Dominica – Dive Sites
There are numerous dive sites for every skill level and desired experience.
Dive Dominica’s reefs and you’ll enter a world filled full of magic and adventure. Encounter seahorses, frogfish, flying gurnards and other species rarely found in other Caribbean diving destinations. Huge stands of coral and sponges are home to golden crinoids with feathery, radiating arms. Batfish, electric rays, Caribbean reef squid, sea snakes and sea urchins add to Dominica’s list of rare undersea inhabitants.
The underwater topography of Dominica mirrors the beautiful landscape above, with canyons and cliffs plunging to depths equal to the soaring mountain peaks above. Massive underwater boulder fields and volcanic craters accompany steep walls and pinnacles, setting the stage for some of the best diving in the Caribbean.
Scott’s Head Marine Reserve, located in the southwest, is the oldest reserve on the island and offers the most popular volcanic underwater features. With virtually no current and unspoilt coral walls, The Cabrits National Park Marine Section in the north is renowned for a large variety of rare fish. The earmarked Salisbury Marine Reserve in the central west area consists of a dozen sites with some of the healthiest and best reef diving in the Caribbean. Underwater volcanoes are the source of Dominica’s dramatic underwater landscape: craters, chasms and sheer walls plunging thousands of feet, and soaring pinnacles formed by lava flow. Visit the “Champagne” dive site and swim through warm bubbling waters created by geothermal vents. You can feel the water temperature rise. The sea floor itself can be warm to the touch!
The Cabrits: The Cabrits dive site is in fact several sites. Cabrits South and West are both beautiful reefs dropping off sharply to a sandy bottom at 155 and 110 ft respectively, and a third site further to the south drops off to below 185 ft. Often you may experience currents that offer spectacular drift dives over barrel sponges and schools of Creole fish.
Nose Reef and Whaleshark Reef: Located on the south drop-off of the Grand Savanne flats. Both sites are inspiring reefs starting at about 55 ft cascading down to 130+ ft. Arrow crabs, banded and Pederson cleaner shrimp, spotted flamingo tongue snails all provide a macro photographer the perfect opportunity for exceptional and striking photographs. Whaleshark offers a vertical face with giant barrel sponges, brilliant yellow tube sponges, stunning azure vases and colorful hard corals teeming with tropical fish. These spots are the outermost sites in the area and offer the greatest opportunity for seeing larger fish such as barracudas, Spanish mackerel and jacks.
Coral Gardens and Batali Pinnacle: Two of the most sheltered dive sites nestled in Batali bay. Starting off shallow (20-30 ft), there are rocks are covered in corals and sponges, long lure frogfish of various sizes and colors including pink, yellow, brown and black. Ornate lettuce leaf sea slugs inch their way among beds of y-branched algae. Lizard fish and sand divers hang out at cleaning stations where the Pederson shrimp busily explore and clean gills, mouths and bodies. Sloping gently away from the rocks is a stretch of sand harboring red heart sea urchins, gatherings of garden eels, and often you may see a single upside-down jellyfish displaying its fascinating and extraordinary form.
Rina’s Hole: This is a great shallow dive offering a beautiful swim through leading to a cluster of rock formations. These formations are encrusted with corals, teeming with moray eels, giant anemones, delicate sea fans and beds of sea plumes. A large swim through cave is home to schools of soldierfish and bigeyes. The colors in this area are even more vibrant due to the contrast with the white sand and the shallowness of the site which allows maximum sun penetration. This is the ultimate critter dive, as the nooks, crannies and overhangs provide ideal shelter for all sorts of marine life. Large schools of chub are a common sight and on some occasions stingrays, spotted cagle ray and nurse sharks have been spotted.
Rodney’s Rock: A shallow dive (maximum 50 ft) offering one of the greatest critter dives. A huge variety of marine life can be found here. Mini caves and overhangs shelter spiny and slipper lobster, crabs and morays. The vertical faces of the shoreline and large rocks are covered with huge barrel sponges, gorgonians and hydroids creating a spectacular seascape. Sandy patches with sea grass harbor red heart urchins, sea cucumbers, stingrays, spotted snake eels and the very rare and elusive batfish. The walls of Rodney’s Rock are carpeted with corals and sponges providing homes for octopus, frogfish, seahorses and numerous grunts and snapper. This site is a favorite for night dives when squid, lobsters and crabs are out in full view.
Champagne Reef: The dive itself usually consists of a circuit around Champagne reef followed by a safety stop exploring the hot springs and bubbles. This dive is for all levels. Calm water with light to no currents. It is not unusual to spot seahorses and frogfish here, and flying gurnards are common over the shallow sandy areas. Squid can often be seen in-shore not far from the bubbles. The best time to see this site in all its glory is at night when the reef explodes with life! Huge crabs and lobsters are common sightings. This site is easily accessible from shore and many people snorkel here. The road passes a couple of hundred yards to the north, making it easy for buses to drop off visitors without cars.
Coral Gardens North (Danleben’s North): This site can have some strong currents but also can be extremely easy. Starting in about 40 ft of water, the reef drops gradually to the west and can be dove on its own or as a drift to Danglebens. Large sponges of brilliant color and beds of finger coral are the dominating elements of this reef system. Turtles are frequently sighted, and when the currents are just right, large schools of horse-eyed jacks, sennet and various other fish congregate here. The end of the dive can be spent in about 40 ft watching the jawfish in the sand.
Condo: Located on the Atlantic side, The Condo is a huge chunk of rock, sitting in 60 feet of water on a sandy, sloping bottom. Swim-throughs, overhangs and recesses are unique features of this site.
Crater’s Edge: This site is guaranteed to please. There are masses of black jack, bar jacks, rainbow runners, tuna, yellowtail snapper and cero, all pursuing schools of baitfish who dart back and forth in a futile attempt to escape their hunters. If you can peel your eyes from this frantic activity and look toward the pinnacle you will see waterfalls of Creole wrasse and brown and blue chromis. Behind all this activity is a spectacular wall covered in colorful sponges and giant barrel sponges. It is not uncommon to be followed by one or two giant barracuda escorting you from the area. The Crater’s Edge pinnacle can easily be circumnavigated during a single dive, or one could follow the volcanic ridge toeards Scott’s Head Pinnacle.
Dangleben’s Pinnacle: This is series of 5 pinnacles that vary greatly in shape and depth, but none shallower than 35 ft. Most can be circumnavigated at 80 ft. These pinnacles create a fantastic maze of dramatic topography that is home to schools of jacks, creole wrasse, yellow tail snappers, turtles, occasional barracuda and an assortment of other creatures. This site is best visited when there is a moderate current. The surface frequently has currents and until you get to the bottom at about 50 ft, there is nowhere to hide, so this dive is for the intermediate diver rather than the beginner. On days with no currents there will be less fish life, but the amazing explosion of colorful sponges, huge barrel sponges, vivid crinoids and thriving healthy reef make for an amazing dive.
L’Abym (La Soucier): In the southern corner, one can float 30 ft off the wall and see the surface cliff enter the sea then drop into the deep on both sides of you, a truly impressive sight. In addition to the beautiful topography, one can usually find seahorses, scorpion fish and turtles or the solitary barracuda. The most unusual thing about this site, despite the massive wall, is that it is suitable for all levels. The start is on a sandy/rock shelf at 25 ft and there is rarely any current. The wall can be dove from 40 ft or deeper and all depths are equally impressive. A “must” dive for most visitors. It truly sums up the dramatic topography of the island.
Mountain Top: As the name suggests, this rock spire rises to about 60 ft from the surface and is a fabulous site. Half-mile from shore in the Atlantic, the site is rarely visited due to its position and frequent strong currents.
Point Guinard: This gradually sloping reef is best known for its swim-through when returning to your boat. There is a cave at about 50 ft that has some interesting life, but it is narrow and can very quickly silt up, so it is not recommended for large groups or anyone without perfect buoyancy. This site is also a good spot for seahorses and frogfish and is frequently visited by turtles in-season.
Pointe Ronde and the Craters: Very gently sloping reefs showing vibrant colors and abundant life. The latter site starts off around 70 ft and when you reach the craters the reef drops abruptly to 92 and 120 ft. The bottom of these impressive craters is sand marked by curious small holes from which occasional streams of bubbles escape. Here, the sand is warm to the touch. If you dig beneath the surface, beware – it may burn!
Scott’s Head Pinnacle: Justifiably one of the island’s most famous dive sites. Divers regularly request repeat visits to this site. The dive begins on Swiss Cheese, a large rock formation home to the well-known Soldierfish Cave. Not actually a cave, this swim-through is usually packed with soldier fish and grunts that form a curtain in front of you, briefly parting to swallow you into the school as you pass through. Crossing a flat area of coral-encrusted rock formations leads to the Pinnacle itself. At a depth of only 35 ft, a picturesque swim-through bisects the pinnacle, bringing you to the “other side” — a steep wall on the inside of the volcanic crater that falls off to more than 120 ft. The swim-through is home to blackbar soldierfish, grunts and lobster. The wall is dominated by deepwater sea fans and other colorful gorgonians.
Scott’s Head Drop Off: This wall is spectacular at any depth, from 40 to 100 ft. It is an incredibly colorful dive with pink and azure vase sponges, orange icing sponges, yellow tube sponges, and green rope sponges. The many small nooks and crannies hide lobster, crabs, and many different kinds of cleaner shrimp. The end of this dive consists of a 50 ft safety stop so vibrant it is worth the trip by itself!
The Suburbs: Richly covered rocky drop-offs that are visited by schools of black durgons, huge barracuda, frequent turtles, and some big stingrays. One never knows what might pass in this much wilder area. Take time to enjoy the magnificent coral life. Hundreds of crinoids and sponges paint a brilliantly colorful underwater landscape. Huge barrel sponges are prolific, and walls of incredibly dense deep-water sea fans frequently conceal shy seahorses.
The Village: An advanced southern Atlantic site, the mooring sits in 30 ft on top of the wall. From the depths three rock pinnacles rise, each slightly shallower than the other, giving you a good multi-level dive. As with all sites in the Atlantic, sponges grow large and horizontal, the corals are predominantly soft fans, and schools of big fish are common.
Cottage Point: One of Dominica’s wreck sites can be found here. The remains of an 18th century wreck lie in 15 to 35 ft of water. Links of chain have survived over hundreds of years and lie scattered over the area. From there, move over to the pinnacles where vibrant colors and invertebrate life will intrigue and fascinate even the most experienced naturalist diver.
Douglas Point: At the southern end is a wonderful canyon and tunnel covered in corals and sponges. The western end goes to 100 ft and is an area where flamingo tongue snails are bountiful. Douglas Point Wall drops off to 50 ft then slopes down to 180 ft. One often sees lobster and large reef fish, including barracuda and cero mackerel at these sites. Curious fish will come to within a few feet of you before continuing along the reef or back out to the blue.
Five Finger Rock: This dive site is in the Cabrits Marine Park, not far offshore from the Cabrits Peninsula. You will see plenty of squirrelfish, flounders, tobacco fish, and angelfish.
Pinard: An impressive pinnacle which contains a tunnel roughly 300 ft long. Reef fish are so abundant that the view is one of constant motion and color!
Point Break: At the northern tip of the island where the Caribbean and the Atlantic meet lies this “must-dive” for those comfortable with currents and who love adventure. Travelling along the coastline to get to the site is worth the trip. The site is home to many large fish.
Toucari Bay: Excellent for day or night dives, and boasts a wide variety of marine life including octopus, moray eels, rays, squid, lobster, crabs, trumpet fish, parrotfish and puffer fish just to name a few. There are many types of corals in this area including finger, pillar, fire, brain and vase corals. This secluded area reaches from the beach out to the main reef at about 40 ft. Toucari Bay is a honeycomb of tunnels, including several 25 and 45 ft long, which make for exquisite swim-throughs and harbor schools of French grunts. The reef then drops to 110 ft and is home to large schools of mahogany snapper, big crabs and frogfish.
Images Credited: Dive Dominica
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