Geri Murphy is one of the most published
underwater photo journalist's in the
world. She is best identified with Skin
Diver, which has showcased more than 150
cover photos from 1977 to 1999. During
that period, she generated more than
850 travel features and product reports
under the Skin Diver banner.
She has spent the past 25 years
traveling the world and covering such
unique activities as shark tagging
contests, congregating Manta Rays,
encounters with wild dolphins,
live-aboard cruises to exotic locations,
shipwreck search and discovery and shark
feeding advenures. Murphy is also
responsible for photographing and naming
Stingray City in Grand Cayman - now one
of the world's most famous diving
Day 3 - El Portillo Beach Resort
Our next resort destination was El Portillo Beach Resort. We flew from Santo Domingo almost due north 140 miles, clear across the D.R. and the Samana Peninsula. We landed on a small, paved landing strip adjacent to the resort. The control tower looked like something out of World War II movie. The hotel safari truck was waiting to pick us up and whisk us to the resort. We will be diving the north coast, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean.
Beach cabins under the palm trees.
I was stunned by the appearance of this exceptionally unique resort--love at first sight. El Portillo is situated in the middle of a former coconut plantation. Row after row of tall palm trees runs parallel with 12 miles of pure white sand beach, providing shade and a seductive atmosphere.
Ocean aerobics at El Portillo.
Scattered among the tall palms are small, quaint beach cabins that provide privacy and easy access to the beach and dive center. The whole scene is reminiscent of a Fiji Islands resort--entirely different from what we had experienced on the south coast.
Oxen pull a coconut wagon across the beach.
We were greeted by Ramon Prieto, creator of this idyllic resort and owner/manager of Prieto Tours. As we walked the property, he explained that El Portillo is a 170-room intimate resort, small by the D.R. hotel standards but ideal for scuba divers and snorkelers. In addition to the beach villas, there are several low-rise buildings containing additional rooms with all the creature comforts.
They have two restaurants, a swimming pool, water toys and a ton of activities, including tennis, ocean aerobics, dance lessons, jeep safaris and so on. Most important on our list was the Samana Scuba Diving Center located right on the beach. They have a staff of six PADI instructors and dive guides and two fast dive boats, powered by twin 115 horse-powered outboards. They have more than 18 different dive sites, a mix of both deep and shallow, with pinnacles, walls, caverns and coral reefs.
Loading the dive boat.
For our first dive, we headed east to a rocky bluff called Punta Cabron where towering limestone cliffs plunge straight down into the ocean, great for wall diving! Our first dive site was The Tower, an incredible ocean pinnacle that rises straight up from 150 feet to within six feet of the surface. Slightly tilted and sharply stratified, the pinnacle looks like a thin slice of layer cake standing
Samana Scuba Center.
on its end. Underwater visibility was a fantastic 200 feet, and we encountered all kinds of fish action including Horse-eye Jacks, Blue Runners, Spanish Mackerel, Black Durgon, Triggerfish and a pair of Queen Angelfish. The pinnacle itself was loaded with Orange Elephant Ear Sponges, Azure Vase Sponges and tube sponges.
Dance lessons at the pool.
The next dive site was Punta Tibisi, a vertical wall on the face of a towering rock bluff. The profile was terraced at three different depths, and once again, we encountered all kinds of sponges, gorgonian corals, seafans, jacks and mackerel. The big thrill here was being able to swim just below the curling white surf that was smashing against the wall above--a completely different experience. The D.R. just keeps getting better and better.
Learning how to windsurf.
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