goofy_fish.gif (10470 bytes)DOMINICA TRIP REPORTgoofy_fish.gif (10470 bytes)

Lying like an emerald jewel in the northernmost portion of the Lesser Antilles, the Commonwealth of Dominica offers spectacular scenery both above and below the water. The largest of the Lesser Antilles islands, Dominica is nestled between the French Island of Martinique to the South and Guadeloupe to the North. The island shares the volcanic origin of the other nearby Antilles islands along the "Caribbean Ring of Fire" and is twenty-nine miles long and sixteen miles wide. Dominica is home to 73,000 persons, including 3,000 native Carib Indians who live in their own reserve.

Christopher Columbus lead the first known Europeans to discover Dominica on a Sunday in 1493 (hence the name). The island was originally settled by Arawak Indians in about 400 AD and later by the Carib Indians who had paddled North up the Antilles chain. The arrival of westerners set off frequent disputes over ownership by France and England with the French leaving for the last time in 1805 and Dominica remained a British possession until achieving self-government in 1967 and full independence in 1978.

English is the official language with a French Patois Creole also spoken by many islanders. The official currency of the area is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar, but the U.S. Dollar is accepted throughout the island. The electricity is provided via European style three prong plugs and is 220/240 volt, 50 cycles. Don't forget your converters for charging those batteries!

Dominica is no more difficult to get to than other Caribbean destinations and flying from Miami via American Airlines to San Juan and connecting with an American Eagle turboprop flight from San Juan into Melville Hall Airport on the North shore of Dominica was no problem. Connecting flights can also be made from Antigua, Barbados and St. Lucia and there are even high-speed ferries plying between the islands.

There is diving available on both the Northern and southeastern coasts, but we chose to head South for our first visit to Dominica. There is a small airport on the South end of the island, but only has a short runway served by small aircraft. The drive from Melville Hall Airport south to Roseau takes about an hour to and hour and a half, depending upon the driver and his attachment to long life and his body parts. The roads are quite good by Caribbean standards, but are extremely winding through the mountains. The journey to Roseau is worth the price of the trip alone, passing through the center of Dominica with pristine rain forest and lush, beautiful scenery.

We picked Castle Comfort Lodge and Dive Dominica for our first trip and were well pleased with both. Staying at the Lodge is more like visiting someone's home, you immediately feel welcome. The rooms were clean, comfortable with both air conditiong and ceiling fans. Meals were served on the second floor terrace overlooking the grounds. The food was plentiful and tasty and they went out of their way to prepare vegetarian meals for me and Jeanie said the meat dishes were also excellent.

The dive operation is also first rate. They have three boats from small single hulls to a large catamaran, depending upon the number of divers going out. They were all well equipped, fast, well maintained with excellent exit and entry for diving. The tanks are Aluminum 80's and the fills consistently 3000-3400 lb.

The diving was some of the best we have seen in the Caribbean. Starting with the house reef just off the pier, one finds large volcanic boulders covered with red lipped blennies, lettuce nudibranchs and all the nooks and crannies stuffed with various eels and shrimp. A bit farther down, the bottom changes to pink and yellow tube sponges with plenty of small and juvenile fish, we particularly noted many beautiful juvenile angelfish in this area. At night, the same shore dive provided octopus, electric rays, 4 varieties of eels, arrowhead crabs, squid, various cleaning shrimp etc., etc. All this no more than 50 yards from the pier!

The daily 2 tank boat dives generally headed south to the Scott's Head area where the diving is on a submerged volcanic rim. Pinnacles rise from the depths almost to the surface and are covered with beautiful corals and sponges. The small fish life is prolific with an occasional turtle or large Barracuda in the blue. The macro life is fantastic with a dense population of cleaner stations with attendant shrimp and cleaner fish, tons of Arrowhead crabs and we even spotted a bubble shell and a nudibranch that we had not seen before in the Caribbean. Schools of squid often swam by offering great video and still photo opportunities.

One dive spot deserves special mention and is called "Champaign". It is located just offshore between Scott's Head and Roseau in an area where warm water and gas bubbles come up from the bottom in about 20 ft of water. It really is like diving in a vat of "bubbly" with out the hangover the next day.

Most of us would like to spend 12 hours a day underwater while on dive trips, but as this would result in transformation into nitrogen filled floating tourists with a remarkable resemblance to the Goodyear Blimp, surface time is an important part of any trip. Once again, Dominica shines through in terms of topside opportunities. The Dominicans are fond of referring to the fact that the island has 365 rivers "one for every day of the year". The island is also covered with waterfalls, hot springs and other great hiking opportunities. Whales also pass through this area and whale-watching trips are easy to arrange.

Dominica is a truly magical island both above and below the surface and you can bet your regulator that we will be returning there as soon as possible.

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