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Dive Review of Rick Cavanaugh in
Dominica/Scotts Head

Rick Cavanaugh, Mar, 2006,

by Rick Cavanaugh, MD, United States . Report 2481.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving 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.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 77 to 80 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 75 to 125 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions None
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities 2 stars
UW Photo Comments Small boats with no rinse tanks needed since surface interval was at shop. Excellent wide angle areas and excellent muck area as well.

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 1 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments This was my second trip to Dominica and Nature Island Divers. Our first trip was one of our best scuba experiences and we went back for that reason.
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.
I am an avid underwater photographer and I am partial to locations with good photography, both wide angle and especially macro.
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. 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. If you want few divers on a boat and more personal attention from dive masters and MUCH more experienced dive masters, choose Dive Dominica.
Dominica is an exceptional dive location. There are some issues. But all islands have issues.
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.
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.
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.
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 (Andres) is a must visit. It is located up the mountain a little at Andres 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.
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. 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!
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!
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.
Overall I rate Nature Island Divers and Dominica as one of the top destinations in the Caribbean.
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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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