The Diversity Of The Dominican Republic

David Jones is rather taken by the broad range of dive sites in this Caribbean giant, including colourful reefs, interesting wrecks and cave dives accessed via most unusual ways.

If you have never been to the Dominican Republic, you have probably never had a reason to look at it on a map. When you do, the first thing that strikes you is the size of the place. Second only to Cuba in terms of surface area, this tropical paradise dwarfs the majority of the islands that we normally associate with the Caribbean.

Not surprisingly, it is geographically diverse; it has the highest mountain and the largest lake in the Caribbean, as well as lush rain-forests and arid semi-desert plains. So with the Atlantic to the north and east, and the Caribbean Sea to the south, I snapped up the opportunity to see what the most-visited island in the Caribbean had to offer under the water as well as above it.

My journey began after a direct flight from London with British Airways. I stayed at the Catalonia Resort in Bayahibe for the duration. One great thing about this country is there is no shortage of fantastic all-inclusive hotels.

Photographs by David Jones
Photographs by David Jones

Having landed in Punta Cana, mine was only an hour’s drive and I was on the beach – I do love convenience. Even more convenient was my dive company for the week, Pro Dive International Dominican Republic (, were based at the resort!

I had done a bit of research, but I didn’t really know what to expect, so my brief to the dive company was simple – show me the underwater diversity of the Dominican Republic. With the challenge delivered, my first dive was to Parque, one of a couple of what can best be described as underwater museums, just off the beach.

Old cannons and muskets are scattered on the shallow seabed, but these 17th Century artefacts were not lost there. They had been taken there by the department of culture, along with explanatory plaques, providing points of interest for divers. On a second site, less than two minutes boat journey from the resort, another a half dozen cannons and some old anchors lay in 6m of water among the coral.  While I was taking a couple of photos, some open water diver students descended with their instructor. What a wonderful place to begin your underwater journey, kneeling among history and nature.

Photographs by David Jones
Photographs by David Jones

Being September, it was the middle of the rainy season, so not surprisingly the visibility was not exceptional, but it was okay. First observations were that the coral was healthy, but like the majority of the Caribbean, many of the large predatory species of fish are noticeably absent on the inshore reefs.

I spent some time exploring the macro life in these shallow dive sites and was pleasantly surprised. A number of species of shrimps and crabs hide among the coral heads and anemones and, if you take the time to look, there is plenty to see, so if macro is your thing, you will enjoy it. What was very encouraging is a local coral garden initiative between all of the dive centres along the coast and Fundacion Tropigas.

There are hundreds of reef balls just off the shore and active ‘farming’ of the most-resilient species in coral nurseries is supported by the dive centres. The nursery in Bayahibe is the fifth to be established and it really bodes well for the future of the reefs and diving in Dominican Republic.

My excitement at seeing cannons must have given away my interest in wreck diving and the dive centre were quick to oblige. First up was the wreck of the St George. Interestingly, it was not originally called the St George, but the M/V Norbrae, a 73-metre-long cargo vessel built in Scotland in 1962. Abandoned in San to Domingo, she was eventually towed to Bay ahibe and sunk as an artificial reef in 1999. Advertisements

Photographs by David Jones
Photographs by David Jones

She was renamed the St George after the 1998 hurricane of the same name that hit the island. In 2008, Hurricane Hanna broke the ship just forward of the superstructure and she slid further down the reef. This is a really good wreck dive that offers plenty of exploration inside and out. There is plenty of life on it. The stern now lies at 34m and the bow is beyond recreational depths, but there is plenty to see for reasonably experienced divers and it is certainly worth a couple of visits.