We are a 50-something couple who were on the same March 3rd snorkelling trip as “Safety is not their priority.” However, our experience of the day was very different and we must offer our own account. While this is a trip for the moderately adventuresome, it offered no hardship to us, and we maintain the opinion that the Turtle Dive Center staff operated in a professional manner in a challenging situation.
For starters, the seven girls arrived at the pickup point close to half an hour late – leaving us cooling our heels waiting. If things were a bit rushed getting going, we’re not surprised. As we noticed on other water excursions we took, life jackets are not always in evidence on the Samaná Peninsula and if this is a concern, we suggest arriving a bit early not late.
We traveled for about half an hour without incident through fairly lumpy seas to reach Playa Jackson. As we were standing about 30 feet off the beach discussing our approach, we took some water over the windward gunwale – leaving us wet, but we felt in no danger.
After the crew of three beached the boat, we learned that two of the seven girls had only come to “sunbathe” and were unhappy with the “wet sand” of the beach. Playa Jackson was, to our mind, exactly as advertised – a beautiful stretch of wild beach, not a resort beach: a place many people would love to visit. The spokesperson for the other group started lobbying for a change or return, including advocating that the party be split up so that one half could return. (Returning with reduced manpower really would have created a safety concern in our view, and the crew were correct to reject this.) The other travelers also approached us directly and asked we not “ruin their last day” by making them spend it on this “unsuitable beach”. We wouldn’t agree to abort our trip. We had come to snorkel – not to cater to the wishes of non-snorkelers – and this was probably our last chance to do it. The girls continued to pressure Corinne who now felt that she was in a no-win situation – some of the party were going to be unhappy no matter what she did. We’re not surprised she was upset at this – we found the girls’ demeanour quite hostile. We couldn’t see that Corinne had much choice but to abort the expedition and refund all our money.
Due to rising winds, we never got another chance to snorkel in Las Terrenas. However, we ran into Philippe and Corinne a number of times over the next 10 days. They were incredibly helpful and generous with their time, advising us on everything from tours to medical assistance. We watched them offer the same assistance freely to tourists and locals alike, and they run a free scuba training session for local kids in a pool every weekend. We even ran into others in town who spoke of their reputation for generosity. So, thanks to our trip companions, we had no snorkelling that day, but we count Turtle Dive Center as the best find of our visit.
At Turtle Dive Center, they speak Spanish and French, of course, as well as German, but they also had the best English of any business we dealt with during our two weeks in Las Terrenas. We can’t speak personally of the underwater attractions of Playa Jackson, but the spot looked idyllic, and the planned lunch of BBQed lobster looked like it would have been a great mid-day break. We later learned that the chef, who doubled as first mate, had seven years culinary training in Europe. We tasted his cooking and it was excellent, although the lobster and seafood fare may not be suitable for vegetarians. If you are less than comfortable on the water or have children with you, make sure you understand the facilities before you go. Turtle Dive Center has 3-minute video of the Playa Jackson trip in their shop, or just search YouTube for “playa jackson” in quotes. Take advantage of booking opportunities; the winds on the north coast can blow for days which can put a damper on snorkelling expeditions. We hope to make it into the water with Turtle Dive next time.
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