|Dominican Republic Diving ------ by Edwin Leschhorn|
The undeniable fact...It has been overfished , something unfortunately rather common in many Caribbean islands, therefore large fish sightings are not frequent. In certain areas you can still see them but they are somewhat remote and have strong currents, suitable only for advanced divers, so resort operators tend to avoid them or simply don't visit them.
|However... the corals are very healthy with many varieties of hard and soft corals, gorgonians, sea fans, sponges and fish of a wide range of species inhabiting them, typical of the Caribbean reefs. My advice is not to try seeing the entire reef looking for the big animals, but relax and dive slowly concentrating in small areas looking for small critters. There are many arrow crabs, anemones with cleaner shrimps, red banded shrimps, snapping shrimps, nudibranchs, small sea urchins, brittle stars, flamingo tongues, hermit crabs, etc. You can also see many juvenile fish such as grouper, trunk, puffer, moray eels, etc.|
|The diving is done from fast 20-30' open fiberglass boats with powerful single or twin outboard motors, side benches and center tank racks. To get in the water you do a "back roll entry" and to get back in you take off your tank and BC, hand it to the divemaster or captain, and pull yourself up with the aid of your fins. The larger boats have portable ladders.|
It is important to make some points:
Please note that diver skills may be mixed in the same boat. The reason being DR is not yet a true "Diving Destination". All Resorts cater to guests of all preferences, most of which are enjoying themselves while relaxing on the beach, and only occasionally diving. Please bare with the diving operators, they can only do so much regarding this.
You can dive any shore in the DR. The Northern shore with the Atlantic Ocean is calmer in summer while the Southern shore with the Caribbean Sea is calmer in winter. The Eastern Shore varies and can be rough where both meet.
Water temperature ranges from 75 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
Visibility is generally around 80 feet depending on rain runoff, wind and tide.
subjects abound. Bring your macro lenses or extension
tubes. Remember to please be careful with your subjects
and the corals they hang on to. Master your buoyancy
skills; watch your framer, strobes and fins.
Wide angle is also possible i.e.: corals and sponges in the foreground and divers in the background, walls, wrecks, etc.
|Bring cameras and strobes assembled and hold them on your lap during the fast bumpy ride. Bring a towel to dry the camera and change the film. Keep spare film and anything else you want to keep dry in a sturdy one-gallon ziplock bag. Keep the camera wet between dives by dipping a towel in the ocean and wrapping it around the camera. Once you are back on land bring it to the fresh water tank.|
Most of the diving in the Puerto Plata/Playa Dorada/Sosua area is done from Sosua beach, a very nice and protected, also heavily commercialized, beach, from which most diving operators take off. Aeropuerto is one of the best dive sites.
The widely known Silver Bank (humpback whales area) in the northern waters of the Atlantic Ocean owes it name to the many wrecks loaded with silver.
The most famous wreck is the Nuestra Señora del Concepción (El Concepción), very sought after by many treasure hunters, with a very rich treasure some of which may be seen at the Museo de Las Casas Reales in Santo Domingo, the capital.
El Portillo and Las Terrenas have also nice dive areas including Cayos Las Ballenas (Whales Cayes), La Torre, Punta Tibisi, etc.
Punta Cana/Bavaro/Macao are, in my humble opinion, great beaches but leave a lot to desire when it comes to diving. Waters are rough and colder with suspended sediment. Sand and colorless large rocks compose the ocean floor where animal life is sparse and corals are infrequent.
La Romana/Bayahibe/Dominicus shores are protected with calm clear waters. This is the area likely to become the main diving destination in the entire island.
There are many acceptable to good shallow reef dive sites close to the resorts and a large wreck that needs more years of coral incrustation.
Catalina Island has The Wall ranging from 15 to 120 feet with sponges, large gorgonians and black corals hanging from the wall. You can do a second dive at the nearby beautiful Acuario or Gardens with an average depth of 30 feet and many juvenile fishes and small critters inhabiting the isolated hard coral patches.
Saona Island is further east and may have rougher water conditions with strong currents, more suited for advanced divers, but larger creatures inhabit these waters. You may do La Parguera as the first dive and El Penon I or II as the second dive.
Catalinita Island is a smaller island in the junction of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, where waters condition make it an advanced dive. Larger animals including different species of Sharks inhabit these waters.
La Caleta National Underwater Park is near Las Americas International Airport and has a wreck at 60 ft, the Hickory, a intact treasure salvage ship sunken in the 80's with lots of marine life around and inside. There is a nearby deeper wreck at 90 ft of a broken-apart ship where you may start the dive, head to the shore, and finish the dive at the Hickory.
The Hickory belonged to Burt Weber, who found the Conde de Tolosa, among other ships. It is worth pointing that there are many wrecks from the 1500's-1700's scattered around the island; mostly Spanish galleons loaded with silver and gold from the Caribbean islands or Mexico in route to Spain when a storm hit and crashed them on the treacherous reefs.
Boca Chica is, again in my humble opinion, over dived. Not much left there to see.
Juan Dolio/Guayacanes area is acceptable, but the waters tend to be choppy with reduced visibility due to many suspended particles. Watch out for backscatter!
Further Southwest there is Nigua, Palenque, Las Salinas, Ocoa and Barahona.
The most remote areas (i.e. Barahona) have very few small hotels and are much less frequently visited, even by locals, because the spartan conditions. On the other hand, there are very good dive sites with rich fauna resembling what the Caribbean was like 30 years ago.
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