Guest Author - Candyce H. Stapen
Whale Watching and Club Med, Dominican Republic
By Candyce H. Stapen
Two good reasons to visit the Dominican Republic: winter is whale-watching season and Club Med Punta Cana recently opened 32 upmarket, family suites.
Spotting the telltale, heart-shaped spray of a 40-foot long humpback whale is exciting. Within seconds, the behemoth’s broad back breaks the surface. Then he dives out of sight, only to reappear nearly half-a football field away. Our boat follows the whale’s footprint—the flat patch of water created when he submerged. As required by law, our captain keeps our vessel a respectful 165-feet from the whale.
From January through March, prime whale watching season, thousands of humpbacks converge in the Bay of Samaná, on the island’s northeast coast, as well as in the country’s Silver Bank Sanctuary, a wildlife reserve situated 60-miles north of the Dominican Republic. The impressive mammals mate and give birth in the relatively shallow and warm waters.
The calves, despite weighing nearly a ton at birth, don’t have enough insulating fat to survive in the colder North Atlantic Sea. The curious babies, a trip highlight, frolic close to their moms.
Naturalists estimate than between 5,000 to more than 10,000 whales arrive during the season. With so many massive animals in the water, the Dominican Republic features the best whale watching in the region. Soon enough you hear “thar she blows,” signally a whale’s nearby.
During our boat trip we catch sight of whales’ breaching, heaving nearly two-thirds of its body out of the water; tail lobbing, or submerging so that the tail remains the last to go under; and fluke flapping, arcing pectoral flippers above the water.
Some boats drop microphones into the sea so visitors can listen to the males’ vocalizations, the special “song” suitors employ to attract females. We listen in awe to the series of high and low pitch calls from the deep.
After or before an overnight trip to the Bay of Samaná for spectacular
whale watching, enjoy the island’s beaches at the newly renovated Club Med Punta Cana on the southeast coast. After a $34 million renovation, the resort features upgraded rooms with contemporary bamboo or woven headboards, colorful fabrics and updated bathrooms.
Not only is the quality of the food better, but so is the preparation. Instead of steam table, already prepared foods, the restaurants feature more cooking stations. Chefs grill mahi-mahi or grouper as well as chicken and beef kebabs on demand as well as prepare fresh pasta with guest chosen sauces and vegetables.
Families who like the all-inclusive concept as well as Club Med’s extensive kids’ program for ages four months to 17-years, but have skipped staying at the property because of its too basic rooms, don’t need to hesitate any longer. The new two-bedroom, two-bath, oceanfront family suites bring upscale lodgings to Club Med Punta Cana. Amenities include bathrobes, stocked refrigerators, espresso machines as well as desktop computers with free Internet access.
A concierge books appointments (try the Indian massage at the spa) and off-property tours, plus he’s in charge of room service. Room service at a Club Med? Yes, room service. Enjoy breakfast on your private deck facing the ocean. If your kids are hungry but too cranky to walk to the restaurant, then simply order a sandwich brought to your room.
The rack rate for the suites generally ranges about $100-$150 per day, per adult more than the regular rate with kids’ receiving discounts. However, to launch these rooms, Club Med Punta Cana frequently offers specials that may include discounts or free nights.
Be sure to check their Web site.