Did you know Dominica is home to two-thirds of all known whale species, making it one of the best locales in the world to see these majestic cetaceans? As of November 13, this fact has taken on even deeper meaning as the island announced the creation of a marine-protected area for sperm whales in our […]Read more
Exciting enhancements are now here! Fort Young Hotel & Dive Resort is thrilled to introduce an array of new rooms and amenities come November 2023, including one that has divers and adventurers buzzing with excitement: an expanded on-site dive operation. From two brand-new boats to special dive packages to a unique shore diving experience directly from our jetty, Fort Young Hotel will serve as the ultimate one-stop shop for those seeking to witness the inspiring world down under. We had the chance to sit down with Fort Young Dive’s new manager and expert dive instructor William “Billy Lawrence” to learn more about all that awaits. Dive in!
The new dive operation is part of the hotel’s larger renovation project. What specific enhancements will be made to the dive area and facilities?
Thanks to the larger renovation project, the dive operation will be brought on-site and in-house. This will greatly improve the experiences and services offered to guests.
As for what to expect: jetty upgrade plans, shop space expansion, gear room expansion, equipment workstation, updated shore dive map, underwater ocean-aged rum cage (more on that later), a dedicated class/photo room, kayaking…the list goes on. The most standout feature is the custom-built boats for diving, whale watching, snorkeling and charters.
Let’s talk about the dive staff. What expertise and experience do they bring to the team, and how do they contribute to making FYH’s dive operations exceptional?
We call our team the “Fort Seals” in honor of the Caribbean monk seals, also known as the West Indian seal or sea wolf — a seal species native to the Caribbean that is now extinct. Unlike real Navy Seals, our staff “trains hard so clients can dive easy,” as we always say, and aim to provide an elite level of service.
As “Master Chief,” I’m an experienced Senior Technician and Dive Operator. Trainer with a broad skill set and competencies with qualifications including Hyperbaric Chamber Technician/Trainer, Emergency First Response Instructor, Master Scuba Diver Trainer and Boat Captain with experience in biophysical assessment of benthic ecosystem.
Francesca is next in command as the Dive Shop Supervisor. She runs the important admin unit and is the island’s first local female dive instructor.
Brad is a PADI scuba instructor and our Dive Gear Technician. He’s always willing to help and chat, and knows the ins and outs of the resort better than anyone else on the team.
Gus is our Senior Boat Captain and Assistant Scuba Instructor with many many hours under and on the water.
Captain Mano became a Dive Instructor back in the early 90’s, and even though he doesn’t do much diving, he has some of the best stories about the first years of scuba diving in Dominica.
Bert, another local dive instructor, is our Training Specialist. He is always ready to “fall in water,” and having grown up on the east coast of the island, he has the most experience diving in the Atlantic. He keeps us all up to date with the latest diver training information, equipment and methods.
Delius aka “Bamboo” is an Assistant Instructor and Divemaster. Bamboo and Francesca did their training together when theft both were part of a Dominica Watersports Association initiative with PADI to train local Dominicans from open water to divemaster program. Bamboo is a real “local flavor”and literally grew up in the bay just down the coast from the resort.
Are there any new dive packages or experiences that guests can look forward to as part of these improvements?
Yes! New experiences are in the pipeline and will feature diving and kayaking from Fort Young Hotel. A few to keep on your radar are our Boat to Shore Dive Experience, Enhanced Night Diving experiences and Kayak & Snorkel adventure.
Safety is paramount in diving. How has Fort Young Hotel ensured that safety standards are met and exceeded in the revamped dive operations?
All staff are trained, certified and experienced. Equipment is up to date and maintained to international standards, and our methods of operation always prioritize safety first.
Can you share some insights into the unique marine life and dive sites that guests can explore while staying at FYH?
This is a very long list but I will highlight a few just to wet the appetite!
Champagne Reef: This is a famous site that features underwater hot springs that create a magical bubbling effect. Divers can witness coral formations, sponges and an abundance of marine species while experiencing the warmth of the geothermal vents.
Scotts Head Pinnacle: Located near the southern tip of Dominia, this dive features a dramatic underwater pinnacle where divers encounter schools of fish, sea turtles and even larger species while exploring.
Additionally, the macro life is a photographer’s and diver’s dream with the chance to spot tiny creatures like nudibranchs, seahorses and various shrimp species amid the reefs. These sites appeal to both novice and experienced divers seeking unforgettable underwater experiences!
How do these enhancements align with Fort Young Hotel’s commitment to sustainability and environmental conservation?
The enhancements align perfectly with the Fort Young Hotel’s commitment as the dive operation follows sustainable diving practices such as responsible diver behavior, reef-friendly practices and proper waste disposal to minimize negative impacts on the marine ecosystem.
Fort Young Hotel offers the only shore diving in the country. Can you share more about that experience?
Of course! Fort Young Hotel is currently the only hotel in Dominica with an on-premise dive operation. Anyone on a five-day dive package is automatically eligible to experience our unlimited shore dive package on our own “Fort Young House Reef.”
During this shore dive, you’ll discover cannons from a sunken Spanish vessel; a shipwreck, which was a private luxury yacht that sank in the early 1900s; and soap factory industrial equipment that’s full of life-like squatting shrimp and other crustaceans.
We pride ourselves on being able to mention that we’re one of few areas where the rare flying gurnards can be seen — as well as the short nose red lip batfish. Amongst other creatures, we’re also excited about the octopus that have called this area home, along with seahorses and frog fish. It’s not uncommon to see a moray eel going by, too.
Last but certainly not least, you’ll also discover our rum cage which has submerged rum barrels for ocean aging!
Walk us through what it’s like to learn how to dive at Fort Young Hotel?
Learning to dive at Fort Young Hotel typically involves a structured yet enjoyable process from orientation and the paperwork. We offer pool water training to practice essential skills, and then after mastering basic skills, guests proceed to open water training dives via the shore or through boat tours. Training caters to first-time divers up to Dive Master level using the latest teaching techniques and methods including e-learning. Successful completion of the training will eventually lead to certification. Of course, safety is a top priority during the training activities!
Beyond diving, what other experiences can guests have on the new boats?
Snorkeling, whale watching and special charters!
Finally, could you tell us a bit about your personal background and passion for diving? What inspired you to take on the role of Dive Manager at FYH, and what goals do you have for the future of dive operations here?
I was born in Dominica but grew up in Barbados with the sea as my playground. So I am truly a lover of the sea being a surfer and then a diver! With that comes the experience gained for over 30 years. I see Fort Young Hotel as an innovative organization, and being part of this team allows the opportunity to change and enhance the diving experience in Dominica. For that reason, joining the Fort Young Hotel team was a no-brainer! My ultimate goal is to make Fort Young Dive the #1 dive resort in the Caribbean region!