Island of Beautiful Waters

Guadeloupe

River in Guadeloupe

River in Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe, one of the biggest and most populated islands of the Lesser Antilles island chain, is an overseas region and an integral department of France. French language only is spoken here, and the euro is its currency. Like pretty much every other Caribbean island, the main industry is tourism, but agriculture is also well developed, with vast banana plantations on fertile volcanic soil.

Guadeloupe consists of two islands in the shape of, most people say a butterfly, but to me they look more like human lungs. Basse-Terre to the west and Grange-Terre to the east are joined, almost like Siamese twins, separated by a narrow strait crossed by bridges. There are two smaller islands also part of Guadeloupe: Marie-Galante and Iles des Saintes.

Evo with dorado

Evo with dorado

Guadeloupe is our next stop after visiting the sovereign state of Antigua and Barbuda. Sailing there on a beam reach in moderate tradewinds from English Harbour is a sheer pleasure, and we even catch a small dorado. Evo has been hoping to catch a dorado for months now and it’s funny that his first one is so tiny and doesn’t fight at all. Small, but fish, one of the tastiest out there, and it feeds us all that evening.

Deshaies

We arrive in Deshaies, a main port of entry to Guadeloupe on the northwest side of Basse-Terre and a charming little fishermen village, and are happy to find s/v Passages already moored in the bay there (mooring balls in the bay are available free of charge, for now).

Desaies

Desaies

We met Caryn and Mel briefly when we were checking out from Nevis, and then again in Montserrat. With them and with the crews of two other boats in the Deshaies anchorage: Bev aboard s/v Aseka and Mark and Tina aboard s/v Rainbow, we organize our first waterfall expedition.

Deshaies Waterfall

Guadeloupe was once named Kerukera, The Island of Beautiful Waters, by its first known inhabitants, the Arawak Indians, for its abundance of rivers, lakes, and waterfalls.

River near Deshaies, Guadeloupe

River near Deshaies, Guadeloupe

Not far from the Deshaies anchorage there is a small river flowing through the forest, and a waterfall. But to reach the waterfall, which has no name (or maybe it does but we don’t know it) we have to walk beside and inside the river, over boulders and fallen trees for what seems an eternity.

Cruisers on a waterfall expedition

Cruisers on a waterfall expedition

Maya

Maya

Evo

Evo

We stop for a short refreshing splash-around in a small pond up river. Everyone is happy to chill before heading up and up again until we reach the place.

Maya and Evo in the river pool

Maya and Evo in the river pool

Cruisiers in the pond

Cruisers in a pond

It’s a beautiful miniature canyon with dark mossy walls dripping with water, a green pool and a small waterfall hidden in the dark behind a huge rock.

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We are really glad we have finally reached it, it was not an easy walk-in-the-park kind of hike. On the way back we pick up a few coconuts and lots of mangoes from the forest.

Mira

Mira

Ecrevisses Waterfall

A few days later we hire a car with our new best friends Caryn and Mel s/v Passages, very sweet people form Australia, and visit another waterfall, this one really popular and very close to the road, Ecrevisse Waterfall. You can park your car on the side of the road, get your towel, enter the forest, and walk 2 minutes to the place.

Ecrevisse Fall

Ecrevisse Fall

It’s full of people even at 6 in the evening, and everyone is cooling down in the pool under the cascade and in the small ponds formed here and there in the shallow wide river.

Maya having fun at the river, Ecrevisse Fall

Maya having fun at the river, Ecrevisse Fall

Most visitors are locals enjoying the refreshing waters in the afternoon, and we join them for a dip.

 

Cabret Falls

Days later we share a rental car again with Caryn and Mel and drive to the Cabret Falls for another expedition. The Cabret Falls are a series of waterfalls in a national park and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Guadeloupe. There is an entrance fee to the park of about 3 euros per person which is well worth the excellent trails with wooden paths and steps in some parts of the path.

Maya

Maya

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Maya on the trail

Maya on the trail

The first cascade is about two hours of uphill walking from the visitor’s center and descends from the Soufriere Volcano’s slopes dropping 125 meters (410 ft) in a deep pool of green waters surrounded by yellow and red rocks.

Cabret First Cascade

Cabret First Cascade

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Mira

Mira

Mel and Caryn

Mel and Caryn

It is not an easy hike to the first cascade and not too many visitors go there. Most people are content with the 15-minute walk from the visitor’s center on a paved wheelchair-accessible path to the second cascade which has a 110 meters (360 ft) drop.

Cabret Second Cascade

Cabret Second Cascade

Evo and Maya

Evo and Maya

The access to the third cascade, the one with most water volume, is currently restricted after an earthquake in 2004 and heavy rains caused landslides and cut off the trail.

Maya

Maya

We spend the day walking up and down the slopes of Soufriere volcano amidst the intense green vegetation of the tropical rainforest, going from one waterfall to another, eating sandwiches, singing and dancing among giant trees, enjoying Guadeloupe’s beautiful nature.

Maya

Maya

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Maya

Maya

Mel and Caryn

Mel and Caryn

Maya

Maya

Maya-elephant

Maya-elephant

Evo

Evo

Mira

Mira

Maya sleeping on a rock

Maya sleeping on a rock

Evo's blond-forest hairstyle

Evo’s blond-forest hairstyle

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Maya dancing and singing: I Will Survive!

Maya dancing and singing: I Will Survive!

The Life Nomadik family in Guadeloupe

The Life Nomadik family in Guadeloupe

 

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Dominican Republic Conclusions

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The Dominican Republic is a small tropical country occupying two thirds of the island of Hispaniola. It is the most visited destination of all other Caribbean nations attracting tourists with its natural beauty and geographical and biological diversity, luxurious beach resorts, small mountain villages, cities, rainforests, high mountains, caves, rivers, waterfalls. Here is the highest mountain peak in the Caribbean, the biggest lake with the lowest elevation, some of the best surfing beaches in the region and the first cathedral, castle, monastery, fortress, and university in all of the Americas. There is so much to see and do! Not surprisingly, we met many people from different corners of the world who have moved here permanently after visiting the country making the Dominican Republic their home. Even whales come here for their honeymoon.

We spent one month in the Dominican Republic travelling inland and visiting many of its historical sites and natural monuments. The further we explored the more we fell in love with this country and its nature and we promised ourselves, one day we will return.

The Best Hurricane Hole in The Caribbean

Anchorage in Luperon, Dominican Republic

Anchorage in Luperon, Dominican Republic

The anchorage in the small rural town of Luperon on the north shore of the Dominican Republic is a notorious hurricane hole surrounded by hills and cow pastures. Deep inside a channel among mangroves, with excellent holding, the bay harbors a community of sailboats, some staying here for years. It is a safe anchorage protected by the National Guard against theft where we left our boat at anchor for days and went to explore the interior of the island not worrying for the boat’s safety. 

Read full article The Hills of Luperon

The Highest Caribbean Mountain

Early morning on Pico Duarte

Early morning on Pico Duarte

Climbing the 3087 meters-high Pico Duarte was the best part of our visit to the Dominican Republic. It is an adventure that requires physical strength and endurance, provisions and gear for at least two days, a guide and mules. Walking through rainforests, inside dry riverbeds, through high-altitude meadows, pine forests, and mists was the most beautiful experience of our lives so far. And it’s not the summit but the journey to the summit that we so much enjoyed. We would do it again and again, once or twice every year if we had the chance.

Read full article Pico Duarte. Journey Beyond the Clouds

Most Extreme Waterfall Adventure

Evo

Evo

The Damajaqua Cascades is an extreme waterfall adventure that we all absolutely loved, more than we expected. The tour includes hiking up river for about 30-40 min and then swimming, sliding, cliff-jumping and diving downriver for about one hour. Young children are not permitted, and only physically fit adults can do all 27 waterfalls and cascades.

Read full article Swimming, Sliding, Jumping, Diving Down Damajaqua Cascades

The Oldest New World Capital

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Santo Domingo and its Colonial Zone, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, should be on every visitor’s list. This is the oldest New World capital with some of the oldest colonial buildings, museums, and ruins. To us, it seemed much more impressive and preserved than the colonial zone in Havana, Cuba. In and around Santo Domingo there are many other tourist attractions. We only had time to visit the National Botanical Garden.

Read full article Santo Domingo. History, Culture, Nature

The Biggest and Lowest Caribbean Lake

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Lake Enriquillo in the southwestern part of the DR near the border with Haiti is one curious place. It is the biggest and saltiest Caribbean lake lying some 30 meters below sea level, populate by the densest in the world population of American crocodiles. On its arid shores, among dry spiky trees and cactus plants, we also met lots and lots of friendly lazy Rhinoceros Iguanas. Near the lake, in the town of Descubierta, we slept in the best hostel ever, an old house once belonging to a high-ranked official in Trujillo’s government, one of most terrible dictators the world has seen.

Read full article Lake Enriquillo. Crocodiles, Iguana, and Other Predators

The Surfing Mecca of The Caribbean

Kitesurf Beach, Cabarete

Kitesurf Beach, Cabarete

Cabarete near Puerto Plata on the north shore of the island became our favorite small town in the Dominican Republic. It is a very touristy, artsy, and laid-back place with a large community of expats who, together with locals and tourists, spend their entire time mostly surfing. Or kite-surfing. Or wind-surfing. Or paddle-boarding. Or chilling. We spent two memorable days in Cabarete with our friends Jade and Gabriel, surfing-maniacs and traveling junkies like us, who started us surfing a bit. Read about Jade&Gabby’s adventures and follow them at We Travel And Blog.

Read full article Surfing Cabarete

Oldest New World Settlement

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The ruins in Isabela Historica, a National Monument, are from the oldest settlement in the Americas constructed by Columbus and his settlers. Not much is left of the buildings but the place itself, a site up on the rocky cliffs facing the Atlantic Ocean near a snug little harbor is a beautiful place to see and hang around for a bit. There is a small museum with artifacts and historical information, as well as gift shops with hand-carved wooden Taino figurines, extremely cheap. Not too far is Montecristi, a small coastal town with very relaxed atmosphere and beautiful seascapes. One day was enough fo us to visit obth, Isabela and Montecristi.

Read full article Isabela Historica and Montecristi

Sailing Dominican Republic

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Cruising by sailboat around the Dominican Republic, especially on the north coast and especially going east, is not a joke. These are considered some of the most dangerous and difficult  waters for sailing due to unfavorable strong Trade winds, North Atlantic swell, strong Equatorial current and rocky shores with very little possibility for anchoring and sheltering, especially in bad weather coming from the north. A hook that helped us get from Luperon to Puerto Rico across the infamous Mona Passage safely is a must-read for anyone attempting the passage: The Gentelmen’s Guide to Passage South by Bruce Van Sand.

Read full article The Murderous Mona Passage

Our Biggest Regret

Cabo Samana, DR

Cabo Samana, DR

Not visiting Samana and the national park Los Haitises is our greatest regret. We were planning to stop there with the boat on our way from Luperon to Puerto Rico, but we had such a nice weather window that we ended up sailing all the way non-stop taking advantage of the favorable sea conditions. Samana and the park Los Haitises with their gigantic rocky cliffs looming over the sea and caves where the Taino Indians used to hide form the conquistadors provide the most impressive owe inspiring Jurassic vistas. The deep bay is also humpback wales breeding ground in the winter months. We hope to return to Dominican Republic some day and visit Samana. This time, we just sailed by the cape early in the morning absolutely stunned by the size and beauty of the cliffs.

Dominican Republic Facts

Entry Procedures for Sailors: The entry procedures are somewhat lengthy but not necessary unpleasant. You will have El Comandante from the National Army come aboard and inspect the boat, but chances are he is a really good guy. On shore you will go through customs and immigration and you need a dispacho when leaving a port.

Currency: They spend pessos in the DR. One USD is about 43 DR Pesos.

Language: Spanish is the language here and not many speak English or any other language. Moreover, the Dominican speak a very fast and muffled sort of Spanish, hard to hear and understand them even for Spanish-speaking people.

Security: Be vigilant, theft even gun shots are not uncommon occurrence in this part of the world. We didn’t have any problem, but it does not mean it is totally safe. Lock your boat/car/room and guard your stuff. Don’t get in trouble and respect everyone.

Music: If you don’t like merengue tipico you will be in hell here. Loud music is everywhere all the time booming from huge loudspeakers from restaurants, shops and cars parked at some street corner.

Food: Food is not expensive even in the restaurants. You can have a grilled chicken with french fries and beers for four people for less than 20 USD. Plantaines are everywhere and often they will serve you fried plantains instead of french fries, so make sure to make it clear what you order.

Shopping: mostly everything is available in the DR but only in the big cities. In the small ones like Luperon shopping is limited. For groceries there is a big chain store like WalMart in the big cities called La Sirena. Food is not expensive (especially after the Bahamas).

Water: Fresh water is a problem. There is no such thing as drinkable tap water and everyone buys huge water jugs. Not expensive.

Electricity: Electricity is a problem too. Many places have electricity for six hours and then don’t have electricity for the next 6 hours… Some people install generators.

Transportation: Getting from place to place is a hustle for visitors and locals. Fuel prices are high and there is no pubic buss. Instead, there are public guanchas, normal cars where 7 strangers get squeezed and the driver is usually crazy. The big highways are in excellent conditions but the small roads between cities are all broken up and sometimes not passable. The motoconcha, a motorbike, is another option to travel cheaply, but it is even more precarious than the guancha. Renting a car is a good option to travel independently and visit the country. You can rent a car for about 1000-1500 DR Pesos

Climate: the best of the tropics, always sunny and hot, windy near the shores, but rainy and very cold even freezing in the mountains. Bring a jacket if you plan to climb Pico Duarte.

Nature: Diverse, abundant, mostly unspoiled green nature virtually everywhere. Mountains, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, pastures, forests, beaches, banana plantations, paradise on earth.

 

 

* Other similar articles from the blog: Bahamas Conclusions

 

 

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Swimming, Sliding, Jumping, Diving Down Damajaqua Cascades

On the 7th day of our Road Trip we visit the Dmajaqua Cascades, a national monument and one of the most thrilling tourist destinations in the Dominican Republic.

Our nomadik family with helmets and life jackets ready for action, Damajaqua Cascades

Our nomadik family with helmets and life jackets ready for action, Damajaqua Cascades

The tour starts with a 30-40 minutes hike along a trail from the visitors’ center through a lush rainforest to the top of the waterfalls where the extreme adventure begins.

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Visitors can choose to tackle 7, 12, or all 27 waterfalls. Most people go for 7. We go for all 27.

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On weekends and later in the day it can become crowded so we choose a Monday and make sure to get there early, around 8 a.m., thus we have the falls to ourselves during our entire visit.

The guide helping Maya

The guide helping Maya

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The experience can be challenging, and only strong swimmers in good physical shape (8 years old and over) should attempt cascading. Walking back down the mountain trail is always an option.

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Viktor

Viktor

 

Helmets, lifejackets, and guides are mandatory and provided by the park. We cannot bring nothing with us but water bottles and a submersible camera. Our guide is very friendly and enjoys the journey as much as us. “The water is a bit wet” he cautions us before we plunge at the first fall, “but it’s not cold. We don’t have cold water in the Dominican Republic.”

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Mira

Mira

 

From now on we are constantly in the river, walking down the shallow parts and inside narrow canyons with dark slippery walls covered with moss, jumping from cliffs, sliding over small cascades, swimming in deeper pools formed under waterfalls. It’s beautiful.

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Sometimes we slide head first, sometimes we have to jump in a shallow spot with our legs bent, and sometimes we have to jump from the top of a waterfall aiming in a precise very tight place, better don’t miss it because there are rocks around it. People can get injured here easily if they don’t do exactly what the guide tells them.

Mira

Mira

Maya

Maya

 

The scariest part is the 10-meter (30 feet) jump form a cliff in a small pool below.

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Maya goes first every time, I think she is an adrenalin junky, has no fear, and is enjoying every minute of this adventure. It is not the first time she is jumping from a 10 meter waterfall. She has already done it in Agua Caliente, Guatemala a few months ago.

Maya

Maya

Maya

Maya

 

Viktor is no less excited and doesn’t hesitate at any of the jumps.

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Viktor and Maya

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Evo, it goes without mentioning, is eager to make the plunge too, and there is mad joy in his eyes.

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Evo

Evo

But me, I am afraid of heights, and just looking down from the cliff makes my hands sweating. It takes me a few minutes of hesitation.

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Viktor

Viktor

 

I am standing on the edge of the cliff looking down. Evo and the kids are cheering from below “Come on mom, jump!”. The guide is behind me repeating in a low voice: “ Do it! Do it!” I am afraid he might push me.

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Mira and Evo

To jump or not to jump? This is the question. And if not to jump, then how the hell to get down there? I jump! First time in my life (and I hope last).

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Thus, after about an hour of swimming, sliding, cliff-jumping and diving, we are back at the visitors center. We have survived all 27 waterfalls at Damajacua Cascades.

Damajaqua Cascadas

Damajaqua Cascadas

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