Travelling in the Dominican Republic is usually spent in three places: in the airport, in an overcrowded bus headed to your accommodation, and in your resort itself. Anything else, and everyone else, goes most often unnoticed. I myself have been in DR before and did pretty much what is described above. Having the chance to discover Santo Domingo and Samaná by foot and sail was completely different, but so much more rewarding.
Week 1: Santo Domingo
Very honestly, a foreigner can never truly see all of Santo Domingo. Poverty and crime push tourists into specific neighbourhoods such as the historic center. That being said, the city is the oldest colonial town in the Americas and what remains of it has interesting vestiges to discover. While I was out sleeping for the first two days because I wasn’t feeling well, I still had the chance to visit many of the city’s historical and cultural places.
A walk across the center can have you visiting the national palace, the museum of modern art (a free and well-appreciated visit on my end), a pantheon, amber and larimar museums, the malecón, the building that once housed the first colonial hospital in the Americas, many churches and so much more!
I also loved visiting SD’s micro theatre which offered multiple 15 minute plays to be viewed at one’s leisure. All were on for only a month and presented thought-provoking pieces on modern Dominican life.
Close-by there is also the Tres Ojos National park which to me feels a lot like a sunken cenote? In Boca Chica, a thirty-minute bus ride away I also had the chance to do some diving! Thankfully my diving knowledge was still pretty fresh in my mind and my day went very smoothly. The diving wasn’t as nice as in Belize, but still offered decent enough conditions for it to have been worth it!
It was very interesting to somewhat experience daily Dominican life and to have a glimpse into what became this important place in Caribbean colonial history.
Week 2: Samaná
Samaná is a town, but also the name for the peninsula located on the northern part of DR. It is close by to Los Haitises National Park which was my main destination in this part of the country. Ninth Wave Global, the NGO with whom I did a month-long placement in Mexico in October, was organizing a journey. For Ninth Wave, journeys are opportunities to rethink travel; how we explore lands beyond the horizons, our motivations to wander them and the relationship we have with those who live in them.
We sailed off from Samaná and spent three nights over on the other side of the bay. We didn’t have running water, water was leaking inside of the boat because of the heavy rains, and we were having difficulties with many other parts and systems of the sailboat.
The conditions weren’t terrible, but they were hardly great either. And yet, we still had a good time. I learned to play some ukulele, we drank beer at sunset overlooking the water, we visited a cave with Tahino ancient art, we went kayaking at midnight to appreciate the bioluminescence of the plankton-heavy waters. We also exchanged stories, bathed in a natural spring, visited a small fishermen’s village, and appreciated the beauty of this place reminiscent of Thailand’s incredible islands.
Once we came back to shore, we had a ginger beer-making session with a lovely lady. She explained that Ginger beer is a holiday drink. That put us somewhat more in the spirit than the palm trees and hot weather!
Understanding a bit more about DR’s recycling system, its political system and other environmental protection measures were very enlightening. The push and pull between poverty and corruption against protection and equitable management of natural resources were made evident through discussion and exchange with our local guide and other Dominican citizens.
The week ended with a sad goodbye to my German friends, whom I had met during my internship and had been present on the sailboat, and other journey members. Until we meet again!
Many thanks to everyone who made this trip so unique. With those farewells behind me, I headed home for the Christmas holidays.
Happy holidays, Bee