Dominica is one of the best places to dive in the Caribbean. Known as the nature island of the Caribbean, Dominica features a variety of dive sites. Its underwater topography mirrors the dramatic landscape above. Canyons, pinnacles, and steep walls of pristine corals and sponges provide homes to magnificent marine life. Seahorses, frogfish, electric rays, eels, and turtles are just a few of the special underwater creatures found at the dive sites in Dominica. There are even underwater hot springs!
The SCUBA diving in Dominica takes place in three marine reserves. The marine section of Cabrits National Park is located in the north, the Salisbury Marine Reserve is on the west coast, and the Soufriere Scotts Head Marine Reserve is in the south.
Fort Young and Dive Dominica Watersports
For our SCUBA diving trip to Dominica, we purchased a five day, two tank morning dive package through Fort Young Hotel who contracts with Dive Dominica Watersports. The Fort Young Hotel is in Roseau on the southern part of the island. Dive Dominica is located just a few miles down the road in Castle Comfort Dominica. As a result, we dove the south side of the island.
The hotel and Dive Dominica Watersports work seamlessly together. At the hotel, Brad checked us in the first day and carried all of our stuff to the pier in front of the hotel where the boat picked us up each day at 8am. The Dive Dominica crew loaded our gear on the boat and cared for it for the rest of the week. We just kept our cameras, dive computer, and wetsuits which we hung in front of the dive shop to dry. Brad locked up our wetsuits in the gear room each night and laid them out for us the next morning.
SCUBA Diving Dominica
The Dive Dominica boat, Olga, is huge! It likely accommodates twenty divers, though we rarely had more than eight divers on board during the low season. Of the eight or so divers on board, we dove with Bob, Joel, Tracy and Sue on a regular basis. Also, an expat couple from Arizona, Patti and Steve, joined us one day and occasionally a few liveaboard sailors came aboard as they explored the Caribbean. Over the five days, our crew changed every now and again. But we had three crew members each day, a captain, a lead divemaster, and a trailer which is standard.
It took about 20 minutes or so to get to the dive sites which are very close together in the Soufriere Scotts Head Marine Reserve in the south. Each dive site has a permanent mooring and there was never more than one boat at a site each day.
For the most part, the crew let us be as we hooked up our gear. If we asked for help, they gladly obliged, but diving is Dominica is not like diving in Cozumel where you don’t lift a finger! That’s fine for me, as I like changing and checking all my gear for the second dive. Not to mention it gives me something to do during the hour surface interval, which we took on the boat.
The dive profiles, despite the different underwater topography which ranged from walls that plunged a thousand feet to shallow hot springs and flowing reefs, had a max depth of 80 and an hour underwater. We rarely used more than half a tank. Our safety stops were part of our dives which ended in shallow water over the reef.
Being a macro photographer, I loved all the little critters. While we spotted one nurse shark and a few turtles, most of the marine life was small. Of course, Dominica is known for its resident sperm whales, but they are best seen from November to March, and a $5,000 permit is required to snorkel with them. No diving is allowed. Cheaper whale watching tours are also available.
Below are the Dominica Dive Sites We Visited
Day 1 – Diving Dominica
Point Guignard is a gradually sloping reef with lots of small creatures. Having not been in the water for a couple years, I intentionally left my camera behind on the first, and am kind of kicking myself!
There was so much to see! I got most excited about the yellow seahorse because I had never seen one of that color. Not to mention, seahorses are relatively rare and hard to find. I really wish I had a photo of it!
Other interesting marine life to note included a pipefish, a sharptail eel, a spotted moray eel, flamingo tongue, a lettuce slug, scorpionfish, a hairy crab, a slender filefish, some peacock flounders, and countless shrimp and crabs.
Champagne South is near the northern most part of the Soufriere Scotts Head Marine Reserve. Champagne South does not have the bubbles produced by underwater hot springs for which Dominica is famous. Those are at Champagne Reef just north of it.
We still saw some cool critters including an octopus, a mantis shrimp, two frogfish that blend into the coral, a juvenile spotted drum, a flamingo tongue, beautiful anemones, lots of shrimp and crabs, an angelfish, and another seahorse (this time brown).
I really enjoyed this dive!
Day 2 – Diving Dominica
Witches Point is the side of a volcanic crater that drops to depths of 1,900 meters. This magnificent wall features a plethora of life. The sponges and corals provided homes to tons of fireworms, a spotted moray eel, acorn crabs and shrimp galor. The pufferfish was fun to follow for a bit too. The reef got is name from a witch legend in the hills above.
Soufriere Pinnacle is another wall dive located just north of the Village of Soufriere. It is about 300 feet offshore from the church of Soufriere Bay. This dive offered quite a variety, especially when floating on top of the reef. It is aptly referred to as the fish bowl by locals.
Just a few highlights included butterflyfish, moray eels, juvenile spotted drum, a school of goatfish, more lettuce slugs, squid, filefish, a red banded lobster, and sand dollars. With all the broken shells around, I thought for sure we’d find an octopus, but it was stealthy.
Day 3 – Diving Dominica
Dangleben’s Pinnacle is one of a several pinnacles which range from forty to eighty feet deep. We dove this site as well as Dangleben’s North later in the week and it was my dive buddy Julie’s favorite. There was a light current, but nothing major. In fact, all of our dives in Dominica were very easy.
Much to my delight, we found another seahorse! I don’t think I’ve ever seen three seahorses in one dive trip. This one was brown too, but in a slightly better position to capture a photo. That is until the territorial little damsel fish attacked me!
It caught me by surprise the first time and took a small bite out of the knuckle of my index finger. I dropped my camera and yelped through my regulator. After that, I was ready for it, shoeing it away as I tried to focus. I think Julie had more fun watching me fight with the damselfish that she did looking at the seahorse!
Other highlights on this dive were the big hairy crab, vibrant corals, a free swimming moray eel, and an adult spotted drum, which I think we saw on every dive thereafter.
As mentioned above, we dove Champagne Reef South the first day. For our third day of diving, we dove Champagne Reef which is famous for its hot springs and bubbles. We spent our safety stop sticking our hands in the sand to feel the heat and swimming through all the bubbles. It was really cool, and adding to this novelty we spotted another frogfish camouflaged in the coral. I’ve never seen so many frogfish in a week of diving. This one was black.
Also, as soon as we dropped in from the back of the boat, we spotted a free swimming sharptail eel in the seagrass! Additionally, this dive featured a nurse shark, four more eels, lionfish, cool anemone shrimp, and an amazing encounter with a turtle. I loved this dive and would have been willing to dive it again! Check out this my IG Reel for the bubbling reef, the swimming eel, the turtle and more!
Day 4 – Diving Dominica
L’Abym is next to Witches Point and is another wall dive which plunges to the deep blue. The macro life on this dive was prolific. I counted eight shrimp on one sponge. There was probably a fireworm and acorn crab with them too. By the fourth day, however, I stopped snapping so many photos of these little critters. I would have run out of space on my memory card!
As usual, there were more eels and a lettuce slug. I always thought lettuce slugs were green, but in Dominica they have been taking on different colors, including white and this one at L’Abym that was fluorescent blue, purple and pink!
Some other highlights included a brittle star maneuvering for a better home in a crevice of coral, jawfish dancing out of their holes, a hairy crab hidden in a giant sponge, three scorpion fish camouflaged together, and a baby frogfish. This one was tiny and yellow. I would have missed it for sure if it weren’t for our trailing divemaster who literally grabbed my fin to show it to me! What a find!
I don’t spend a whole lot of time shooting photos of fish because I don’t like chasing them around, but every now and then some of the slower moving fish, like the boxfish cooperate. I spotted it just a few minutes after I snapped a photo of a coral tag. I think it is awesome Dominica is tracking the health of its coral reefs. I’ll be emailing my photos!
Just south of Point Guinard is Dangleben North. This reef, which is part of the series of pinnacles we dove the previous day, is named after the land owners in the area. Dangleben’s North starts in about forty feet of water and gradually drops to the west.
It features magnificent coral home to spotted drums, lionfish, filefish, and rock beauties. It also had a coral tag, and we had another turtle encounter. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as long lasting as the first. When Julie and the divemaster signaled turtle underwater, I thought it was closer to him, so I was looking in the distance.
When I tapped my tank to ask him where it was, he pointed at me with his whole hand. I swam right over the top of the giant turtle and didn’t even see it!!! It gracefully departed between Julie and me. I felt so bad for likely scaring it, though it stirred up a peacock flounder that was free swimming much higher from the ocean floor and reef than normal.
A few other critters hanging around our safety stop were a basket star that looks like a great big ball of intertwined parts and a moray eel with sea urchin spines in its head. Ouch!
Day 5 – Diving Dominica
Scott’s Head Drop Off
For our final day of diving with Dive Dominica we went to Scott’s Head Drop Off at the southernmost tip of the island. It’s name comes from years ago when the French and English were fighting for the territory. Long story short, Mr. Scott’s was decapitated and his head was thrown into the ocean.
Scott’s Head Drop Off is another wall dive. Despite it being featured in one of Dominica’s diving brochures, it turned out to be one of my least favorites. Perhaps because it was cloudy and dark. But aside from lots of lobsters (one whose shell laid cracked in half), some jawfish, and two absolutely enormous eels, there wasn’t much to see. I had never seen a chain moray eel, so that was a bonus.
The Quarry (Solomon)
Our final dive with Dive Dominica was at the Quarry which is underneath a pier. Pier dives are always interesting with lots of life. Wrasse were attacking Sergeant Major eggs everywhere. There were at least four eels, another of which was free swimming. I have never seen so many eels on a dive trip…at least twenty. There were several lionfish on this dive and on one sponge, we saw an eel, a flat crab, two baby lionfish, and who knows how many little shrimp!
Fort Young House Reef
While we finished our SCUBA diving with Dive Dominica, Julie and I got a few more dives in on the Fort Young House Reef. Because I am a travel blogger, Fort Young offered us a free guided dive. Being right in town, I didn’t have very high expectations until we met an expat couple from Arizona. They said there was tons to see and they dive the reef once a week!
Our guided dive with Brad was outstanding! The dive started from the pier and went out to the first cruise ship pylon. Then we followed the four pylons to the cruise ship pier and circled back. I doubt if we ever got deeper than forty feet, and we saw loads of marine life. It was so good, we actually dove it on our own the next day! It only costs $6 to dive it yourself.
Though it was a little silty close to shore and didn’t have as many colorful corals and sponges, the variety made up for it. Literally, as soon as we put our head underwater, we were face to face with a spotted moray eel. As we continued out toward the pylon, cutthroat blennies and garden eels poked theirs heads out of the sand. Soon we came across old machinery, including an old gin making pot.
We saw a stingray, an electric ray, purple anemones and all the shrimp and crabs that go with them, a lobster nest, an octopus, sea cucumbers, several trumpetfish, fish eating sergeant major eggs, huge lionfish, and too many eels to count. Multiple were free swimming while others had cleaner shrimp and fish grooming them.
There were also some canons and other things tossed into the sea from the last hurricane. I could go on and on about this dive. It probably warrants its own post like our hike to Boiling Lake as I have so many pictures to share! I have added a few more on my etbtravelphotography portfolio page, and I will be updating my IG account too.
Anyway, if you are staying in Roseau and you want to go diving, I highly recommend the house reef at Fort Young Hotel. We recommended it to the Oregon folks on our dive boat and they saw a school of tarpon and some squid!
Dominica is known as the nature island of the Caribbean for a reason. Both above and below the water there is tons to see. SCUBA Divers will love diving Dominica. ETB