, by the end, you’ll find it difficult to choose the best pictures.
This is a favorite place among novice divers. Even just 5 meters below the water’s surface, you can see huge barrel sponges which look like shark mouths. There are no sharks here but there are scores lot of colored reef fish; triggerfish, angelfish, butterflyfish and others. The bottom smooths out at a depth of 40 meters, so deep divers have a chance to practice their skills and see just how the underwater landscape changes.
Here’s some food for thought: Dominica is the unique in the world as the one place where sperm whales (Cachalot) live all year round. From November to March you can find about 20 species of whale (out of 33 existing species worldwide). In order to preserve these unique mammals, diving and swimming with whales is strictly prohibited. But even just watching these 30 meter giants isn’t going to leave anyone feeling unmoved. Whale tours can be bought in local dive centers. During the boat trip, one crew member uses a special device to listen to the underwater sounds below and when he hears clicks, it means a whale is coming! Prepare your cameras, because this show will be incredible!
There’s no unending flow of mass tourism here and the positive effect this has had on Dominica’s nature is self-evident. The coral reefs are healthy and full of marine life. A lot of dive sites are located at depths of 18 or more, so if you’ve only an Open Water Diver certificate, it’s better to upgrade to that of an Advanced Opеn Water Diver or take a course at one of the local dive centers. This will open Dominica’s most interesting places, and much more, for you!