Thursday, September 20, 2012

Snorkling with Sharks!

We decided to do only one excursion while in Punta Cana, although there were many day trips to choose from, as we really just wanted to enjoy the beach and pools at the resort. We also chose an afternoon excursion because the last thing I want to do on vacation is get up early!
We met with the representative from Olympus Tours to book our snorkeling tour. We were picked up in the lobby of our resort and after two more pick ups we drove about 30 minutes to the Marinarium Resort. We headed out to the reef, which was a short but entertaining catamaran trip, and the crew divided beginning snorkelers from advanced. This was great as we ended up getting more time in the water and also got to venture off farther.
The reefs had a fair amount of brightly colored tropical fish darting around, mainly on the smaller size with a few parrot fish chomping loudly on the coral. There were lots of brain coral, which I don't always see, and tons of spiny urchins. As we swam about there were also lots of tiny jellyfish! I hate jellyfish and was a bit worried about getting stung but luckily no one did.

After about 30 minutes of exploring, our guide ushered us into the large ocean pens which house a half dozen or so nurse sharks. Nurse sharks are generally docile and they'd rather hide under coral reefs than chase after people. But even knowing this, and having dove with black tip reef sharks in the past, the sight of the sharks was a bit nerve wracking. Also nerve wracking was Dayne who immediately went chasing after them!

We swam through four different pens, each with nurse sharks, sting rays or a combination of the two. In the last one we got to hold a stingray. I'd done this way back in the day during a trip to Grand Cayman but it was still awesome. They are much heavier than they look and their skin is strange. And slippery. If you rest your forearms just under the water some will actually swim right up and take a swim break!

Back on board our catamaran, the staff passed out rum & cokes and beers while we sailed down the coast of Bavaro and Cabeza de Toro. When we reached what they call "Paradise", a warm and shallow area of the ocean, there were at least three other boats anchored, all their passengers in the water having a big "pool" party. It was awesome!
We all joined in, the staff of our boat strapped floaty rings to their drink trays and the floating bar was open. I really can't tell you how incredibly warm, clear, clean and awesome the water was. And there even was a crazy drunk, basically nude woman on one of the other boats, all too happy to be the entertainment for the afternoon!

On the way back we spotted tons of red starfish in just this one little area off the coast. The staff gave a lesson in making Coco Loco's and also dancing the Merenge. It was a very relaxing and fun way to spend the afternoon! And then it was back to the Majestic Elegance Resort...

Punta Cana photos here