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Half of Hispanola

Four Visits


View Five Visits to Barbados on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

When I retired in 2000, we started traveling south on our sailboat for the winter. But when we ran aground in the middle of the channel south of wrightsville Beach NC, Bob decided that it was too stressful to commute south by boat. Bob's brother convinced him to take a cruise to Bermuda and he also told us about the Space Available Condos that are available to retired military. So after the Bermuda cruise, I started booking Space/A condos going south along the coast.

In the winter of 2005-2006, I found a condo a Space/A condo available in Santo Domingo.

Circling around to the Santo Domingo airport - Dominican Republic

Circling around to the Santo Domingo airport - Dominican Republic

Our first visit was a week January 9-16, 2006 at this condo.

Hotel from the side street - Santo Domingo

Hotel from the side street - Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo City Tour
Picture of the lighthouse from the taxi - Santo Domingo

Picture of the lighthouse from the taxi - Santo Domingo

Dominican Republic Aquarium
Barracuda swimming over the tunnel - Santo Domingo

Barracuda swimming over the tunnel - Santo Domingo

Saona Island
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A Walk on the Coast and
Shore walk

Shore walk

A Visit to the Botanical Garden
Waterlilies - Bob's picture - Santo Domingo

Waterlilies - Bob's picture - Santo Domingo

Our next visit was on the NCL Pearl to the south coast - December 2007 Discover SamanĂ¡

Roadside stand - Las Terrenas

Roadside stand - Las Terrenas

Then January 2011, we went on Enchantment of the Seas Whale Watching

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And last on 3 November 2016, I visited the Dominican Republic north coast on Carnival Sunshine to the new Carnival port at Amber Cove
Dock from a long way away - Amber Cove

Dock from a long way away - Amber Cove

And we did a tour to Puerto Plata
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Each day of the condo visit and each one of the cruise ship visits is a separate section

Posted by greatgrandmaR 17:55 Comments (0)

Flying into Santo Domingo - January 2006

A week in a S/A Condo

We flew out of Miami on Monday January 9, 2006. We started out at a little before 8 am and it took us about an hour to go the 10 miles to the airport. Then it took another 35 minutes to check in at the ticket counter (no self check or curb check for international), and a few more minutes to hand the checked baggage over to the X-ray person.

Bob got some currency changed. They were selling it at 0.034733 and he got 1030 pesos for $39.70 minus the commission of $3.95. There was almost no line at security though, so we went through as fast as I could hobble. We got to the gate at 9:56 - eight minutes before boarding started at 10:04. We pushed away from the gate on time, and then waited to take off. Neither I nor the person behind me could get the shade that was between us to go up. So I had to crick my neck around to look over the one a little forward of my seat.

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(Rickenbacker Marina)

The plane flew right over Virginia Key, Rickenbacker Marina and the Marine Stadium. There are still boats anchored there although I had heard that wasn't allowed anymore. After Key Biscayne, the pilot said he was going south of Nassau, and we probably went over Andros before we flew over Hispanola and out into the Caribbean and turned back to the airport. We were now in the Atlantic time zone, so I changed my watch and my camera and later my computer to the new time - we lost an hour on the way over. They gave us the customs and immigration forms to fill out.

We did not get any lunch of course - just a bag of pretzels and some juice. I brought water to drink, but did not bring food because of possible problems with customs.

We got into Santo Domingo airport a little later than scheduled about 2:05pm. The airport was a zoo, and it was hot and humid. There were a lot of lines for immigration and before you checked in, not only did you have to have your form that they gave you in the airplane filled out, but also you had to buy a tourist card which was $10. I saw no directions that stated this, and I'm usually pretty good about finding signs - you were expected to know.

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I went to an airport information booth and asked for a map, and they said they didn't have any information at all except a booklet in either German or French. They gave me the French one plus a CD also in French. I can still read a bit of French and the book actually proved very helpful as a supplement to the AAA book I had. Apparently for many years, most tourists to the DR were from Europe - French, German and some Italians.

I had called the resort before we left and the girl on the phone told me that they couldn't send someone for me and to just to get a taxi. As we were walking out there were people with signs with names on them, and I saw a man with a Hotel Acuarium sign with someone else's name on it. I showed him our RCI sheet with our names and the name of the hotel, and he asked if we were the people whose name was on the sign and I said no and gave our name. He said OK, and took us in tow. I found out later that we had hijacked someone else's transportation - they were a young couple coming in on a much later USAir flight.

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Bob helping the driver unload the luggage into his maroon sedan at the hotel

Anyway the driver stowed us into a maroon sedan (after he took stuff off the seats including some kind of car alarm and rearranged stuff in the trunk which had a propane tank in it),

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Propane tank in the trunk

and shoved his car into the line of cars waiting to exit the airport.

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No drivers wait their turn here - it is who backs down first that has to wait. I didn't think much about it at the time, because our daughter drives a little bit the same in Miami under the adage "if you snooze you loose", but this was even more aggressive than that.

The car had A/C in it. After he paid to go out of the parking lot, he drove at great speed for some time, including a toll road, going on unpaved roads and around some strange interchanges. I was beginning to be afraid that we had been hijacked. But just about panic time, we turned unto an unpaved potholed road and after one block, there was the hotel. The driver asked for $20, which we gave him. The other couple had to pay $50.

We were about half an hour early for the check-in which is supposed to be after 4 pm. So they said we had to talk to Gloria. Gloria turned out to be the RCI rep and not connected to the hotel. They went to check if our room was ready, and gave us our room key which was attached to a 3.5"x 2" block of wood.

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Our driver (who spoke almost no English) took the bags up to the room for us and Bob tipped him 10 pesos, not being used to the system yet.

Before we went up to our room, we asked Gloria about a city tour for the next day, and she said she would see us at breakfast the next morning.

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The Acuarium Resort Hotel is an Italian RCI condo with Italian upper management who live on the premises. 90% of the hotel is RCI, although non-RCI people can also stay here. The other 10% are apartments owned by Italians. The posted rates were $70 for one person, $90 for two and $120 for four for a one bedroom apartment (US$). The RCI rates were $60/night for the same type of apartment (any number of people). The two bedroom apartments were more expensive. We were here as Space Available for military or retired military (or "charity" as the RCI rep, put it). We paid about $40/night.

There was a night guard in the front lobby and a notice which said "No Armas de Fuego" on one door. On the other door it said that it was an automatic door in 4 languages. It wasn't--unless you count that someone would open the door for you if it was locked, as it was at night. There was also a guard with a rifle sitting at the back entrance behind the building on the other side of the hot tub courtyard.

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On the ground floor in addition to the pool in the middle with loungers and tables, there was a TV lounge, a bar, and a restaurant between the pool and the other courtyard. There were maps on the walls of Hispanola and the main cities on the island..

Our room was on the second level which we could access by stairs on two corners of the pool courtyard. No elevators.

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We could get the 'meal plan' (which was just breakfast and lunch) for $22/person a night, which we did although Bob thought at first that we would go out some nights to eat. He changed his mind though because there were no places to walk to even if it had been comfortable or safe to do so and by the time we got a taxi to and from, there would have been no savings.

Unfortunately they charged us in pesos instead of charging it in US$ which cost us extra money on the exchange rate each time. Bob says the national coin of the realm is the $20 bill (US).

We had to buy all drinks (water, tea, wine etc) and pay for them separately as drinks were not included in the dinner price.

In our one bedroom apartment, on each side of the entrance was a double door (wood doors) closet, one of which had a safe in it (which we didn't use). The side opposite the door had the bathroom and a narrow kitchen. The living room was on the kitchen side and the bedroom was on the bathroom side. The floors throughout were of some artificial marble material-tiles of about 20" on a side where the pattern repeated. The maid swept or mopped the floor each day, made the bed and supplied fresh towels.

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The bedroom had a queen bed (no blankets), a dresser with mirror, two night tables with table lamps and two wicker chairs with cushions. One night table also had the phone. The AC unit was high up in the wall and controlled with a remote. The living room had a TV which got cable including some American channels (some with Spanish subtitles) and some local or Spanish channels. There were two couches which I think could be beds, a coffee table and an eating table with four wooden chairs.

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The bathroom was open to the outdoors through cement blocks with holes in them at the top of the shower. There was a toilet, there was a mirror and several wooden shelves. Bars of hand soap were also supplied and Bob thought it was a bit aggressive - he got some in his eyes and it made his eyes smart.

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The shower was in an alcove and the head could be removed and held in the hand. There was enough hot and cold water for a good shower. We got two towels and a bathmat. No hand towels or washcloths. If you wanted a beach towel you made a $10 deposit and if you lost the towel, you paid $20 more. This towel was slate blue and much bigger and thicker than the bath towels.

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The kitchen had an under the counter refrigerator, a four burner gas stove top (with no directions or matches) but no oven, a counter top microwave, a stainless sink and drain board in a pink molded plastic countertop, and various dishes and pots and pans. No dish towels, or dish soap to clean the dishes with.

Food: the first night, we both ordered off the ala carte menu instead of waiting for the buffet which didn't begin until 8 pm - we were hungry because we missed lunch. The menu had categories for appetizers, first course (pasta), main course, fish course, side dishes and dessert. We were told on the meal plan we could order something from each section except that the fish course (lobster, shrimp, snapper etc) all had an extra charge over an above the meal plan.

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For appetizers we got Caprese Salad (190 pesos) which proved to be a large plate of tomatoes and molded cheese. For first course, Bob got Lasagna (240 pesos) and I got Linguine Acuarium Style (200 pesos) which proved to be large tube pasta with a nice sauce. Both very big helpings. For the main course, Bob got Fried chicken and I got Chicken criolla style - both 240 pesos. Bob got a side dish of mashed potatoes which he said were real potatoes and he also got a little tree of brocolli, and I got tomatoes - both 65 pesos. My tomatoes were cross sections around heap of lettuce with grated carrot in the middle.

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Desserts were 85 pesos, and Bob got chocolate cake which was more like a brownie only pie shaped, and I asked for Jam cake, but they didn't have any of that so they brought me pineapple ice cream (or maybe it was ice milk) which was excellent and refreshing. This was almost more food that we could eat even though we were hungry and added up to 840 pesos each which would be about $28. Plus of course, tax and service charge.

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(bar at the restaurant)

None of the drinks were included in the meal. You have to buy them extra. We asked for tea and got a couple of 3/4 full cups of luke warm water and some tea bags for which we had to pay. We asked for more 'hot' water and to the astonishment of the waiter, we reused the tea bag. We bought a bottle of water and soon learned to buy a large bottle of water and bring part of it (in a smaller bottle) down to the table with us at dinner time to drink.

Posted by greatgrandmaR 12:11 Archived in Dominican Republic Tagged food taxi airport roads guards condo santo_domingo Comments (0)

Santo Domingo City Tour

We said we wanted to do the city tour the next day, which was advertised as $45 each. The next morning Gloria came to see us at breakfast and said that the other couples who wanted the tour had backed out, and what did we want to do about that. I said that I still wanted to go on the tour, so she said she would take us in the car that we had come from the airport in. She wanted $50 each to be paid in cash.

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We started out for the city about 10:30. First the driver took us to the Columbus Lighthouse Monument (Faro a Colon). Disappointingly, this is not a real lighthouse, but it is a cross shaped building which projects a cross into the night sky. Gloria said it had not been lighted in some time. The fountains in the grounds were not operating. I did not realize that there were displays inside the 7 story building (built in 1992) so I took some pictures of the outside and also of the statue of Queen Isabella (Isabel La Catolica) which is across the street looking over the city. The driver accompanied me - not sure whether he was protecting me or waiting to rescue me if I fell.

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Gloria did not take us to Columbus's tomb. She explained that the body interred in the tomb which was supposed to be. Columbus had been sent to Spain for DNA testing to see who it actually was. We did pass a place where there was a large generator on a barge next to the city electrical plant. She also skipped Los Tres Ojoes (which was listed on the tour brochure) and the aquarium which she said we could walk to--- very close she said
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Whether by accident or on purpose we went by and into the Base Naval 27 de Febrero and the Naval Academy of DR and from there we saw a real lighthouse which was a square concrete structure with spiral yellow and black stripes.
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We went along the city wall into the Zona Colonial, and Gloria stopped where there was a movie called "The Good Shepherd" which was being filmed with Robert DeNiro and Angelina Jolie. She was hoping to get a look at the male stars. Bob got some pictures of the 50's cars lined up for the movie
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and I took photos of signs and people.

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There are often vendors on tricycles peddling various items - typically coconuts or drinks.
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We got out on the pedestrian street though the middle of the old city which was still decorated for Xmas. Gloria bought a lottery ticket. 04086C75AEB8260CA9B82BF9A588D8EB.jpg (Lottery tickets for sale)
Gloria is build like me only younger, darker and shorter.

large_03C332C7947D8EC60D2B734CB3079792.jpg (Bob and Gloria)

We saw a statue of someone who looked like a native (West Indian), but it was either Don Bartolome Colon or Frey Nicolas de Ovando according to the inscription which I couldn't really read, and which Gloria couldn't translate very well.

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The statue of Columbus was near the cathedral in Columbus Park. Lots of pigeons, and they are building a Hard Rock on one side of the square.

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Gloria handed us over to a guide to look at the Cathedral Basilica Santa Maria la Menor, which Pope Paul III pronounced to be the first cathedral in the New World in 1542. I take that to mean that it was the first building designated as a Cathedral and not the first church building. I was interested to see that there was netting over the top of the entrances, probably to keep out the pigeons. She sat outside and gossiped while we did the tour.
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Bob was wearing Bermuda shorts - down to his knees - and no one said anything about this, although I understand that shorts are not allowed. The guide said that the inside was Gothic and with Romanesque arches and Baroque ornamentation. He said that the inside vaulting represented palm trees (they did look a little bit like that).

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In the middle of his talk, they added another family - apparently the guides are assigned by language. That threw him off a little so he finished us up and started on the next group. We slipped away and walked around the cathedral a bit looking at some of the 14 side chapels. I took a picture of a pigeon that sitting over the pulpit (apparently bypassed the netting) and a statue of a priest with a box with a slot in the top marked Seminario - I presume for people to donate money.
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We went back out to Columbus Park

and walked across and down to Calle Las Damas and to see the Changing of the Guard in the mausoleum. This is the National Pantheon which was originally a Jesuit church and was converted by Trujillo in 1955. It has a large bronze chandelier - a gift from Franco.
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I tried to take a short movie with my video camera of the changing ceremony which involved a lot of rifle maneuvers, but someone walked and stood in front of me.

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We came out and saw the church next to the palace, and there was a big sundial there. I walked over to the fort walls (with cannons) and looked out over the street below and the river (Ozama?) beyond that. There was a ferry terminal there, and on the other side was a small marina with mostly power boats.
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After that we went to another museum which I think was the Casa Reales.
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They had models of Columbus's three ships, maps of his journeys, a pharmacological section including a big cabinet with drawers labeled and painted with a picture of the plant (There was one for canabis),

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a stables area with saddles and sedan chairs, an exhibit on sugar cane, armor, a border marker from between Haiti and the DR, and navigation instruments on display. The guide asked for a tip at the end, which I understand he isn't supposed to do and Bob gave him $1.00.

Gloria asked us if we wanted to shop, and I said no, so we got back into the car and drove to a restaurant called El Conusco.
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She said this is where all the tours go for lunch. It is well set up for large groups of people and has a buffet of national foods for people to eat. They had spaghetti and yams and chicken plus various salads. The price was included in the tour price. Both Gloria and the driver ate a lot - more than we did. They also did a show here where they danced, including standing on top of a bottle and dancing.

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There was a place labeled "La Purperia dia Pueblo" next to the entrance which had souveniers etc inside, and Gloria said it was the model of a country house. It was decorated with flowers, as was a horse buggy out front. I went to the bathroom which was pretty reasonable, except there was no toilet seat - or rather there was one on one side which had broken off the toilet.
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I noticed that cars had cardboard on the windshields and Gloria said that this was to protect from the sun. The cars parked on the street were watched by folks who put the cardboard there for you to keep the sun out. You are supposed to tip them when you come back to the car.

After we ate, we went to the National Palace where we got out to take pictures. A jeep full of men in camo came up and parked and one of them got out and went to the gate guards and was let in.
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I thought they might open the gates for the jeep, but they didn't. I stuck the camera through the fence for an unobstructed picture. I understand the palace is now government offices.

We did not get to see the Amber Museum or the Monasterio ruins or the homes of Columbus's sons, nor did we really see the Santo Domingo Fort.

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We went back to the hotel on an expressway which went over 2 bridges, one of which is under construction and has scaffolding all over it. In the middle of the highway is a concrete barrier about 4 feet high, and there was a woman walking along on top of it. The driver and Gloria both said she was crazy. We got back to the hotel about 2:15 Bob tipped the driver $10 to make up for yesterday.

Bob said the experience reinforced the idea that he was not going to rent a car here. Some of the traffic lights don't work, and the ones that do are apparently disregarded as often as not. Stop signs (Pare) are ignored half the time. The only real reason that people don't speed are the many fairly aggressive speed bumps.

Tomorrow we will try to walk to the Aquarium

Posted by greatgrandmaR 01:26 Tagged cathedral santo_domingo columbus changing_of_the_guard casa_reales la_purperia_dia_pueblo Comments (0)

Dominican Republic Aquarium

Not so close

On Wednesday morning, I wanted to go to the aquarium. The phone book had maps in it (like book maps of big cities) but it was hard to tell what kind of scale the map had so distance was hard to determine.

We asked the hotel several times for a map and they denied that they had any that we could have, although there was a map posted on the wall.
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So after breakfast, and checking email on the hotel's computer (since the promised wireless network had not appeared and I couldn't figure out how to get my computer attached to their network), we started off a little before 11 am.

We walked for about 10 minutes along the water and saw no sign that the aquarium was anywhere in visible distance.

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So we turned back to the hotel, and asked how much a cab would be. They said 100 pesos. So we got into the cab and in less than 10 minutes were at the aquarium. Bob gave him 110 pesos.

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The rates were 20 pesos for kids, 30 pesos for adults, and for Turistas $2.00 or 50 pesos. Bob gave them $4.00, but it would have been cheaper to give them 100 pesos.

According to the AAA guide, there was a short film available, but the people sitting in front of the theatre didn't appear to know anything about it.

It was extremely difficult to take pictures as it is in most aquaria because of reflections off the glass. But in addition it was very dark so for fish that moved at all rapidly, they were just a blur, and some of the water and the glass wasn't real clear and clean. Also some of the tanks were mounted in the wall above my head. Very difficult to see.

There were sea turtles at the entrance, some of which were wedged into some mangrove roots.
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Then there were some hermit crab habitats and some spiny lobster and reef shrimp (banded shrimp?). Sea Urchins and Sea Cucumbers were fairly easy to take pictures of.

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Fish that moved or swam were not. There was a large shell collection (also behind glass) and some of those fish that dangle worms off their nose to attract prey, and a green moray eel.

We got to the tank with the big fish and there were divers scrubbing the walls. I could see that the coral wasn't real when the divers started to scrub that too.
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There was a tank with piranhas, and another with Venezuelan fish which had yellow and black vertical stripes.
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There were several large fish which were called Characidos y Ciclidos. These moved slowly enough that I could get a picture. They also had some big koi.
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After that there was a short shark tunnel with rays and sharks and barracuda swimming over you.

Outside there was an iguana pit, and an open tank with starfish and another one with smaller turtles.
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There was also what appeared to be a food concession where you could buy burgers or pizza. No one appeared to be selling anything even though it was now noon.

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I went to use the ladies room which had no toilet seat. I think it did flush though. I came back in as it was raining, and asked one of the uniformed men about the film. He started it for us after explaining that it was (of course) in Spanish.

The film looked very interesting. Both the film and the aquarium itself probably would have been even better had we known Spanish. None of the signs were in English, only Spanish. Which was about what I would expect. So unless you knew what the fish were, you would have no way of telling. There was also no brochure or map to tell you where things were, even in Spanish. There wasn't even a map on the wall anywhere.

The film had a section on the formation of the island (it looked like they were saying it was formed by tectonic plates and not by volcanic action), and one on the building of the aquarium, where I saw that artists had painted the coral to look like real coral. The last section was on stocking and maintaining the aquarium.

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Now we wanted to get back to the hotel. So we looked around for a taxi. There were some food vendors out front, but I wasn't that hungry although I had originally wanted to eat at the aquarium. I asked a man in a police uniform (which said "Police" on it) where I could get a taxi, and he went to ask someone, and then came back and asked if I wanted to go to the Colonial Zone, and I said no, just to the Acuario Hotel. So he flagged down a taxi, and I asked him how much it would be and he said 70 pesos. So we got in and zipped back to the hotel. Bob gave the man 100 pesos.

He wanted to know why it was 70 pesos to go one way and 100 the other way, and I said the guy was probably going that direction anyway. Or he was intimidated by the policeman.

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Opposite the hotel was this lime green fortress - supposed to belong to a member of the Chinese mafia

I was trying to think of what other aquaria I had been to, and I counted up to 10 - Baltimore National Aquarium, New Orleans, Gatlinburg, Fort Walton Beach Gulfarium, North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, Atlantis on Paradise Island Bahamas, BAMZ (Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo), Coral World in St. Thomas, Key West, and Chicago Shedd Aquarium This one was about the equivalent of the Gulfarium without the animal shows.

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Man and his girlfriend pick up some ice

Tomorrow we take the trip to Saona Island

Posted by greatgrandmaR 02:35 Tagged buildings taxi spanish aquarium santo_domingo Comments (0)

Saona Island

Bayahibe

I didn't want to go to the beach at Boca Chica on the free bus from the hotel for a whole day partly because I wanted Bob to avoid the sun as much as possible since his melanoma surgery in October, but I did want to go snorkeling. Based on Jere's recommendations (from his notes)..

>Catalina Island
> Tacky rest stop in La Romana. More terra cotta than I thought
>existed in one place
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> Guard had an interesting weapon: Chrome pump shotgun with no stock.
> Millions of motoconcha; clouds of smoke.
> Trip to Catalina relatively slow and boring
> beach nice. Snorkeling poor
> Saona Beach. A little more open and inviting than Catalina. All
>in all, we preferred it to Catalina.

...I decided not to go to Catalina Island but to go to Saona instead. I did think that I could snorkel there too. So on Tuesday after we got back from the aquarium, I arranged to go to Saona Island, specifying that we wanted to snorkel. They were charging $65 each for the trip which was to include lunch.

The hotel brochure said "From Bayahibe a speed boat will take you along the beautiful coastline of the eastern national park. Arriving at a natural pool, a shallow pool in the middle of the sea, than in an island you will enjoy the music, lunch, sun and open bar of national drinks. Return in a catamaran to Bayahibe. Leaving - partenza 6:30am"

The hotel manager said the tour would leave at 7:30, but the restaurant didn't open for breakfast until 7:30. I enquired about this, and was told that the time we left was actually 7:40 and that the restaurant would open at 7:15 so we would have time for breakfast. Three other people were also going on the tour.

At 6:30 on Wednesday morning we got a call - we had not asked for a wake-up call, but apparently they thought that we needed one. (Bob had a wind-up alarm clock.) We packed up and were downstairs by 7:15, had breakfast and went out to the front of the hotel. We had our own mask and fins and I took the older digital camera, a film camera and an underwater film camera plus dive skins and towels and water to drink.

The three people from Naples were there - a young Sophia Loren type brunette, and older blonde and a middle aged man. He said they were going on the tour with Marcus. Marcus spoke no English. The only one who spoke any English was the Italian man whose name I didn't ever find out. I found out later that Marcus was also Italian - probably part of the hotel management. The driver didn't speak anything but Spanish.

We didn't actually leave at 7:40 - it was more like 7:50 when we got into a van. Marcus squished the three Italians in the back, we were in the middle two fold down seats and Marcus was in the front seat beside the driver. He took us past the airport and past Boca Chica, through San Pedro (around the cathedral, which I didn't get a chance to take a picture of because I was on the wrong side of the van) to the House of Bamboo with all the terracotta about 9:15.
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Three Italians walking into the House of Bamboo

This was a bathroom stop, and was a huge place with a lot of bathrooms. But while they had TP and the toilets did flush, there were no seats on the toilets. The bathroom lady wanted a tip. But I had no money with me.

The Italians were really squished in the back seat and the ladies complained that it was rough. I told them to wait (partly with gestures and partly through the man) until they got into the boat. They decided that on the way back we would have a different seating arrangement. We got to the beach after 10
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Walking down to the beach/boats

Now here was a problem. Apparently the hotel had made no arrangements for us to go with any particular boat. Speed boats were coming in (stern to the beach as they had in Costa Rica so you could wade out and climb over the transom) and ferrying people out to the various catamarans and most of the catamarans had already left as it took them much longer being slower.

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There was no place for us in any of the speed boats which were going to the island. Marcus would approach one and then another, and he would explain (I guess) and the boat captain would look at me and be doubtful and Marcus would fail to persuade him. Possibly the reason was that Saona Island is not really a snorkeling trip or all the boats were full.

Eventually Marcus spoke to the Italian man who came to us and said, that a speed boat which was being loaded with food and ice (and I could hear bottles clinking in some of the bags plus several boxes which said Pilsner so I guess they were beer) would take us out to the island because otherwise there wouldn't be anyone who could do it, and the captain would take care of us. Bob then understood him to say that if he couldn't do that, they would refund us 100 pesos. I thought he said that if he COULD take care of us, we should tip him 100 pesos.

Anyway they packed us (including Marcus but not the van driver) into the boat, with some of the staff (apparently the cooks for the lunch) sitting on the beer boxes, and we took off. The very thin wiry man in front of me was sitting on his haunches folded up like a jackknife. The boat had two 200 hp engines and the max. capacity was supposed to be 28 persons. I think we only had about 20 plus the food.

The boat was bouncing along whacking each of the big rollers. There was so much wind that I couldn't keep my hat on (it had a chin strap so it didn't blow away) and I had forgotten the things I put on my glasses to keep them from blowing off my face, so I just took them off and put them in my bag. Bob took off his hat and sunglasses also.

We got to the 'natural pool' (two sand bars with a depression in the middle) about 11:15 and anchored, and everyone that wanted to swim got off. I got off and snorkeled around a bit, but Bob didn't. He took a picture of me and some of the others. People were standing in the water drinking 'national beverages'. Someone came up with a starfish. Not sure if it was alive or if it had been 'planted' for the tourists.

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I was able to get back into the boat (they had a ladder with round metal rungs which they got out for me and the Italian ladies), and we proceeded to Saona island. They unloaded everything except the two of us, the captain and one crew, and took us back near a dark area in the water and anchored (in the sand) and we got into our gear and started to snorkel. But Bob had a canine tooth out just before we left and he couldn't keep a seal on the snorkel and kept inhaling water, so he got back on the boat. But I was going to snorkel, so I snorkeled.

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This was a little patch reef with a lot of staghorn coral which was pretty beat up looking, and some yellowtail and other little fish. I also saw some brain coral, fans, whips and some fire coral. There was also a lot of dead broken coral. The reef was quite near to the top of the water in places and there was a bit of surge toward the beach. The water was a little cloudy. I'll have to see how my pictures come out. Then I got back in the boat and we went ashore on the beach. Bob gave the guys 100 pesos each.

Once we got on the beach, I kept my dive skin on as a barrier against the sun. Sitting in the shade it wasn't hot as there was a nice breeze. I was the only person on the beach that was covered up (Bob took his dive skin off and hung it on a palm tree to dry along with his towel.) We found where Marcus was asleep on a lounger and sat in the shade near him, and also near the massage table. There was a topless lady on the other side of us.
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I got water and then was offered juice which was very good. Bob got some too, and went to use the bathroom. He reported to me that there were no toilet seats on the toilets and that you flushed by using a bucket which you filled with water from a big water barrel outside the bathrooms. Not everyone knew that of course as not everyone has lived in the country with a well when the electricity was off, so they often went unflushed.

Eventually we got the word that lunch would be in the pavilion, so I went up and got a plate first while Bob stayed with our stuff and then Bob got his. There was a small cross-section of fish in foil, some nice chicken, a tasty pork chop, hot potatoes (salad?), and various other dishes (I didn't have the digital camera so I'll have to wait to get the film pictures back). I think there was watermelon too.

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It was a very good lunch. Bob lent his snorkel to a Canadian who was staying (I think) at the Occidental at Punta Cana, but there was too much sand in the surf at the beach to see anything underwater. The Canadian said that he didn't like the DR as much as Cuba - in Cuba everyone is very friendly and helpful and they aren't always trying to sell you something. Bob doesn't mind being generous to those people helping him, but he hates it when people take advantage of him. (Like posting the price in U$ and charging in RD$ so that we lose twice on the exchange rate.)

The people that came in speedboats went back on the catamarans and v.v. Some of the crew that went out with us with the food also went back on the catamaran to make more room for paying customers. So we were loaded back into the speedboat and from there onto the catamaran. We were among the first aboard. I got what I thought was a prime seat in the middle under the bimini (which was a hard bimini). The seats were nice and made of wood unlike the broken plastic ones in Aruba. Several more boatloads full of people came aboard after us. Many of them went up to the foredeck.
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The drinks continued to flow freely and the crew pulled the anchor and put up the sails. They had to move people around on the tramps to get the jib up. Bob observed that some of the crew didn't know how to put a line on a cleat and others did. They put up the main also, but they didn't turn the engine off. I went to the back and looked at it - it was a single 80 hp engine in the middle of the boat and produced quite a lot of vibration.
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After the sails were up, music was cranked up, and all the extra crew (except the captain who was at the wheel) started getting people up to dance right in the area in front of us which was turned into an impromptu dance floor. It was so loud I put in ear plugs and moved back one bench. Bob refused to dance, and I didn't dance either. A lot of people did dance though (including Marcus and all three Italians), and at least one lady (not any of our group) became more unclothed i.e. was topless.

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Older blonde Italian dancing with crew on the right

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Younger brunette Italian dancing with crew in center

When we got to the beach they tied up both forward hulls to moorings which were spaced wider than the boat and tied off the stern to one in the back. It was tied down pretty tight so there must not be much tide. "Our" motor boat offloaded their passengers on shore and then came back and got us - just our group of 6 and some of the crew. Leaving the other folks waiting for their ride. It is good to have friends.

I didn't have too much trouble getting on and off the boats until now, but after I stepped off the catamaran onto the bow deck of the speed boat, I knew I had to get down off of there and the easiest way was to sit. The crewman holding my arm said "Sit", so I did, but with a complete lack of speed control, I just kind of fell down onto my butt and almost took the crewman down with me. (He probably weighted only about half what I did) But it all worked out.

After we got to the beach, I wanted to get back into clothes and out of my bathing suit, so I went to the bathrooms. The toilets in the ladies room didn't have any seats, didn't flush, and had no TP. But I could change clothes OK.

The Italian man asked us how our attitude was. What? Well apparently Mario was worried that we had not enjoyed ourselves. So I said, well we didn't drink or dance but that we had a good time and were happy.

This time they put Bob and Mario in the 'way-back' and the three Italians were in the middle two seats, and I had the front seat. Mario went to sleep. He'd had a hard day. The Italians found out that the middle seats weren't much better. I had the best deal.
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We went back across the dam and over the river which had a small marina in it. Mostly power boats. It was by now about 5:30 and getting dark. The Italians were all singing, and the guy was ignoring the van driver's request to put the window up so he could turn on the AC because he was taking pictures of the sun. The sunset was not very spectacular. Then they asked the van driver for music, so he turned on the radio. The "Sophia" type and the man were snogging.

The driver didn't take us through San Pedro again so I missed the chance to take a picture of the cathedral. Instead we went by some kind of industrial plant and over another bridge which was shorter and/or quicker. We got back to the hotel about 7:15 pm. Bob tipped the van driver $10. He figured Marcus was management and didn't get tipped.

During dinner, the manager came and spoke to us to find out how we had liked the day. I guess Marcus was still worried

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Posted by greatgrandmaR 12:45 Archived in Dominican Republic Tagged boat beach snorkeling terracotta catamaran saona_island Comments (0)

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