Shari's Birthday and Whale Watching

Trip Start Oct 16, 2007
Trip End May 09, 2008

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Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Saturday, February 16, 2008

For Shari's birthday, we wanted to take a 'vacation from the vacation'.  So, Frank organized a weekend getaway from Cabarete.  The only tough part was getting up really early on Saturday morning, 4:30am to catch our tour bus to Samana for a whale watching tour.  On the way to Samana, we had a small breakfast (which made me already a little sick), and arrived in Samana around 9am to get aboard the Victoria II.  The Victoria II is a whale watch vessel operated by Kim Beddall, a biologist/marine mammal specialist, who has been studying the whales in Samana since the 1970s.  She's also been a very vocal and active environmentalist to protect the whales in the area. 

Samana is known for their population of humpback whales that come here every winter to mate and breed.   The humpback whales that come to Samana migrate between the Dominican Republic, Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, and the coast of New England in the US.   The Victoria II is a relatively small boat, about 50 passengers were on board.  The ride out to sea was quite choppy, and there were big swells rolling in from the ocean.  Within the first hour, Kim spotted a juvenile male, and basically stayed with this one whale the rest of the trip.  He cruised around our boat, coming up to breath about every 4 minutes.  For most of the time he didn't do much, and we just saw a little of his back when he came up to breathe.  Once he surprised everyone by sneaking up a few feet away from the side of the boat, and breaching to get a good look at us.  It was so fast and nobody got any pictures of that breech.  A little later he breached further away from us and we were able to get a picture.   By this time, I was pretty sick, both from my bad breakfast, and also from the rocky motion.  At one point, there were around 10 or so people asking for barf bags.   I saw a mother and her daughter sitting together throw up at the same time.  I was so close to doing it but managed to keep things down.  I was pretty happy when we turned around to head back to Samana.

Back in Samana, we flagged down a guagua to get to our hotel in Las Galeras.  This particular guagua was crazy.  It was a pickup truck full of people, luggage, buckets of miscellaneous stuff, and long pieces of lumber that scraped the ground every once in a while.   I was still feeling sick from the trip, and being crammed into the back of this truck, with the hot sun beating down on me, didn't help the situation (see pic).  As we rode closer to Las Galeras, more and more people got off the truck, which gave us some breathing room.  I also started to feel a little better, and the guy working the back of truck started to talk to us.   I was pretty happy that I could practice my Spanish with him as most people in Cabarete speak English.  And Frank was happy and thought my Spanish is pretty good.   Well, I still feel I have a long way to go though...

An hour later we arrived in Las Galeras, which is a very small sleepy town.  That's the reason why we picked Las Galeras instead of Las Terranas.  Las Terranas is a lot more developed, and most of the hotels there are all-inclusive resorts.  There's not much tourism in Las Galeras, see pic.  We walked over to our hotel, Villa Serena, which is probably the nicest place around there, and we were super impressed with the place.  It is a small Victorian style villa with manicured tropical gardens, and an awesome ocean view, including a small little island just offshore.

The rest of the afternoon, we just hung out. Frank went kayaking in the ocean, and I just took a nap on the beach.   It was a very relaxing, tranquil place - a great place to unwind and get recharged. 

The next day we had to make it back to Cabarete.  This time we found a guagua that was the usual mini-van type, sitting inside the vehicle for our hour ride to Samana.  Back in Samana, we got some lunch, and checked out the craft market going on in town.  Then we found a local bus back in Samana, and arrived back to our budget hotel in Cabarete 4 hours later. 

To sum things up this weekend: Horrible whale watching ride, but awesome hotel.
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