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 8 - Homeward Bound
We were sad to be leaving this wonderful island paradise as we packed up our gear for the final time. One last wonderful breakfast and we boarded the Prieto Tours minivan for our trip to the airport--a 30-minute ride on a brand-new highway.
The Hickory Wreck--Don Juan Beach Resort.
While I waited for our return flight to Newark, I jotted down a few notes that summarize our one-week whirlwind tour. Here are a few things that really stand out:
The El Limon Wreck off the Don Juan.
1) There is no insect problem at any of the resorts. I never saw a fly, mosquito or roach during the entire trip. I imagine this is why all of the resorts have marvelous open-air dining with no need for screens.
2) Although the official currency is pesos, the U.S. dollar is accepted everywhere. In fact, most clerks and hotel service people prefer it. In the retail stores, all of the sales clerks have calculators to figure out peso/dollar exchange rates.
Cuevas Caverns--El Portillo Resort.
3) Language is not a problem. Hotel and dive staffs are multilingual. English is understood and spoken almost everywhere. You will also find other languages spoken as well: mostly Italian, French, German and Spanish. This island is truly international.
4) The Dominican people are exceptionally friendly and always willing to assist strangers. I felt very comfortable in this country.
Snorkeling at the El Portillo.
5) The concept of all-inclusive beach resorts is fantastic! It is unquestionably the best value in the Caribbean. Most one-week resort packages are $700 to $800 per week, and include room, all three meals, unlimited snacks, unlimited drinks, live stage shows, most beach activities and all pool activities. As one diver put it, I could not live this cheaply staying at home.
Relaxing on the beach at the Punta Cana.
6) The Dominican Republic is able to offer these all-inclusive packages at such a great price because of low labor costs and inexpensive food prices. The D.R. is an agricultural based economy that grows all of its own meat, poultry, vegetables and fruits. Much of it is served fresh from the farms and was absolutely delicious.
Anchor Reef off the Punta Cana.
7) The D.R. is a huge island by Caribbean standards, but getting around is easy. There are many airports and an excellent system of intra-island plane services. In addition, there is an excellent system of coastal roads and a wide selection of tourist buses, minivans and taxis. All vehicles that we rode in were air-conditioned.
8) The D.R. offers diving diversity--coral reefs, shallow coral gardens, vertical walls, pinnacles, shipwrecks, coral caves, freshwater caves and caverns, and Humpback Whale encounters. Pick your diving pleasure; it's here.
Drifting over Parguera Reef off Club Viva Dominicus.
9) All of the beach resorts that we visited were excellent. I would choose to stay at any of them again. But this presents a problem--which one do I recommend when someone asks "which is the best?" I guess my answer would be there is no best, all of them are great and each one offers something special that distinguishes one from the others.
10) The dive operators are excellent. While primarily geared for casual divers, they could also cater to more advanced divers. In fact, much of their European clientele are highly skilled divers. All five resorts had PADI-certified instructors on staff. Many of our dives were to depths from 90 to 130 feet--not exactly beginner sites. The dive operators had sufficient boats and departure times to segregate beginners from experienced divers.
Costa Caribe Resort's beach.
In summary, the Dominican Republic is most definitely worth a visit, and even better, a tour. The diving is good Caribbean quality. The beach resorts are the most fun I have ever experienced?non-stop activities. The beaches are superior and the food is out of this world. My advice... go to the D.R. and see it for yourself.
Exploring the Tanya V off Costa Caribe.
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