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The following educatonal tour descriptions only scratch the surface of program possibilities in the Dominican Republic. These activities are inteded to serve as components of a comprehensive educational and cultural program. Don't find what you need? We have many more tours and activities not list here.


Sosua Community Sojourn: A glance back in time to an American-Jewish Experiment by Tours Trips Treks & Travel

“Sosua, a community born of pain and nurtured in love must, in the final analysis, represent the ultimate triumph of live.”  These are the parting words of the Sosua Jewish Museum’s final exhibit. 

In 1938, when no other nation would answer US President Franklin Roosevelt’s call in Evian-les-Bains, France to receive German and Austrian Jewish refugees, including the US, Dominican Dictator, Rafael Trujillo, offered to take in 100,000.  While only 645 Jews finally made it to the 26,000 acre plot of abandoned banana plantation purchased by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee through the Dominican Republic Settlement Association (DORSA), their history is a fascinating and inspiring tale of struggle, ingenuity and success.  The 25 Jewish families remaining in Sosua today are a living legacy to this history.  Join us on a half day sojourn to Sosua’s synagogue, Jewish museum and Jewish cemetery and meet with a member of this historic community to hear first-hand tales and understand the economical, political and societal impacts of this engaging, true story.


Photography Safaris by Tours Trips Treks & Travel
Programs from half-day to 10 days. Let our Photo Host and Trip Leader escort you around the island in search of "The Shot". From rich to poor, city to backcountry, coastal beaches to high mountain ranges, palm tree tops to ancient depths of subterranean caves, our aim is to expose you to the widest range of perspectives and light conditions that this tropical and vibrant country has to offer. All media and mediums are welcomed and encouraged. You and your equipment are safely transported in air-conditioned coach. Each guest receives a "STOP NOW. THAT'S THE SHOT!" card which may be used to stop the bus for unplanned opportunities regardless of our previous itinerary. Itineraries may also include transportation via boat, helicopter, and airplane. Multi-day tours may include guest speakers and workshops on techniques and equipment use.


Half Day Santo Domingo Museum Tour by Tours Trips Treks & Travel
After a lunch overlooking the Plaza de España, we cross the Ozama River to visit the Faro de Colón, Columbus's Lighthouse. Opened for the quincentennial anniversary of Columbus's first voyage, the lighthouse was built at a cost of US $20 million. Its laser-lit beacon light burns in the shape of a cross on the night sky, and can be seen for 50 miles. Today the lighthouse serves as the (contested) resting-place for Columbus's remains and as a museum for artifacts related to the European encounter with the new world; it also houses several shipwrecks. Many countries have contributed artifacts to this varied collection. The Plaza de la Cultura is our next stop. This enormous landscaped cultural plaza features the National Theater, National Library, and the national museums of Dominican Man, Modern Art, History & Geography, and Natural History. We are free to explore the museum of our choosing before departing for dinner.


Half Day Tour of Big Business in Santiago by Tours Trips Treks & Travel
Following breakfast at our hotel we depart with our guide and visit the Folklore Museum, the Calle del Sol, the Mercado Modelo shopping district, Hospedaje market district, and the E. Leon Jimenez Tobacco Factory. Here we are introduced to the history of the tobacco industry and visit with the artists who produce the fine cigars for which the Dominican Republic is rightly famous. Some of the world's finest tobacco is grown in the Cibao Valley and Santiago, since the U.S. embargo on Cuba, has become the center of the world's cigar industry. Leon Jimenez is the single most significant contributor to the government's income through the taxes it pays. The company not only produces its own cigars, cigarettes, and malt beverages, but also holds the franchise licenses for Phillip Morris, Kraft, and others. Our lunch, at Don Luis's, features all of our favorite Dominican delicacies.

Business Tours also available in Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata, and may span several days if desired.


Amber Mine Visit in Septentrional Mountains by Tours Trips Treks & Travel
In the afternoon we drive into the Septentrional mountains to visit an amber mine. Although polished and made into beautiful jewelry, amber is not a true stone. It is actually the petrified sap of prehistoric trees. Various insects, small vertebrates and plants were occasionally trapped and preserved in these resins and modern scientists have been able to extract and study the DNA from some of these ancient organisms. Dominican amber, considered by many to be the most beautiful in the world, reflects red, orange, green, blue and purple. We enjoy an exotic and tropical dinner in the mountains.


Carnaval in La Vega (every Sunday in February) by Tours Trips Treks & Travel
Carnaval is one of the most extravagant and outrageous festivals in the Dominican Republic. Since 1844, pre-Lenten celebrations have combined with Dominican Independence Day celebrations (February 27), making Carnaval twice as important in the Dominican Republic as it is in other countries where it is celebrated. The first documented carnival in the Americas took place in La Vega in February of 1520. Today, the city of La Vega (relocated a few miles away from the original site after an earthquake in 1564) has the reputation of having the most colorful, most authentic carnaval in the entire country. Veganos celebrate carnaval every Sunday afternoon throughout the entire month of February. For the past 100 years it's been the fierce Diablo Cojuelo-literally the Limping Devil-so called because he used to limp, pretending he was too lame to catch anyone. The Diablos Cojuelos are costumed in brilliantly colored satin and taffeta, and their masks are true works of art: huge papier mache creations of snarling medieval devil faces, complete with goat-like beards and huge teeth. Beware the snap and crack of the Diablos Cojuelos' vejigas, dried cow bladders filled with air! They say getting hit brings good luck. (assisted by Educational Student Services)


National Park Hike: "El Choco" & Islabon River Exploration by Tours Trips Treks & Travel
The National Monument Laguna Cabarete y Goleta, locally known as the El Choco National Park, is one of the newest nationally protected areas in the country. After lunch on your own, you join a local Dominican guide and begin an exploration of its forty-eight square miles of lagoon, pasture land, low mountains, rainforest, and caves. This unique landscape, tectonically, as opposed to volcanically formed, is known as Caribbean Karst. Escarpments of towering coral reefs are found miles inland from the present sea shore. The mountains are predominately limestone and, due to their porous nature, serve as giant subterranean reservoirs that provide water to a complex web of lush plant, animal and human populations within and near the park. Your 3-hour hike will also be a treasure hunt in search of edible tropical plants, such as the Mango, Passion Fruit, Grapefruit, Sour Orange, Guava, Pineapple, Mamón, Lime, Coconut Palm, Almond, Banana, and Plantain. Many other plants have been used by the indigenous people as medicines, building materials or for other purposes. Royal Palm, Jabilla, Cerva, Sour Cane, and Higuero are abundant here and your guide will explain how these have been, and still are, used. The Vervain Hummingbird (Mellisuga Mínima in Spanish), the second smallest humming bird in the world may also be found here. A short distance from the park office, on the banks of the Islabon River, Wilson Zapeta has a small ranch of wildlife in temporary captivity. Here we have the opportunity to see some of the Dominican Republic's more elusive wilderness creatures, such as the Carey Turtle, Boa Serpent, Tarantula, Rhinoceros Iguana, North American Crocodile, Turkey Vulture, Sparrow Hawk, and Mongoose. From there you board a boat for a leisurely float down the Wilson River to its mouth at the Atlantic Ocean. Your dinner this evening is served on the beach, amongst the sand dunes and a roaring bonfire.


Rio San Juan & Laguna Gri Gri Marine Life Snorkel Study by Tours Trips Treks & Travel
One of the benefits of traveling to the lazy town of Rio San Juan is eating the tasty homemade almond cookies along the way. This small fishing village and quiet tourist town is known for its five unique beaches and large mangrove lagoon. Our next three days will be in and around the water, and the pristine reefs of Río San Juan, kept clean predominately by the mangroves, serve as an excellent introduction. One of our first lessons will be a familiarization exercise with snorkeling equipment and a review of the proper techniques and procedures for snorkeling and observing marine creatures. Our boat takes us to patch reefs where, in addition to Gorgonias, Sea Fans, Sea Rod, Brain, Pillar and Staghorn Coral, we should be able to see Squirrelfish, Harlequin Bass, Fairy Basslet, Groupers, Yellow Snapper, Pork Fish, Goat Fish, the lovely Spotted Drum, and Stingrays. A Dominican feast at a restaurant perched atop mangrove trees is a well deserved treat.


Los Haitises National Park in Samaná by Tours Trips Treks & Travel
Thirty percent of the Dominican Republic is now nationally protected area and Los Haitises, with its enormous karst formations nearly 100 miles of mangrove-studded coastline, numerous estuaries, coves and bays and varied flora and fauna, is one of the most distinctive of these national reserves. Due to its remoteness, rugged topography and seasonally heavy rainfall the park is accessible only by boat. With more than 760 identified species of plants, 17 species of which are endemic to this one small area, Los Haitises is also a virtual botanical garden. The park provides a home, refuge, and nesting sites for 110 species of birds including Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigate Bird, Roseate Tern, Ridgeway's Hawk, Narrow-billed Tody, Least Grebe, Night Heron, and Great White Egret. Another major attraction of the park is its extensive cave system, which has been sculptured from the stone by the slow process of natural chemical erosion. Two distinct populations of native American people have sheltered in these caves, and we have several opportunities to view their anthropomorphic, symbolic, and zoomorphic artistic prowess. Disembarking the boat at the Caverna de San Gabriel and the Cueva de Arena, we further investigate this park's intricate web of relationships in search of the bats, tortoises, and the shy Manatee that reside in the caves and mangrove systems. Our lunch is at a small inn, just outside the national park boundary. In the afternoon we return to Santa Bárbara de Samaná where we may relax by the pool, walk the boardwalk along the Bay or explore the town.


Barrio Wilmore Community Sojourn by Tours Trips Treks & Travel
Samaná is also known for Barrio Wilmore, a historic settlement of African-American abolitionists dating back to the 1840s. Resident and president of the Samaná Guides Association, Santiago Kelly, will escort us into this fascinating community, many of whose members migrated from Philadelphia at the turn of the 19th Century. Through visits with local families, churches and the school, we will reveal those manifestations of African American culture that have endured and evolved with Dominican society over the years.


Samaná Bay Marine Mammal Sanctuary by Tours Trips Treks & Travel
The waters shared by the Samaná Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, just east of Los Haitises National Park were, in 1999, designated as a National Marine Sanctuary. During the months of January, February and March more than 10,000 North Atlantic Humpback Whales, from as far away as Nova Scotia and Greenland, migrate to the warm, sheltered waters of this small bay to mate and calve and the area is quickly becoming known as one of the best places in the world for whale watching. Although Humpback Whales are the most frequently seen, Pilot Whales, Atlantic Bottle-nosed and Spotted Dolphins may also occasionally be found here. Following breakfast at our hotel, we join marine specialist, Kim Beddall, for a 3.5 hour cruise aboard the comfortable and spacious "Victoria II", a 60' double-deck, twin-engine boat, in search of whales. Humpbacks belong to a group known as the rorqual whales, which are the largest animals that have ever lived. Measurements of 40-45 feet and 30-40 tons are common, but some adults may be more than 50 feet long and weight up to 65 tons! Despite their size these huge animals are both tuneful and acrobatic. The Humpback Whale not only produces eerie and wide-ranging sounds but also performs leaping jumps from the water for no apparent reason. It is a truly amazing experience to see their acrobatic aerial stunts.


Cuevas de Pomier y Borbon Anthropological Reserve by Tours Trips Treks & Travel
Cuevas de Pomiér Anthropological Reserve which is located about an hour's drive west of Santo Domingo on the outskirts of San Cristobal is the only region in the country specifically designated for the protection of a subterranean ecosystem and it is the single most important pre-Columbian site in the Caribbean. With more 6000 recorded pictographs and around 500 petroglyphs pertaining to several distinct indigenous populations, the Cuevas de Pomier are, in anthropological importance, for the Caribbean what the Pyramids of Giza are for Egypt and the Altamira and Lascaux Caves are for Europe. Cave Number One has 590 pictographs; more than are found in all other locations in the Minor Antilles put together. We spend the afternoon exploring this cave which provides insights into the Pre-Columbian origins of humans in the Caribbean with Dominican environmental activist, journalist and Espeleogrupo Santo Domingo President, Domingo Abreu.


National Park Exploration: Sierra de Bahoruco National Park by Tours Trips Treks & Travel
Located in the Southwest of the country and close to the Haitian border, Sierra de Bahoruco National Park reaches an elevation of 2,367 meters. The formation of these mountains took place in the medium Eocene approximately 50 million years ago. Some very important species of algae are supported in its crystallized limestone. Due to its great range of elevations the park has an extremely high bio-diversity of plant life and several vegetational zones. In an otherwise extremely arid part of the country, the Sierra de Bahoruco has climactic zones that range from dry scrub forest at sea level to subtropical rain forests at the higher elevations. More than half of the DR's 166 cataloged orchid species may be found here of which 10% are endemic. Of the 49 species of birds found in the park, 19 are endemic and 29 are residents. The White-necked crow, extinct in Puerto Rico, is now found only here, on the island of Hispañiola. Of historical importance, the top of the Sierra de Barohuco is considered to be the site of the first free, post-European arrival, republic in the Americas. Chief Enriquillo, known as Guarocuya in his native tongue, fought for his tribe's freedom from Spain and in 1532 was able to temporarily declare their independence.


Isla Cabritos National Park & Lago Enriquillo by Tours Trips Treks & Travel
Declared a National Park in 1974, Isla Cabritos in the center of Enriquillo Lake is a fascinating place in terms of its geological formation, history and bio-diversity. Yearly rainfall averages only 642 millimeters and the average temperature is 28 degrees Celsius with recorded highs of up to 50 degrees Celsius. The soil on Isla Cabritos is mostly crushed coral and is, at its lowest point, 131 feet below sea level. Lake Enriquillo is the remnant of a one million year old channel that once connected the Bay of Neiba in the DR with the Bay of Port-au-Prince in Haiti. The lake is actually a small inland sea formed by surges in the territory and silt deposits from the Yaque de Sur River. No fresh water currently exists on the island, and the surrounding lake's water is approximately 3 times saltier than that of the Atlantic Ocean. Sixty-two species of birds have been recorded for the island, including American Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Louisiana Night Heron, Great Blue Heron, Burrowing Owl, Hispañiola Parrot, and the Village Weaver, introduced from Africa. Eight of the reptiles found in the park are endemic. The population of North American Crocodiles is one of the largest in the world. This and the Rhinoceros and Ricord Iguanas which are also found here are endangered species. One hundred-eight species of plants flourish in the hostile environment of the park. Many, including several Cacti, Ziziphus, Mesquite, and Catalpa, are endemic. Chief Enriquillo used the island as his center of provisions during his fight for independence against the Spanish. We have the entire day to explore Isla Cabritos and Enriquillo Lake.


Haitian-Dominican Public Market & Dajabon by Tours Trips Treks & Travel
Twice a week the borders are open between the Dominican Republic and Haiti and national tensions eased to allow friendly and excited commerce between the Dominicans and Haitians in the tragically historic North Coast city of Dajabon. It may be surprising, but it is the Haitians that have the majority of goods to sell. As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti receives a great deal of donations from large companies throughout the world. An amazing variety of brand name and knock-off goods can be acquired at amazing prices….after a little bargaining, of course! The Dominican-Haitian market is an excellent opportunity to witness first-hand the intuitive similarities and striking differences between the two nationalities that share this small island. Lunch will be at a small local place in Dajabón.


Colonial Zone Walking Tour by Educational Student Services
Dr. Lynne Guitar, Fulbright Scholar and cultural attaché to the US Embassy, meets us and we depart with her for a walking tour through the Zona Colonia, designated a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO. Rather than list dates and events, Dr. Guitar prefers to recreate the past and bring life to the old ruins by means of story telling, anecdotes and legends. From Las Atarazanas, the shipyard, to the Count's Gate at the Fortaleza de la Concepción, our tour will visit the most important historical points of interest, including the First Cathedral, Casa de Colón, the Museum of the Royal House, Calle de las Damas, Chapel of Remedies, Residence of Governor Nicolas Ovando, National Pantheon, Fortaleza del Ozama, the ruins of the Franciscan Monastery and the Hospital of San Nicolás de Bari.


Taino Day Tours by Educational Student Services


LA CALETA TAINO CEMETERY, CUEVA DE LAS MARAVILLAS, AND PLAYA ESMERALDA

Visit La Caleta, an ancient Taíno cemetery where once there was a thriving Taíno yucayeque (village). A dozen well preserved human skeletons have been preserved in situ, as well as the only skeleton so far found of one of the Taínos' mysterious "barkless" dogs. Then we're off to the Cueva de las Maravillas (Cave of the Marvels) near the Río Soco, one of the most important caves in the Caribbean, with more than 400 ancient Taíno drawings and beautiful stalactites, stalagmites, and other natural formations. Then we'll finish the day at beautiful Playa Esmeralda for lunch and swimming in their pool and/or the ocean, and to relax under the coconut palms.

SANTO CERRO, CACIQUE (CASABE FACTORY), RIO CHACUEY

A visit to the shrine at Santo Cerro, site of the very first major battle between Europeans and Amerindians (the Europeans were led by Christopher Columbus himself), a site where the legend of the Virgin de las Mercedes, the island's patroness emerged. From here, if the weather is clear, you can see all the way across the Cibao Valley past Mocca to the amber-filled mountains that guard the pass to the Atlantic coast. Next stop is the tiny mountain town of Cacique, where it's obvious many Taínos fled to in order to avoid Spanish domination, for the region's people have significant Taíno biological and cultural heritage. Here we'll visit a casabe factory where they prepare the bread that was the Taínos' staple food in much the same manner as their ancient ancestors, and we'll enjoy a delicious country lunch. Highlight of the day is wading up the Río Chacuey about 10-15 minutes through crystal clear mountain water (less than knee deep) to see the most famous petroglyphs on the island, sacred Taíno rock carvings that few people have seen except in photos. Nearby are natural charcos (pools) where we can cool off, just like the Taínos used to do.


Chasing the Butterflies /The Mirabal Sisters by DREAM

A tour that was inspired from the Julia Alvarez book In the Time of the Butterfly (prerequisite reading for tour). Alvarez conveys their courage and their desperation, and the full import of their tragedy in her book.

From 1930-1961 the Dominican people were repressed under the power of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. During the last days before Trujillo's assassination, three young women who were committed to the revolutionary overthrow of the regime, were ambushed and assassinated as they drove back from visiting their jailed husbands. Thus martyred, the Mirabal sisters have become mythical figures in their country, where they are known as las mariposas (the butterflies), from their underground code names. Each of the girls--Patria, Minerva and Maria Terese Mirabal, and their surviving sister, Dede, endure the arrests of their husbands, their own imprisonment and Trujillo's revenge.

On this unforgettable journey we will trace the steps of the sisters on the last day of their lives. As we travel by bus from Puerto Plata to Salcedo, we will visit the jail, their homes, their graves, the Mirabal Museum and we may even meet some of the family. This not to be missed tour, gives you the best insight to the history, culture, scenery and life in the Dominican Republic.


The Dominican Way of Life: Walking Village and School Tour by DREAM

"A Cultural Immersion"

As we wander through the narrow streets of Cajjejon de la Loma, "The Alley of the Hills", we will visit the public schools as well as the homes of the Dominican children who attend them. We will see what it is like to live in a developing country: a lifestyle that is foreign to ours, a life without running water or electricity. Most importantly we will learn to understand the meaning of family and neighbors as viewed through the eyes of Dominicans. By asking the villagers questions we gain insight into their daily culture. We will learn how their homes are built and the significance of the fruit trees and coconut palms that grow around them. Our goal is simple: that you will see, hear, touch, smell, and feel things that you have never known before.


The Bitter Sweet Batey Life: Haitian Batey Caraballo Tour by DREAM

Recommended reading includes Why the Cock Fights by Michele Wucker and The Farming of the Bones by Edwidge Danticat.

In the Dominican Republic, the word "batey" denotes the living quarters or "neighborhood" of resident cane cutters on land belonging to a large sugar company. Amidst the sugar cane fields of Montellano, Puerto Plata lies Batey Caraballo. The overwhelming majority of residents are of Haitian or Haitian-Dominican descent.

Although workers are granted a small plot of land on which they may build a home, the area is far from desirable. Batey Caraballo is located on low lying, overcrowded land which is prone to flooding. Cane cutters are isolated geographically in the batey, and they are also isolated socially by barriers of language and culture that differ from the norm.

On this tour we will have the opportunity to meet and interact with children and families living in the Batey Caraballo. You will witness the daily hardships that these people face and learn about the Haitian subculture that exists and plays a large role in the Dominican society and economy.


 


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Most photos credited to "Open Shirt' Mike Gussak at unkmonk@hotmail.com