There are plenty of amazing places to see in the Dominican Republic and you may be tempted to try out all possible excursions offered there. But when you are travelling as a family there is one thing you need to know to make your choice – most of the experiences are very commercial, rather expensive, and hardly ever family friendly. So what matters the most is how you experience the island not really what it is.
The right choice of your tour Operator
The choice of a tour operator is very important in DR because if you pick a wrong one the whole experience is very likely to be completely different even when you go and see the same things. We found one gem worth recommending here that is both educational and exciting for kids and adults – the Rio Chavon river excursions by Seavis Tours, Bayahibe.
About the Trip:
Type of Experience:
- A river ride on a traditional raft-like motor boat combined with a visit to a privately owned Rainforest Farm, exotic animal encounters and yummy Dominican meal.
- Half a day. We were picked up at 8 in the morning in front of the hotel, the whole ride to the river on a modern air-conditioned mini bus was no more than half an hour and was very relaxing.
Highlights for Kids:
- Exciting river ride, rather slow-paced but it was possible to spot native birds and even some water pigs! The very fact that one of the Jurassic Park movies was shot here added some magic to the whole experience.
- Handling a Dominican Python was an absolute highlight of the trip especially when no one else dared to try!
- Observing a huge tarantula with a chance to handle it. Only for the bravest ones!
- A butterfly sanctuary with hatching Monarch butterflies, their larvaes and caterpillars.
- A short rainforest hike among spiky trees, over a small wooden bridge, and between lianas dangling all over the place.
- A bamboo house with a view of the whole valley.
- Huge vultures being fed and handled.
- Spotting hummingbirds in treetops.
What we liked about the trip:
- It was organised by a small Dutch tour operator who was well aware of overseas tourists’ expectations, which made the whole trip relaxed, safe and pleasant.
- The trip was slow-paced which is a rarity in DR since everything is usually hectic there and you are always hurried to move on to the next stage. There was plenty of free time to walk around the farm, rest in the shade, or have a refreshing dip in a small pool.
- The staff was very kind, relaxed and easy to talk to, they answered our son’s questions about the wildlife in full.
- The food was great – a buffet with enough choices for vegetarians and meat/fish eaters, plenty of fresh local fruit, excellent Dominican coffee, and soft drinks. Finally there was something more than just rice which you will get on most of the trips there. We also tried delicious Mamajuana – a local herbal drink based on rum, wine, honey and tree bark.
Educational Aspects – What kids can learn there:
- The entire tour was guided and the explanations given were factual, to the point and not too long for school children. There is enough space and time to safely explore the place so even smaller kids should not be bored.
- Some of the animals on the farm can be safely handled, some touched, and some observed from a close-up, which makes the experience exciting and meaningful.
- We found the butterfly hatchery particularly educational as it was possible to see stage by stage how the hatching and the transformation process takes place.
- Handling, touching or just coming closer to the python can help the little ones (and some adults too) conquer their fear of snakes and experience this majestic animal in their full beauty.
- The rainforest experience was perfect for beginners and small children – it was short, the rainforest walk was easy even without hiking shoes, it was not too hot, and no dangerous animals or insects around. Beware of mosquitoes though!
- Lots of hands-on and multi-sensory experiences with adequately planned and short informative talks.
- We found this trip to be one of the safest in DR probably because it was not organised by a local company but by a European one, who is used to higher safety standards. The Dominican Republic has very low safety standards, sometimes even non existent, so this needs to be taken into consideration when planning family experiences there.
- The farm was safe to explore, tidy, uncluttered, free from man-made obstructions and roaming animals. However, it is always better not to leave a child unattended in tropical countries.
Animal encounters were controlled and safe. No pushing, and no risky behaviour on part of the operator.
- The Boat Trip requires parents to be vigilant, especially when travelling with small children, as due to the way the vessels are constructed there are big gaps in the railings – it’s really easy for small children to fall over. There are no dangerous animals in the river but it’s deep.
What to improve:
- Visiting children could receive a mini explorer pack e.g. with magnifying glasses or pincers to collect specimen and observe them while parents are having their coffee break. Funny animals stickers or plastic mini insect/bug figures would also do the trick to keep them busy.
- Offering natural juices instead of powdered ones would be great. And not everyone drinks sweet soft drinks either!
Our Professional Advise:
We always have plenty ideas how to improve even the best experiences to make them even more child-friendly and educational. We are happy to offer detailed assistance to help providers prepare their experiences according to our instructions and advice. Please contact us here.