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  • Flamenco Beach Resort and Divers
    By Walt Stearns
    With an impressive collection of modern, all-inclusive resorts, the Dominican Republic (DR) provides a luxurious home base for the enjoyment of a wide range of above and below water adventures. A vacationer's playground spans several square miles of the DRs Amber Coast, east of the north coast port city of Puerto Plata. Playa Dorada hosts a cluster of 13 extravagant, multi-million dollar resorts featuring a combined total of some 4,000 rooms.

    One immense, sprawling complex is the Occidental Hotel Group. It features four major hotels with a total of 1,505 rooms, 16 restaurants, a shopping plaza and three casinos and discos. The crown jewel is the newly completed, beachside Flamenco Beach Resort, featuring 582 Standard Suites, 42 Junior Suites and 4 Master Suites. All include an outside terrace, full bathroom, air-conditioning, direct dial telephones, mini-bar, cable TV and room safe.

    In addition to a private stretch of beach, the Flamenco's major facilities include two giant swimming pools, two tennis courts, an 18 hole golf course designed by golf pro, Trent Jones, three restaurants serving Spanish, Italian, local and continental cuisine, and two buffetstyle restaurants. In addition, there is a shopping center, a discotheque (El Tablao), a bank, two large conference rooms, motorcycle and car rental services and personalized baby-sitting service as well as a children's playground and Kids' Club daycare center.

    This all-inclusive resort offers a wide range of activities, including sailing, windsurfing, tennis, snorkeling and horseback riding. At night, guests can enjoy live performances by professional entertainers and musicians. An unlimited number of meals and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (house wines only at the restaurants) are also included. Not included are motorized watercraft rentals, parasailing and golf course fees.

    DIVING SERVICES

    The Flamenco Beach Resort's watersports are handled by the 14 year old Actividades Acuaticas, S.A. In addition to managing an array of watertoys, Actividades Acuaticas features a highly recognized and separate branch in sport diving services called Divers. Most of Diver's 15 member staff are fluent in several languages (German, Italian, English, Spanish, etc.). They are experienced PADI instructors who are active in the Discover Scuba Program. The bulk of their clientele is resort course students; Divers introduced nearly 3,000 people to the thrill of sport diving in 1997 alone. The rental department includes more than 31 sets of Sherwood regulators with gauges, BCs, masks and fins, as well as 95 aluminum tanks.

    Although Playa Dorada is ideal for many watersports, Actividades Acuaticas' diving excursions take place 16 miles west of Puerto Plata near the small waterfront community of Sosua. Guests of the four Occidental resorts are transported via mini-van to Sosua, where Actividades Acuaticas' small fleet of outboard powered, 24 to 27 foot open skiffs await in a sheltered cove, fronted by a lovely white sand beach.

    One of the sites reserved exclusively for certified divers is Runway, featuring three giant, 50 foot high coral pinnacles standing side by side with the center formation capped with large stands of Elkhorn Corals. Nearby, running beneath a 30 foot high shoreline cliff, The Caves features a series of large overhangs and massive boulders resting against one another at depths varying 30 to 60 feet and forming several large swim-throughs.

    One of the few dive sites deeper than 60 feet is Tropical Garden, on the other side of Sosua Bay. It has a broad network of patch reefs that begins at 100 feet and slopes up to 30, ending at the site called Three Rocks. Coming to within 15 feet of the surface, Three Rocks' patch reef formations offer an exciting macro dive. Since there are no large predators, small reef beauties such as juvenile Spotted Drums swim about the corals with almost complete abandon.

    The favorite for resort course and open water check-out dives is The Canyon. This site is at the end of a large peninsula shaped reef plateau starting 15 feet from the surface and dropping to 60 feet on one side; 45 feet on the other, with a narrow slit running through it.

    With such good diving, explored from an all-inclusive, luxurious resort, the Dominican Republic's Hotel Flamenco Beach has the makings of a great vacation.

    For booking or more information, Hotel Flamenco Beach offices can be reached at Playa DoradaŠPuerto Plata, Dominican Republic, (800) 545-8089 or (809) 320-5084; fax (809) 320-4014. Actividades Acuaticas, S.A. (Divers) can be reached at (809) 320-2567, fax (809) 320-5989 or address e-mail to divers@codetel.net.do.