Dive In Our Nature: Five Fabulous Ocean Activities in Dominica

May 03, 2021

From awesome scuba diving to the wonders of whale and dolphin encounters, Dominica’s aqua adventures are captivating.

As you approach from either air or sea, Dominica speaks of discovery and adventure. The indigenous Kalinago named it Waitukubuli, which means ‘tall is her body’, in homage to the dense cluster of forest-covered volcanic peaks that fill its interior. But they could easily have called it ‘deep are her seas’, for Dominica’s abyssal waters and coral reef formations reflect the breathtaking nature of its land.

Dominica’s natural attributes make this island unique, but it’s also the intimate and personal way you can experience them that makes it extra special. There are no crowds—it's just you, the parrots, and the parrotfish, depending on your leaning towards land or water. And for every scenic hiking trail, there’s a fabulous dive site. The sea is a mirror of the land, and here are some great ways to experience and enjoy both its vibrant shallows and its dramatic deeps.

Picture-Perfect Scuba Diving in the Caribbean

Small groups, intimate and personal diving, no fins in your face—the beauty of scuba diving in Dominica is not spoiled by crowded boats and too many people in the water all at the same time. In Dominica, you feel like you have the reefs all to yourself. And what spectacular reefs they are!

There is great scuba diving all along the west coast of Dominica. All diving is done in the company of experienced and professionally qualified dive shop staff, and usually from a boat.

Because of Dominica’s volcanic origins, shallow coral reef formations tend to end abruptly with deep, dramatic drop-offs and tall pinnacles, reflecting the mountainous, forest-covered topography of the land. Much of the scuba diving in Dominica therefore involves steep walls that are crammed full of diverse marine life, all competing for space on near vertical coral reef formations. Because of the deep water, there is little turbidity and so visibility is always excellent.

Hard and soft corals adorn these formations along with tube, vase, and giant barrel sponges, sea fans, whips, and anemones. These pristine reefs are alive with fish and other interesting marine creatures. You will see trumpetfish, parrotfish, trunkfish, squirrelfish, jawfish, spotted drum, moray and sharptail eels, longlure frogfish, seahorses, banded shrimp, and so much more.

Whether you are a novice, an infrequent scuba diver, an underwater photographer, or a seasoned veteran of the deep, you will find Dominica’s dive sites varied and fascinating. Learn more about Diving and Snorkeling in Dominica here.

Beautiful Snorkelling in Caribbean Reefs

Dominica’s inshore reefs make for great snorkelling, with so much observable life in the shallows as well as along the margins of deep drop-offs.

The sheltered bays and peninsulas of the west coast offer the most accessible snorkelling opportunities. Toucari Bay and the calm waters around the Cabrits National Park are great locations in the north. In the south, the Soufriere Scotts Head Marine Reserve has several superb snorkelling spots.

The Cachacrou isthmus has beautiful coral reefs and steep drop offs. You are likely to encounter large barracuda patrolling their patch of reef, and there’s always a good chance of spotting a passing eagle ray or a large hawksbill turtle.

Speaking of turtles, there’s a designated turtle nursery on the north side of Soufriere Bay. You will find a combination of shallow reefs, pinnacles, and abyssal drop-offs here – in fact one area is actually called L’Abym, meaning The Abys. The cliff wall on the northern edge of L’Abym just goes straight down into the deep.

The most well known and frequently visited snorkelling site in the marine reserve is without doubt Champagne Reef. Here, in the shallows, you can snorkel in the curtains of bubbles that escape from active volcanic fumaroles on the seabed. The fumaroles themselves are hot but the gas bubbles are cooled by the sea as they fizz out of the earth and rise to the surface. It’s an incredible sight.

Whale and Dolphin Watching

Dominica has a population of about 70,000 people and a couple of dozen sperm whales. They are here all the time, living and breeding in the island’s deep coastal waters. Some of them even have names.

Take a whale-watching trip from a West Coast dive centre and pay them a visit. With a sighting success rate of about 85% per trip, the odds are stacked in your favour that you are going to encounter these amazing creatures. Experienced crews use echo locators to listen to whale chatter from the deep. This enables them to figure out where the whales are, in which direction they are moving, and then predict where they are likely to surface—usually after around an hour of breath-holding.

Breeching is spectacular. Whales often break the surface in dramatic fashion, launching themselves right out of the water. On the surface, whales catch their breath – a chance for us to watch them – until they are ready to submerge again. Their bodies hunch over and then they dive, nose first, tail fin last, out of sight again.

Whale watching trips usually encounter pods of dolphins – also very commonly sighted off Dominica’s coast. Spinner and bottlenose dolphins are the most common and pods can be huge. 

Ideal Freediving Conditions in Dominica

There’s a whisper going around the international freediving world about a new and fabulous place to practice the sport: Soufriere Bay, Dominica.

If you are looking for a location where the water is deep, but within close proximity to the shore, Dominica fits the bill. Soufriere Bay was formed when a huge volcano blew its top thousands of years ago and the result is a stunning crater that is half above the water and half below. Easily as deep as it is wide, whales have even been seen in the bay and it’s no wonder the combination of stunning underwater topography and a plethora of marine life resulted in the formation of the island’s premier marine reserve.

In recent years, freedivers discovered the bay and have been organising training and competitions here. The bay has a fixed freediving platform and is now attracting some of the top names in the sport. Watch this space – freediving in Dominica is about to take off. For more information on free diving in Dominica visit Blue Element Freediving.

Sportfishing Options in Dominica

A watersport that is also in its infancy in Dominica, sportfishing has two dimensions. You can either opt for a full- or half-day out on the open ocean in a fully equipped sportfishing boat with fighting chair and outriggers, hunting for wahoo, mahi-mahi, tuna, and marlin, or you could choose to do some inshore hand-lining in a small wooden boat, or even a Kalinago canoe, with a local fisherman. Both are different, both are great fun. Learn more about sportfishing in Dominica here.

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