Dramatic Seascapes and Small Treasures
Known as the nature island, Dominica is a land of rugged beauty. Ditto for what lies below, where the island's soaring peaks and deep valleys are mirrored in dramatic drop offs, sheer walls and submarine canyons. Volcanic origins are evident in a seascape riddled with pinnacles, swim-throughs and bubbling fumaroles, while the nation's commitment to conservation is evident in the wealth of marine life and healthy hard and soft corals that thrive within a trio of marine reserves. Small treasures from seahorses and frogfish to a plethora of invertebrates await the keen-eyed diver and the avid macro photographer. Calm waters are inviting to all, but excitement is just offshore where the big animals swim.
- Best for: Macro photographers, underwater naturalists, explorers and whale watchers
- Best season to visit: Year round, with some sites having best visibility during the dry season, January to April
- Weather: Trade winds and forests keep temperatures mild throughout the year. Wintertime lows run in the mid 70s, while summer rarely sees daytime temperatures above the mid 80s
About Diving in Dominica
All diving takes place in a trio of marine reserves located along the island's western shore, which is sheltered from prevailing trade winds and swell. Dives begin close to shore on a narrow coastal shelf, or on nearby pinnacles. Dramatic topographies are common, while some sites offer more gradual slopes and shallow reefs. Coral cover and fish life benefit from protection and remain among the healthiest in the Caribbean. Water temperatures range from the high 70s to mid 80s.
Diving in Dominica Tips
Brush up on your buoyancy and trim skills to comply with the marine parks' no-touch policies. Take in the big views then move in for a closer look at crevices, holes and ledges. Schedule a night dive for more macro life.
Best Places to Dive in Dominica
Pinnacles such as Scotts Head, Dangleben's and Soufriere provide dramatic backdrops for multi-level dives. Crater's Edge and Point Break are among the island's fishiest sites. The geothermal sands at Pointe Ronde or Hot Sophia and the escaping gas bubbles at Champagne Reef are evidence of the island's volcanic origins. When weather permits, the Suburbs and Village provide big sponges and larger fish.
What to Pack for Diving in Dominica
If you plan to hunt for macro life, pack a fish ID book, a small light to illuminate crevices and a muck stick to use as a stabilizing anchor when moving in for a closer look or a photo.
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Diving in Dominica
The underwater landscape of Dominica is the most dramatic and varied in the Caribbean. It is also among the healthiest. The island is ringed by a narrow coastal shelf of volcanic rock that holds a high density of hard and soft corals. Most dive sites are within 300 yards of shore, with the exception of the underwater sea mounts and pinnacles that rise from middle depths slightly farther from land. Other unique features of the seascape include fields of massive boulders, craters, canyons and active volcanic fumaroles. All diving takes place on the calmer Caribbean side of the island within one of three marine reserves: The Cabrits National Park Marine Section on the island's northwestern coast, the north, the Salisbury Marine Reserve in Dominica's central west, and the Soufriere Scotts Head Marine Reserve to the southwest. The south offers the most dramatic profiles and is the most popular, though diver traffic is light at all areas as compared to many other Caribbean destinations. Some sites receive sediment from river runoff, particularly during the rainy season, but because deep ocean water runs close to shore, disruptions in visibility are usually short lived, and waters clear quickly. The upside of the rain is a rich flow of nutrients that support thriving populations of invertebrates. Sites are rich in sponge and soft coral growths, and home to varied populations of crabs, shrimps and crinoids. Reefs also hold a range of small tropicals, along with numerous parrotfish and, thanks to protected status, a population of mature grouper. One of the Dominica's best-known sites lies at the southern tip of the island. Divers begin the exploration of Scotts Head Pinnacle with a swim through the rock formations of Swiss Cheese, where the swim-through at Soldierfish Cave is packed with a living curtain of soldier fish and grunts. The actual pinnacle offers an even more dramatic swim-through that leads to the steep flank of a volcanic crater. The nearby Scott’s Head Drop Off presents an intensely colorful landscape of pink and azure vase sponges, orange icing sponges, yellow tube sponges, and green rope sponges, with many small nooks and crannies that hide lobster, crabs, and many different kinds of cleaner shrimp. Another famous dive site off the southern coast is Champagne Reef, so named for the gas bubbles that rise from underwater hot springs that sit below the corals. With minimal currents and shallow depths, this is an ideal site for divers of all experience levels. It is one of the best places on the island to find frogfish, seahorses and flying gurnards, and an excellent night dive that yields squid, octopus, large crabs and lobster. Steep-side pinnacles are a common feature of many south coast sites, though there are also a number of shallower sites that offer gentler topographies. One of the fishiest sites in the region is Crater's Edge, where a volcanic ridge attracts schools of blackjack, tuna, snapper, Creole wrasse, and blue chromis. Mid-island sites are gaining increasing recognition for healthy reefs and some of the Caribbean's best muck diving. The Canfield Tug Wreck adds variety to a seascape, and Rena's Reef offers an explosion of hard and soft corals in lavender, violet, orange and yellow. Sites such as Castaway Reef and Rodney's Rock provide hours of exploration for small treasures and elusive finds such as leaf fish, bumblebee shrimp, shortnose batfish with their unicorn-like projections and speckled band tail puffers. Another unique feature found at some dives sites are fumaroles—submerged volcanic vents that heat the sea floor. At Hot Sophia and Point Ronde, divers will find sand bottoms that are hot to the touch. Dive sites along Dominica's northwest coast are known for prolific growths of feather stars and sponges. The site known as Shark's Mouth didn't actually earn its name for these apex predators, but instead for the thick growths of basket sponges that are said to give the slope the appearance of a toothy shark jaw. At the island's far northern point, sites such as Point Break are more exposed to blue water and currents, and hold larger fish in greater numbers.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
A valid passport is required with at least 1 blank page for entry stamp. No visa is required for stays of less than 6 months with proof of onward or return ticket. See the entry/exit requirements here.
Vaccinations are not required for entering the Caribbean if you’re coming from the U.S. Before traveling check the CDC here.
Culture and Customs
Dominica is known as "the Nature Island" for good reason. It is a land of unspoiled rainforests, volcanic hot springs, wild rivers and waterfalls. More than 60 percent of the island is covered in lush tropical vegetation and protected within three national parks, including the Morne Trois Piton National Park, which has been named a World Heritage Site. The mountainous landscape rises to almost 5,000 feet above sea level to harvest moisture from passing trade winds. Water is one of the island's most abundant natural resources, and more than 350 rivers gush out of the mountains to create dramatic gorges and spectacular waterfalls that spill into emerald pools. Among the most popular are Middleham, Victoria, Trafalgar and Sari Sari Falls. This landscape creates a mecca for the adventure traveler. Tours and activities range from kayaking, bird watching and hiking to jeep/ATV safaris and mountain bike treks. For the rugged hiker, there is the cross-island Waitukubuli Trail, or the climb to Boiling Lake, one of the world’s largest volcanically-active bodies of fresh water. With a glimpse of pre-Colombian culture, a visit to Carib Indian Territory provides a chance to interact with the largest remaining population of indigenous people in the Caribbean. For a take on the island's current culture, plan a visit during Carnival season, when calypso crooners and dance troops take to the streets. Dominica has earned a reputation as the whale watching capital of the Caribbean. Sperm whales can be seen in the waters of Dominica through the year, but prime viewing months are between November to March, when mothers arrive to nurse their calves. Other marine mammals often seen in the same area include pilot, pygmy, and false killer whales, plus spinner, spotted and bottlenose dolphin.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
The island operates on 220/240 volts - 50 cycles, so both adapters and transformers are necessary for U.S. made appliances. However, many hotels have dual 220/110 voltage, with 110V US style outlets in the room, along with 110 outlets available in the dive shops for camera equipment. Approximately 70% of Dominica’s electric power supply is hydro generated. Diesel generators provide the remainder.
The island area code for Dominica is 767. There are 3 mobile service providers on the island, check with your local provider to see what plans are available or roaming charges will apply. Many hotels offer WiFi.
Tap water is safe to drink, if you prefer bottled water, it is available for purchase.
Language & Currency
English is the official language though much of the local population speaks Creole (French based Patois). The Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$ or XCD) is the currency used locally. Check the current exchange rate here. United States Dollars, British Pounds and the Euro are accepted. ATMs are available and dispense EC Dollars. Most vendors will accept foreign currency and give your change in local currency. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Dominica is on Atlantic Standard Time and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Dominica is 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).
Location, Size and Population
Dominica is a sovereign island country that is part of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. It is located SSE of Guadeloupe Islands and Northwest of Martinique. Dominica is 289 square miles, roughly 29 miles long and 16 miles wide at it's widest point.
Dominica's population is 73,016 (2016).