PADI Scuba Diving in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic (or "the DR" as it is frequently called) a mountainous, lush country that comprises the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola, has been a popular Caribbean escape since Christopher Columbus first set foot on its shores in 1492. With nine distinct ecological regions, the island attracts hikers, cavers, birders, culture hounds, and from December to April the famed offshore region of the Silver Bank fills with the haunting melody of whalesong, as humpack whales come to calve. Divers will find a wonderful array of diving off every coast, and each region has its signature dives and logbook essentials, including vibrant, fishy reefs and lightbeam-filled caverns. But, with a seafaring history that includes the first European to set foot in the Americas, divers tend to gravitate to a long list of brag-worthy wrecks, both natural and artifical, that date from the 16th century to the modern era. Warm water and generally good visibility make most of the Dominican Republic a year-round destination for divers of every level. Snorkel, complete your PADI Open Water Diver course, or take your advanced skills and explore the deeper wrecks and walls, and the exciting, current rich environments.
With diverse activities for divers and nondivers alike, the Dominican Republic has become a popular, easily accessible destination, especially for Europeans and Americans. Most resorts are all-inclusive, and you’ll find many ex-pats that came, fell into the beach vibe and simply stayed. It's a short flight from the United States, making it an ideal long-weekend getaway. In addition to the island's fascinating fauna, much of it unique to the Caribbean, you’ll want to explore the colonial architecture of Santo Domingo, a World Heritage Site, take on a round of golf, and if you like merengue, seek out any local dance hall on a Friday night.
Regardless of where you go, you'll find friendly, willing people. Religion and politics are major topics of conversation, followed only by the national sport - baseball.
Famous Dive Sites:
Punta Cana: Known for its shallow waters, wrecks and caverns, including and the famed La Cueva dive site. Best dived from February to November; December and January bring strong seasonal winds. Visibility ranges from 40-150 feet. Local operators offer lagoon and oceanic cave diving to appropriately certified divers.
• La Cueva – A fascinating collection of caverns and swim-throughs at a depth of 8 to 13 metres/26 to 43 feet. A favorite hangout for sleepy nurse sharks and stingrays.
• Monica Wreck - Sunk in a storm about 90 years ago, the remains of this wooden-hulled railway cargo ship harbors railway ties, sugar plantation machinery, and an infestation of schooling marinelife including hoards of squirrelfish. The wreck lies at a depth of 12 metres/40 feet.
• Astron Wreck - This former freighter is 120 metres/300 feet long and lies at a depth of 14 metres/48 feet. The ship’s profile extends above the surface, but on calm days this artificial reef ripples with schools of fish
South Coast:The southern coast offers heaps of interesting wrecks off its three main dive regions, including the famed, super photogenic fish havens of the Hickory and Limon off Boca Chica. But, this region also features unsung walls and easily explored caves and caverns. Diving is year-round and most sites lie within the Parque Nacional del Este, or the La Caleta Parque Nacional, both no fishing zones.
Bayahibe:St George wreck: A 73 metre/240-foot freighter sitting in a maximum depth of 44 metres/145 feet, although the top is in 15 metres/50 feet of water. It’s a fairly new wreck, so you won’t find a lot of growth, but it’s intact for penetration and scads of fish have moved in making this wreck a great photo op.
La Romana:Catalina Island has two main dive sites: The Wall, which lures divers from all over the island, starts at around 6 metres/20 feet and drops to 30 metres/100 feet. Black corals and sponges abound, and it’s a hotspot for passing pelagics. The shallower site, called the Aquarium, maxes out at 12 metres/40 feet, making for a lengthy, easy exploration of this vibrant and healthy coral garden.
Juan Dolio:Tanya V wreck — This 65 metre/195-foot long freighter sits at depths from 22-36 metres/70-120 feet. The newest wreck in Juan Dolio, the Tanya has quickly become a flourishing artificial reef in the 10-years she’s been down.
South West:Pedernales and Barahona: Although there is great diving off an almost untouched coastline, it's a five hour drive from Santo Domingo and lacks infrastructure so you'll want to arrange a tour from Santo Domingo. The area is just beginning to be explored, but it offers a pure, pristine, Caribbean dive experience.
The North coast has a plethora of offerings and it’s possible to see cannons from 17th century Galleons, intact cargo ships and caverns all in the same day. There’s lots of tourist infrastructure and PADI dive shops from Puerto Plata and Sosua to La Semana. If you’re looking for laid back beach towns, this is the place.
LuperonLuperon Wall. With a maximum depth of 40 metres/130 feet, this advanced dive showcases just how lush a Caribbean wall can be. It’s covered in hard corals, an array of sponges and home to eels, barracuda, grouper and a favorite stomping ground for passing mantas, turtles and eagle rays.
• Monte Cristi. There are many wrecks in shallow water that date back to the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
• Luperon Caves. Easily accessible caves in only 10 metres/30-feet. A great place to introduce beginners to the wonders of these shadowy realms.
Punta Rusia:This picturesque area features mangroves and manatees.
Airport Wall. Almost completely vertical, with plenty of swim-throughs and a maximum depth of 24 metres/80 feet, Airport Wall constantly tops the list for repeat dives.
Zingara wreck. This 45 metre/148-foot intact and upright cargo ship, which lies at 36 metres/118 feet , is a wreck aficiando’s dream. Picturesque, packed with blackbar soldierfish, this signature wreck should not be missed.
Cabrera:Du-Du cave. — Only for those appropriately trained, Du-Du starts in the jungle and features large stalagtite and stalagmites, as well as freshwater marinelife.
Samana:Samana is famous because humpback whales come here to mate and give birth from January through March. Las Galeras beach has a variety of sites. Around the point is Cabo Cabron - an advanced dive that provides an opportunity to see some bigger fish.
Humpback Whales: From December to April humpacks gather over the shallow Silver Bank to give birth. Although primarily a liveaboard experience and strictly a snorkeling interaction, this is one of the world’s prime spots for whale interactions.
Can range from 6 metres/20 feet to 40 metres/140 feet.
6 metres/20 feet to more than 30 metres/100 feet, depending on area and time of year.
There is generally little current in the north and south. Dives off the east and southeast can be subject to stronger currents while dives off the north and south generally have very little current.
Caribbean side - 28° C/83° F in summer and 24° C/76° F in winter.
Atlantic side - 27° C/81° F in summer and 24° C/75° F in winter.
Diving is available throughout the year. On the north coast, summer brings calmer seas and better visibility while winter holds better sea conditions on the south coast.
The average temperature across the year is about 25°C/77°F. Summers are hot and humid whilethe winter months are cool and breezy.
The country is well serviced by international airports and domestic flights. There are also five major highways threading through the country in addition to a toll road. Much of the road network to smaller towns is unpaved.
From novice to advanced. There are also several cave systems for those with suitable qualifications.
Most dive centers and resorts offer full equipment hire.
Length of stay:
Four to seven nights will let you sample some of the country's best diving.
You can find eagle rays, eels, butterflyfish, barracuda, nurse sharks, jacks and turtles depending on your dive location and time of year.
Spanish is the primary language but English, French and German are also spoken in tourist areas.
Dominican Peso (DOP). United States Dollars and Euro are also widely accepted.
A 16 percent tax and 10 percent service charge is normally added at restaurants. Many people leave an additional five percent in cash if they are pleased with the service.
Two major bus companies cover most of the island. Taxis and local transportation within towns is also available.
Punta Cana (PUJ )International Airport, Las Américas-JFPG International Airport (SDQ), La Isabela International Airport (JBQ) , Cibao International Airport (STI),, Gregorio Luperón International Airport (POP) and Arroyo Barril International Airport (EPS)
110v/60Hz and Type A electrical outlets.
Airport Entry/Exit fees:
Entry fee of $10 US for a Tourist Card is required for most nationalities. Check the consulate's web page for complete information. . The departure tax is frequenly included with the airfare but can be $20 US payable on exit.
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