As I packed my bags for our last-minute family vacation to the Dominican Republic during spring break this year I was solely looking forward to the beach and all the time I will have to relax, tan, and ultimately come home with perfectly bronzed skin before my friends could even think about digging out their swimsuit for the summer. What I didn't know then was that none of those things would matter in a couple days…
After 3 days spent on the resort, bumming it around the beaches, playing (and winning!) silly games with the entertainment staff, and enjoying our time at the different dinner options on the resort our family was ready to get out and explore the island of many treasures, Hispaniola. As a family we tend to live on the safe side, so instead of getting a cab and trying to explore for ourselves, we booked a tour through the Bavaro Runners in Punta Cana.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Now, before you think of me sitting in an air-conditioned bus with an American in the front reading off pointless facts from a piece of paper into a microphone, hear me out. This wasn't your normal tour. We were greeted in our hotel lobby by a safari-looking bus that seated around 15 people. I had my reservations as a typical teenage girl, I really didn't want to "waste a day of my vacation with a stupid tour," or so I thought…
Even before we left our resort, the trip was filled with laughs, Ray our tour guide let us in on his daily life, huge extended family, and commute 2 hours each day for work. As a true Dominican, he asked each of us our favorite baseball team… and then criticized or praised our teams. At this point I started to lighten up and realize that it probably won't be so bad after all.
As the tour started, he made it a point to always be completely honest with us and always share his opinion. As we started asking questions, I started to realize how informative this trip could actually be. Throughout a 15 minute drive I learned so much about the true Dominican Republic, not just what the resorts want us to see. He informed us of the government corruption and the less-than-alright school system that are actually starting to be funded by the tours instead of the measly 4% of revenue that the corrupt government thought the schools could survive on. We saw school busses of Haitian workers that are brought over to the Dominican Republic for a better chance to find work when already there are lines of Dominican Citizens outside of each resort hoping to take any job that the resorts might have needed. These lines went on forever, there was a line over a mile long outside of the new Hard Rock Resort that we passed by. This tour allowed us to also visit an old sugar cane plantation, a cocoa farm complete with every plant you could dream of, a typical Dominican household, and a tobacco farm. I learned so much on this trip, I came back to the resort and was almost disgusted by how they portray Dominican life. I came back with a new understanding of third world life. So, through this blog post I challenge you on your next vacation to not take it for granted. I challenge you to take a tour, or get a cab and really explore what is out there because the resort lifestyle that is portrayed in front of you, might not really be what the island or place is really all about. Discover for yourself.
We traveled through Apple Vacations. Our resort was Riu Bambu in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. We booked the Bavaro Runners Tour through our Apple Vacations representative. Also, we took another snorkling/boating excursion through Apple Vacations called Marinarium. That was another amazing experience that I truely recommend.