My husband and I did the #5 Low Impact Culture Tour with Terry while in Samana as part of our recent Caribbean cruise. It was the best thing we did on the entire trip! Terry e-mailed me our tour confirmation almost immediately after booking it online. He was very quick to respond to the e-mails I sent him and very professional. Terry and his guides were waiting for us as soon as we stepped off the pier. Terry organized everyone by what tour they were going on, and as soon as all eight members of our culture tour were present, we got on our safari truck and off we went.
Our guide was Tom, and since he was originally from Texas spoke perfect English, so there was no trouble understanding him (a complaint we heard from a couple who did a culture tour with a different company). As we traveled though the hills of the Dominican Republic, we learned about the political and cultural history of the island. There was always something to take a picture of, from locals carrying the most bizarre things on their motor bikes to gorgeous panoramic views of the coastline.
The culture tour makes several stops. First, we visited a woman who bakes coconut bread over a wood fired oven. Next we stopped at a small cigar “factory” where a man showed us how he rolls the tobacco leaves, molds them and dries them into cigars. Anyone who wanted could try one of the cigars. My husband, who smokes cigars frequently, said they were very good and even bought a box to take home. The cigar “factory” is attached to a small gift shop and across the street from a lovely little church made out of seashells. We then headed off the paved roads for a bumpy, but exciting ride to El Valle beach, where a local woman made us a delicious buffet lunch (grilled chicken, mahi-mahi, fried rice, plantain chips, Dominican potato salad and cabbage salad) and Tom handed out cold beer, sodas, and bottled water. I loved seeing the looks on the other people’s faces when Tom told them the meat we were about to eat had been running around and swimming just that morning. Although you can’t swim at the El Valle beach because of the rip tides, it was beautiful and we took a lot of pictures. Tom timed our lunch perfectly, so that as we were leaving, one of Terry’s next tours was arriving, ensuring it never got too crowded.
After lunch we headed to a waterfall. It was about a ten minute hike to the waterfall. Terry has helped organize the local youth to work as guides. The young lady who walked beside me stopped often to show me local flora, such as the blossoms from a coffee plant and aromatic leaves of a lemon tree. There is a point just before the waterfall where you have to cross a 2-3 foot deep stream via sandbag stepping stones. My local guide walked through the water, holding my hand so I could steady myself across the sand bags. I have no doubt I probably would have fallen in without her assistance, as I have horrible balance and the sand bags were spaced widely. It is customary to tip your waterfall guide a dollar or two for their help. The waterfall is very pretty, though not very large, but it does have a calm, deep pool for swimming.
Our final stop was at an open air pavilion for a cultural presentation of local food and drink. Tom split open a cocoa pod for us to sample the raw seeds, which taste like slimy sweet tarts instead of chocolate. We tried some local fruit, including plantains and coconut. Our favorite was the shredded coconut mixed with honey and cocoa. Samples of the local sangria (very strong) and hot chocolate were also handed out. At the end, you could purchase some containers of what you just tasted to take home. Our tour made Samana our favorite port on the entire cruise, and if we ever find ourselves in Samana again, we will definitely do another of Terry’s tours.