More than one year under total lockdown, layovers wasted in hotel rooms, the stress of losing my job and the pressure of getting vaccinated… nothing was announcing the beautiful experience that was about to come in the mid of 2021.
2 months of unpaied leave and no exciting plan
I decided to request two months of unpaied leave and spend time and the small amount of money that I managed to save during the pandemic in Romania with my family.
I was longing for a holiday on an exotic land surrounded by palm trees and turquoise waters but with all the situation going on around the world and all the restrictions imposed by the authorities this seemed to be just a beautiful dream, imposible to realize.
Until one day when my friend came up with the idea of traveling to Domenican Republic, one of the few countries which had its border opened for the tourists around the world without the need to present a PCR test on arrival nor to quarantine.
I embarked on the first flight to Punta Cana without many expectations. In the end Republica Dominicana was never on my travel list and I had no particular interest in visiting this country but I decided to open my mind and heart and truly embrace the newly presented oportunity. Little did I know at that time that this place will win my heart and make me come back just 3 weeks after this very first visit.
The entire trip lasted almost a day, flying from Bucharest to Frankfurt for 3 hours, followed by a layover of 4 hours in the airport terminal and another flight to Punta Cana with a total duration of 10 hours over the ocean with the hope that every effort will pay off once we arrive in the promissed land.
My first contact with the domenican people was at Punta Cana airport where I was surprised to discover that the country population it’s predominantly of african origin. I expected to be greated by Nicky Jam kind of security personnel but instead, with any mile spent on the road towards the hotel I had the impression that I have just landed in Zanzibar or any other exotic african land.
Suspicious looking guys riding motorbikes, ladies with generous posteriors, the cultural shock was hard to accept. My friend Alexandra, who has far less travel experience than me was perplexed and her entire telenovela expectation just crushed in front of her.
Little we had know at that time how amazing domenican people really are and how many great friends we were about to make. Never judge a book by its cover…shamefully I must admit that I should have known better by now.
Fearful to leave the safety and comfort of the resort but with a huge desire of adventure, we booked a trip to a famous island near by, Saona. To be on the safe side and leave with no doubts, we decided to take a picture of the car license plate and the phone number of the tour agent and sent it to a friend back home who was responsible to rescue us if anything was to happen. How silly was all that? Especially now when I know that my country doesnt even have en ambassy in Domenican Republic.
The trip went far better than I expected, with its beautiful palm trees dancing in the soft wind and the calm waters changing its colors from turquoise to emerald, the paradisiac island is a place not to be missed while visiting Punta Cana. On the main island you can experience the restless waters of the Atlantic ocean while in Saona Island you get the chance to swim in calmer, hotter and more colorful waters of Carribean sea.
The only thing that really bothered me during those tours where the annoying number of “photographers” invading your moment of privacy with their photo camera and the ridiculos price charged for some pictures that you didn’t even request in the first place.
The alive starfish which didnt seem alive
Part of the tour was a short session of snorkeling, a trip on a catamaran and a visit to a natural pool. From my previous experience a natural pool is a place in the middle of the sea surronded by rocks which makes the water inside the pool shallow enough for you to stand on your feet. This place however gave me the impression of a beautiful lagoon where the piece of resistance were few starfish, dead, in my opinion as they were strong as a shell when touched.
Advsertised by all tour agents as alive creature that cant be hold outside the water for more than 3 seconds, the star fish didn’t have the rubber like texture that I had experienced during my snorkeling sessions around the world and nothing can change my opinion that the starfish were long gone or at least the one that I had “interacted” with.
The sharks with photcameras were real though and more alive than ever, trying to snap a photo of yours and when rejected, moving to the next victim that might be interested in buying a picture at the end of the day, taking the hard shell fish with them as if they had owned a piece of the nature.
*If anybody has an accurate information about what’s going on with those star fish i would love to know.
What to expect from the tour
The trip to the island has cost us 85$ per person and included transportation from the hotel, catamaran, snorkeling, natural pool, the actual visit to the island and a buffet lunch at the end of the day.
Saona island it’s a hidden gem, one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen in my life, with thousands palm trees leaning towards the beach and plenty of great spots for pictures.
On the island you can purchase what is advertised as “the best Piña Colada you had in your life” for just 10$. I can proudly call myself one of the biggest fan of this cocktail and even thought I was fighting a terrible hangover, I couldn’t miss the oportunity of having one, ordering instead the virgin option which, unfortunately was far from being delicious. At least was served in a real Pineaple!
The calm of the island is disturbed from time to time by local vendors trying to sell a wide variety of jeweleries made from their local stone Larimar, a beautiful turquoise gem that perfectly matched the divine Caribbean sea.
We finished the day with a fun catamaran trip on the way back to the main island, plenty of time for latin dancing and booze. No Corona measures were taken at all, almost 100 people were squezzed in a relatively small boat, nobody was wearing a mask nor respecting any social distance and the only free spot where you could hide was outside of the boat, right in the middle of the sea. I must admit that I was shocked and worried and I prefered to stay away from the drunk crowd. .
The pandemic really fucked up my personality but this was about to change by the end of my holiday in Domenican Republic.
Everything is good when ends up good and that’s how we reached the hotel safe after our first visit outside and without the need to contact the Romanian embassy or any other authority. We can breath relaxed now…we are safe, fearfuless and we are already planning our next trip.
To be continued…