Dominica-Jewel Above And Below


Martin Edge

It is unlike me to write a travelogue on the pages of the Divequest Newsletter. I’m the photographer remember, and I feel much more comfortable writing about underwater F stops, shutter speeds and Snell’s Window. So, why a travelogue now?

The story began a number of years ago after photographer Colin Bateman and his wife Lorraine returned from Dominica after a weeks diving, extolling its virtues above and below the water.

"We went for a Christmas break, nothing more, no expectations but this place is fantastic. You must try it".

On viewing Colin’s results I was immediately impressed with the range of subjects he had found after only six days of diving. Seahorses, frogfish, big schools of fish, crevices and caves and colour in abundance.

Some time later Peter Rowlands, founder and editor of UP magazine wrote an article about the Island. Tales of whale watching, excellent shore diving, rainforests and volcanoes again attracted my attention and moistened my appetite for a new location in the Caribbean to compare with Bonaire. I did my research, scoured the web, monitored the underwater newsgroups and came to the conclusion that Dominica deserved a visit.

Sylvia and I planed a 6-day photo-quest for January 2004. Our choice of accommodation was Castle Comfort Lodge and Dive Dominica run by dive guru Derek Perryman. But before I continue, let’s clear up one thing once and for all! Dominica is NOT the Dominican Republic. Dominica has the alternative name of ‘Nature Island of the Caribbean’. It is 29 miles long and 16 miles wide. It is the most lush, tropical and abundant rainforest which I visited and resembles Papua New Guinea more than any other Caribbean island which I have visited. The rainforest runs into the sea in so many locations around the coastline. Dominica, boasts two volcanoes with huge peaks, both a tad higher than Ben Nevis in Scotland. There are 365 rivers, one for every day of the year, which form numerous waterfalls, which plunge over the side of sheer walls. The scenery, topography and views are staggering. More reminiscent of Costa Rica than a tiny, unknown Caribbean Island. Fabulous flowers and hummingbirds, too!

Dominica is volcanic and as such has few beaches. The Atlantic side enjoys a number of beaches similar to the dark volcanic sand of Tenerife and Lanzarote in the Canaries. The Island is part of the Lesser Antilles and nestles between Martinique and Guadeloupe. Both of which are visible on a clear day. A must see excursion is the whale watching trips which run out of Castle Comfort Lodge. This trip boasts an 80% sighting record! We were not disappointed either. Sperm and Bryde’s Whales came to within a few metres of the boat.

So what about the diving?

I expected it to be good. I had heard it was un-spoiled but neither I, Sylvia nor the rest of the Photoquest were prepared for how pristine, undamaged and lush the reefs were. Our favourite sites were around Scotts Head on the calm west coast near to the capital and dive base Roseau. The Pinnacles was for me the best wide-angle dive I have had in Caribbean waters. The highlight is several large swim-throughs, which cut straight through the pinnacles. The walls are covered with sea fans, sponges and trees of black coral. The condition of both hard and soft corals at all the sites we visited was truly pristine. We are planning a second photo-quest to the island for the same time next year. Some time in late January or early February. The weather and visibility were superb so why change it.

It is a hidden jewel both above and below.

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