While I adore hitting the beach as much as anyone, I can't hack it for more than a few days without going stir crazy! With that in mind, I always have to find an island which has loads going on nearby to give me some things to try out while having a relax and the Dominican Republic has not disappointed. During my time here, I've hooked up with Olympus tours who run Punta Cana Tours to try out their famous Supreme Safari which shows off the local flair of this beautiful island nation.
The day started with a ride in a super truck, the best way to describe it is for you to picture a monster truck with a trailer on the back for us to see the view. Heading further away from the beaches towards the lesser beaten track of the tourist trail, our first stop was a local ranch. Here we had a chance to hop onto horseback and meander down to see some of the fruit trees growing in the fields including mango's and many others! Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried my Spanish isn't what it used to be so I couldn't quite catch the names of the other exotic fruits, but most were one's I hadn't seen before which is always a treat!
From here, we also had the opportunity to see how cigars are made and learnt all the differences between them. Of course, we learnt that the Dominican cigar is much superior to the Cuban cigar but I'll have to wait until I reach the shores of both islands to be able to compare for myself! This stop also included a visit to a local art gallery, where you could purchase beautiful canvas's of typical Dominican artwork such as beach-scapes and interpretations of workers on orchards, sail boats and more. I can't help myself when there's a chance to bring something beautiful back with me, so I purchased rather a few which were rolled up for me to pop in my suitcase and re-canvas back home for my wall along with others from around the globe.
Nest stop was over to Basilica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia which is found in the town of Higuey in Punta Cana. This catholic cathedral is really something else and was the true highlight of the day for me! With my global treks I get to see a lot of places of worship and some truly stand out, with the Basilica here joining that list. As you can see from the photographs, it certainly has a presence in this small Dominican town as it towers over! We could even see if from the mountains that we travelled up next.
With a quick stop at a local foot market to see fresh food stalls containing fruits, vegetables, meat and even a few locals playing a rather rowdy game of dominoes, it was onwards and upwards off the roads and into the countryside a little further.
During the trip, the guides really enjoyed talking to us about all the communities we visited, and gave us every opportunity to support them through purchasing their herbal medicines, homemade cooking products and tips for leading the horses if you required it! By doing this, it meant that we could give back to not only the tour guides, but to a number of small & isolated villages which struggle more to gain from the biggest import the island has; tourism. This was highlighted on our next destination when we visited a small village to meet and chat with everyone!
This was the village we stopped to dine in on a local lunch of Dominican specialities which shouldn't be missed while overlooking a river below and enjoying the view of never-ending mountains and jungle.
Once fed, it was onwards to our final village stop through coffee and sugar plantations, with some hefty off road driving which couldn't have been more amusing! With an open bar onboard, I'd recommend bringing an empty bottle with you to get a bartender to top you up in as the open glasses meant spilling delicious rum everywhere.
In this village, our guide Jonathan coached the local girls on how to talk to a group trying to help them boost confidence and join the tourist trade so popular here, and it was heartwarming to see! They talked to us about what they grow, and how they turn it into products to sell such as vanilla essence, chocolate and coffee.
After waiving goodbye to the kids and their pet iguana, it was off again to the final stop on our off-roading tour - the beach! Unfortunately for us, the rain hit hard just as we arrived and with the winds came some strong waves so after a chance to stroll around we hopped back onto the truck after getting slightly soaked to head back to our accommodation for a cocktail or two!