Diving in the Dominican Republic

This morning we arrived in Hispaniola! Or, as it is known in modern times, The Dominican Republic. It’s the second largest island in the Caribbean, behind Cuba, and its land mass is split between Haiti and the DR.
In appearance it is totally different from the islands of the Bahamas which we visited before. The over-riding impression is of lush green, everywhere you look. And mountains, some rising quite sharply and all covered in trees and other dense greenery. The beaches are golden sand in general and quite narrow, some rocky, with the reef coming in shallow.
We had booked to go diving today and we were off the ship and underway in the jitney style pickup bus by 0830. It was a much smaller group today. Bob and I and one other lady, Jan, were the only qualified divers. There were 6 other people on the bus all signed up for a Try Dive.
The journey took about an hour and it was interesting, if very bumpy. It’s a busy place, lots of traffic. We skirted the coast, passed through Puerto Plata, the largest resort town, and through the interior countryside. Away from the coastal strip, it looked poor and yet the DR is the rich part of the island. Haiti is much, much poorer. There was some industry visible: rum distilleries and some mining.
Eventually we arrived at a small hotel about 200 yards uphill from a smallish beach. The Try Divers stayed there while they did their pool bit, and Bob, Jan and I went down to the beach with the dive guide. At this point, it became apparent that this wasn’t a very (or at all) professional organisation. LOL. There wasn’t an actual shop. Some of the kit was being guarded on the pavement by the guide’s friend and he vaguely assigned us some. My fins didn’t match. My BC was a bit big and pretty old… but … it worked. We carried it down to the water’s edge and a small dory boat came in and picked us up. It wasn’t in the best condition unsurprisingly.
The first dive site was only about 5 minutes away so we were quickly there. I was slightly worried that my ears would be a problem given my cold, but they weren’t. There was little or no briefing. The other woman told the dive guide that this was her first sea dive (she’d learned in a fresh water lake) and he sort of nodded. No one asked to see our qualifications and UNBELIEVABLY no one asked us to sign any sort of form or waiver!!!! Can’t remember when that last happened… Also there were no buddy checks. Jan was nervous to jump in. I said that I would go in first and be waiting for her in the water, so that she felt ok.
Down we went. The water was lovely and warm, not brilliant vis but ok. There was a nice little wall. Then patch reef. It was typical Caribbean diving. Lots of sponges of different kinds and colours, some soft corals, some fish. Pleasant but pretty mundane. Poor Jan had buoyancy and weighting problems and she was up and down a bit. We had about 50 minutes in all.
Once back on the boat, we pulled back to the beach to pick up the Try Divers who were coming out for an actual sea experience. They went in two by two with an instructor each.
We went back in first though. I noticed Jan looking a bit green before we entered – it wasn’t at all choppy today – and offered her a cough sweet (all I had) but she declined. As soon as she hit the water she said she felt sick, so I came up behind her, grabbed her jacket, inflated it, and reassured her as she merrily vomited all over the place!!!!! At least the fish really came out of hiding! Bravely, she decided to go on with the dive, and in fact the second dive was much better than the first. Fingers of reef running across the sandy plateau with a lot of life on them. In the sand also there were lots of garden eels, always an amusement. They stick up like waving fingers and you would think it was weed. Then as you approach, the sink back down into the sand, quick as a flash! You can never catch them. We saw a lot of fish on the reef including an enormous puffer fish, moray eels, brown and green, different jewelled shrimps…. It was a really nice dive.
The boat took us back to the beach and we were just about to get off when a wave caught it sideways on and the big metal stanchion that held the canopy up sheered right off the hull. Like a Laurel and Hardy film, it came right over my head and so luckily I just found myself standing in the middle of the frame. Not so lucky was one of the Try Divers who got knocked off his feet by it into the rack of cylinders. He’s going to have a nice bruise or two.
Honestly, I don’t like to knock them for trying, but it was not a well run operation and very surprising that Carnival Cruises have chosen them as their official tour provider here for scuba. There’s going to be an accident sooner or later, nice people though they were.
Tonight, it was what passes for “Elegant” night on Carnival. That means lots of sports shorts, White suits and frankly, Ho-wear. Nice dinner a deux and turned in.

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