Bahia Bayahibe, Dominican Republic
Eco Tourism and Isla Saone, the South-East Corner
|Zarpar to Bayahibe
|The catamaran day tours are out, the anchorage is peaceful.
Our final destination turned out to be the anchorage at Bahia Bayahibe. It is situated about 10 nm north of Isla Saone on the south-eastern tip of the Dominican Republic. The area is world renowned for its clear water with the bottom visible from the surface at depths up to fifty feet. When Serge and I rounded the point twenty years ago there were no boats in the area. As Mags and I wound our way through mooring buoys and vessels we were aware that Isla Saone has become an eco-tourism destination.
|The town is clean and friendly
Even in the anchorage at the small town of Bayahibe visibility is quite good so it is easy to check your anchor and visit the nearby reef. By the time late afternoon had come there were 35 large day-tripper catamarans back to their respective mooring balls and that was not counting the various powerboats. As they returned the music was really load and the hosts and hostesses were eliciting cheers from the passenger for the great day had by all and “don’t forget to tip the crew and tell your friends”. Surprisingly quickly the bay became quiet as the people boarded buses to return to their resorts. Judging by the scarlet “sun tans” there were undoubtedly some uncomfortable people at the resorts that night. When will we northerners learn that we fry in about fifteen minutes until we grow accustomed to the tropical sun?
After a couple of lazy days with some snorkelling we had a good weather window to cross the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. We first had to clear out of the DR and get our zarpe to enter Puerto Rico. Four miles west was the very exclusive Casa de Campo Development and Marina where Immigration, Armada Naval, Customs, the drug police and the Port Captain all have their offices. Unfortunately the marina says its slips are completely sold out and will not rent a space or permit entry past the breakwater. The private homes and marina berths are mainly owned by the American rich and famous and although many of the berths sit empty they do not need the revenue of some paltry short term rentals so you cannot use them. There is a rough 150 foot long fixed concrete dock set about 6 feet off the water outside the marina’s breakwater subject to the constant pounding of the open ocean swell. Added to this, the numerous 40 to 70 foot powerboats leaving the marina to go fishing hit full throttle as they leave the breakwater throwing an additional wake pounding the boats at the dock. We were told the officials would be with us in 15 minutes. After two and a half hours fending of the dock, I was finally taken to the various offices leaving Mags to tend the dock line protectors and bumpers. Although some of the officials expressed concern about the conditions they said there was nothing they could do as Casa del Campo managed all the facilities for the owners. To add insult to injury while reading the January issue of the All At Sea - Caribbean publication, in an article about transient moorage available in the Caribbean, the Casa del Campo public relations officer said they have 30% of their 330 moorage spots for transient boats. Tell that to the six international boats we know personally who were willing to pay for a secure slip but were turned away. There were no transient boaters in the marina. This may be the commitment Casa del Campo made to various government entities to obtain their concession and support of the government entry officials but the situation has left many, us included, with a disappointed view of the Dominican Republic. This situation was reminiscent of the treatment by the big new marinas on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Fortunately we met so many wonderful people and saw so many amazing places and sites the DR will remain a good memory for us. Just for cruisers following us, do your entry and clearance in another location. After getting our zarpe we returned to the anchorage at Bayahibe planning to leave the following morning for the 110 nm passage to Marina Pescaderia, Puerto Real, Puerto Rico.