When we visited Dominica, the first time we rode bikes from the port area in Rousseau about 4 miles out to the Champagne Reef Marine Park to snorkel. It was a $2 entry fee per person and a fine price to pay to swim through the warm inviting bubbles with all the beautiful fishes. The owner of the dive shop, Clem, asked if the bicycles were for sale. Since we rent them as a part of the crew welfare program on board the ship, we obviously couldn’t sell them. However, we did have one option for him. Once we got back to the ship, Al mentioned that he had his own bike he picked up at a pawn shop on an earlier leg of the contract. He hadn’t yet found a buyer on the ship and thought it might be a good idea to take it to the Champagne reef and see if the guy would be interested in that one.
So our last port day in Dominica was sadly upon us and we wanted to do a scuba dive there. We turned on our virtual window only to see the biggest downpour of rain. I rung up Al and told him the news. He said, “Let’s go anyway. If we’re gonna dive, we’re gonna be under the water and wet anyway.” So we loaded up our gear and off we went with the bike in tow to find a taxi to fit all four of us.
Earlier in the season, Jake & I had met this taxi guy, “Ninja”. He always told us if we needed a ride to seek him out. So when we left the port area we asked another local guy to find Ninja. He helped us get a good driver who would stay with us for the entire day at a very good rate. If you’re ever in Dominica, look up Ninja Man for sure.
We packed Al’s bike in the back of the van and off we all went. Along the way, we noticed some major mud slides had really impacted the locals. The road near Melvina’s Fish Fry was almost completely washed away. She was actually out with her staff shoveling the mud off the road. You see, Dominica is very mountainous and has narrow twisty roads that lead around the outside edge of the island and some that lead to the interior are also extra twisty. That’s another story…
When we arrived at the Champagne Reef, it was still pouring rain. It ws going to be a slow day for Clem and his crew for sure. Al & I walked up to Clem and started bargaining. Al wanted to sell them the bike for two scuba dives with a guide for us. Clem said sure, but Al actually wasn’t done and wanted him to throw in two lunches too. Ends up to still be a good deal for Clem, so he agreed. We had a great guide, Jackson and his crew were super helpful. It was a shore dive, where we walked our gear down along the beach and entered at the edge of the reef. The shore is rocky at the beach area, so it’s good to leave your flip flops on until you get to the very edge of the water. I had a bit of trouble putting on my bcd in the current, but Jackson’s guys held me up and made it a bit easier. Once we did all our safety checks, we were off to an under water fantasy world.
Now my under water camera doesn’t go deep enough to dive with. I’m in the market for a new one. If you want to buy a first edition GoPro Hero, let me know. I’ve got a lot of accessories for it.
I wish I had some pictures of the coral there. It’s probably the most beautiful place to dive ever. There are so few people on the island and even fewer people visit it that the coral and reefs are very intact and grow huge. I’m starting to learn the names of the under water fish species and the coral themselves. But it’s a whole new universe down there. Some of the coral I swam over were shaped like vases and were at least 6 feet across and probably just as tall. We saw Moray Eel, two different species of Lion Fish and Angel Fish twice as big as my hand.
Along the way, there were some guns and an anchor from an old shipwreck coated in coral. It would have been hard to see them without a guide as it wasn’t as obvious that it was a wreck they were so old. For our safety stop, we hung out in the bubbles of the reef for a few minutes. See Dominica is an active volcano and there are fissures in the ocean where the reef is. These fissures let gasses from the volcano escape into the ocean. The water there is slightly warmer and the it’s sort of like swimming through a glass of champagne… The the name, the Champagne Reef.
It was a nice easy assent up the shore line until we got to the top and sadly the dive was over. It never fails, the time under the ocean is way too short. We spent about 55 minutes down under and I would go back on that dive again and again and again. By far, my favorite island and place to dive in the Caribbean.
Couple pointers though, don’t expect to find a tourist trap shopping experience or glitsy glamour of Hollywood there. This island is remote and less developed than many of the places I’ve visited in the Caribbean. That’s part of the reason I like it there so much. The areas of the island I visited were not the white sandy beaches your postcard visions of the Caribbean islands give you. But it is a divers paradise with several dive shops on the island. I’ve heard they have some inexpensive dive motels there too. Since we live on the ship, I never explored these places.