Unbiased Scuba Vacation Reviews

Dominica

Dominica should be added to everyones list of islands to visit and dive. It is known as the Nature Island. Dominica is very mountainous and is about 290 square miles.

Dominica has lots of waterfalls, rivers (over 300), hiking, and the worlds second largest boiling lake. It also has plenty locally grown fruits and vegetables. It also has some great diving. Do not expect to see many large fish as these have been eaten. However, the reef is covered with very colorful and large sponges, Basket stars and lots of Inverts. Dominica has great night dives do to the bio-diversity of the inverts.

Whales are known to travel close to Dominica in and around February/ March. You will not scuba dive with them, but you can take a whale watching trip to see these creatures.

Dominica is not a well travelled island. Expect more rustic accommodations and smaller boats with fewer divers.

Dominica – Nature Island Dive 2006

Nature Island Dive  Dominica Scuba Diving Review

Reef Scene Nature Island Dive Dominica

We visited Nature Island Dive in Dominica in 2006

This was our second trip to Dominica and Nature Island Dive. Our first trip was one of our best scuba experiences and we went back for that reason.
In the Caribbean, I rate Nature Island Dive and Dominica as the #1 scuba diving spot. There are other diver operations closer to the city. They are much more crowded. Nature Island Dive will have very few scuba divers per boat. The others have large cattle boats that can hold up to 20 divers each. I have extensive diving experience in the Caribbean. I have dove following islands Belize, Bonaire, Bequia, Cozumel, Dominica, Grand Turk, Little Cayman, Provodencials, St. Croix, St. Martin, St Vincent, Tortola, Tobago Cays, Utila, Virgin Gorda, and the Florida Keys. I have visited some islands where there is little life left on the reef and there are divers extolling the beauty of the diving. I do not do this. If I see a dead reef, I will say the reef is dead. I went to Utila based on others opinions and I found the reef to be almost extinct. Vacation time and money needs to be spent wisely and not wasted on over rated highly damaged reefs.
I am an avid underwater photographer and I am partial to locations with good photography, both wide angle and especially macro. Dominica has fantastic wide angle opportunities. There is not much large fish activities as most of those have been eaten.  But there are plenty of good macro shots as well. The issue on most dives is, do I shoot wide or macro?

Star eyed hermit crab with Nature Island Dive Dominica

We dove with Nature Island divers and stayed at their cottages located in Soufriere. You two main choices for dive operators in Soufriere Scotts head Marine Reserve are Dive Dominica and Nature Island Dive.

If you are want more convenient meals and rooms but do not mind crowded boats, longer boat rides and less experienced dive masters, choose Dive Dominica. My guess is they have 12 to 20 divers per boat.
If you want few divers on a boat and more personal attention from dive masters and MUCH more experienced dive masters, choose Nature Island Divers. I have done many dives where they were only 2 divers!
Dominica is an exceptional dive location. There are some issues. But all islands have issues. I honestly feel Dominica is one of the best dive locations in the caribbean.
The best diving is located in Soufriere Scotts head Marine Reserve. This is as far from the airport as you can get on this island. The taxi ride is about 1 hour and is very scenic and expensive. It is about $60 one way. I would highly recommend NOT renting a car from the airport. The roads are very twisty and very steep. There are very few road signs. Take the taxi.

Whales Nature Island Dive Dominica

If you are staying in the cottages, the taxi will stop off in town at the grocery store so you can pickup provisions. Buy plenty. There is almost no shopping in Soufriere. Meals in Soufriere/Scotts Head are fish or chicken. Knowing this, do not buy fish or chicken at the grocery store.

Dominica

The cottages have 2 Units. The upstairs unit is smaller and is mostly dark wood. It has a larger deck. The downstairs unit is larger and has a nicer layout. It has a small sitting room that could be used as a second bedroom. The kitchen/dining area downstairs is much nicer. However the downstairs unit has a much smaller deck. Regardless of which one you choose, both are quite nice compared to other choices in Soufriere/Scotts Head. Rooms include the use of a Mountain Bike to get around. If you decide to ride the bikes to Scotts Head for dinner, bring a flash light. There are no lights and it is REAL dark and the roads are in very poor shape. The cottages are about 1/3 of a mile from the dive shop.
I dive a housed camera and it is difficult to carry back to the rooms. Simon helped me by picking up the camera at the cottages every morning. Carrying a housed camera 1/3 of mile in the hot tropical sun is not fun! They are very understanding of the needs of photographers and they do their best to help you.
There are few restaurants on this side of the island. The food choice was chicken or fish. No choices on how it was prepared, just chicken or fish. I do not eat fin fish so, I ate a lot of chicken. The Rain Forest Bistro (Andre’s) is a must visit. It is located up the mountain a little at Andre’s House. Reservations must be made a couple of days in advance. Once again, it is chicken or fish, but he is a farmer and grows his own fruits and vegetables. You will get some interesting local fruits and vegetables. He has the best food on that side of the island.
Nature Island Divers use very small boats and they do not put more than 8 divers to a boat and when it is that crowded there will be 2 dive masters. Usually there were only 4 divers to a boat. Some dives were only 2 divers. The dive masters are locals who have been diving the area for quite some time. They know where the critters are and are excellent in pointing them out. Surface intervals are at the shop since the sites are so close. If you are coming to Dominica to dive, then this is where you should go.

Nature Island Dive Boat

The diving is the reason to come here. However, you will not see big things. The marine reserve is located at a fishing village. They have fished this area to death. They still use net fishing. Evidence is everywhere of this. The fishermen will throw stones into the water to scare the fish into the nets. Coral grows on stone never under it. There were a couple of sites where the fishermen have destroyed the coral with the stones. The stones where on top of the coral. The only way for this to happen is from the fishermen. On one dive (I was not on this one) the fishermen throw out the nets above divers and they pelted the divers with stones. The fishermen are not allowed to fish at the dive sites, but it is hard to argue with poor hungry people.
The good news is that there is a huge amount of large colorful sponges with colorful crinoids surrounding it. The colors are fantastic. It is easy to shoot 100 wide angle photos on one dive. I have never seen so many crinoids anywhere.

Reef Scene Nature Island Dive Dominica

Reef Scene Nature Island Dive Dominica

Underwater Scene with Nature Island Dive Dominica

Underwater Scene with Nature Island Dive Dominica

Underwater Scene with Nature Island Dive Dominica

Large Sponge Underwater with Nature Island Dive Dominica

For those who are far sighted and do not like hunting for macro life there are many very scenic sites with beautiful panoramic views. Most of these sites are around Scotts Head Pinnacle. There is some coral bleaching. The majority of the Caribbean experienced a bleaching event in 2005 and Dominica was effected as well. About 50 % of the Brain Coral is bleached and it does not look like it will recover well. Overall color of the area is excellent due to the amount of sponges present.
The area is also very good for Macro Photography. Seahorses, leech head sea slugs, lettuce sea slugs, Miniature Melo, squat Anemone Shrimp, Spotted Cleaner Shrimp, Mantis Shrimp, Bumble Bee Shrimp, Crinoid Shrimp, Sea Whip Shrimp, Pederson Cleaner shrimp, Regal Slipper Lobster, Stareye Hermits, Neck Crabs and quite a few things that I could not find in any book!

Slipper Lobster with Nature Island Dive Dominica

Underwater Scene with Nature Island Dive Dominica

Crinoid Shrimp on Night Dive with Nature Island Dive Dominica

Eel on night dive with Nature Island Dive Dominica

Bobbit Worm with Nature Island Dive

Underwater Scene with Nature Island Dive Dominica

Sponge Crab at Night with Nature Island Dive

If you like muck dives, dive the sandy area around the site champagne.
We did a dive with dive master Oscar, that lasted 1 hour and 55 minutes in the champagne area. I was amazed at some of the life we found. It is an incredible dive if you go slow enough and look! Champagne it self is not overly interesting, the grassy area around it is! Champagne is a active volcanic site where a thermal vent warms the water and there are bubbles coming up from the bottom thus champagne. Nice spot to end a night dive to warm up.
We saw a few turtles, juvenile Drum fish, Sea Horses, Honeycomb Moray, Chain Moray, Sharp Tail Eel, Spotted Spoon Nose Eel, Juvenile French Angel Fish, Flying Gurnard, and other more common Caribbean Fish. We did not see any Frog Fish on this trip. The dive masters have not been able to find them recently. We spent one day with Dive Dominica doing a whale watching trip. We saw at least 6 different whales on the surface from a distance of 50 to 100 feet.

Underwater Scene with Nature Island Dive Dominica

Seahorse with Nature Island Dive Dominica

Angelfish with Nature Island Dive Dominica

Overall I rate Nature Island Divers and Dominica as the one of the top destinations in the Caribbean. The amount of less common sealife and the great colors.
The excellent service from the dive masters at Nature Island Dive makes the trip quite worthwhile.