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Whale season Jan 15 – March 25

SAMANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC—Kim Beddall left her hometown of Pickering, Canada, in 1983 after answering a newspaper ad looking for someone to teach scuba diving in the Dominican Republic.

“I wanted to live where it was warm and go on ski vacations, instead of doing it in reverse,” she says with a grin.

But Beddall soon found that while the weather was wonderful on the peninsula at the north-eastern end of this popular Canadian destination, the diving was hardly spectacular. It was only in talking to local fishermen that she discovered something else.

“We have whales here,” they told her. “We don’t know why they come or what they are doing here, but we have whales.”

In fact, as Beddall was to discover later, the Dominican Republic is home to a huge number of North Atlantic humpback whales that arrive in late December and leave in mid-March each year, mating and calving in the wide, sheltered bay.

So, after watching and studying the whales for a few years, Beddall bought herself a little fishing boat and started taking tourists out in the bay. There they heard the humpback’s solitary courting song and saw a dramatic display of whales breaching, diving, lob-tailing (smacking the surface of the water with their tail) and flippering (rolling and hitting the water with their flippers).

These days, Beddall’s boat is the 50-foot fibreglass Victoria II which can hold 60 people.

“Over the years the boats got a little bit bigger and better,” Beddall says. “This one is very comfortable and you have 360-degree viewing from both decks.”

An estimated 10,000 to 12,000 whales visit Samana Bay throughout the season, alone or in pairs.

“They are eating one ton of small fish in the North Atlantic on a daily basis, so you don’t want to hang out with many friends,” Beddall notes with typical dry humour.

“They maintain that loose social structure, except when there’s fertile female. Then you can get anytwhere from two to 20 males, fighting it out for the right to escort the female.”

And thanks to her pioneering work, whale-watching is now big business in Samana, with eight established companies and about a dozen “independents,” as Beddall calls them. Some of her employees have been with her for 14 years, she says, and others have gone on to found whale-watching companies of their own.

“Technically I suppose I would be considered the founder of whalewatching in Samana,” she say. “It’s been really exciting to see it develop and to see the economic impact on the area.”

Beddall estimates that whalewatching along the whole north coast of the Dominican Republic generates about $8 million (U.S.) a year.

And it is the economic benefits that she stresses in her fight to enforce whale-watching regulations, such as how many boats can watch whales at any one time and how close they can get.

“In developing countries you need to give your resource an economic value — I can buy clothes for my kids, I can fix my roof. And if the whales don’t come back, you lose your income.”

The rate of compliance is about 70 to 75 per cent rate, she says. “Some people are a little less disciplined than others.”

But she’s satisfied with what’s been achieved so far. “Samana Bay is the third most important reproductive area for whales in the North Atlantic and we are considered one of the top ten places in the world to watch whales,” she says with pride in her voice.

But one small regret remains.

“I have taken people from all over the world whale-watching, but very few Canadians,” she says. “I am crazy to have Canadians on board.”

by Robert Crew / Toronto Star

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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

Fiesta 151: a family adventure

Climb aboard a sugar cane wagon for a journey through the real Dominican Republic

A giant tractor guides the sugar cane wagon through the countryside. Its the Dominican version of a hayride

A giant tractor guides the sugar cane wagon through the countryside. It's the Dominican version of a hayride

This is an Independence Day celebration, filled with fauna, flora and fun.
Our all inclusive Fiesta 151 includes a 5 course cultural feast at a typical Dominican Ranch, free flowing drinks, a spectacular typical folklore show, crocodiles and so much more to make this an exciting experience for the whole family.
Every day is Independence Day on Fiesta 151 and this is one fiesta NOT to be missed!

Reserve/Inquire This Activity

Freestyle Catamarans

Beneath the mild morning breeze, the two Freestyle catamarans put out to sea. “Today this boat is yours”, says Captain Robert, an English expatriate whose skin is craggy from years of sun and salt air, “so do whatever you want but just remember you’re here to have a great time”.

About one hundred passengers have come aboard these two gleaming, 55-foot catamaran sailboats that for years now have been sailing off Playa Dorada beach. With 50 people on-board you’d think it would feel cramped, but it doesn’t. This highly popular day trip attracts budding seamen from everywhere. Today English and Germans are the majority; it’s the European season. During the winter, Canadians and Americans dominate the decks. The crew is cosmopolitan too: an English captain, a Belgian, an Australian and the Dominicans who make the crew.

These catamarans, one built in the United States and the other in Sainte Croix, were designed for racing. Heading east, the cats actually motor their way upwind from Playa Dorada to Sosua Bay. This leg of the trip is a relaxing, 90-minute ride that belies nothing of what’s to come on the return trip: the rush and excitement of racing downwind at full sail.

For now things are scenic and relaxing, gliding along close to a nonstop strip of white sandy beaches, coconuts and exotic mountainscapes far inland. The morning sea is calm, the catamarans cut effortlessly through the waves. Passengers make themselves comfortable, some taking sun on the wide net suspended across the forward hulls, others seeking shade in the lounge. Here we see some fancy villas, there some rough hewn shacks. Closer to Sosua, the shoreline turns to cliff. Iron-shore, they call it. Looking out to sea everything is deep blue sea, except for a few small fishing boats bobbing in the waves.

Catamarans Sosua Beach destinationOur destination is Sosua Bay, a picturesque cove with with a wide beach where resorts and shops share the seafront. The catamarans anchor offshore near the coral reef and before long most of the passengers are snorkeling around the rocks and through schools of exotic fish.

It’s been “beer o’clock” for awhile now and upon reaching Sosua Bay out comes a hearty buffet lunch. There’s time for relaxing siesta before anchors are lifted for the short ride along the shore to yet another beautiful dive site called The Three Rocks.

Bataille d'eau on the catamaransMid afternoon and it’s time to set sail again. And now, as the cats point their bows towards the open sea, and as the giant sails fill with wind, we begin to appreciate what these racers were built for: the true sensation of really sailing.

“Sometimes you go on touristy boat trips and the whole thing is just so lame”, says a passenger, “but this is real sailing, brilliant”!

Forging through the waves neck in neck, and just a few meters apart, passengers line the hulls yelling and cheering on their respective skippers. Crew members pass out pails and instigate a water war between the boats. Amid bursts of laughter and sopping wet clothes, passengers begin to feel the excitement, exhiliration and adrenalin of racing in the open sea with only the wind for power.

By late afternoon the Freestyle catamarans are pulling up to their moorings at Playa Dorada Beach. Sun burnt, wind burnt, still coming down off the catamarans trip, passengers await the tenders to take them to the beach. The sun is low over the mountains, casting a golden hue on the scene. The bartender still has time to serve a few last cuba libres. People converse over plans for the evening with new found friends. It’s a quiet moment after an hour long rush of adrenalin.

Freestyle catamarans excursions can be booked in destination through tour representatives or at the Sea Pro water-sports booth at most hotels. Or click here to inquire or reserve online

Isaira Excursions & Transfers

Click here to download this listing to bring with you in our free printer-friendly Visitors Guide