As the coral reefs in the Dominican Republic have greatly suffered the impact of several human and environmental factors, underwater photographer Guillermo Ricart would constantly hear about diving spots that “had nothing to offer anymore.

The Living Sea is his retort to those skeptical divers: after hundreds of hours of research, planning and documenting the many reefs along the country’s coastline, his lively photos remind us that the ocean has the ability to heal itself. Thus, this book highlights the importance of the preservation efforts that aim to ensure the sustainability of our natural resources: its pages state that there’s still hope for our seas and the living beings in them. 

OUR UNDERWATER COMMUNITIES

The north coast Manzanillo

The Bay of Manzanillo is one of the most remarkable marine habitats in the province of Montecristi. The western portion of the bay contains a surprising number of sponges that restore the balance disturbed by the sediment that comes from land erosion in the area. Conversely, the eastern side of the bay is vibrant with both hard and soft corals, including fire corals, yellow pencils, plumes, pillars, branched-finger corals and elk horn varieties.

Litoral norte Manzanillo

The north coast Montecristi

The astounding underwater realm of Montecristi, with an area of almost 182 km2, includes shipwrecks that span several centuries and have become marine habitats, as well as rock formations and thriving coral reefs that together create the impression of an enchanted forest. Along with his diving partners, Ricart discovered a wealth of tropical fish species, such as barracudas, angelfishes, snappers, trumpet fishes, octopuses, crabs and conches.

Litoral norte Montecristi

The north coast Cayo Arena

Cayo Arena provides some of the best opportunities for underwater photography, as its marine life is among the most abundant in the Dominican Republic. In addition to corals and sponges, one can find octopuses and crabs, schools of surgeonfish, sergeant major fishes, angelfishes and yellowtail snappers. Many juvenile fish frolic between the gorgonias and the sea fans, finding shelter in the shallow reefs that encircle the cay.

Litoral norte Cayo Arena

The north coast Sosúa

Much of its abundant marine life can be found around the Three Rocks, the Five Rocks, the Zingara sunken ship, the Canyon, Los Charamicos Gardens and the Coral Gardens, which display sea fans and corals. Along the Wall, some of the rocks provide swim-through formations, where colorful schools of fish can be observed. Moray eels, rays and barracudas are also among the local inhabitants.

Litoral norte Sosúa

The north coast Cabo Cabrón

This narrow promontory is known for its biodiversity, discovered in the Tibisi I and Tibisi II dive sites on its western side. The wall plunges to a depth of approximately 40 meters, and generally good visibility allows for a clear image of the area. Tibisi also offers numerous caves for the adventurous. The beautiful Laguna dive site features passages between huge boulders, where sea turtles seem to be greatly at ease.

The east coast The Bay of Samaná

The Dominican Republic was the first Caribbean nation to create a marine mammal sanctuary. In what we’d like to think of as a gesture of gratitude, the humpback whales continue their annual pilgrimage from their North Atlantic habitat to our inviting marine havens. It’s an event as predictable as the passage of time. They come to breed, to nurture their calves, to interact with each other and, yes, to unwittingly provide entertainment for us humans.

Litoral este Bahía de Samaná

The east coast Uvero Alto, Macao and Bávaro

Diving conditions are often difficult due to the strong currents, the open sea and the exposed coastline. As a result, there are few coral reef habitats here. For experienced divers, this is still an area of interest that offers a white-sand bottom favored by rays and rapid-moving schools of fish. Dive spots such as Las Cuevitas and El Canal feature numerous caverns and swim-through rock formations.

Litoral este Uvero Alto, Macao y Bávaro

The east coast Punta Cana

These waters offer the opportunity of encountering many sea creatures, and regular divers are familiar with their so-called celebrities; such is the case of François, an adult barracuda that is certainly a habitué of Punta Cana’s popular dive site El Acuario. François is frequently seen either on his own or protecting schools of juvenile northern sennet (Sphyraena borealis), a species of the barracuda family, as they learn to explore their marine realm.

Litoral este Punta Cana

The southeast coast Catalinita Island

Located close to the Saona Island, Catalinita is an idyllic spot that offers small but breathtaking beaches and rock formations that drop to a depth of more than 33 meters in some spots. Its sea walls are studded with caves, and the surrounding coral reefs are astounding. Catalinita’s remoteness has worked in its favor: we have left this island alone and its marine life has therefore thrived. Pelagic species, such as reef sharks, can be sometimes found here.

Litoral sureste Isla Catalinita

The southeast coast Isla Saona

The sea currents are frequently strong, and yet, its coral reefs thrive. La Parguera is thought to be the most popular site among recreational divers, followed by Peñón I and Peñón II, with depths ranging from nine to 33 meters. Snappers, groupers, hawksbill sea turtles, rays and lively schools of fish enjoy this habitat. Other locations include Punta Cacón, whose reefs are used by lobsters to hide from predators.

Litoral sureste Isla Saona

The southeast coast Catalina Island

Catalina Island offers two accessible and rewarding locations: El Acuario and La Pared. It is located southwest from the city of La Romana and can be easily reached by boat. Shallow-water coral reefs unveil a world of gorgonias. There are also many crustaceans, including cleaner shrimps. The Captain Kidd wreck, off Catalina’s eastern coast, is also an interesting site: local authorities have turned the spot into a living museum, suitable for snorkeling and diving.

Litoral sureste Dominicus y Bayahibe

The southeast coast Dominicus and Bayahibe

The turquoise waters off Bayahibe and Dominicus are home to everything from impressive green sea turtles and delicate seahorses. A series of rocks in front of the latter allow divers to explore these formations by progressing from one to the other. In addition to the schools of tropical fish there are shallow-water coral reefs that provide shelter for juveniles of various species, which find an abundance of food in these waters.

The south coast Palenque and Salinas

The Palenque area provides excellent photo opportunities, particularly under its pier. In Las Salinas there are many marlins, groupers and sea bass to be found, as well as plentiful octopuses, squids and crustaceans. The sea also contains barracudas, sea turtles and many juvenile fish of curious species, such as the brilliantly colored cowfish, related to the trunkfish and frequently observed swimming in reverse.

Litoral sur Palenque y Salinas

The south coast Pedernales

The region’s foremost dive spots include the picturesque Beata Island and Alto Velo, home to a solitary nurse shark that can be spotted under a ledge near the shallow-water reefs. Los Frailes, with its iridescent white rock formations that rise above the sea, is yet another spectacular site —rarely visited due to its strong currents, but perfect for advanced divers. Cabo Falso, another remarkable destination, has the largest number of juvenile hawksbill turtles in the Caribbean.

Litoral sur Pedernales

The south coast Boca Chica

Boca Chica is still a reef-protected bay of the finest white sand and crystalline blue waters, which remain waist-deep throughout. Bereft of strong currents and any sudden drops, it is a place of tranquil beauty, with relaxing dive sites located just beyond the reefs. Corals, anemones, gorgonias, sponges, octopuses, reel fishes, crustaceans and starfish can all be found within this habitat.

Litoral sur Boca Chica

The south coast La Caleta

Declared a protected park area in 1986, it is nowadays considered a model for community management of coastal ecosystems. A series of buoys have been strategically set up to indicate dive sites, thus preventing further anchor damage from boats coming dangerously close to the reefs. As part of its conservation efforts, sustainable fishing practices have helped increase the number and variety of fish and lobster in the area.

Litoral sur La Caleta_
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The Team

Guillermo Ricart

Diver and underwater photographer

Eladio Fernández

Photographer

Martha Lugo

Editorial director and translator

María Rosa Baquero

Art director and designer

Carmen Nova

Virtual and cartographic designer

Cynthia Matos

Cartographic designer

Luis Vidal

Production assistant

Diana López

Translator and copy editor

Harry Ehrenberg

Translator and copy editor

Karina García

Translator and copy editor