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  • Writer's pictureShaun Yeo

Cave Diving in Dominican Republic


I never knew there were underwater caves in the Dominican Republic. I only found out about them through my Cave Diving Instructor in Spain, whilst finishing my Full Cave Diver course two years ago. My instructor had a contact there, and was arranging cave diving trips with him, for his clients. Last year I had booked a cave diving trip to Mexico, but this year, was the year I would go to the Dominican Republic!

 

There are direct flights from Madrid to Punta Cana in Dominican Republic. Usually I tend to drive from Gibraltar to Madrid, which is just over a six hour drive, which I don’t mind, but this time, I drove to Malaga instead, 1.5 hours’ drive from Gibraltar, and got a connection flight from Malaga via Madrid.

 

When I arrived at Punta Cana, I was greeted by the dive centre owner and cave diving instructor who would be taking me on the guided cave dives. I was then taken to my accommodation at Punta Cana, to get some rest, before an early start the next morning. At the hotel, I prepared my underwater camera setup, before going to sleep.

 

Day 1

 

An early start, as we headed off on a one hour drive down to the small resort town of Bayahibe. Just in the outskirts of Bayahibe, in the jungles, there are 3 accessible caves (out of many others), that have fairly easy access for cave divers. All the caves in Dominican Republic, as with in Mexico, are in people’s private property, so access tends to be arranged beforehand, and a fee paid to the land owner.

My first Cave Dive in Dominican Republic, was at a cave called, “El Chicho”. It was absolutely stunning from the surface, with welcoming blue crystal clear waters and beautiful cave formations all around. There is a light inside, but as we were the first people to enter that morning, using torches, we managed to see some bats flying around inside! The cave dive itself was amazing. What a first cave to dive in, for my cave diving trip. The formations inside were truly beautiful, and the first impressions of crystal clear blue waters did not lie, it really was just that underwater! There is a large air bubble in the middle of the cave, but actually has a connection to the outside somewhere, as bats can be seen flying about, when you pop your head out into the bubble!

Our second cave dive of the day, was at another cave, just a few metres away from El Chicho. This one was called “Padre Nuestro”. Again, as with the first cave, beautiful cave formations and blue waters on the surface. The dive itself also revealed very similar conditions and sightings to the first.

 

I ended my first day of cave diving in Dominican Republic with a great first impression. I stayed the night in a hotel in Bayahibe, and edited some photos and videos during the evening.

 

Day 2

 

Back to the same area of jungle on Day 2, to do the third cave in that area. This one was actually completely different and unique to the other two I had dived the day before.

The cave is called “La Jeringa”. Jeringa means Syringe in Spanish, and you can see why the name! This cave is only for sidemount diving (one of the reasons I switched to it from twinsets)! Many tight restrictions throughout the whole cave. There are only formations at the entrance, the rest of the cave is a different type to the ones seen yesterday. The cave was first dived in 2009! It was previously a "well" in the middle of the jungle, where the small town of Bayahibe water supply was connected to! It is no longer in use, and the water supply connected elsewhere.

I was advised not to take my camera into this cave, to avoid damage etc., as it was a very tight squeeze throughout the whole cave, but I couldn't resist taking it, and the photos for me are just amazing!

 

Day 3

 

On Day 3, we took a rest from the caves, and headed out to taste the diving in the Caribbean Sea off Dominican Republic. Here we did two wreck dives. The first dive was on the St. George Wreck with a Max Depth of 47M.

The ship was built 1962 in Scotland to transport wheat and barley between Norway and Americas, used for 20 years and abandoned in Santo Domingo port after. It was renamed St. George after the "Hurricane George" that hit Dominican Republic in September 1998. In June 1999 the ship was sunk about half a mile off the Viva Dominicus Beach.

The second dive was on the Atlantic Princess wreck. Shallower depth, and the visibility not as great as on the first dive, yet an interesting wreck to photograph and capture some marine life photos on. The ship was an old passenger liner.

 

Day 4

 

We leave the small town of Bayahibe on Day 4, and get accommodation for the next few nights at Boca Chica, a small Caribbean town.

Our first cave dive takes us to “La Roca” cave. So you are in the middle of a neighbourhood in Santo Domingo, you go to a Night Club... an underground Disco... to find it's a cave with a lake... and underneath you see this! It’s a pretty unique cave to dive in. Who would have thought, I’d be cave diving in an underground disco.

This cave hard darker walls than that of the other caves in Bayahibe, and no cave formations, yet the whole experience was great.

 

The second dive took us to an area just off the highway into Santo Domingo, at the back of someone’s garden... a random cave with water inside... What lurks underneath makes for a pretty interesting SideMount dive with some tight squeezes to get through, and some low ceilings in some of the jumps off the mainline!

“El Tildo” cave only has an average depth of 6 metres, but has a huge pronounced halocline, and interesting colours of rocks in the different chambers; black, white, red/brown. Also some tannic water in one of the upper chambers and a few animal bones also found around the bottom.

 

Day 5

 

Back in the Jungles of Dominican Republic near Santo Domingo! We travel to a cave called “Jardin Oriental”. Online reviews suggest access to the water level in the cave is hard, climbing down boulders, and the area outside, although looked remote, was unsafe to leave vehicles and personal belongings, due to a rough neighbourhood nearby.

 

When we arrived at the entrance of the cave, we were met with a private security guard with a shot gun! The first time I had seen this in Dominican Republic. I soon realised, the owner of the land, had built steps and a path to reach the water level in the cave, making access really easy!

Jardin Oriental Cave, has huge chambers underneath and a maximum depth of 30M. Total Dive time was 110 Min, with 15 Minutes of Deco!  There was an amazing pronounced halocline and a lot of percolation around due to the cave not being dived often! A few large stones fell on my helmet!

  

Day 6

 

We made our way to near the Santo Domingo Airport, where in someone’s back garden, a large sink hole with a spiral stair case, leads us to the water level of another cave. The cave is called “Taina”.

This cave ranks as one of my favourite caves in Dominican Republic, for cave formations. All over the underwater sections of this cave, we see all sorts of spelothems. At around 150 metres from the entrance, we surface into an air pocket, in which it is probably the most beautifully decorated chamber in the entire underwater cave system. Just before this chamber, a huge chamber with a pronounced halocline is found.

 

Day 7

 

The longest of all days! An early start, leaving Boca Chica at 6AM, we made a long 2.5 hours’ drive, to get to a cave called “Dudu” which is on the other side of Dominican Republic!

 

Dudu Cave has a very large Cenote Entrance. Two small tunnels in the Cavern Zone, connect it to another entrance/exit. Through the main Cave Zone tunnel, after a long 45 minute swim, it takes you to Lily's Cave. Here there are loads of bats flying around when you pop your head out! Also snakes, scorpions and tarantulas!

Dudu is a very dark cave, black stone formations in some parts of the cave, with a halocline near the beginning of the mainline. Bat bones found all along the bottom of the cave floor along the way!

 

Something I wasn't aware of... the Cenote entrance/Cavern Zone has Hydrogen Sulfide Clouds! Coming from the decomposition of trees etc., on the ground. There is also a lot of life near the entrance; shrimp and fish.

After the dive, it takes us around 5 hours to drive back to where it all started; Punta Cana! I went for lunch with the cave diving group at Dudu, and then dinner in Punta Cana with the Dive Centre owner and Cave Instructor/guide, bidding farewell to everyone, as this was supposedly my last cave dive, and had booked a few extra days in Dominican Republic, to explore the rest of the country. But, I managed to fit in an extra cave dive in the next couple of days as an extra, which wasn’t included in the program!

 

Extra Days

 

During my extra days in Dominican Republic, I went on day trips, sightseeing parts of the country, and also visited and dived Soana Island and Catalina Island, two islands off the Dominican Republic coastline, in the Caribbean Sea. I tried to dive in the Atlantic Ocean side of Dominican Republic, but was met with bad weather for this.

 

I spent about a total of 2 weeks in Dominican Republic. On one of my last days, as mentioned above, I arranged an extra cave dive. This was to a cave near the town of Boca de Yuma, called “El Toro”.

Logistics were hard. We hired a donkey to take all our tanks on an overgrown part of the Jungles of Dominican Repbulic, near the town "Boca de Yuma". The helpers cut the way with machetes, through a hot 30'c hike of 20 minutes, with our wetsuits and other gear on!

 

At the entrance to the Cave, we setup our Sidemount equipment, and then the helpers lowered it down a dangerous and slippery climb down some boulders, to reach the water. There it was another challenge to get in and place all our tanks, including a stage, in the water.

The cave is around 2km long. We carried a stage, and had a 2 hour and 35minute dive, with 12 minutes of deco on return. The cave is quite shallow but the entrance section goes down to about 18 metres, where this section is salt water. A bacteria growing here makes the water look brownish/green with very little visibility. We then eventually after a 25 minute swim, pop our heads out to fresh water and a crystal clear visibility, of at least 30 metres or more!

What an amazing trip I had in Dominican Republic, now the long process of editing all the photos! Below are a few links to my cave diving videos on YouTube, as well as a video of my dives in the Caribbean Sea, off Dominican Republic:












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