Over the years the Dominican Republic has received a reputation for terrible scuba diving. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. This bad rap is attributed to the fact that most reviews have focused on diving the Atlantic Coast side of the country. While it is true that throughout the years, excessive, unsustainable fishing along with increasingly strong hurricanes and tropical storms have wreaked havoc on the reefs located along the coast of Bavaro, there remain beautiful dive sites worth your time on the southern coast of the country.
Driving due south from the Punta Cana airport for roughly 45 minutes will bring you to the sleepy fishing village of Bayahibe, where you will be pleasantly surprised. There, nestled just below the waves, beautiful coral reefs await your visit. While Bayahibe has been for years, a fishing village, it is also home to many local dive shops, mostly foreign owned, who will be glad to take you out diving on some of these wonderful reefs.
The reason for the difference in the diving you ask? Well that is easy. The south coast of the Dominican Republic is on the Caribbean Sea. Oceanic conditions there are very different from the north coast and while overfishing and pollution are also underlying problems there – like everywhere else in the world – the reefs are still vibrant.
Brightly coloured sea fans and a variety of both soft and hard corals greet you as you dive below the waves and visit the magical underwater world. Some of the best diving in the Dominican Republic is found in Bayahibe.Whether you are a beginner looking to make your first dive ever or a seasoned professional looking to spend time doing what you love, the Bayahibe dive area, with over 25 known dive sites, offers something for every skill level.
Several outlying islands make for fabulous day trips and are great for both snorkelers and divers alike. Protected as National Park areas of Cotubanama, these are the gems of the Dominican Republic.
Catalinita is the least well known of all three islands and is the most secluded of them all. Located between mainland Dominican Republic and the island of Saona, it is mostly recognized for the rusty old ships that act as beacons at the surface, reminding everyone that the ocean can sometimes exact a high price for those ill prepared to visit it. There, in the crystal waters you will see large eagle rays, hawksbill turtles and many other tropical fish. The most famous dive sites in Catalinita are Stingray City and Shark Point – located on the deeper side of the island and suitable for advanced open water divers.
Saona Island and Catalina Island are the most popular for tourists who are lured by the siren song of these underwater marvels. Beautiful reefs teeming with large schools of tropical fish are also home to southern stingrays, eagle rays, hawksbill turtles, green morays, spotted morays and much more. Manatees also call these waters home.
Sea conditions are normally very calm on the Caribbean side and the underwater topography consists of coral reefs, rocky outcroppings, and a few swim-throughs.
The St. George deep shipwreck is also a huge draw for experienced divers with its large schools of fish and mystique.
So if you are hooked on diving, Bayahibe is definitely a place you will want to add to your must see list. What are you waiting for?