Sit right back and you'll hear a tale

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Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Sunday, February 21, 2010

A tale of a mighty trip, That started from this tropic portAboard this tiny ship.(I thought I posted this back when it happened but I guess not.  Enjoy a little blast from the past!)So… we decided to head east to see the whales.
We hopped on a gua gua to Santiago where we met up with our friend Kelly.  Kelly is also a Peace Corps volunteer, and she lives relatively close to Rachele.  After an inspirational four hour bus ride through the countryside we finally arrived at the Samana peninsula.  Kelly had come to meet up with some friends and to hike to a waterfall the following day.  Since we had just hopped on the bus this morning without a clue to what our actual plans were, we decided to tag along with Kelly.
We met up with her friends and after some deliberating, we decided to go see the whales with Kelly, while her friends hung out at the beach.  
Every year from late January to early march, more than twelve thousand humpback whales use the Samana bay as a breeding ground and nursery.  Whale watching as a tourist industry began in the 70’s and has been a boom for what was originally a sleepy coastal town.  Whale watching tourism is wide and varied, with everything from a short hour and a half tour of the bay, to multi day excursions with “soft encounters” with the whales. We were pressed for time and money so we decided on a short little jaunt out into the bay.  We found a random whale watching tour guide who promised us a good deal on a three hour tour (a three hour tour) about half of the rate that you would normally find. So we agreed on the price and off we went in the tour guide’s gua gua.  We were let out at a cute little beach/marina where we got our first look at our sea worthy whale watching vessel.  Please refer to figure A.  We hopped in and introduced ourselves to our fellow passengers and off we went.  To say the sea was a little rough would be like saying the Royals are only slightly bad (which one of our Dominican passengers pointed out to us when we said we were from Kansas City).
If you would like to recreate our whale watching experience at home, here is what to do.First fill your bathtub to the rim with overly salted water.  Now get a dozen friends and cram yourselves into the tub.  Comfortable? Turn on the shower.  Now have everyone rock back and forth, it will help if one person can vomit over the side.  Its important to have one person standing in the back directing people to change positions the whole time in something that sounds like Spanish.  Appoint one person to shout “Cola! Cola! Cola!” (Spanish for tail) over and over the whole time.  Now is the time to find something wickedly cool to look at but only expose about a tenth of it.  Before you expose it, make sure everyone has thouroughly washed their eyes out with salt water so that the moment you reveal that impossibly incredible thing, a snap decision has to be made: “Do I look at this thing through my swollen stinging eyes or do I continue to keep them closed, try not to listen to the puking guy, and pray for this to end?”  Also if someone in your group can be absolutely terrified it will add to this enriching experience.  Last but not least, have a stranger come into this setting wearing a raincoat and goggles, sitting on a bed of cotton balls and rainbows with a complete view of the “cool” thing.  On their way out of the room its important for them to say to your group, “For ten more dollars this could have been you.”
I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  Although the rough seas and all the water made it impossible to keep the camera out and so of the half dozen of whales that we did get to see went unphotographed.
Afterwards we were taken to Cayo Levantado, a little tropical island in the bay, where we were told to wait on a ferry to take us back to the mainland.  The island was stunning.  Apparently it is a very popular day trip destination for Dominicans.  There is a resort on the island, but the beaches are free and very beautiful.  Later we would find out that this island was used in Bacardi’s ad campaign in the 70’s and early 80’s.  We were only there for about 30 minutes or so, then off on the ferry for the slow ride back.
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