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Learning to Dive on Dominica

As yachts slowly cruise into the blue crystal waters of Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica to an anchorage or mooring, the people on board can’t help but wonder what lies beneath the surface.  What happens to the rugged mountainous slopes of the twin peaks of the Cabrits National Park below the calm waters of the bay?

Certified divers on charter yachts can just ask the captain to pick up the VHF and radio the local dive operator to set up a rendezvous double tank dive in these pristine waters.

But what if you have never tried diving before? The first option is a Discovery Dive, a half day experience program which allows you to try out diving without going through a full certification process. 

A second possibility is waiting with a little advance planning if you already know that you want to “dive in” to diving, even if you are traveling from island to island.

PADI (the Professional Association of Dive Instructors), the world’s leading dive certification agency, offers two ways in which you can complete your open water certification in a short period of time—
either through the PADI elearning program (two days) or the PADI referral program (two morning dives). 

With the PADI elearning program, you review all your theory on line at home before heading for your vacation; upon arrival you need to do your skills development and open water dives.  With the PADI referral program, you would complete the theory and your skill development dives with a local PADI dive centre and then just do your four open water dives when you arrive at your destination. 

Not staying more than one day at any location?  No problem.  With the PADI referral program, you can do two of your open water dives on one island and finish the course at the next!  The cost of a Discovery Dive on Dominica is USD 95 for a one tank dive or USD 140 for two dives.  The price of the open water course is from USD 275 – USD 350 depending on the certification option chosen.

Nervous about diving?  No need.  The reef of the Cabrits National Park gradually descends down from shallow moorings which makes diving in the North perfect for new divers while still allowing them to enjoy a delightful mixture of Caribbean marine life—including balloon fish, wrasse, cero, turtles, soldier fish, schooling chromis, spotted drums, angel fish, sand eels (as well as spotted, goldentail and sharptail eels), rays, turtles and spider crabs—and the incredible pristine reef for which Dominica is renown. 

Recommended dive spots for the new diver include Douglas Bay Point, a fascinating group of dive sites mixing pristine sloping reef with large boulders to swim around, under and over; Toucari Caves, a fascinating dive with some of the best bio-diversity in the Caribbean and the high point of a beautiful coral archway to search out hidden crabs and lobsters; Sunshine Reef, like swimming through a sun-filled aquarium; and Pole to Pole, a favourite place to spot your first seahorse.

Note that all diving in Dominica must be through a Registered Dive Operator and yachts, dinghies and yacht tenders are not allowed to anchor in the park or use the dive site mooring buoys.

Once you have finished your leisurely dive, there is still plenty of daylight to go topside for lunch at one of the fabulous waterside restaurants.  You can visit the Cabrits National Park, home to the historic, 18th Century Fort Shirley, or enjoy a slow afternoon row up the Indian River.

Prince Rupert Bay is a historic anchorage in the North of Dominica in the town of Portsmouth.  Prince Rupert is protected on the North side by the Cabrits and to the East by Morne Diablotin and Morne Espagnol in the South. 

This is a perfect natural harbour for yachts to anchor but recently the European Union have also funded 30 moorings for the area to help protect the sea bed.  The choice of whether to drop anchor or moor is optional.  The price of the mooring is USD 10 per night. 

Within Prince Rupert Bay there are numerous very experienced, polite and helpful boat boys who can assist you with mooring your boat, processing customs/immigration documents, accessing local services, or just shuttling you into the shore.  Many of these service providers also have their own buses and can also assist you with tours of the island.  If you have not already contacted a local dive operator, they can also help arrange diving for you. 

Helen Clarke-Hepp and her husband Pete are owners of Cabrits Dive Centre located in Portsmouth, Dominica: Tel: 767 445 3010, VHF Channel 16, Email: cabritsdive@yahoo.comwww.cabritsdive.com

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