February 6, 2010

Trying to Embrace the Fun at Isla Saona

On Thursday morning, at 6:20 am, I set out with a group of friends to Isla Saona. I don’t usually do these sorts of excursions, but one of my friends is a tour guide and got us a great discount both on the driver and on the boat ride. So, I figured it would be worth a try.

We arrived at Bayahibe around 9am, and waited around for a bit until it was our turn to get on the small motorboats that take you to the catamarans that cruise out to Isla Saona. The catamaran is a fairly large open air boat with a small place for dancing, a few rows of seats, and mesh nets for relaxing. On this excursion, they give out free rum and coke and beer. As it was not barely 10am when we got on the boat, I was not interested in the free drinks. Many others on the boat, however, were.

In the spirit of the excursion, although I didn’t drink, I figured I would still enjoy the trip. I relaxed on the mesh nets for a while with my daughters and enjoyed the marvelous views. I danced with my husband to the rhythm of bachata. And, I hung out and relaxed by the edge of the boat.

We arrived at Isla Saona about 90 minutes later. The island is quite beautiful, but definitely has that touristy feel to it. Where we landed, there were rows of beach chairs and plenty of tourists taking advantage of the free drinks. I played in the crystal clear water with my kids for a while, and then it was time for the buffet lunch, also included in the excursion.

My kids were happy that they could have all of the chicken legs they wanted. The food was certainly passable, and I ate two plates of food. After eating and chatting, I decided to walk around a bit, at least to see the part of the island that was not full of beach chairs.

My friend and I set out beyond the beach chairs, and, there, I found the island to be absolutely stunning. The island has dense forest and shrubs that come almost to the edge of the water. The sand is white, and the water crystal clear. Thinking back, I wish I had relaxed there for a bit and took it all in.
My main issue with the excursion was that they don’t really give you time to just laze around. We were probably on Isla Saona for about two hours – not really enough time to take it all in. After our walk to the other side, my friend and I got in the water and cooled off. Before we knew it, it was time to get back on the boat to head back.

The trip back is on a faster boat, and we made a stop in a natural swimming pool with starfish. That was also quite amazing, but too quick. The boat stopped in the middle of the sea, where the water is shallow. We got out of the boat, and waded around in the crystalline waters. The main issue, for me was that there were also plenty of other boats doing the same thing, somehow taking away from the natural beauty of it all. And, before I was really ready, we had to get back on the boat and the excursion was over.

All in all, the excursion was from 10am to 4pm – six hours. But, it seemed to go by too fast. I didn’t find the moments to savor the natural beauty, and didn’t like the structured, touristy feel of it all.

At least now we know, the next time we see an offer for an expensive excursion, that we would much prefer to take a bus to a lonesome beach and laze around there all afternoon munching on snacks than go on an excursion with all the food and drinks you want.

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