Welcome to the Dominican Republic! You will arrive in Santo Domingo and begin your journey.
Explore the crystal blue waters of Bayahibe Bay and the beautiful Caribbean Sea. Work alongside marine biologists to rebuild the coral reef habitat that is home to many marine species, including manatees, dolphins and sea turtles. Learn biological techniques to monitor sea animals in the wild. Get muddy as you work to rebuild the mangrove swamps of Los Haitises National Park. Contribute to antipollution projects with local ecological organizations.
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Depart the United States for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Your Rustic Pathways staff will greet you upon arrival and take you to the nearby hotel for the night to get some sleep before the real adventure begins.
After breakfast, get ready to head out to your new home in the small beach town of Bayahibe. Get settled in, but don’t take too long – you have a bay to explore! Stroll around this gorgeous paradise so you and your team can become familiar with the area. Formerly a small fishing village, this area is now internationally known for its crystalline waters and stunning sunsets. In the afternoon, you’ll have an introduction to marine conservation and the impactful work you will be doing during your time in the Caribbean.
Begin your hands-on marine training out in the water right away as you familiarize yourself with the tools and techniques of marine life conservation. Today, the group will divide up to accomplish two different projects. Spend the morning working on either coastal cleanup or marine monitoring. Have lunch back at the base and get right back out there for more service in the afternoon. Enjoy an evening getting to know your group and your beautiful beach town over dinner and a gorgeous sunset.
Work with Fundemar, a local NGO dedicated to marine life conservation, to better understand the importance of coral. Spend the morning learning about fish species that are critically important to reef health and working on various projects that encourage coral reproduction, and in the afternoon, you will get in the water to clean buoys, identify parrot fish and collect data on a reef in the area. You’ll also build buoys out of recycled materials that will serve as moorings for fishing boats and keep fishermen from dropping anchors on the fragile coral reefs. After dinner, begin planning a summer camp that you’ll put on for local children interested in preserving their precious coastal environment.
This morning, hike out of Bayahibe on the beautiful Padre Nuestro trail. Work to help local environmental groups to maintain and reforest the preserved area. Have a picnic lunch before taking some time to hike the trail yourself and enjoy some swimming. You will pass tropical plants, cacti, crabs, and climb down into an underwater cave to explore and swim alongside your group.
After the weekend, get back to work with Fundemar by creating large grid structures that will be submerged along the coast in-order-to rebuild the damaged coral reefs. As you know by now, the reefs are breeding grounds for marine fauna and are important to helping increase populations of indigenous sea life, from baby fish to giant manatees. This project is very important for the region and goes hand in hand with your previous efforts creating buoys to keep boats out of the delicate reef systems. Organizations like Fundemar operate on a holistic scale, restoring species across the ecosystem, repairing damage and working to prevent these damaging incidents from occurring in the future.
Meet with members at the environmental education foundation network called Fundación de Corazón a Corazón. After having spent the past week cleaning up the coastline with your group, you’ll run a day of educational activities for local youth, focusing on environmental conservation, marine species, and language exchange. The more fun it is, the more the kids will remember your message – so have fun with this and teach them everything you’ve learned!
Get an early start to the day so you’ll be ready for a boat ride to the beautiful Saona Island where a group of community members have joined forces to protect the sea turtles that breed on the island. Hear directly from them how you can take initiative at any level, and how communities contribute to large-scale projects through local initiatives.
Enjoy dinner with ocean views before heading on a short hike to a salt lagoon. Here you can enjoy a beautiful sunset over the lagoon before resting up for your turtle walk in the morning.
Very early in the morning, the group will participate in a beach walk to look for turtle nests and help preserve the eggs mama turtles lay, and hopefully catch a glimpse of a turtle laying her eggs! When you return, spend the morning enjoying this island living and the delicious seafood that comes right from the water where you have been working. Late in the afternoon, board the boat. On the way back to Bayahibe, you will stop at a natural pool before settling back in at the base house, getting some much deserved rest.
This morning, enjoy an hour-long bus ride out to Punta Cana. Spend the morning learning about the coral gardens put in place by the Punta Cana Foundation. It is one of the largest coral nurseries in the Caribbean, and it’s incredibly important for restoring local reefs! After lunch, hike through the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve. Cool off in some of these natural lagoons along the way. Halfway through you will end up at the beach. Splash around in the turquoise waters before heading back to Bayahibe for the night!
Work alongside Fundemar and learn about the history of the lionfish in the Caribbean. This invasive species poses a significant threat to the ecosystem of the Dominican coast. You’ll get a chance to work with a taxidermist to learn about lionfish anatomy and physiology, and hone your own recipe for cooking this fish – a project that has been taking off in recent years to encourage restaurants to help control the populations of this destructive (yet delicious) species. Your group will create jewelry using lion fish fins, as well as other prizes for the annual lion fish fishing tournament. After your tasty lionfish lunch work on your service projects with Fundemar which may include wrapping up data collection and beach cleanup projects.
After breakfast, head out to Sabana de La Mar where you will stay at an eco-hotel nestled on the borders of the park. Take in the sights of Los Haitises National Park, one of the jewels of the Dominican Republic and home to a high percentage of the biodiversity and fauna indigenous to the country. Enjoy an afternoon hike and once you return take a dip in the natural pools at your eco-lodge!
One last day of service! Work alongside park rangers, Green Brigade volunteers and other environmental groups in Los Haitises National Park. Contribute to the restoration of mangrove eco-systems and the marine life that rely on them, including local dolphin populations that feed in the Samaná Bay. Practice your Spanish with local volunteers and get your hands (and everything else) dirty on this project. In the afternoon, complete your final coastal clean-up.
Head back to the capital for a tour of the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to the first university, cathedral and hospital in the Americas.Explore the walled city and learn about the deep history of the first European settlement in the Americas. After touring the Colonial Zone, head over to a special dinner and dance show at a typical Dominican restaurant.
If you are heading home, you must say your last goodbyes to your new friends and head off to the airport bright and early in the morning. If you are heading off to another Rustic Pathways program in Latin America, get ready for more adventure!
Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity.
The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.
“Optional Activities” are fully included in the cost of your program, but you can choose to not do these activities.
“Add-On Activities” are not included in the cost of your program and must be paid for separately. Add-on activities are rare, but include things like skydiving, bungee jumping, or weekend side-trips. Not every program has add-on activities.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Students will return to Santo Domingo on Tuesday afternoon. They will spend that night in Santo Domingo at a hotel near the airport. On Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, students transferring to other programs in Latin America can catch a flight to Costa Rica, Cuba, or Peru. Students connecting to other programs in the Dominican Republic will join their new trip on Wednesday morning.
Students from the United States and Canada will be automatically issued a 30-day tourist visa upon entry into the Dominican Republic for the cost of $10.
STUDENTS MUST HAVE $10 UPON ENTRY TO PAY FOR THE TOURIST CARD.
Yes. All flights between the Dominican Republic and the USA will have a flight leader starting in Miami. Return flights to the USA will also have a flight leader as far as Miami. Flights from the Dominican Republic to Costa Rica and Peru will not be escorted.
Direct flight from Miami to Santo Domingo takes approximately 2-3 hours.
During this trip, students will visit the areas of Santo Domingo, Bayahibe, Isla Saona, La Romana, and Sabana de la Mar.
Each program will have leaders who are certified in First Aid and CPR. Some of our program leaders are also certified as Wilderness First Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Wilderness EMTs, and/or Life Guards.
Rustic Pathways maintains a minimum of 1 Program Leader for every 7 students. Additionally, each program maintains at least 2 primary program leaders, one male and one female.
Rustic Pathways uses purified bottled water on all Dominican Republic Programs. We ask students to bring reusable water bottles in order to reduce plastic usage.
Students are allowed to bring phones on their Rustic Pathways program, but must abide by our cell phone policy. Students will not be allowed to use their phones during group activities, nor at any other time where it is disruptive to the group dynamic. If students are unable to abide by this policy, disciplinary action may be taken.
The Dominican Republic uses the same voltage as US outlets.
This program takes place in a few locations in Santo Domingo and eastern parts of the Dominican Republic. Students should be prepared for hot, humid weather in the 80s and 90s during the day with occasional rain showers.
During their time in the Dominican Republic, students will stay in a base house, as well as different hotels and lodges along their travels. In the first location, students stay in a base house near the beach, with 2-4 students per room. In Caño Hondo/Los Haitises, students stay in an eco lodge built into a rock face on the boarders of the national park. It is described by Condé Nast as one of the top destinations in the world for eco tourism, with various natural pools, common areas, swings, and a bon fire in the evenings. All locations will house between 2 to 6 students per room – girls separated from boys.
Meals will be made by local cooks and consist of a combination of local food (rice, beans, plantains, vegetables, meat) and “American” style food (pizza, pasta, fried chicken, etc). Some meals will also be had at local restaurants with local or international cuisine.
Basic bathrooms with separate facilities for male & female. Western-style, but with low flushing capacity. Hot water is not guaranteed.
Students will have limited to no access to internet during the program. They will be able to use guides’ local phones to call home. We will facilitate at least one call a week to parents.
Laundry during the program is not guaranteed and students should bring enough clothes to last through the program. Students may use laundry machines at the hotel in Santo Domingo on the night of arrival (or last night of program if connecting to another DR program). The machines at hotel in Santo Domingo are coin operated.
There are typically more girls than boys however the exact numbers vary from week to week.
(bathroom facilities, amount of travel etc)?
Students should not flush toilet paper down the toilet and cannot drink tap water.
There is moderate travel in this program. The longest bus ride students will experience is 4 hours between sites, when traveling from Bayahibe to Sabana de la Mar.
Students travel between sites and locations via small private buses.
While there is an inherent risk in travel, we control that risk very well. All of our programs are run in locations that we feel comfortable traveling to with students. Students will be supervised by our staff from the moment of arrival in the Dominican Republic. Kids are never left alone in any place and the communities we are working with are very responsible. All staff have at least first aid and CPR certifications and some are also Wilderness First Responders.
We also have risk management plans in place for all of our programs, and close relations with local communities. We hire local staff that know the lay of the land, and can spot risky situations. We monitor weather, crime, and government notices, and also have a partnership with International SOS. We keep our finger on the pulse of what’s going in the country.
Parents should consult the CDC website and International SOS for information on Malaria and Dengue, which are both present in the Dominican Republic.
Please consult with a travel doctor or your family physician for immunization and other medical recommendations, based on the area(s) where you will be traveling and on your own medical history. In addition to consulting with a medical professional, please visit the International SOS and Center for Disease Control websites for country specific information around immunizations and traveler’s health. Please let us know if you have specific questions.
International SOS is one of the world’s leading providers of medical evacuation and travel services. All participants traveling with Rustic Pathways will have access to International SOS benefits through Rustic Pathways’ membership.
As a member you will have access to International SOS’s extensive travel information database to help you make informed decisions prior to travel. Additionally, all travelers who travel outside their country of residence will have access to medical evacuation support during their program. For more information please visit our International SOS webpage.
In Bayahibe: Nearest clinic is right in town about 10 minutes away, nearest hospital is about 30 minutes away in La Romana.
On Isla Saona: Nearest clinic is 60 minutes away in Bayahibe, nearest hospital is 45 minutes away by boat in La Romana.
In Sabana de la Mar: Nearest clinic/hospital 20 minutes away.
Rustic Pathways can cater to most dietary needs on this program. There will be ample access to fruits, vegetables, rice, beans, and grains for those who are vegetarian. Vegan diets can be accommodated, but with a little more foresight and planning, as this is not a diet commonly encountered in the Dominican Republic. Please know that while we are happy to accommodate alternative diets, many of the special diets common in the United States are not common in other parts of the world and travelers must be patient and understanding in having these needs be met.
Moderate mosquitoes, buggy at times. Students should bring deet repellent and may wish to wear light long sleeved shirts and pants.
Personal gifts, internet, phone calls, and snacks are not included.
Activities that are included in the cost of the trip are:
-Visits to beaches
-Visit to caves
Please refer to our Community Service Hour Awards webpage for more information on how service hours are awarded.
Rustic Pathways partners with local organizations dedicated to the preservation of marine mammals and ecosystems. Students will be performing monitoring tasks during which they will GPS tag the location of dolphin pods, and identify them. Students will also be performing beach clean up, building coral structures, building buoys, performing turtle patrols, among other projects.
We recommend students bring their own snorkel gear and a rain jacket.
Younger students can be accommodated with approval from Country Director.
This program does not include formal Spanish language instruction; however students will have multiple opportunities to practice Spanish with their guides and the local community.
ETC – program specific information that would be good to know:
The Marine Life and Coastal Restoration Project gives you the opportunity to practice conservation work, learn about the issues threatening various species populations today, and work towards providing them with an environment in which they can thrive. Please be reminded that this program is not designed for you to swim and play with dolphins or any other animals. We cannot guarantee interaction with any specific animal, which is exactly why we need your help to restore these populations!
The Marine Life and Coastal Restoration Project works with Fundemar, a Dominican foundation for marine studies. Fundemar, along with an alliance of the Dominican and international scientific community, created the “Friends of Dolphins” project to monitor and protect dolphins in the National Park near Bayahibe. The project is a response to the harmful capturing of dolphins that unfortunately takes place in the Dominican Republic today. At the end of your program, you will have an opportunity to participate in Fundemar’s Adopt a Dolphin program where you can sponsor a dolphin and support Fundemar’s conservation work. During the trip you will be working with Fundemar in tracking the dolphins through GPS, testing water quality, working to restore the coral reef, and conducting a few beach clean-ups.
We also partner with the Green Brigade youth group in Sabana de la Mar to resotore mangroves in Los Haitises National Park. Mangroves are home to many tropical fish species and protect the beaches from erosion. Please take a look at these pages from the World Wildlife Fund to learn more about the mangrove ecosystem.
Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Follow these tips to pack like a pro:
Travel light. Pack only the essentials. You’ll need less than you think!
Bring the right clothes. Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing long shorts (think Bermuda and basketball shorts), t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear.
Leave your valuables behind. While traveling, it’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged. Keep any prized possessions safe at home.
Check with TSA. Make sure your luggage complies with TSA regulations, especially your carry-on. Useful tip: Pack an empty water bottle and fill it up after security.
Extra paperwork? If you need additional forms filled out to get credit for your service hours, no problem! Bring these forms with you so they can be completed in-country.
A school backpack is ideal as it will be used for day trips.
A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal.
(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)
Welcome to the Dominican Republic! You will arrive in Santo Domingo and begin your journey.
This beautiful coastal town will be your home for the next week. Here, you will begin your marine conservation work.
This small city will host your ecological work with the local environment organization, Cluster.
Take a quick boat ride to Isla Saona, a national park and national paradise. This is where you will get involved in turtle conservation.
You will stay in a unique eco lodge on the edge of Los Haitises National Park.