Apr 22, 2012

Love me some Bayahibe part V: STARFISH!

This was my favorite part of the excursion.  On the way back to Bayahibe, the catamaran stopped on top of a starfish colony.  The water was 6 - 7 feet deep and the starfish were EVERYWHERE and MASSIVE!
So this is how it works.  Step 1)  Dive down.

 Step 2) Gently escort a starfish to the surface. Step 3) Hold starfish and smile.

Step 4) Gently put starfish back.  Step 5 ) Repeat.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.  Repeat. Repeat.  The girls and Jon could have done this all day long!

The boy, when given the option between a bag of Doritoes and diving for starfish, went with the bag of Doritoes!

Priorities.  But he was as happy with his chips as the girls were with the starfish.

And, little Miss Thang was not going to be left out!

And now, onto one last stop . . .  the natural swimming pool . . . .  in the middle of the ocean.

See the people standing in the water, which is waist deep . . . in the middle of the ocean?

Oh, I almost forgot, here is a pic with Little Pickle and her "Best Friend for the DAY."  For those of you who don't know her, she makes a "best friend" wherever she goes.  Jennifer from San Francisco, if you ever see this, thank you for being so gracious with Little Pickle - all day long!

And that's it for the Bayahibe series. We sure did have fun.  Bayahibe, we'll be back :)

Love me some Bayahibe part IV: snorkeling & Saona

I hope this Bayahibe series isn't becoming like bad movie sequels that never die and diminish in quality.  There is just so much to show, and these posts are just scratching the surface.

After visiting Catalinita, we headed to Isla Saona, a bigger island that is part of the national park, where we had lunch and spent some time on the beach.  BUT, before we got to Saona, there was snorkeling!  The kids, Grandma and Jon enjoyed snorkeling around the boat, and then Jon, Rino and the other more experienced snorkelers broke away from the boat and snorkeled along the reef and the boat went and picked them up afterwards.

Grandma gearing up.  I'm pretty sure she didn't want me to take this picture, much less post it.  I think she's pretty cute, though and she doesn't scare me (well, maybe just a little . . . I'm hoping this font is too small for her to see this confession though!)

Snorkel buddies.  Yes, Jon did shave his head before this trip.  The water was clear and emerald.

When Jon was headed back to the boat, he picked up a little prize and handed it to Little Pickle.  This is pre- starfish colony  . . . . so there is more of this to come!

Here is the approach to Saona.  Yes, please.

I love the raw parts just as much as the other.  Honestly.  Love the clothes drying in the trees and the chippy paint of the boats.


Do go on.

This is a pier that was destroyed during hurricane George and was never rebuilt.  The fish are fed around these columns everyday so the snorkeling is supposed to be pretty good here.

The beach scene of Isla Saona.  Yes, I had a little fun with picmonkey, but this is really what greets you when you land on the shore.

And, for the record, when you are offered lobster as part of the excursion package with lunch, say "YES!" because it is VERY FRESH.  When this guy walked by the second time a short time later, these lobsters were on a plate and he was serving them to a very happy tourist.

Boats of all different shapes and sizes land on the Isla Saona everyday.  Of course, I was drawn to the bright colors.  I know.  I am so predictable.

Okay, I hate to keep stringing you along, but I have so many starfish photos that they REALLY do deserve their own post.  Bayahibe part V: starfish, coming sooooon!

Apr 21, 2012

Love me some Bayahibe part III: Isla Catalinita

So, on our excursion that launched from Bayahibe, we went thru some of the mangrove forest, visited a little uninhabited island called Catalinita, the island Saona where we enjoyed a Dominican buffet, and a natural swimming pool (in the middle of the ocean!) AND a starfish colony. It was UH-MAZING!

The island of Catalinita is a small little island that borders the reef where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic Ocean.  On the Caribbean side, the water is not very deep, but then there is a big drop off for the Atlantic so the waves are pretty fierce on the back side of the island.  See that little black spot on the horizon to the left of the island?  It's actually a ship that tried to cross the reef during a storm (which is normally passable), but it got stuck!  And on the right side of the island, there were too other ships stuck just like this one!

When we disembarked from the catamaran, we immediately found a fabulous discovery.

Just to give you a little perspective.  This starfish was in ankle deep water, and it was probably 10 inches in diameter.  Check it out next to the hands.

More on the starfish later (Bayahibe part iv?  We'll see!) Here is the interesting part about this island. Fisherman catch lambi here and harvest them out of the conch shelves, and once they get the lambi out, they toss the conch shell onto the island of Catalinita so that they don't try to reharvest a conch that has already been captured.

Catalinita is literally littered with harvested conch shells.  They are as far as the eye can see.

For real.  This is not a great photo, but I think you get the picture.  I think the island is built of conch shells!  Everything white or grey in the photo is a shell, and they are PILED on top of shell mounds!

There's always at least one rebel in the bunch that wants to do their own thing in the photo.  It's not necessarily the same one every time, either.  But I digress . . . Conch shells.  Shells for everyone. Big ones.  Little ones. Slimy ones. Bleached ones. Barnacled ones.  Buried ones.

And now that she's solo, she's happy to grab a conch shell and show it to the camera!  Do I seem bitter?
Really, it's okay.  It's more fun to NOT be matchy matchy AND I'll give her a hard time about this maybe at her wedding rehearsal dinner.

Then again, the nut doesn't fall far from the tree, right? RIGHT!

And this is why water shoes are recommended on this part of the excursion.  The conch shells are buried under the sand and it would h.u.r.t. to step on these.  You just can't avoid them.

And, while on this part of the excursion I learned a valuable lesson that when you take photos with your sunglasses on, you are prone to overexpose your photos because you can't see the hatch marks on your camera.  I hate the loss of detail, but I still love these little faces!

Despite the fact that this photo is unsalvageable, I still love it so much.  Unfortunately there are many others like this from Catalinita, but fortunately I checked when I got back on the boat and realized what had happened so I was able to correct it for the rest of the excursion, which I will show you in Bayahibe part IV!

Apr 20, 2012

Love me some Bayahibe part II: excursion!

For anyone in the Dominican Republic or visiting and have the opportunity to visit Bayahibe for an excursion to Isla Saona - DO IT!  IT is WORTH the cost!  It does not disappoint!

This rocky cliff, called El Pinon, marks the beginning of the national park.

As we entered the national park, we went over a starfish colony!  They were everywhere - and HUGE!  Later in the excursion we re-visited the colony and got to take pictures with them!  You'll see . . .

AND . . . we saw two different kinds of rays . . .

Spotted Eagle Ray

Brown Ray inside the mangrove forest

A sea turtle - but I couldn't get a good photo of him because he was way too fast!

This is the entrance to the mangrove forest.  It was like a doorway to a mangrove maze.

It was truly mesmerizing.

And. So. Peaceful.

And FUN!

And while I don't want to drag the Bayahibe post out toooo much, there is still so much to show you.  Stay tuned for an island of conch shells, ginormous starfish, lobster and other fun stuff.

Apr 19, 2012

Love me some Bayahibe - Part I

I fell in love with one stoplight towns back in my Hallsville, TX days, where old men asked "How do?" and Bar-be-que Country upped the bar on great bar-be-que, where a gun behind the counter was pretty normal, and when SONIC came to town (pre three stoplight additions) we knew we had reached the pinnacle of small town living.  I will ALWAYS love that place.   Always.  (Sonic, yes, but more so Hallsville :)

However, these here days are different in the D.R., but there is no shortage of no stoplight towns.  My new favorite, recently discovered Dominican small town is Bayahibe.  While it is a tourist destination, mainly for day trips booked from other tourists destinations, it remains charming and authentic.  It is basically a launching site for various excursions to remote islands.  There is a big bus parking lot in the middle of the town that is full during the day, but is vacant after 5 pm-ish when all the tourists are bussed back to their original location.  Anyhoo, we had THE BEST TIME there!

After 5 hours on the road with a van loaded with kids + grandma, getting lost in Santo Domingo, having our van passenger side window fall into the door numerous times, getting stuck behind a political rally (which means LOUD political music and advertisements, a caravan of cars/trucks/motos waving the political party color, and a whole lot of hoopla,

We were very happy to see this . . . .

The little bay is empty during the day because all the boats and catamarans are out on excursions, but at night there are literally hundreds of boats.  The town swells with tourists and then quickly dissipates to its normal population as the tourists are bussed off into the sunset.

We decided it would be sad to drive all that distance and NOT go on an excursion. THIS was a MOST EXCELLENT DECISION!   Grandma and I sat on the beach on the first day watching all the boats and catamarans head off into the morning sun on the excursions.  We picked out the boat we would want (a big fat catamaran) and then in the evening went into town in search of a tour company.  We could not match up boats to companies as we thought we might be able to, but we ended up on a really awesome tour, an awesome boat with an excellent guide!

There were literally hundreds of boats that passed along the shoreline, and you can see the variety of options offered.  We ended up on the boat closest to the edge of the photo - a very smooth ride!  

After being offered a sweet deal in the bus parking lot by a local Dominican making promises of safety vests and a smooth ride, we (me and grandma) decided it would be worth the $ to go with a real tour company: Pro Excursions.  We had a MOST EXCELLENT guide name Rino, a frenchman with a great sense of humor who flip flopped gracefully between speaking french and english on the tour. He was truly fabulous with the kids (Little Pickle KNEW that HE REALLY LIKED HER!)

Our excursion, which started at 9 am and ended at 6:30 pm took us into a national park, along the mangrove trees, over a colony of starfish, to a small island that is at the edge of a reef where the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet, and to Isla Saona, a gorgeous island where we had an excellent buffet . . .  which will lead us to part II of this post - otherwise I would have way too many photos and this blog might not ever load. To be continued . . . .