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Dive Review of Dive Dominica/Papillote Wilderness Retreat in
Dominica/southwest

Dive Dominica/Papillote Wilderness Retreat, Nov, 2002,

by Laurie Gneiding, NJ, USA . Report 305.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving NJ, RI, MA, ME, Guadeloupe, Cancun, Bonaire, Cozumel, Belize, Turks & Caicos, BVI, Little Cayman
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 80 to 84 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 40 to 50 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Follow the divemaster; don't go over 100 feet; turnaround at 1/2 tank.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 1 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments We stayed at the Papillote Wilderness Retreat and went diving with Dive Dominica. The Papillote Wilderness Retreat is nestled in the Roseau Valley (a short 20 minute taxi ride from Dive Dominica) and a wonderful experience away from the ordinary. Anne Jno. Baptiste has situated the retreat in a lush rainforest surrounded by a tropical botanical garden, a terrific bonus as we are also avid birders. Papillote has its own waterfall and is a short 15-minute walk from Trafalgar Falls. The meal plan (breakfast and dinner $35/day/person) was a mixed blessing. Breakfast is early enough to get to the dive boat on time and it’s filling (the pancakes with mixed fresh fruit were terrific!). Dinner is usually local fare (e.g., dasheen puffs, callaloo soup) except Wednesday’s BBQ. Servings are generous; however, there’s only one or two entrées from which to choose and no choice of side dishes. The entrée’s were mostly fish, which is OK if you’re a seafood fan. If you’re not a piscivore, sometimes chicken is available but beef is non-existent. The alternative local dishes included “crapaud” (i.e., frog legs aka, mountain chicken) or rabbit. Sometmes difficult to leave the table satisfied.
We also went birding/hiking, with Unique Tours. Alfred Rolle is a self-taught naturalist and was wonderful in pointing out birds, mammals, plants and entire ecosystems as well as showing off the beautiful scenic views of Dominica.
The good stuff on Dive Dominica: Boats leave promptly at 9:00am, C-cards are a must and DAN cards are advocated. Dive Dominica has several boats to separate the cruise ship divers from the rest of us. Both boats used during our dives were well suited – lots of room (12 divers + crew and equipment with lots of room to spare), on board head, easy access in and out, and freshwater tanks for cameras. Back at the shop, all your equipment is stored in a common locked area and carried to the boat (although this arrangement did cause confusion when grabbing weight belts that look alike). While turning my air on for my first dive, my high-pressure hose developed an “aneurysm” and Dive Dominica quickly gave me a spare and was able to repair the hose. They also have extra weights on board.
The not-so-good stuff on Dive Dominica is don&#8217;t expect a full service crew. During our five days, divemasters changed three times. Pre-dive briefings are the name of the site, depth profiles (follow the divemaster, depth < 100 ft., turnaround at ½ tank), and where to meet underwater (but no suggestions to protect the coral or marine life), then the divemaster jumped in. You were left to pull your equipment together by yourself and most times haul yourself in/out of the boat. The only refreshment offered during the surface interval was a 5-gallon jug of freshwater. The divemaster did little to search for critters. Several divers in our group were photographers, some of who went for &#8220;the shot&#8221; regardless of what damage was done to the reef or aquatic life or if it meant kicking other divers. Other divers yanked arrowhead crabs off the coral and lobsters out of their holes without a peep from the divemaster. In fact, he was party to the critter abuse throughout the week.
We signed up for the 10-tank package. The first eight dives were pleasant. Huge basket and tube sponges, plentiful soft corals, lots of arrow crabs and cleaner shrimp, and even seahorses! Golden-tailed, spotted, and snake eels. The HUGEST crab (>3 ft. across) I&#8217;ve seen in all my diving years. Sea robins, huge drums and huge schools of squirrelfishes. Not many large fish but LOTS of juvenile fish, which may become larger fish now that Soufriere/Scotts Head has been designated as a marine preserve. The dive site called &#8220;Champagne&#8221; was over a volcanic vent; the bubbles tickled! Many portions of the reef are badly silted and visibility was only around 40 feet.
Our last day of diving was nearly disastrous. We were to dive on the Atlantic side of Scotts Head. Inquiries regarding currents resulted in the reply that it was &#8220;an unlikely event&#8221;. Actual conditions were not tested. Sure enough, there was a very strong current, far worse than ANY current experienced during several trips to Cozumel. Bad enough that two divers (including my husband) did not continue the dive and bad enough that most of us should not have. Those of us that did had to kick like crazy to drop below the current at about 35 feet where we swam &#8220;upstream&#8221; at 70 feet and sucked up lots of air. This reef was also very silted and a slight current to swim against. When returning to the boat, the current was again at 35 feet but the mooring line was barely visible. We were led in the general direction of the mooring line but due to the current, several of us overshot the line. Somehow we managed to kick hard and grab onto it before being swept away towards Guadeloupe. The decompression stop meant grabbing a hydroid-encrusting line with both (bare) hands, and hanging horizontally, literally for dear life. Entry back into the boat was done by going up the mooring line and yelling for the captain to grab you as you kicked as hard as possible to maintain your proximity to the boat. Needless to say we were exhausted after such an ordeal. My husband suggested a refund for the dive to the management. They retorted that the divemaster should not have chosen the spot. No money was refunded.
We&#8217;d probably not dive with DiveDominica again but we&#8217;d go back to Dominica. The people were incredibly friendly and the island is incredibly beautiful.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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