Jan 12

Cave Diving in the Dominican Republic

by in Dominican Republic, Photo Gallery

Today, I tried something new…cave diving!

A couple months back, I met with a guy who owned a dive shop in Santo Domningo. I asked him, “What’s so special about diving the Dominican Republic?” “The Caves”, he answered! Hmmmm, I thought. I’ve never done that before. Sounds fun!

So today, I met with a Dive Master in Boca Chica, just East of the capital, Santo Domingo. Normally when I dive, I get into a boat. Or sometimes I just head down the beach and walk right into the ocean. But not today. Today, I’m getting into a mini-van! Today is going to be a new experience for sure.

After about a 10 minute drive back towards Santo Domingo, we pull off the highway and wind our way around some dirt roads. The homes here have no electricity or running water here. And there are chickens, dogs, and trash everywhere. We keep driving, and parallel a huge brick wall until we come to a huge metal gate. We give the secret honk, and the gate opens. We drive inside, and instantly, we are in another world! On the other side of the brick wall is like Jurassic Park! Everything is green! There are trees and vines everywhere. Being in here you would never guess that you are in the middle of a barrio just on the other side of the wall.

We get out of the van, and suit up. About 20 meters in front of us, amidst a jungle and vines, is a spiral staircase leading down to the base of a cave. Once inside the cave, you can see the formation of stalactites and stalagmites in the crystal clear water below. It’s fresh water and is amazingly clear. No exaggeration… visibility is well over 100 feet. And probably closer to 200 feet!

We climb down into the crystal clear water below and prepare to dive. With lights on, we wound our way down to the bottom and back of the cave only to ascend on the other side into a beautiful cavern. I’ve been in many caves before, on dry land. You know, the kind at a Park Service that you pay an entrance fee and go on a little tour with a Park Ranger. Well, this nothing could prepare you for this. The most amazing cave ever And since the average Joe can’t just park his car and walk inside, it’s pristine and virtually untouched!

The colors, the crystals, the glistening of water droplets from the still growing stalactites. It’s simply breathtaking! Couple that with the clearest water you have ever seen, and still more treasures lie beneath the water as well. Photographs just can’t do this place justice. It’s a surreal experience that’s hard to explain unless you have been there yourself. The stillness and quietness of the cave leaves you speechless. And when you turn your lights out, its black like nothing you have ever witnessed before. It’s more of a void than just black.

After 45 minutes or so in the cavern we returned to the mouth of the cave and back to the surface once again. We ate lunch, then suited up again to explore another portion of the cave. This time, instead of going towards the back of the cave, we wound our way through a few large boulders and thought a small hole down towards the bottom of the main chamber. On the other side we ascend again into a huge chamber. But this one is dramatically different!

There are no stalactites or stalagmites. It’s just a gigantic chamber that appears to be a little smaller than a football field. The size is very deceiving since the water is so clear. What makes this chamber so unique is the fact that there is fresh water on the top half of the chamber, and salt water on the bottom half! Again, it’s very hard to explain without actually being there. But let me tell you the effects that it has.

Because of the difference in density of the water, they refract light differently, and at different angles. So, if you have your light on and are swimming behind a person that crossing from salt water to fresh water or visa versa, they completely disappear from your sight for about 5-10 seconds. It’s like Star Trek! One second they are in front of you, the next second, they’re gone! It’s the best magic show ever! However, you got to be careful, because it really plays tricks on your mind. Your mind and it’s logic tells you what you are seeing is a physical impossibility. You know that person is still there, but your eyes tell you otherwise. They’re gone! 5-10 seconds later, they reappear! Again, simply amazing!

Another interesting phenomenon, is that while you are at the top of the chamber in the fresh water, you can look down upon the salt water below you and swear that you are in air pocket and that the water is below you. The optical illusions are mind boggling.

So if anyone ever makes their way to the Dominican Republic, I would highly recommend going on a cave dive!

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11 Responses to “Cave Diving in the Dominican Republic”

  1. From Russ Offord:

    Hi, I was wondering if you could tell me the name of this cave, or perhaps you could tell me how I can find it better. Also, do you know what the cost for diving in that cave is and do they rent you the equipment?

    Thanks!

    Posted on 29. Jan, 2010 at 10:42 am #
  2. From ken:

    Russ, the name of the cave is Taina Cave. I know, pretty generic. But most dive shops I have spoke with between Santo Domingo and Punta Cana know about and say it’s the best cave in the country. It’s located right outside of Santo Domingo by the Hipódromo towards the toll booth. It’s pretty well hidden. If I can find it on a satellite map, I’ll tag it and put it here. Like everything else, there are two costs. One costs for locals and anther for tourists. If you go with a dive shop the cost for locals is a little over $100USD, tourists pay more. You can dive it yourself if you find it. But when you get there you have to pay an entrance fee. I dont know what it is, but it’s steep. I’m guessing like $40USD. It’s on private land and they can charge whatever they want. But I will say, its worth it!

    Posted on 29. Jan, 2010 at 2:24 pm #
  3. From Russ Offord:

    Great! After seeing the video on YouTube, though, I think I better learn to dive in an open reef first! 🙂

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVUFv8GtvIs

    Thank you.

    Posted on 30. Jan, 2010 at 12:49 pm #
  4. From NEPTUNO:

    Hi, the name of that cave is Taina, is important to note that here in DR many dive schools are taking people untrained in cavediving inside caves risking lifes, please be careful, the second dive you talk about if very far beyond recreational diving and even cavern divers and just at the limit of intro to cave divers, the jump behind the boulders(where those supposed “guides” take people not even installing a reel to keep the permanent line to the exit[main rule in caves]) has a very pronounced halocline that some times make it really hard to see. Before you go with somebody supposed to be a guide, he has to be at least divemaster and Full cave diver and wear full cave gear (doubles, reels, 3 lights, etc) and can only take you to the cavern zone unless YOU are trained for cavediving. Here in DR is a good school, you could take a cavern class and enjoy the caves on the same time staying very safe and not risking your life.
    I would like to invite you to visit our new website http://www.dr-ss.com
    Regards

    Posted on 06. Jul, 2010 at 10:15 am #
  5. From ken:

    Hey Neptuno, thanks for the update. You are right, it is important to note that here in the DR just about anything goes! You can throw most certifications, experience, and safety rules out the window here in the Dominican Republic. And as Neptuno points out, it is important to know what the heck you are doing. When diving in a cave, there really isn’t any room for error. If you do run into a problem, it could be your last 🙂 I’ve checkout your new website, pretty informative. And like you said, not really for recreational divers. BTW, there’s supposed to be a pretty cool cave in Bayahibe. Next to the Taina Cave, what’s the next cave you would rate as far as a WoW factor?

    Posted on 06. Jul, 2010 at 11:03 am #
  6. From tanea:

    Super amazing ! 😀

    Posted on 06. Sep, 2010 at 9:05 pm #
  7. From ken:

    Actually is was! I’ve made a total of 4 dives there so far. Some of the best cave diving ever. And pictures dont really do it justice

    Posted on 07. Sep, 2010 at 8:51 pm #
  8. From Neptuno:

    Hi, there are several caves in bayahibe, all are cool, el Chicho is the most known with a nice pool for cavern dives, they all are in the website http://www.dr-ss.com we are workning on the map of el chicho and videos and a lot more stuff.

    Is important again for everyone reading here, get trained before you cave dive, it is very dangerous, it looks very pretty, and that is what makes it even more dangerous, get trained and you will fully enjoy cave diving in a safe way.

    we opened a gallery, check out the pics
    Regards

    Posted on 10. Nov, 2010 at 9:15 pm #
  9. From Phillip:

    Hi guys, i must point out that the dive you did in cueva Taina was well beyond well established recreational diving safety guidelines, this is not your fault it is the dive operator fault for taking you on such a dive.

    This is unfortunately a common thing in the DR and especially in Bayahibe were dive shops take unsuspecting OW clients way past the safe cavern zone and into the cave zone.

    Cavern zone means no more than 40 meters penetration and must be in view of sunlight entrance at all times, have a permanent guideline to the exit and the “guide” must be in full cave gear with double tanks etc..

    Anything more and you are in the full cave zone and although it may look safe and clear it is not and to date over 500 people have died in caves just like these 99.9 percent of the victims were open water divers including many OW instructors.

    Untrained cave diving is the number 1 cause of deaths in cave

    Posted on 22. Feb, 2011 at 11:11 pm #
  10. From ken:

    Phillip, I dont doubt anything you guys from http://www.DR-SS.com are saying. You are promoting Safe Diving, and of course, that is good. But could you please back up some of your statistics. Like “40 meters of penetration and be in view of sunlight entrance”. And “the guide must be in full cave gear”? Is this something PADI teaches, or NAUI? Personally, I’m not a recreational diver, I’m a commercial diver and have never heard of these things. So if I could look them up so as to be aware what the recreational guidelines are, that would be great. Appreciate your dedication to safety and the support of SCUBA in general.

    Posted on 23. Feb, 2011 at 12:12 am #
  11. From Neptuno:

    Ken, that is teached by all OW agencies(padi, ssi, etc, etc.), they vary a little bit from one to other, but basically, never exceed 60m penetration from the surface at entrance, and never exceed 30m depth. Direct view to sun light areas only, basically if you don’t see sunlight you are too far.

    When you want to go further just get some basic real cave training and enjoy the caves, if not you can enjoy the caverns very well and stay in safe areas.

    sadly many people have died because breaking these standards, lately more often because of “guides” taking people too far, causing multiple deaths regularly.

    SO, for people wanting to know caves, just enjoy it and make sure you stay in the safe area, even if your “guide” tells you is safe to go past the STOP sign, just don’t do it and inform your certification agency about that asap, that is a criminal act from the guides and dive centers.

    Posted on 25. Jun, 2012 at 9:24 am #

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