Scuba diving inDominica
- Enjoy a different Caribbean experience with a focus on nature
- Hike the longest walking trail in the Caribbean
- Dominica’s Indian River featured in Pirates of the Caribbean
- Dive shallow coral gardens and deep drop-offs close to shore
Dominica is one of the travel industry’s best-kept secrets, delivering a very different Caribbean experience. With far fewer sprawling resorts and crowds, this enchanting island offers an insight into a bygone era, one where authentic island lifestyles still prevail and luxury remains understated. So forget extravagant day spas and indulgent butler service, because outdoor adventure takes centre stage thanks to the island’s tempting range of activities both above and below the water. From trekking volcanic peaks and bathing beneath waterfalls, to scuba diving, snorkelling and whale watching, Dominica is an adventurous traveller’s dream-come-true.
Diving in Dominica
Schooling reef fishYear round
Macro CreaturesYear round
Plentiful reef lifeYear round
Dominica’s volcanic mountainous landscape is mirrored below the water, with shallow coral reef formations falling abruptly into the depths. Together, the volcanic substrate and proximity to deep water have created the ideal environment for marine life to flourish. Reefs here are thick with hard and soft corals, sponges, crinoids, sea fans, whips and black coral bushes. Amongst this carpet of coral, divers can find macro marine life such as longlure frogfish, seahorses, jawfish, and trumpetfish, while tuna and jacks dominate the deeper waters.
Scuba diving in Dominica takes place on the island’s western coast, with the vast majority of sites spread over three distinct areas – Cabrits Marine Reserve in the north, the Soufriere-Scotts Head Marine Reserve in the south, and the central town of Salisbury. Centred around the Cabrits National Park peninsula, Dominica’s northern marine park has several must-visit sites, including Five Finger Rock and Point Break. Another favourite here, Toucari Caves, is often considered the most photogenic of all Dominica’s dive sites, with intricate rock formations bejewelled with colourful corals. Further south around the town of Salisbury, lies an accessible dive site known as Rina’s Hole along with the deeper neighbouring site of Whale Shark Reef, and several more. While you won’t spot any whale sharks, the marine life here is still varied and plentiful, providing plenty of interest during dives.
Many of Dominica’s most renowned sites are located around the southern Soufriere-Scotts Head Marine Reserve. This underwater volcanic crater plays host to some of the more adventurous dives including Dangleben’s Pinnacles, Scotts Head Drop-off, The Village, and Crater’s Edge. These sites allow divers to reach slightly greater depths and a few even offer enough current for an exciting drift. Point Guignard and Swiss Cheese are appreciated for their picturesque swim-throughs while La Sorcière starts shallow but soon plummets to beyond 500-metres. There are also plenty of dives here for less experienced visitors. Champagne Reef is one of the island’s few shore dives and is accessible to all, making it one of the most well-known sites in Dominica. Here, volcanic gases bubble through small fissures in the reef, creating a feeling similar to diving in a glass of champagne. Offering easy access to deep waters so close to shore, the Soufriere-Scotts Head Marine Reserve is also popular among freedivers.
Whale watching in Dominica
Dominica’s deep coastal waters are host to at least six different cetacean species on a regular basis, with the possibility of spotting over a dozen more if you’re lucky. But, Dominica’s biggest attraction is its resident population of sperm whales, making it the only country in the world where sperm whales can be sighted year-round – although November through March is the best time, as the whales are closest to shore. While whale watching tours are common, only a very small selection of operators are permitted to offer in-water experiences.
Reef, wall, pinnacle, macro
Beginner to Advanced
5 - 40m
15 - 30m
26 - 30°C
- It is not possible to scuba dive with sperm whales, though a select number of operators are permitted to offer swimming or snorkelling encounters.
- Dominica’s world-class hiking trails are more accessible outside of the rainy season.
- Cars drive on the left side of the road in Dominica and many of the roads are unpaved.
Dominica is located within the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, between Guadeloupe and Martinique. Geologically speaking, the island is relatively young compared to others in the region and is still actively evolving. Due to its difficult terrain and fierce resistance by the indigenous Kalinago people, Dominica was also the last Caribbean island to be captured and colonised by Europeans. Today, the prolonged power struggles endured by Dominica are evident in everyday life and culture – from diverse place names and ruined fortresses to the semi-autonomous Kalinago Territory in the island’s northeast.
Affectionately known as the Nature Island, Dominica is easily one of the least developed islands in the Caribbean and has become known for its enticing natural beauty. With few exclusive hotel chains and private beaches, visitors are drawn here in search of outdoor exploration as opposed to beachfront butler service. With eight active volcanoes, Dominica is dominated by a cluster of jungle-covered peaks. Between the mountains and beneath the canopy, this rugged area offers rivers, waterfalls, geothermal lakes, and the Caribbean’s only long-distance hiking trail, spanning almost 200-kilometres from north to south.
There are two airports on the island of Dominica – Douglas-Charles Airport and Canefield Airport. As the larger of the two, most visitors will arrive through Douglas-Charles. That said, both airports are too small to accommodate bigger aircraft and only receive direct flights from surrounding Caribbean Islands and Miami in the United States. Popular nearby airports to transfer through are Antigua, Barbados, Martinique, and Guadeloupe. It is also possible to reach Dominica by boat from neighbouring islands such as Martinique and Guadeloupe, taking a few hours to reach the capital city of Roseau.
Dominica has a reasonably reliable public minibus system, though taxis and private car rentals are the preferred way for visitors to get around.
Where to stay
The sprawling resort complexes and exclusive hotel chains that are so common elsewhere in the Caribbean are noticeably absent on the island of Dominica. But it’s still possible to find plenty of world-class accommodation. Visitors can choose from a variety of high-end boutique villas, modest resorts, and simple cottages – each offering their own charm and amenities. And, many cater to specific preferences, such as hiking, diving, and ecotourism, or relaxation and restoration.
Dominica’s east coast is a little wilder than the west, though secluded hotels and guesthouses can still be found. The east coast is also home to the semi-autonomous Kalinago Territory, where descendants of Dominica’s indigenous Amerindian people still live and practise traditional crafts. Dedicated divers will likely want to base themselves on the island’s west coast, where all of the sites are situated. Southern Dominica is a particularly scenic part of the island and allows easy access to the Soufriere-Scotts Head Marine Reserve in the southwest.
The capital city of Roseau is well worth exploring and is a popular starting point for whale watching tours as well as trips to the Morne Trois Pitons National Park. If all-inclusive luxury is a must, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the northern Portsmouth area, within a secluded ultra-luxury resort situated beside the Cabrits National Park.
The tropical Caribbean climate means that Dominica offers reasonable scuba diving all year round. But, there are some seasonal weather fluctuations that are worth bearing in mind.
As with many tropical destinations, the two main seasons are dictated by the amount of rain. In Dominica, the high season runs from December through April, with average temperatures of around 26-27°C on land and in the water. The driest weather can be expected between February and April, while the wet season runs from June to around November, bringing a higher chance of downpours, although these months are still suitable for diving. Temperatures also peak during the wet season, reaching over 30°C on land and 29°C in the water. Keep in mind that hurricanes are possible between June and November, with the highest chances between July and September.
Dominica’s beautiful bird life, including the endemic parrots, are easier to spot in the dry season, while March to September is the best period to encounter leatherback turtles. Sperm whales can be seen year-round, but venture closer to shore between November and March.
Dominica’s western coast is home to the Cabrits Marine Reserve and the Soufriere-Scotts Head Marine Reserve, with many of the best dive sites found in these areas. The small island nation has also set a global precedent by recently establishing the world's first Sperm Whale Reserve. There are many more protected areas to explore on land, including the Cabrits National Park, Morne Diablotin National Park, and the UNESCO World Heritage Morne Trois Pitons National Park.