Scuba Diving in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is one of the most ecologically diverse places on the planet. With nine different ecological zones, it is a popular spot for hikers, cave explorers, scuba divers, and those looking to relax on one of its many beautiful beaches. No matter what time of year you plan your visit, you’re sure to experience some amazing diving off of the country’s stunning coastline. The warm climate and good visibility make for excellent diving conditions year-round, and off of every coastline you’ll find vibrant coral reefs full of exotic fish, caverns, and shipwrecks. Continue reading to learn what you should know before you book your trip, and some of the best places to dive on the island.

Scuba Diving

What to Know Beforehand

The Dominican Republic has a pretty stable climate, and the average water temperature ranges from 75°F in the winter to 85°F in the summertime, with visibility from around 20ft at the low end to up to 100ft. These are ideal conditions for exploring the country’s coral reef systems. One thing to keep in mind when planning your trip though is Hurricane season- June through October each year, which could make diving conditions unsafe, or can affect visibility and weather conditions.

Spanish is the primary language spoken in this country, but in many of the tourist areas people also speak English, French, and German. The country has seven different airports, it’s important that you double check the one closest to where you’ll be staying for easier access, but this also means that you can easily fly into any part of the country.

There are many different dive shops, some affiliated with resorts, and others that are independent. Your hotel should be able to make a good recommendation if you are unsure of where to go. User reviews are a great way to get a feel for a dive shop, and the type of experience you’ll have should you book an excursion. If you already have a dive shop in mind, then it may be best to stay close-by to minimize travel time.

Many of the dive shops offer extra training days for divers of all levels, and even certification courses (SSI and PADI) for first-time divers. If you don’t have a diving certification already, and are not interested in getting one, then you can still dive with a number of dive shops after filling out a medical form and liability waiver (as long as you are at least ten years old).

One important point to mention is that in February and March the Humpback whales migrate through the Silver Bank, an area a few miles North-East of Puerto Plato, and visitors can take chartered boat trips to see the whales. You can even have an opportunity to snorkel with them.

Top Six Spots to Scuba Dive

Below you can find a list of our top six recommendations:

1. Puerto Plata and Sousa Bay

There are sixteen different dive sites in Sousa. With different attractions for beginners and more advanced divers it’s a great option if you are staying in the area and don’t want to travel far to other dive sites. In the clear waters of the bay you can find manta rays, parrot fish, reef lobsters, and octopi. For those looking for even more adventure there are a few shipwrecks and caves that offer an exciting challenge.

2. Punta Cana

A popular spot for divers, and non-divers alike, Punta Cana’s coral reefs are home to a network of underwater passages where you may encounter nurse sharks along with the brightly colored fish that call the reef home. This section of reef is the longest in the Dominican Republic, and is shared with Bavaro. Depending on the time of year you visit, you can also hear the amazing sounds of whale songs from the Humpback whales that migrate by the area.

3. La Caleta National Underwater Park

This park is just 12 miles from Santo Domingo, the country’s capital, and is close to the Las American International Airport. It was the first underwater park in the country, and many people consider it to be one of the top five diving locations in the whole Caribbean. A highlight is the El Limon shipwreck, a 69-foot tugboat that was purposefully sunk to increase reef activity in 1998. It is a hot spot to see small, brightly colored fish, as well as conch and porcupine fish. The Hickory is another wreck within the park, and features some incredible sea sponges and corals.

4. Saona Island

This is the largest island in the D.R. and it’s part of a massive National park and protected nature reserve that extends underwater as well. Sandbars make many of the shallow waters around the island a great place to see starfish and stingrays even before you submerge. At their deepest the water in this area is about 40ft deep, with a number of corals and tropical fish. Here you may even see a passing sea turtle as you explore.

5. La Sirena

This underwater cave system is close to the Juan Dolio and Boca Chica areas of the Dominican Republic. A spiral staircase takes you down from the jungle into the underground caverns where you enter the water. It has clear visibility, and on your dive you can expect to see an array of stalactites and stalagmites, and beautiful rock formations. This is the perfect complement to scuba diving the many coral reefs on the coastline.

6. Silver Bank

The space sits within a National Marine Park established in 1986, and then enlarged in 1996. This means that only permit-holders can take diving groups into the park, so make sure to check that the diving shop you decide to use has these documents before booking. Permits limit the number of visitors that can enter this area, so advance booking is recommended to avoid disappointment and to secure your place.

The main draw of diving at Silver Bank is, of course, the opportunity to swim and snorkel with Humpback whales as they gather to mate and calve in the winter. The 70ft shallows and half-moon area of coral provides another incredible dive site that features a few shipwrecks to explore.

Conclusion

As always, be sure to dive with a reputable dive shop, and follow all safety procedures and instructions, and be sure to acquire any permits you may need. Booking in advance will ensure you have a smoothly-functioning experience in your next diving trip to the Dominican Republic. So now, all that’s left to do is enjoy the amazing natural wonders that await you below the surface.

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