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New route guide highlights the Santiago-Puerto Plata panoramic mountain pass

The Ruta Panoramica between Santiago Puerto Plata crosses the dramatic northern mountain range

PUERTO PLATA — A new eco-tourism option has emerged in Puerto Plata Province with the recent launch of a map-guide that promotes activities and points of interest along the Gregorio Luperon Tourist Highway, a scenic mountain road that connects the Puerto Plata coastal region with Santiago and the Cibao Valley

“From ocean to mountains, enjoy 30 kms of “Pure Nature!” says the guide,  while summarizing the services, attractions and activities available between La Cumbre and Gran Parada, including the amber mines in La Cumbre, the fertile coffee region of Pedro García and the sugarcane traditions of Montellano.

Easy to use, the guide’s information is ordered sequentially and correlates with a series of A-B-C etc marker signs installed every two kilometers along the highway. The signs were installed in conjunction with the initiation of the highway’s re-construction currently underway.

The map-guide promotes day trips along this scenic mountain road to shop (organic produce, local cheese, yogurts, jams, exotic flowers in more than six different nurseries, handmade gifts and furniture); for adventure (zipline, hiking, cascading, horseback riding) and discovery (amber mines, the Mirabal Sisters monument, panoramic views). It also invites you to a novel opportunity, to enjoy an authentic Dominican lunch in selected private homes along the highway.

The route guide is available in print along the route at selected points and can be downloaded free at www.RutaPanoramica.com

This project was underwritten by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism and the Institute for Professional Formation (INFOTEP), as part of the TURISOPP project for rural tourism development in Puerto Plata Province through private  – public sector cooperation. It is an initiative of the Municipal Unit for Cultural Heritage (UMPC) of Montellano – Yasica Arriba – Pedro García, an NGO constituted to create frameworks for the development and co-management of eco-tourism and cultural activities that contribute to sustainable growth for the region. It coincides with the efforts of US-AID and the Puerto Plata Tourism Cluster to reform the identity of Puerto Plata as a tourism destination.

Download the Panoramic Route Guide

Ocean World, the world’s first fully interactive marine park

by Ron Añejo – The POP Report

PUERTO PLATA- The brand new, $30 million Ocean World located in the exclusive Cofresi resort area isn’t about just sitting around and watching “Flipper” dance on his tail in the water — it’s about jumping in and dancing with him.

And it’s not about strolling past gigantic aquariums teeming with coral reefs and tropical fish and sharks— it’s about actually getting inside the aquarium and swimming with them.

“This is the first park of its kind, where you’re interactive with all the animals sea lions, dolphins, sharks, stingrays, tropical fish and tropical birds,” says Eric Bogden, director of operations.

Eric is an18-year veteran of Sea World parks in the States. He was netted by Ocean World’s owners to manage the design and completion of this unique park’s exhibits.

This is the second park operated by the same owners. Their first one, Dolphin Encounters, is a huge success located on Blue Lagoon Island near Nassau.

Ocean World is brand new and some of the exhibits will open over the next several months. “We’re training the sharks right now. Just this morning I had one sitting on my lap,” says Eric proudly. When the shark pool is ready, your friendly shark will stick his jaws out of the water for a photo op with you.

Open a scant six months, the dolphin swims and encounters are already selling out, attracting more than 100 people per day. Dolphin Swims, the ultimate experience where you actually get towed around the lake by a friendly pair of dolphins, are limited to 10 people twice daily, and are sold out more than a week in advance. And while we had to settle for a Dolphin Encounter, where up to 30 can participate; it turned out to be an unforgettable experience just the same.

“These animals are super sociable and want to have a good time,” explained one of the three trainers who were assigned to our group. “So the more you whoop it up, clap and have fun, the more they will respond and interact with you.”

Indeed, this isn’t about sitting in bleachers and watching animal tricks from a distance. This is about getting into your bathing suit and sitting with just a couple dozen people on a floating deck, with three trainers attending and three dolphins sharing an enclosed pool not much larger than a jacuzzi.

This is about standing in shallow water as a 400-pound dolphin comes up erect in front of you. You hold his fins, and, as the trainers whistle a quick five bars of merengue, you feel the power as he dances in your outstretched arms.

This is about standing in shallow water as Boomer, the newest arrival at Ocean World, comes right up to you for a hug, pressing his body against your chest, head on shoulder. And you feel the strength, the power and the gentle affection of these incredible mammals as they wiggle their snouts against your cheek for a friendly kiss.

“I was amazed with the quality of the whole event,” said Jan Maclean, a veteran diver who has swam with dolphins and whales in the open sea. “It was obvious the trainers were completely wrapped up in what they were doing. They really care about the animals”

“I found the setting to be spectacular,” said Jean Hall on vacation from Montreal. “It looked like a magazine picture of the Caribbean. I’ve never been to a place where the public is invited to touch, dance, stroke and feed the animals. Being that close to such a large animal, standing stomach to stomach with him was incredible.”

Ocean World has become a must-see in Puerto Plata. It’s open every day but you’d do well to reserve in advance.

***

OCEAN WORLD ADVENTURE PARK is the most advanced marine interaction park of its kind.  Boasting the largest man-made dolphin habitat in the world, Ocean World is a must-see attraction for everyone visiting the Dominican Republic.
Guests of Ocean World Adventure Park have the opportunity to touch, pet and feed dolphins, sea lions, sharks, stingrays, exotic tropical birds, meet tigers, walk through a tropical rain forest and much more.
Ocean World Adventure Park emphasizes personal experiences between guests and marine animals through interactive programs.  There are only a handful of such facilities in the world, and none that rival the variety and quality that Ocean World Adventure Park provides.

Sea Lion show & Encounters. The Patagonian Sea Lions featured in this program originated from Uruguay.   Two of them are male and six are female.  Guests are provided with an opportunity to touch, feed, pet and play with these wonderful animals in the Sea Lion Encounter Program. The Sea Lion Show draws great reviews as guests watch the animals perform amazing behaviors and stunts.
Sea Lion Facility Features
•    Total Area 780m2
•    Stadium seating 350 guests
•    Water volume 60,000 gallons in 4 pools
•    Filtration system high rate sand filters, protein skimmers, ozone treatment

Snorkel Reef. In the coral reef aquarium, snorkelers swim in a colorful reef teeming with hundreds of exotic fish.  The snorkeling here is available everyday of the year.  Visitors are most likely to encounter angel fish, puffers, grunts, tangs, jacks, butterfly fish, spade fish, look downs and lobsters.
Snorkel Reef Facility Features
•    Total area 305m2 and 2.0m average depth
•    Water volume 150,000 gallons
•    Estimated number of fish 2,000
•    Filtration system, high-rate sand, protein skimmers, biologic, ozone treatment, temperature controlled
•    Split level underwater viewing panels 1.5m high and 15m long

Dolphin Swims and Encounters. For many guests, the highlight of a visit to Ocean World Adventure Park is the rare opportunity to swim and play with beautiful Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.  The Dolphin Swim experience begins with a brief orientation and educational program.  Then guests enter the water for their introduction to dolphins.  Guests learn about dolphin behavior and discover how Ocean World Adventure Park trainers use hand signals and positive reinforcement to communicate with them.  Taking the experience one step further, guests encounter, kiss, hug, pet, and feed dolphins one on one in their environment.
West Dolphin Lagoon Features
•    Total area 2,400m2
•    Volume 4,000,000 est. gallons, up to 4.5m deep
•    Filtration turnover rate 4 hours
•    Stadium capacity estimate 450 seats
•    Filtration system high rate sand, protein skimmers, ozone treatment
East Dolphin Lagoon Features
•    Total area 24,000m2 average depth 3.5m
•    Water volume 14,000,000 gallons
•    Turnover rate 4 hours, 24,000 gallons per hour
•    Filtration system, protein skimmers, ozone injection, system first of its kind in the world
Ocean World Adventure Park’s dolphin habitat is the largest of its kind in the world.

Shark Encounters. The sharks at Ocean World Adventure Park are an exciting variety of nurse, bonnet head and brown sharks; all indigenous to local waters. This rare award-winning interactive program includes touching, petting, feeding and snorkeling with the sharks.
Shark Pool Features
•    Water volume 200,000 gallons
•    Total area 360m2 and 2.5m deep
•    Filtration system high rate sand, protein skimmers, ozone and U.V., biologic filtration and temperature control
•    Two viewing windows 2m high and 8m long
•    Artificial reef structures decorate the bottom
•    The only shark pool specifically designed for human shark interaction

Stingray Encounters. Guests wade into the Stingray Basin, float and interact with the stingrays.  These fishes, which glide gracefully through the water, will provide you a really unique and memorable experience.
Stingray Basin Features
•    Total area 142m2
•    45,000 gallons of filtered sea water
•    2 separate water falls

Rainforest & Aviary. Ocean World Adventure Park has created the perfect rainforest.  The exotic tropical oasis is complete with waterfalls, sandy beaches and rocky lagoons.  In this area there exists a large free flight aviary, where guests are able to feed, touch and mingle with over one hundred colorful tropical birds.  Aquariums here feature exotic and unusual freshwater fish including arapaima fish.
Rainforest Features
•    Total area 3,650m2
•    Aviary 156m2 walk-through facility with tropical trees and waterfalls
•    Large Amazon fish exhibit of 24,000 gallons, 1.5m high 8m long view panels
•    Small Amazon fish exhibit of 25,000 gallons, demi-tube underwater view 7m long

Tiger Grotto. The highlight of the Tropical Rainforest is the tiger grotto.  Here, guests are invited to take a refreshing dip in the water next to the tiger habitat separated only by glass!  The pool stretches out toward what is reminiscent of ancient ruins overgrown with thick vegetation and waterfalls.
Tiger Grotto Features
•    26,000 gallon pool and total area of 450m2
•    Four rapid flow waterfalls
•    Rainforest stream entry
•    Swim cave

Trainer for a Day. Trainer for a Day will ensure a true dolphin trainer’s experience. From playing animal chef to issuing dolphin commands during a regular program with regular guests!!  Education is a significant and valuable part of this unforgettable day.
Trainer for a Day Features
•    Includes Ocean World T-shirt, hat, Trainer for a Day Certificate
•    Lunch with the Trainer
•    Dolphin Encounter interaction as a guest

SCUBA with the Dolphins or Sharks. New and exciting programs have begun at Ocean World Adventure Park; the fantastic once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to interact with dolphins or sharks underwater.  In these incredible programs visitors put on a wet suit and SCUBA gear then become immersed in an underwater paradise. The staff of Dolphin SCUBA offers instructional programs that prepare guests with the PADI open water SCUBA certification required for these programs.
Depending on experience levels; programs feature 5 different SCUBA adventures.

A ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPERIENCE!

Click here to inquire or reserve

Click here for some interesting Facts about Dolphins

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Outback Safari takes you to the back country

It’s February and I’m sinking my toes into sugary, warmed-by-the-sun sand, enjoying the slight breeze rustling in the palm trees and the brilliant blue of the ocean. Being a beach junkie, I realize that I’ve come to the right country. The Dominican Republic’s shoreline claims to have 1,600 km of beaches, ranking it among the world’s best. This boast is verified by the hordes of us who arrive to shed winter clothes and head for the beach, dazed by the dazzling sunlight and eager to head into the warm water.

Why then, a couple of days later, am I jostling around in the back of a large size vehicle, following a rugged, jungle road and kibitzing with other winter escapees? For some of us, it seems, no matter how tantalizing the resort is, after a few days of lazy indulgence (although there are loads of activities poolside; more on that later), we love to explore. In Puerto Plata, as well as from the other nearby North Coast towns of Cabarete and Sosua, there awaits a plethora of adventures.

DAY-LONG EXCURSION

On this full-day excursion with Outback Safari, our lively bunch — mostly Canadians — were picked up in the morning from a variety of hotels and everyone is geared up to have a good time as well as learn about the island’s history, culture and geography. And there is something about being in the back of a truck — we are in comfy seats and belted in — that harkens back to fun times as kids. Along with our cheerful guides, there is a lot of joking around, peppered with good information.

D.R., as it is fondly known, a country of close to nine million, shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. As our Jeep journey follows the El Choco trail, a dirt road that winds through lush jungle, we aren’t surprised that it was visited by Christopher Columbus on his 1492 expedition; nor are we surprised that he described it as “a beautiful island paradise with high forested mountains and large river valleys.” Even today, when all-inclusive hotels line the beaches and more than four million tourists visit each year, the backcountry is a tangle of growth. Along this route, the guide points out mahogany, coffee, cocoa, avocado, bread fruit, mango and papaya trees, among others as well as explaining the varieties of palms — for example, the stately Royal Palm, the bark of which is used for the siding on houses.

This day excursion moved happily along. We stopped to enjoy the surroundings and learned interesting tidbits; did you know that tea can be made from the leaves of lime trees, or that there are 245 species of birds here, making it a special place for birders. (Keep on the lookout for the dew bird, an unusual black parrot.) Our guide explained that there are many restrictions on forestry in D.R., for example, a mahogany tree cannot be cut without permission. Would you have guessed that Dominicans drink more rum than milk and that one of the many varieties of the smooth, dark substance is 75 per cent alcohol?

While that fact sounds like this green isle is all about partying, our guide also explained that Outback Safari contributes generously to the community and focuses on sustainable tourism. Formed in 1997, it provides for schools, orphanages and families, as well as contributing to health projects and road maintenance. Each year the company does the “Santa Run” and distributes thousands of gifts to children in communities nearby.

RULES OF THE ROAD

However, one of the rules of the road here, is not to give candy to the children we see along the way. Rather, bring school supplies or books and if you purchase any Outback Safari souvenirs, a hat or t-shirt perhaps, 45 per cent of the profit goes to charity. The company promotes the purchasing of local products; along the way we have opportunities to buy, and coffee is especially popular.

My favourite stop of the morning was at a family home where the mom brewed us coffee in her outdoor kitchen, a simple but tidy space that has no electricity; a solar panel charges batteries and the fridge uses propane. I spotted a small television but didn’t see a computer. They can only use one electrical appliance at a time but that didn’t seem to bother them. Proceeds from their participation with Outback Safari has been used to put a cement floor in the living room. Several small children played in the yard that had grapefruit, lemon and orange trees. It’s difficult not to feel intrusive; however, everyone relaxed once the children had laughed at some of our attempts at Spanish.

SAMPLING FRUIT

Other stops were made at a fruit plantation for sampling and at several schools that the company sponsors. We didn’t interrupt classes but peeked at the busy classrooms and left school supplies with the teacher. (It’s a good idea to research the tours before you leave home and be prepared to pack a few of items along with your sunscreen.)

At a river stop we dined at an outdoor buffet before cruising to catch glimpses of crocodiles, iguanas and some of the colourful birdlife. The day ends at Cabarete Beach, lauded as being one of the island’s most beautiful, where, if you wish, you can zoom along the surf on a boogie board. This is actually pretty easy — much less dramatic than the windsurfing and kiteboarding that this windy section is acclaimed for — and lots of fun.

CYCLING TOUR

Another day, another excursion and at times I did wonder about my sanity as I cycled a dusty road in sweltering heat. However, my quest was to get some exercise and view more of the countryside and this was working. On this guided trip with Iguana Mama Eco Tours we stopped to chat with children along the way, learned about the plant life as we ate fruit under a tamarind tree and spotted some of the island’s famous birdlife.

You can’t help but be enchanted by the lush greenery; the simplest homes have glorious gardens that boast the bright, red ginger flower and lovely chenille trees with clusters of droopy blooms. This trip, ideal for families and nature lovers, is an easy 10-km pedal along a mostly coastal route. Iguana Mama, based in Cabarete, offers a full range of eco activities, everything from family cruises to hardcore mountain biking.

MIXING WITH LOCALS

Later, I’m back on the beach, deciding that I love the mix of backroads adventures followed by hedonistic pleasures. I especially enjoyed mingling with the locals. One could go on and on about the Dominicans. Firstly, they are easy on the eyes. Many of the men have soft smiles and flash pearly whites; the women are voluptuous a la Jennifer Lopez and the dark-eyed children well-behaved and appealing. Everyone seems eager for you to appreciate their country.

These days the trend in hot weather holidays is to stay at an all inclusive, and even those of us with the heart and soul of a backpacker occasionally partake in these one-stop-shop vacations. What could be easier than an air/hotel/meals and even liquor included along with surf, sand and sun? However, a word of advice. Choose your resort carefully. Be aware that some cater to action-lovers, others offer romance packages (and may be adults only), and there are many that embrace families and make time in the sun memorable for every age group.

VARIETY OF ACTIVITIES

Most of the resorts serve a mind-boggling variety of activities: windsurfing, kayaking, sailing, canoeing, catamarans, snorkelling, and even introductory scuba diving. There are continuous games and music around the pool — the beach is quieter — plus lively evening entertainment. You can play tennis or golf, learn to hablo espanol or swing to merengue music. (The third week in October Puerto Plata plays host to a wild merengue festival that includes arts and crafts.)

There are more Puerto Plata pleasures. The national pastime is baseball. Every major city has a team and many of the best known names in the North American major leagues are Dominicans — read Sammy Sosa. The season in DR is October to January and many major league teams practise here; you must get tickets ahead of game time.

Make sure you see some of Puerto Plata. As the largest city in the country with about 200,000 people, this seems daunting. However, the area to stroll is the Old City of Puerto Plata with its charming Victorian facades.

Puerto Plata’s old city may whet your traveller’s appetite to see more. You can’t go wrong by heading to the capital city of Santo Domingo to visit its colonial section; many resorts offer a day trip.

It makes you realize that DR is more than just a pretty place laced with beaches. Enjoy the combination. Even if you are not an urban lover, this one that Columbus named La Isabela, will enchant you.

It was the first European city in the Americas and was Spain’s centre of power in the New World. The original settlement, today known as the Zona Colonial, is an 11-block section of the capital city. Cobbled streets snake among faded and reconstructed facades that, like a well aging movie star, trace remnants of a former beauty. You may see sagging balconies but when you peek inside there’s a heavy mahogany staircase and beautifully tiled floors.

Most of the buildings, like the Catedral Pirmada de America, were built in the 16th century. It originated in 1523, has three naves, lustrous stained glass windows and elaborate carvings and works of art.

One could easily spend two days visiting sites from the rusticity of the San Francisco Monastery, the first one in the new world, to the refurbished finery of the Palace of Columbus. The latter was the home of Christopher Columbus’ son Diego, who lived here in 1509 with his family. Sir Frances Drake, among others, ravaged this area; thankfully it has been lovingly restored. The guided tour here is excellent.

IF YOU GO

For more information on the tours in this story: Outback Safari: https://www.outbackadventuresdr.com and Iguana Mama Ecological Adventure Tour: www.iguanamama.com

The average year-round temperature is 25-31 Celsius (78F – 88F); take heavy-duty sun screen.

Currency is the Dominican peso; U.S. dollars are more easily accepted than Canadian dollars and credit cards are widely used.

Do not wear beach clothing, i.e bathing suits or skimpy wraps, in the villages and towns. The locals see it as disrespectful. Shorts are not acceptable clothing in churches.

What to buy: Rum, coffee, vanilla, art and amber are all good buys. The latter is, arguably, among the world’s best. However, do learn how to distinguish between the phony and the real thing, by shopping at a good jewelry store or visiting an amber museum.

What not to buy: Be aware that some souvenirs are made from endangered plant and animal species. One example is any product such as jewelry or items made from sea turtle. All eight types of sea turtles are endangered. Be a responsible shopper.

by Judi Lees, Special to Canwest News Service

12 seaside holes wow Dominican visitors

Most golfers know the Dominican Republic as the home of a lot of major league ball players, and a place with a well-known golf resort, Casa de Campo.
What they don’t know is that the Dominican Republic also has a spectacular new resort golf course that includes 12 ocean-front holes with cliffs like Pebble Beach.
Playa Grande is not just a good course. It is a great golf course! If it were in Florida, it would sell out every day in the winter at $150 green fees, maybe $200.
Assuming it gets the exposure it deserves, and continues to get the care it already does, it is destined to become known as one of the great courses of the world.
It’s not just oceanfront, with holes along the beach. The course is high above the ocean, played along 100-foot bluffs. That makes it immediately comparable to Pebble Beach, a thought that sounds almost sacrilegious. But Pebble has six holes on the oceanside bluffs (6-7-8-9-10-18). Playa Grande has 12.
This course, as far as I was able to determine in three times around it, has no negatives. It has the spectacular oceanfront setting, it has hills, and it has the widest possible choice of tees ranging from over 7000 yards to 4488.
There are now only three sets of tee markers, the conventional blue, white and red, at yardages of 7046, 5917, and 4488. But there are five tee positions on each hole, and adding a wider choice is merely an issue of putting down more markers.
It was given a long time to grow in and fairways are lush. It is tastefully landscaped with native flowers, as are many Caribbean resorts. Greens are huge, varied in shape, and steeply sloped, but with few tricky undulations. Generally, what you see is what you get.
The cliche “challenging for the best players, but playable for everybody” actually applies here. From the back tees, a player going for the shortest route must carry over corners of ocean on six holes (3-4-7-12-14-18). But from shorter tees, fairways are extremely wide, and all greens except the seventh are open for a run-up shot. Most golfers, playing conservatively, will post a score of below their average number at home. At how many great courses of the world will that happen?
The course carries the signature of Robert Trent Jones, Sr., who visited the property in 1992, and was said to have actually cried when he was subsequently called and told that he had been chosen to be the architect. The course took from ’93 to ’97 to complete. Jones did the routing, and his associates did the on-site work, but Jones, 92, has not seen the course since it was finished. Hopefully, he’ll get the chance, because in years ahead, it could be known as his best.
Bunkers bear Jones’ signature — leaf-shaped — but except for greens and bunkers, very little land had to be moved. The hills and the bluffs are things that were made by God with a golf course in mind, and hidden away waiting to be discovered.
The decision to leave greens open in front was wise. With the course of this beauty and visual distraction, it would be sinful to have a well-played hole tarnished by something so mundane as a bunker.
Very few new trees were added in building the course. Most of what’s there are huge cliff-side ones which may have been there for centuries.
Trees are an issue only on the left side of the ninth hole at the bluff’s edge, in the fairway of two interior holes (10 and 16), and on the 12th hole, where all tees except the ladies, require a carry over a deep tree-lined ocean inlet.
Most memorable holes to this writer are the 4th, 12th, and 18th, all of which are par fives. Playing carefully, and from the 5900-yard yard white tees, I was able to reach all three of them in regulation at least once, and all three with wedge third shots. From the back tees, a professional could conceivably go for all three in two, but 12 would require a heroic drive, and 4 and 18 a good drive followed by a heroic second shot.
The Dominican Republic has a stable, democratic government, Spanish speaking. The course, like several others in the country, is owned and operated by the government’s Central Bank. It’s clubhouse and pro shop are modest and austere. But the back nine is wrapped around the resort and golf is included in the Caribbean Village Playa Grande all-inclusive packages. The bank and resort work closely together, and once the course is accepted as the national resource that it is, a more appropriate clubhouse seems likely to be built.
Playa Grande is located on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Access is by American Airlines to the Puerto Plata airport, and the resort will arrange for you to be met by a shuttle for a 50-minute shore-line ride to the resort. If you want to see a little more of the country, rental cars are available.

Written By CHARLEY STINE

(Reprinted from Florida Golf News)

941-439-3381 Fax: 941-439-4286

Mel Tours

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Fun City Action Park

Fun City, the largest go-cart park in the Caribbean, features 3 great racing tracks,gocart, sprint and cyclone, as well as a kids playground, bumper cars, pichers challenge and more! Check out our unlimited racing pass and spend a day with us! Great family fun!
Free taxi transportation from your hotel and back!

FUN CITY ACTION PARK

Puerto Plata-Sosua Hwy Km 8 near Playa Dorada Tel: 809-320-1031

Email: info@funcity-gokarts.com
Website: funcity-gokarts.com

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