The PADI Open Water Diver course: The time required to complete the Open Water Diver course depends to some extent on the school and the availability of its students. Some schools will teach the five modules of the course over a period of five weeks, holding classes at the weekends to accommodate those who work during the week. This would obviously not be much good for someone on a two-week vacation in the Dominican Republic, which is why the five modules are usually condensed into a three day course, although the number of hours remains the same and safety standards are still impeccable. Each module builds on previous knowledge. You begin by learning basic stuff about the underwater environment and diving equipment: the two pillars of the course. These subjects are explored in increasingly greater detail before things such as the potential hazards of diving and dive tables are introduced and examined. Meanwhile, the practical skills of scuba diving are taught and tested in a series of confined water (swimming pool) and open water (sea) dives. Successful completion of the Open Water Diver course allows you to dive independently within the limits of your training and experience.
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More adventurous diving: Assuming that you have the relevant training, what are the chances of finding some more extreme diving in the Dominican Republic? There are some reasonable deep dives in Sosua, including a wreck dive of 36 meters and several others sites in excess of 30 meters. The better schools in Sosua also run guided night dives to these and other sites, as well as cave dives to the nearby caverns of Cabrera. Some of the passages in this network of underwater caves have unrestricted access to the surface, which makes them suitable for divers with basic, Open Water certification. Cave diving is also becoming a distinct possibility in the southwest of the country, where virgin caves are being discovered by divers in search of new, more challenging sites. Still in the southwest, the reefs off Pedernales are among the best in the Dominican Republic, and shark dives (reef sharks) make an interesting alternative to the standard reef dive.
Where and when: There are dive sites on the north and south coasts of the Dominican Republic. In the north Sosua has the best diving infrastructure, with several schools and places where you can rent equipment. Moving east, it is possible to dive at several sites between Sosua and Río San Juan, Cabrera (cave diving) and Las Terrenas. Meanwhile, west of Sosua there are dive sites around Monte Cristi (the keys known as the Cayos Siete Hermanos, for example, are surrounded by several good reefs). The most adventurous diving on the south coast and possibly the best diving in the whole of the Dominican Republic is in the southwest around Pedernales, where there are some pristine coral reefs and hardly no people. The coastline of Parque Nacional del Este, especially the western stretch, has some diverse coral formations, and there are diving schools in Bayahibe.
You can dive in warm, clear water all year round in the Dominican Republic.
Equipment: If you take a PADI course, all scuba gear, masks, fins and wet suits will be provided. If you are already a certified diver, you can rent this equipment and fill your tanks at diving schools all over the country.