Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bahia de San Lorenzo

Motivator is the white speck in the bay

Frank Virgintino in A Cruising Guide to the Dominican Republic, say the anchorage in San Lorenzo Bay “…rates with the best in the Caribbean, if not the world.”  I would have to agree. 

San Lorenzo is a well-protected bay within the protected waters of Samana Bay, Dominican Republic.  The sticky mud in the bay provides great holding for your anchor.  The charting seems to be accurate, so finding your way in is easy.  So why is Motivator the only boat in the anchorage?

Motivator’s route between Puerto Bahia Marina and San Lorenzo Bay

The government of Dominican Republic does not make it easy for cruisers to visit any of the island’s beautiful anchorages.  You are required to check in with Customs, Immigration, DR Navy, and Drug Enforcement at every stop, and only stop at places where officials are present.  For San Lorenzo, the officials at Puerto Bahia Marina make an exception.  After checking in at Puerto Bahia, you may ask permission to visit San Lorenzo for a few nights, but you must return to Puerto Bahia for departure papers.

Visiting Los Haitises National Park and Paraiso Cano Hondo is worth the effort, even if you are the only private boat in the anchorage for three nights.  Motivator’s crew is not normally comfortable being that isolated, but we saw no security concerns.  In the evening there was an occasional small fishing boat and we did see a bonfire on the beach, but no one approached us.  Besides, the officials at Puerto Bahia were expecting us back so they can collect $20 for the despacho.

Dinghy and excursion boat dock to the far right

Our first stop was at the park “headquarters,” a colorful building with several gentlemen playing dominoes on the porch.  Before they could collect our $3 entry fee, the excursion boats forced us to abandon the dock and move on, however one captain gave us directions to the “lodge.”

Cano Chiquito

To get to the Paraiso Cano Hondo, a restaurant and hotel in the middle of nowhere, you first find the small opening in the mangroves at the southwest corner of the bay.

Then you take the smaller channel to the right about 100 yards after leaving the bay.

After you think you are totally lost in the mangroves, you keep on going.  We were lucky, just about the time we thought we should turn around, we met a large boat coming down the “river.”

Eventually, you will come to a small “marina” where you can tie your dinghy.  Watch out for the sharp metal protrusions from the concrete.

We were prepared to walk, but a young man on this motorcycle insisted on giving us both a ride to the lodge.

For the return trip we chose to walk.  It was only a little over a mile, but it seemed much longer with three to a motorcycle and a teenager driving.

Besides, by walking we were able to make friends along the way.  The “marina” definitely seemed to be part of Paraiso Cono Hondo as well as the farm in between.  There were cattle, horses, and a variety of chickens.

In one field it appeared to us non-biologists that they were starting a vineyard.

Construction on the main lodge began in 1996.  It features two large dining rooms with bathrooms and changing areas below.

It appeared they were setup to handle large tour groups as well as their own guests.

A couple dropping in from what must have seemed like outer space for lunch or breakfast was not their normal business model.  Twice lodge personnel attempted to sell us a boat ride to see the caves in the park.

By diverting the stream that runs through the property they were able to create several swimming pools that we were welcome to use. 

We were told the bottom pool was the warmest and the upper pools were very “refreshing.”

With very little use of glass or doors there is a very pleasing flow from exterior to interior space.  The flow of water elements throughout the interior emphasis this easy transition.

Concrete, local stone, and various local hardwoods were used for most of the construction.

Even the light fixtures are made from local materials.  This one is made from a calabash gourd with hanging sea beans has twine wrapped around the wire.  I am sure it is UL approved.

Exterior lighting included terra cotta fixtures.

And others made from recycled bottles.  I told Pollie I would start working on bottle procurement.

Everywhere you look there are small details.  This floor had leaves pressed into the concrete and stained.

Behind the lodge are numerous small seating areas dispersed among water elements.  There were also the original hotel rooms built with the lodge.

In 2007 the structures above the lodge were completed adding substantially more guest rooms and the office and owner’s home to the left.

While in keeping with the original lodge, you can see a certain refinement in the newer structure.

Like the original lodge, the guest house invites you to relax and enjoy nature.

Pollie has requested we stay at Paraiso Cano Hondo for her 70th birthday.

To be continued…

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