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Dive Review of Dive Dominica/Papillote Wilderness Retreat in

November, 2002, an Instant Reader Report by Laurie Gneiding, NJ, USA
Report Number 305
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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

Water Temp
80   to 84    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
40   to 50    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Follow the divemaster; don't go over 100 feet; turnaround at 1/2 tank.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  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
Boat Facilities
3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars   
4 stars    
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’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
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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All Dominica Dive Reviews and Reports
Diving Guide to Dominica
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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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