Sitting in a speed restricted minibus, the pronounced lines of panicked brows became more apparent with each passing moment. We were going to miss the boat. We were told that our transport would leave at nine o’clock on the dot, with or without us, and at 8.55am we were only just approaching our departing point of Dreams La Romana.

After some shrewd negotiations from Esperanza, our excellent tour guide/fixer for the day, we were able to haul ourselves aboard a small boat on Playa Bayahibe just after 9.00am without much consternation from the crew. The Dominican Republic is extremely proud of its laid back attitude, being ten minutes late here is almost something to be proud as opposed to ashamed of.

Once the adrenaline of rushing to catch our boat had subsided, the reality of where I was and what exactly I was setting off for began to sink in. Sitting in the boat with my hand lazily skimming the waves I noticed for the first time the clarity of the water. We’ve all read about the Caribbean in travel books, brochures and adverts so you might think you know what to expect when finally confronted by the ocean. But words simply cannot do justice to the spellbinding beauty of the waters bestowed upon this corner of the Earth.

Saona island piccy

The Dominican Republic boasts breathtakingly clear waters

After a short connecting jaunt across the waves to the town of Bayahibe, it was time to board the catamaran that would take us to Saona Island. Once aboard, the rum and conversation began to flow freely. During the 90 minute ride across to the island I felt that I was only an Antony Price suit away from being able to re-enact Duran Duran’s video for Rio. Alas, there wasn’t one on board.

After the boat came to a stand still, and a rum-fuelled group dance, we boarded a small craft that took us the 400 or so metres to the island’s shore. After being at sea for just over two hours it was great to feel the sand between my toes. The stupefying beauty of the beach was initially overwhelming and I think I must’ve switched to auto-pilot because before I knew it I was waist deep in the crystal sea.

Saona approach

Approaching the beautiful Saona Island

I drifted serenely in the water, which was cool enough to provide adequate respite from the sun but not to take the breath away when getting in. Even among the selfie-taking tourists and distant sound of passing boats, this place felt like it was reserved just for me. The natural sandbars that have nestled off shore mean that the water remains shallow enough to stand in and the currents are virtually non-existent so you can freely explore up and down the shoreline.

After a delicious buffet lunch of traditional rice, peas and expertly barbecued meats it was time to jump aboard a speedboat to a natural lagoon. Here fields of brilliant red starfish can readily be seen and touched. It was somewhat surreal that even though we had rocketed along on the speedboat for a good ten or so minutes before we reached the lagoon, the water was still shallow enough to comfortably stand up in.


The waters surrounding Saona Island are where many Starfish like this one call home. Photo courtesy of Achim Raschka.

After around half an hour fraternising with the starfish it was time to board the speedboat once more for the trip back to the mainland. Bouncing along the water at top speed was an experience that will live long in the memory, particularly our brief moment of airtime when we hit a wave at just the right angle. When the boat performs tight turns the spray from the sea whistles about your ears as you veer with reckless abandon towards the water.

All too quickly the boat had come to the end of the line and it was time to disembark back onto the mainland. I left the boat feeling a strange mixture of emotions as I wondered whether Saona Island would be the closest I’d ever get to experiencing true paradise.

To check out Kenwood Travel’s incredible selection of Dominican Republic all inclusive holidays, Visit our website or give us a call on 020 7749 9220. All photos courtesy of the author except where stated. 

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