Dominica is highly regarded as a diving destination and has been featured in most diving magazines as ‘undiscovered’. Features include wall dives, drop-offs, reefs, hot, freshwater springs under the sea, sponges, black coral, pinnacles and wrecks, all in unpolluted water. Due to steep drops the sediment falls away and visibility is excellent, at up to 30 m depending on the weather. Many drop-offs are close to the beaches but access is poor & boats are essential.
There is a marine park conservation area in Toucari Bay and part of Douglas Bay, north of the Cabrits, but the most popular scuba sites are south of Roseau, at Pointe Guignard, Soufrière Bay and Scotts Head. An unusual site is Champagne, with underwater hot springs where you swim through bubbles, fascinating for a night dive, also good for snorkelling, lots of life here. This area in the southeast, Soufrière-Scotts Head, is now a marine park without moorings so that all diving is drift diving and boats pick up divers where they surface. Areas may be designated for diving and other areas for fishing. Along the south and southeast coast there are more dive sites but because of the Atlantic currents these are for experienced, adventurous divers only. Note that the taking of conch, coral, lobster, sponge, turtle eggs et cetera is forbidden and you may not put down anchor in coral and on reefs; use the designated moorings. Snorkelling is good in the same general areas as diving, including Douglas Bay and the Scott’s Head/Soufrière Bay Marine Reserve.
Whale watching is extremely popular, although the success rate is relatively low. The World Wildlife Fund and many marine conservation groups have used Dominica as a base for documentaries and conferences, so much is known about the local population. It appears that female whales and their calves are in the Caribbean waters for much of the year, with only the mature males leaving the area to feed for any length of time. If your trip is successful, you could be treated to the sight of mothers and their young swimming close to the boat, or young males making enormous jumps before diving below the waves.
Dolphin are abundant too, particularly in the Soufrière Bay area and even if you miss the whales your boat is accompanied by a school of playful dolphin. Several different types of whales have been spotted not far from the west shore where the deep, calm waters are ideal for these mammals. Sperm whales are regularly seen, especially during the winter months, as are large numbers of spinner and spotted dolphins. You can also sometimes see pilot whales, pseudorcas, pygmy sperm whales, bottlenose dolphins, Risso’s dolphins and melon-headed whales. Whale watching trips can be arranged with the Anchorage Hotel (Thursday, Sunday 1400-1800), Dive Dominica (Wednesday, Sunday 1400), Rainbow Sportfishing or Game Fishing Dominica and cost US$40-50 per person.
Scuba diving is permitted only through one of the island’s registered dive operators or with written permission from the Fisheries Division. Single-tank dives are from US$42 and two-tank dives are from US$63. Snorkelling trips are around US$26, particularly recommended for the Champagne area. Dive Dominica Ltd, at the Castle Comfort Lodge (PO Box 2253, Roseau, T4482188, F4486088, www.divedominica.com), offers full diving and accommodation packages, courses, single or multiple day dives, night dives and equipment rental. Owned by Derek Perryman, this company is one of the most friendly and experienced operations, recommended for its professional service.
Anchorage Dive Centre (T4482638, F4485680, anch...@cwdom.dm, US$65 two-tank dive includes weights and belt) is based at the Anchorage Hotel, Castle Comfort, with a sister operation at the Portsmouth Beach Hotel. This is another long established operation with a good reputation, owned by Andrew Armour.
Other dive companies are Dive Castaways at the Castaways Beach Hotel (T4496244, F4496246), US$40 one dive, US$65 for two-tank dive, which covers the northern dive sites; Cabrits Dive Centre, who operate from Picard Estate, Portsmouth, T4453010, F4453011, cabr...@cwdom.dm A PADI five-star dive centre diving and snorkelling in the less-visited north of the island; East Carib Dive at Salisbury (T4996575, F4496603) is based at the Lauro Club, contact Gunther Glatz; and Nature Island Dive at Soufrière (T4498181, F4498182, also kayaking and mountain biking), run by a team of divers from around the world, courses on the bayside recommended. A two-tank dive is US$70, snorkelling trip US$26, equipment rental US$16. Ask them about accommodation and dive packages, they have a bayside wooden cottage on stilts with porch for up to four divers, Gallette. Due to open soon is Anse-à-Liane Lodge & Dive Centre at Colihaut, T4466652, F4466651, offering PADI and BSAC courses, accommodation, restaurant and excursions.