Man, oh man, where to begin?! The only tour we booked for this entire month long adventure was one for Christmas Eve going to Laguna de Oviedo and Bahia de las Aguilas with EcoTour Barahona. EcoTour was a little pricey, but they had great reviews and getting to Bahia de las Aguilas was really important to me! It is described as “the kind of beach fantasies are made of” and it has to be reached by boat, so obviously we HAD to see it! The Laguna was on the way and sounded interesting as well, so we opted for the tour that included both and made a day of it.
It was our first breakfast prepared by Joyce and the kids were in heaven! When she took our order the night before and the options included pancakes and french toast the kids were beside themselves :-). Mike and I stuck with our eggs and bacon but the kids were ready for some tastes of home. We fueled up and were picked up at 7:30am by our guide, Mael, from France.
Along with us for the tour were a French couple and random guy from England, all who were very nice. Our kids were SO good during all the driving between sights and I couldn't decide if it was because there were strangers with us so they were embarrassed to be crazy or just because they were tired and mature that day, but it worked whatever it was :-).
It was about an hour drive from our area to Laguna de Oviedo. We sunscreened up and were off to the boat to really start the tour. Laguna Oviedo is a hypersalinic lake separated from the ocean by an 800 meter strip of sand and is home to many types of birds including flamingos. From April to August the one-ton tinjlare turtle comes to lay it's eggs here, which would be amazing to see! Turns out this year very few flamingos came so we only saw a small group of them, but our guide told us that sometimes there are 200! That would be incredible. We saw some other types of birds and stopped at the largest of the 24 islands on the lake where we saw iguanas and went up a viewing tower. I was surprised by the weird yellow-green color of the lake but learned it is a result of limestone sediment being brought in.
All in all we were a little underwhelmed by our island stop. The boat ride there was quite long, the lake itself wasn't very pretty and after all the iguanas we saw in the Galapagos it wasn't as exciting as it could have been. I was still glad we had gone to check it out as we started the boat ride back but was mostly excited to get to Bahia de Aguilas! We were about half way back across the lake when the driver stopped the boat. We had been stopping periodically to see different birds so at first assumed that was what was happening. After a couple minutes one of the kids asked why we were stopped and our guide said the driver was cleaning the engine. Well, it soon became quite clear there was an issue with the engine and after many failed attempts to get it started we all realized were stuck. Eventually our guide got his phone to work (at first it was saying no signal!) and there was a lot of talking in Spanish going on. We were told someone was on their way but we could see no boats coming towards us. Time seemed so slow. I think it was about an hour before another boat came out to us and if you looked around the boat you would have thought we had been stranded for days haha! We were trying to cover ourselves from the sun, people were laying between the benches of the little boat and everyone just looked defeated. A little guy came out in his boat and tried to trade engines with us but his engine wouldn't fit on our boat so we ended up moving our family into his smaller boat and then we towed the broken boat to the shore of the nearest island. We left it there and then all squished into the small boat and started back towards the dock. Oh, how I wish we had video of that crazy ride back! It was like we had buckets of the super salty water pouring over us the entire time! I was in the front row with the kids and we were all hunched over in one big pile trying to hide our faces. Mike was in the row behind us smooshed in with 3 other strangers while one of the local tour guides used a bucket to bail out all the water that was pouring into the boat. What an experience! I have never been more excited to see land before. We got off the boat drenched and freezing but happy to have it over with. I was sooo glad we had bought this waterproof bag for the trip. My camera, our towels and Mike's wallet were all perfectly dry and safe thanks to it!
We were supposed to have lunch on the beach but since it was now well past the time we should have arrived there (another hour drive from the lake to the beach) it was decided to eat quickly at the lake and then book it to the beach so we could still get an hour in there.
I was feeling pretty frustrated that the part of the tour we were least excited for took up most of our time. The driver did make up a lot of time though and in the end we felt like we had enough time at the beach. When we first arrived to the point where you get on the speed boat for the quick drive to the beach itself I was blown away by how pretty and different it looked. It reminded me of what I picture Thailand beaches to look like with their rocky cliffs and little boats (although a different kind of boat) and beautiful blue water. For me the boat ride to the beach was itself a highlight. It was so pretty and the boat driver swerved in and out through the big rocks. As we approached the beach I was actually a little underwhelmed because the beach itself was just sand and then a deserty type vegetation behind it. We dropped off our things and jumped right in the water and when you sat on the soft sand looking out at the rocky cliffs in the distance it was really beautiful and there was really no one there which is the most amazing part about it. There was our little group of 8 people and then one other small group way, way down the sand that left not long after we arrived. The water was clear and calm and the kids had a blast snorkeling around although there wasn't anything too amazing to see where we were. Each kid did find a cool little conch shell though, which will be such a fun souvenir for them to have from this trip.
We made it back to the hotel around 7pm, about 2 hours later than we were planning on, and we were tired and so so hungry. The day before I had talked to Joyce about making spaghetti for us for dinner and we talked about it a couple times during the day, especially during the rough moments when it helped get us through :-). We were thinking it would be ready and waiting for us since we were back so late so when Norm let us in the gate and we walked back to see nothing happening we were a little confused. He asked if they had fed us dinner and I was really confused and asked about the spaghetti dinner. Turns out Joyce was really sick so we were on our own and he offered to drive us. We had Norm drop us off at the restaurant we couldn't find the night before and it looked like a ghost town. There was no menu and the guy told Mike initially they had a couple kinds of chicken and fish. We ordered, he left, and then he came back to tell us they actually only had fried chicken, white rice and papas fritas. I wanted to just go back to the restaurant we had just eaten at instead since it was right next door so we left and walked up the hill a bit only to find them having a big family party and telling us the restaurant was closed. By this point I was ready to quit but we went back to have a bunch of fried chicken and try to be happy about it :-). It all ended up fine. We played Uno while we waited for the food, which tasted better than expected, and the kids got to feed our leftovers to the stray kitties running around.
When we finished we went to find Norm who had told us he would be over at a little bar down the street. We found him dancing to the blaring music and we were all laughing at crazy Uncle Norm :-). Back to the hotel we went, Christmas Eve jammies were unwrapped and put on and all the kids were tucked in bed hoping for Santa to bring them at least something to the DR.
It was a long and tiring day but I really do think that the days like that are what really encourage the family bonding. We had to all rely on each other to stay positive and we all went to bed happy.
sunrise from the balcony and breakfast from the porch
when the real adventure happened :-(...
these fish loved our feet
Ella was just relaxing...and then she was tipped over haha!