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Wrecks and Caves in the Dominican Republic

Discussion in 'Tech Trip Reports' started by battles2a5, Dec 16, 2008.

  1. battles2a5

    battles2a5 Divemaster

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
    I just got back from the Dominican Republic, diving w/ Golden Arrow out of Santo Domingo. We did 4 days of wreck and cave diving and I had an absolute blast. I think it's a great place if you want to get some deep water experience and the caves are very cool; kind of a mix between Florida and Mexico in terms of depth, composition, etc. Here's the report:

    Day 1: Shallow wreck

    I met Denis at his shop in the middle of Santo Domingo. I had arrived late the night before and didn't have much time to look around, but the city is pretty cool. It's a bit like San Juan or Panama City. There is an old city where all of the colonial buildings are surrounding by a vast sprawling urban center. His shop is located in the Naco section of town which was a 15 minute cab ride from the hotel.

    Denis was assembling his Optima when I got there. We had planned for some shallow get to know you dives on day 1, so we rounded up the equipment and headed out to La Caleta which is the marine park near the airport. The dive sites are very close to shore so the boat was not really an issue, but it was entertaining nonetheless. Actually, the captain and the porters at the site turned out to be great and were obviously familiar with handling technical gear.

    Our first dive was uneventful. Just a shallow artificial wreck w/ some limited penetration. We saw a skate, a puffer fish, and an octopus. The vis was great, the water was warm, there was a little current but nothing to write home about.

    Dive 2 was just a drift dive along the reef. There is some healthy reef but not a ton of fish. Still, it was good to have a little time to settle into the double AL80's and a 3/2 mil wetsuit. I felt like I was swimming naked compared to big steels, drysuit, and stages.

    Day 2: La Cueva Taina

    Again, we met up at Golden Arrow and got the gear ready for our dives. We loaded the gear and Denis dog Lola into the truck and headed out. We were diving La Taina today, which is located in a Dominican family's back yard. One of Denis students joined us today and stayed for the rest of my dives. Again, there were porters waiting to unload our gear and carry it down the spiral staircase to the sink opening below (see the trend here? :). Lola went to play with the family's 2 rotwiellers.

    We got in the water, did bubble checks and s-drills, then headed out. We did a stage dive on the first dive, which was planned to the end of the line. We dropped the stages at around 700ft just after a set of restrictions and proceeded on with the dive. The haloclines here were much stiffer than I have seen in Mexico. Once disturbed, the vis goes to crap; the water is still clear, but you can't see anything, just distorted shapes. I found myself ok'ing the line at some point because I just couldn't see it. Anyway, we pressed forward to about 1700ft where the line ends at a max depth of around 138 and we turned the dive with plenty of gas to spare before we hit 1/3's. We probably could have done it on back gas alone but I have no problem with carrying a little extra gas in a new system. Total RT was about 90 minutes. While there are some deep sections the average depth was only around 65ft, so deco was short (7-8 mins). There water temp was 78-79, a little lower below the halocline. There was no discernable flow in any of the caves.

    Dive 2 was in the shallower portion of the cave. This was actually a little more fun than the first dive because there are some dry chambers in this section of the cave that have some gorgeous formations. There are large stalactites, soda straw formations, flow stone, crystal structures, fossils, you name it. Some of the formations were very impressive. We lined out that section of cave, then re-figured thirds at the cavern and explored one last tunnel in the cave then exited. Dive time was around 50 minutes and we did both dives on the same set of AL80's.

    Day 3: La Roca and El Tinto

    First dive was at La Roca which is located on the property of a disco out by the airport. This is definitely more of a local place, as I cannot imagine many people outside of the neighborhood making the trip here to party. Anyway, once again we had porters lug our stuff to the bottom of the stairs and suited up to dive. The entrance to the mail tunnel was very similar to the Eye at Devil's. At the bottom of the shaft, the main line is right at the halocline, so making the tie-in was a little hard with the reduced vis. The system itself is VERY soft rock. The percolation from our regs was loosening pebble sized chunks of cave throughout most of the dive. It was literally raining rocks the whole time. A little eerie. We hit the end of the line again at around 900ft, then came back and explored another side tunnel which we also lined out. This one ended in a vertical shaft than went from 60ft to a small dry chamber. Run time again was around 80 minutes, no deco.

    Next we moved to El Tinto which was on another family's property near the airport. This cave is pretty small, very shallow, and had 4 or 5 different Karst windows throughout the system. I'm guessing the water here is high in carbonic acid or that the limestone here is especially soft because most of the rock looked like swiss cheese. Very odd looking. I got a bit of it in the vid but it doesn's do it justice. This was a beautiful system but unfortunately is full of trash near the openings. We lined out the main tunnel at around 400 ft then set an exploration reel to look 300 more feet or so into the system. On the way back out we set up a circuit in the remaining passages. This part of the cave was very small, single file with a few tight squeezes, but very beautiful. We exited at around 70 minutes. Again no deco or even a safety stop as the average depth was only 15-20 ft.

    Day 4: Don Quixto and The Hickory

    My last day was a deep dive on Don Quixto a tug in about 200fsw and The Hickory? which was a salvage ship out of Texas that was used to recovery treasure from some of the Spanish galleons that had sunk on the north coast in Bahia de Samana.

    First dive was on the Quixto. We used heliair w/ 32 and 85 for deco gases. Plan was to 180ft for 20 mins. I hit 195 in the sand at the stern and spent the rest of the time in the engine room and around the super structure. Most of the time was spent in the 160-180 range. It is an artificial wreck so there was nothing too terribly interesting but a good experience dive on a deeper wreck, which is what I was looking for. We did swimming deco up the slope of the reef then blew bags and drifted for the remainder of deco. Total RT was about 65 mins.

    Finally, we dove the Hickory. Again, relatively shallow with limited penetration but a good dive nonetheless. I was pretty sad to get out of the water for the last time.

    It was a great trip. I really liked the DR and I plan to go back when I can. I also highly recommend Denis with Golden Arrow Divers. He is a great guide and a really nice guy. Santo Domingo was so much nicer than I had anticipated. Here is some video I put together. The shots that I took are absolutely horrible. I just have a crappy little handheld. Denis shot some as well and he has a much steadier hand than I do. Also, no video light and my editing software has no good way to balance audio so the soundtrack is distorted. Anyway, a crappy little video but it will give you an idea of what the diving is like. Enjoy!

    JacoVisage likes this.
  2. Rhone Man

    Rhone Man Divemaster

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: British Virgin Islands
    Thanks. I am heading to DR in February, and is nice to get a first hand head's up.
  3. battles2a5

    battles2a5 Divemaster

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
    I think you'll like it. Great diving and a great country.
  4. DRsharky

    DRsharky Dive Shop

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Bayahibe, Dominican Republic
    Great report about diving around Santo Domingo, I've heard a lot about that area but I haven't been diving there yet
  5. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many. Rest in Peace

    Great report and video! Fun to see some less well known caves.

    BTW, I know what you mean about the halocline . . . Even in MX, as the third person on the team, I've spent significant time okaying the line because I couldn't see it.
  6. Tiffanyt23

    Tiffanyt23 Garibaldi

    Although this is an old post, I am just giving another plug to Denis and Golden Arrow. Denis is one of the original cave explorers of the island and he does all kinds of diving from open water to re-breather. Here is his web site - Golden Arrow. Here is his FB page Golden Arrow for anyone who would like to information about diving in the Dominican Republic. Denis and his crew speak English, Spanish, French, German, and Japaneses. Enjoy

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