If you are planning a Caribbean vacation and wish to scuba dive during your
stay, you could do well to choose the Dominican Republic as your destination.|
Due to its size and variety, the Dominican Republic offers both developed
tourist areas, with top class hotels, and wild off-the-beaten-track areas for
the more adventurous, independent traveler.
The good news is that, as far as the coastal areas of the Dominican Republic are
concerned, you can scuba dive to your heart’s content almost everywhere you go.
Offshore reefs with their colorful marine life and shipwrecks from the times
when pirates and plunderers terrorized the Caribbean are the main attractions
for scuba divers.
PADI certified scuba diving schools abound in all the tourist areas of the
Dominican Republic. Some are independent; others may be attached to a particular
hotel or resort. They cater for all levels of experience, so take your pick.
You can book specialist scuba diving vacation packages in advance, or decide
once you are in your hotel. This depends on whether you want to scuba dive as
part of all the other activities your resort has to offer, or spend much of your
Dominican vacation under water.
The best conditions for scuba diving in the Dominican Republic are on the north
and south coasts. Although there is scuba diving on offer on the east coast
resorts, the Punta Cana area, the sea there can be rougher and more challenging,
especially during the winter months. If scuba diving is the main focus of your
stay in the Dominican Republic, do bear this in mind.
There are several resort complexes on the south coast. Going from east to west
towards the capital, we have the Bayahibe – La Romana cluster of resorts and
hotels. This area offers good diving around shallow offshore reefs, excursions
to the almost deserted islands of Catalina and La Saona, and a number of
shipwrecks. It is also possible to spot dolphins in this area.
Off Catalina Island, there is a spectacular wall dive consisting of a steep
coral slope that runs from 15 feet to a sandy bottom at 130 feet, with abundant
fish activity and corals and sponges.
The much larger Saona Island has a dozen different dive sites, one of the best
being Parguera, a large coral reef bordered by white sand bottom and a few
isolated coral patches.
Just off the coast of Bayahibe is the wreck of the St. George, a 170-foot
freighter sunk to form an artificial reef, which has already begun to accumulate
marine life growth as well as attracting a resident fish population. The nearby
Aquarium site is a shallower coral reef.
Continuing westward, we have the area around the beach town of Juan Dolio, which
includes numerous hotels and resorts on the beaches of Juan Dolio itself, Playa
Caribe and Guayacanes.
The wreck of the Tanya V. off Juan Dolio was also sunk as an artificial reef and
diving attraction. Another wreck site is the Gabriela, which has attracted a
large resident fish population.
As we approach the capital from the east, we arrive at Boca Chica, an
established Dominican beach resort. Scuba diving highlights in Boca Chica
include shipwrecks in the La Caleta Underwater National Park and La Sirena Cave.
La Caleta Underwater National Park is between Boca Chica and the capital, Santo
Domingo. Divers can observe the wreck of the El Limon, a 69-foot steel tugboat
with triple screws, lying on a sand bottom, surrounded on three sides by steep
coral reefs. This wreck attracts a symphony of small tropical reef fish.