One of the lesser-known Caribbean diving destinations, scuba diving Punta Cana is still one of the most amazing places to dive in the Caribbean. Located on the Eastern tip of the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana is blessed with idyllic weather and diving conditions.
You can visit Punta Cana year-round, with winter temperatures ranging from 70F/2C to 80F/26C, while in the slightly warmer summer, temperatures vary from 79F/26C to 83F/28C. Things are equally pleasant in the water year-round, with the water temperatures ranging from a low of 70F/21C to a warm 79F/26C. While you can visit Punta Cana year-round, the best time to visit in terms of weather and marine encounters is between December to March. Although the dry season runs from December to May, you can still have a great time visiting in April and May.
The waters off Punta Cana are teeming with rich marine life. The stars of the show are humpback whales that migrate past the island in December and March, and divers can experience diving to the soundtrack of humpback whale songs. Aside from that, you can regularly encounter barracudas, eagle rays, dolphins, and turtles. There are several species of sharks in the waters, the most common being nurse sharks. The reefs around Punta Cana are home to many reef fish, corals, and critters!
The Astron Shipwreck
The Astron shipwreck is the best wreck dive in the water off Punta Cana and is often one of the highlights of any scuba diving Punta Cana trip. This monster wreck measures an impressive 139 yards/127m long and is a joy to explore. The formerly Russian freighter was not sunk on purpose but due to an accident. In 1978 the ship ran aground, and following a storm, she broke up into two parts. Interestingly, the ship’s bow lies above the water, while the stern is underwater and a great dive.
The wreck is open to all levels of divers, with the stern lying at a depth of 50ft/15m, while most dives on the wreck are in the 40ft/12m range. Over the years, the wreck has become a little artificial reef, and you can regularly encounter snappers, rays, and barracudas hanging around the wreck. While the main interest of the dive is exploring the actual wreck, one of the most impressive aspects is the enormous propeller, which makes for some great photo opportunities.
One of the highlights of any scuba diving Punta Cana trip is the nearby Saona Island. The island is reached by speed boat and is home to some fantastic diving with multiple dive sites. The island is open to all levels of divers. Beginners will spend more time on sheltered western side die sites and offer more benign diving conditions. While intermediate and advanced divers can venture to the island’s east, where the more exposed location means more significant currents and fish.
Life on Saona island is very varied, including some stunning geography. Some dives feature lots of drifts, while others feature a wide range of tunnels and swim-throughs in a rich and healthy reef. There are also mangrove beds and huge seagrass beds to experience, along with all the wildlife that can be found lurking in the grass. Technical divers with cave training can also explore some freshwater caves and penetrate some of the number of wrecks in the waters of Saona island.
The Enriquillo RM-22
Formerly the USS Stallion, the Enriquillo RM-22 Navy tug was gifted to the Dominican Republic after a long and illustrious career in the US Navy. Exploring the Enriquillo is often the highlight of many scuba diving Punta Cana trips. The 143ft/44m tug was delivered to the Dominican navy in 1980 and served 26 years before being sunk off the coast of Playa Blanca to act as an artificial reef. In Dominican service, the ship is named after a famous Taino cacique who, in the 16th century, rebelled against the Spanish occupation.
The wreck likes in 60ft/18m of water; however, it is only recommended for experienced divers since the area has strong currents that would be challenging to novice divers. Diving the wreck, there is plenty to see. You can often encounter three species of turtles as they visit the area to breed, Leatherback, Hawksbill and Green turtles. Also, divers can encounter both Atlantic and Caribbean species, including yellowtail snappers and Atlantic horse mackerel.
Scuba Diving Punta Cana Art: The Underwater Museum
You can also explore some art on your next scuba diving Punta Cana trip by taking a dip or two at the Igneri Caribe Taino Underwater Museum. The site is located in the waters between Playa Serena and Playa Balance. The dive site is very shallow, ranging in depth from 10ft/3m to 23ft/7m, making it ideal for all levels of divers, including beginners, and a good place for a lazy afternoon snorkeling.
The museum features 22 statues/ sculptures that are the work of award-winning Dominican artist Thimo Pimentel. The sculptures celebrate the Taino heritage and depict various Taino figures. the sculptors serve a dual purpose, to celebrate Taino heritage, and provide sanctuary for local fish populations. Several coral patches were planted amongst the statues to create a habitat for the fish to add interest to the site. Offering something different, the museum provides divers something different on their next scuba diving Punta Cana trip.
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