Comments Off on Snorkeling in Las Terrenas
One of my family’s favorite activities in the DR is snorkeling. We make sure to take our snorkel gear to every new beach we try. So far of the over a dozen beaches we have visited in the Dominican Republic we like the beach in Las Terrenas best for snorkeling, but there are a few tricks you need to learn to be able to have the best experience.
- Go in the morning. Most mornings the water is calm keeping you from being beat around as much by the waves. There is also less wind so the water isn’t choppy and you are able to see by the color of the water what is under the surface. This helps you to find the best snorkeling locations.
- Sunny, Cloudy or light rain doesn’t really matter. We do a lot of snorkeling in the rain, you don’t really even notice.
- Look for the right terrain. There are four different types of underwater terrain you will find in Las Terrenas. You look for the right color in the water, you can tell from a distance the best areas to snorkel.
- Dark Green: These are grassy mats. These are good areas to walk out to other locations on. While you may find some very small fish in the grass, this is usually not the best area to go snorkeling in.
- Blue, Light Blue: Usually these are the sandy areas and pools. You won’t find too many fish in the middle of these pools but as you go around the edges you will find more. These can however, be good areas to look for shells. Especially after a storm there can be quite a few shell laying around in these pools. Typically you will find conch shell, clam and other muscle shells (varied colors like white, purple, and dark rose to red), urchins (ball like shells) and a few other varieties, you can also find quite a bit of choral pieces.
- Dark Blue and Turquoise: Deep water areas. If you are a bit afraid of the ocean you will likely want to avoid these areas. I’ve found the best snorkeling to be in less than 10 foot deep of water anyway. You are more likely to find larger fish in these areas, but most beginner snorkelers choose the more shallow areas.
- Rust colored areas: These are areas with a lot of rock. These are the ideal snorkeling areas. The fish like to be able to hide easily. Large sections of this porous rock (rocks with holes for the fish to hide in) and coral beds make for the best snorkeling. Find a shallow enough area where you can touch a rock with your foot or hand to keep you steady and wait. Within a few seconds to a minute the fish will start coming out. Soon you will be treated to a wide variety of blues, greens and yellows from the schools of fish that will start surrounding you.
- Bring the strongest waterproof sunscreen you can find and apply it thickly to your back, the backs of your arms, ears, neck, and legs. These areas are going to be exposed to the sun a lot. Make sure they are well covered.
- Bring Fresh water and an antibiotic gel. Coral scratches should be cleaned and antibiotic should be applied fairly soon after the scratch. Coral puts out an enzyme that will cause infections. Don’t try to be tough and forget about it, put some antibiotic on every coral scratch and cut.
- Water Shoes: Bring water shoes, they help a lot. You will need to wade out in shallow water over rock, and other surfaces. It really helps to have some shoes. If you forgot your water shoes there is a small mall right across the street from the little park that is right off the beach. Cross the street from the park and follow the concrete path between the two restaurants this will take you into an open air mall. You will find a store on the bottom floor that has office supplies, books and some pharmacy items (including sunscreen), she usually has water shoes in front of her store. The water shoes I’m talking about have a thin rubber sole and nylon uppers with a string tightener kind of like tennis shoes. These provide pretty good protection and stay on your feet while swimming.
- If you have one, bring an underwater camera. You can often buy relatively cheap one time use underwater film cameras. It’s worth it. Underwater cameras seem to work better on the sunny days, the colors are not quite as bright on overcast days
- Watch out for jelly fish: Jelly fish can sting. It’s best to avoid areas where you see them. Just move on to the next pool. If you do get stung the anti biotic will help. Also, while this may not seem like the ideal solution, human urine can help neutralize the stinging. Urine is sterile when it comes out, it’s pretty much the thought of having pee on you that make this treatment a little rough even though it is one of the most effective ways to treat jellyfish stings.
- Watch for Rock Fish: These fish actually look like a rock, you have to look for their eyes. You don’t want to step on one.
- Low Tide: We have found the best time is during low tide. While you can snorkel with great results at any tide, you are able to view the coral beds easier when the tide is low. During low tide you will be able to see areas where the the deep green grass like mats are actually above the water.
We usually scope out the area first to locate the area we want to go to and as soon as possible start floating on our bellies to get there. You can float in just a few inches of water and you do far less damage to the habitat as well as to your feet. Float face down in the water and breathe naturally through the snorkel. If you get a little water in your snorkel you can push your head a little further under water to fill the snorkel and then raise you head so the top of the snorkel is out of the water and blow hard, this will clear the snorkel and you can breathe normally again. It takes a little practice, but once you get the hand of it you never need to lift you head out of the water.
Make sure you mask is clean of all oils; this will help keep the mask from fogging. Once you have sunscreen on your hands do not tough the lens. Spitting in the lens and wiping it around also works to help keep your mask from fogging.
You will find a large variety of many colored fish in the DR. Black with florescent purple spots, fish with green, yellow and blue stripes, bright yellow, bright green, bright blue, even ones like you see in salt water tanks back home. Don’t miss out on taking some time to do some snorkeling while at the DR beaches!