Since this was our first time here, I had my research cut out of me. Some suggestions, on here, was to use Seavis Tours and head over to Saona, which is a little island. From looking at all of the pictures and stalking their social media page, I knew this looked like "my type" of island. I booked their "Saona Special", which included the boat ride to the island, your lunch and drinks, and a stop at a starfish sandbar. Yep, it sounded perfect.
The cost was $75 per adult and $50 per child under 12. They stated they had numerous no-shows in the past and now required deposits. Deposits are 20% of the total and the rest is due upon arrival.
The "tour" lasted from 9:45am until 2:15pm. The tour leaves from Bayahibe (which is about 25 minutes away) and you must take a taxi from the cruise port to there (which cost $15 per adult and $8 per child round trip). The instructions said the cab ride is arranged by "Taxi Casa De Campo", which is an independent company and we must give them a "tour code" to get this price.
There is a max of 26 people per boat and they can have up to 4 boats going out on the tour each day.
The included lunch consisted of pork chops, chicken, Dominican rice, salad, potatoes, pasta, fruits and french bread. Non-alcoholic drinks are water, orange juice (which was actually mango juice), cola (I later learn there was NO DIET), and sprite. There was a open bar with alcoholic drinks with rum mixes and beers.
I obtained a map from their site to figure out how to get out of the port (since it was our first time and I'm a "site" person) because I knew that time was of the essence when you factor in ship clearance at 9am, getting off by 9:15am (hopefully), time included in walking out of the port and to the taxi stand, and then a 25 minute ride to Bayahibe to make it there by 9:45am. Sounds impossible right? Or at least cutting it a little too close for comfort in my opinion.
After getting off the ship, we started our journey to the taxi station. It was a bit of a walk and we all know when you do something for the first time, it seems even longer. "Are we there yet?" kept racing in my mind.
We had finally made it out to the area where they had the taxis. It was a huge area and I wasn't sure where to go. I stopped several times to ask along the way and was pointed to the end. There were plenty of tour buses lined up. They just weren't for us.
I approached a lady with a phone in the turn around area and ask about our taxi. She told us to "hold on and I'll get your cab". So, we stood around waiting. About then, we ran into Thrilled and family (some cruise friends from the ship), who was also going on a tour...but a dune buggy tour. I started to doubt my decision because a dune buggy tour sounded amazing and something "different" than a beach day. She had been waiting for awhile and was told to wait as well.
We waited...and waited...and waited...and several times went back up to ask about our ride only to be told they were "working on it".
It was getting late and I kept mumbling "we're not going to make it in time". It was already 9:45 and we were already supposed to be leaving for the tour and hadn't even made it there yet.
The hubby made a comment several times about how we should just go outside the port and catch a cab. There were plenty of cabs out there with the drivers standing at the fence, starring us down, and wanting our business. But, the only thing that actually stopped me was our $15/$8 pp round trip price and the fact that I watched a gentleman go up to one of the taxi buses and ask how much to get to _____ and their reply was $25 per person each way and they had 8 people in their party! $200 each way??? Are you serious?? That' s a $400 day just in transportation for them. I have no idea where they were going but I wasn't about to pay those prices!!
FINALLY, she told us to "come" and we followed....OUTSIDE THE PORT!! There ended up being 3 groups of people, going 3 different places. I snapped a picture of my watch when we pulled out (this is how I keep track of my time spent at places) and it was now 9:58am and we had no idea what groups were getting dropped off at what places along the route and what type of delay that would mean for us. I lady conducting the taxi stand said they stay in contact with the vendors/tour companies and they knew we were coming.
Finally we were on our way...and I was busy snapping pictures along the way and trying to take my mind off just how late we were. Thrilled and I were still chatting it up and I was still wishing I would have booked the dune buggy tour. We stopped to let a family off to do a jungle river cruise. Then we were off again. The next stop was for Thrilled and family with their exciting dune buggy tour. Then we were the last to be dropped off.
We actually only pulled around the corner and we were there. It was located at the same area, just around the bay and beach area.
It was raining off and on and as you can tell by the pictures, pretty cloudy. It didn't look like a very nice day and that always brings you down a little when on vacation.
As soon as we pulled up, a lady approached our vehicle and ask if we were the "family" and I told them yes. They said they had been waiting for us and was about to pull out. Everyone was already in the boats and ready to go. She said since it was a rainy day, we had the option to continue with the tour or back out but it was up to us. It was nice that they gave us the option. Kudos! Well, we were going to an island, around water, at the beach, we were getting wet, so what's a little rain. YES! We are going. She was happy to hear that and said everyone else on the tour elected to go as well.
She rushed us out of the taxi and over to their "office" (I want to go to work at an office like this daily). We paid up our balance and signed some papers and was told to "rush to the boat".
I took several pictures of the area as we checked in and Sakari managed to get a few as well.
We raced across this beachy-bay area and I thought my legs were going to fall off.
"Come, come, hurry"
We were told that they keep in close contact with the taxi people in port and their last call to them to see if we were there resulted in being told "No, there isn't anyone left here for your tour!" SAY WHAT?? That's why everyone was in the boats and ready to pull out when we arrived. They were told we were a "no show" is the term they told them. UGH! GRR! It was the taxi stand that had us waiting for about 40 minutes for a taxi!!!
YES! We had made it. On the boat we went. According to my time stamp on my camera, we were pulling out at 10:33am. This means the tour was 45 minutes late...the exact time we were sitting at the taxi standing waiting for them to get our taxi.
Part of the boat had a cover over it and I opted to sit there with Sakari while the hubby went several seats up (without the cover). Eh, it's raining, it's not like it's going to matter since the sun isn't out and you're not going to get hot or burned more.
However, when it started raining again, being out in the open might have hurt a little more with having your face pounded with the rain water.
We stopped along the way and the tour guide pointed to some rocks that were caves. He explained that these caves were full of water and something about it being processed for x amount of their drinking water on the land. (Sorry, my mind was still in shock from almost missing our tour that I can't remember all of the details).
Sanoa Beach was in site at 11:04am. So it's basically a half hour boat ride, including the stop along the way about the caves.
As we slowly pulled up to the island, we stopped and was given instructions for the day. "This is our beach, this is where you sit, the other side is for other tour companies, this is where you snorkel, this is a pier that was destroyed by the hurricane over here and you can snorkel there as well. I wouldn't suggest getting the massage because there's not much time here and it's not worth it. It's an open bar the entire time you are here so enjoy. It is now 11:10 and lunch will be served at 11:30"...wait what? He went on to say what time we would gather to leave on the boat and head over to see the starfish (which I thought he said 12:30, but not sure), but I was still stuck on lunch in 20 minutes. How the heck am I gonna have time to snorkel, swim, and enjoy the island AND get tons of pictures? Seriously? I suppose this might be partially "our" fault because of the delay in us getting there...but seriously? 20 minutes? Debbie Downer entered my thoughts at this point and I knew it would be a race to get everything accomplished. The only problem is, I forgot to train for the Marathon this year...or last...or ever. I'm huffing and puffing just sitting here thinking about the "rushed" time frame we would have.
There was a pier that was destroyed by the hurricane and never rebuilt.
Where the boats parked was on one side and we had to track it over to the other side. It made me wonder why they don't just park on "their" side because there were some smaller boats there. Maybe it's just not deep enough? (Although we didn't get out on a dock or anything and had to climb over the end of the boat and into the shallow water).
Up and over the small sand hill we went and onto "our" portion of the beach.
We headed to grab a set of chairs and I picked one's that were basically right beside the "lunch" buffet-style line. Up to the line first, eat fast, try to make up for some of the lost day.
After putting our things down, I immediately set out to take as many pictures as I could.
The buffet table (and you can see the blue chair toward the bottom of the picture, which are our chairs.
There was plenty of picnic tables to eat at, other table and chairs, plenty of regular wooden chairs.
There was a deck at this little house that they were doing all the BBQ cooking.
Of course, immediately this happened...
I told the hubby..."She's all yours, I'm off to take pics"
When I think of a "beautiful Caribbean beach", this is what I picture...somewhat. I love the beaches that have the soft powdery sand and palm trees spread out all over the beach for natural shade. I like the type of palm trees that have the leaves close to the ground, like in the pictures, with several bigger palms around them. It's just a beautiful site.
Everyone was pretty spread out. I liked that as well. You could be in groups and not be sitting right next to someone. There was plenty of room. However, if you are a (if you are critical of food, you are a foodie right? What are you if you are critical of a chair?....chair-ie snob?)...yea, if you are a chair-ie snob, then you might not like this beach. Those are wooden chairs you sit in. Use your beach towel for a little cushion, or be more like me and not have time to sit down and wander around seeing the beautiful scenery.
As you can tell by the pictures, it wasn't the most picturesque day out. No sun peeking out of the clouds, dreary, and this just doesn't make for awesome pictures. But, I tried my best. I have seen plenty of sunny-day pictures and know this is a beautiful beach/area.
Sakari and daddy were checking out the water. It was really rough and a bit of a drop off instantly because of the waves. I was very unsure about her being able to use a mermaid tail and even less sure about her getting in the water.
She begged and pleaded and ended up getting in without her fin while we supervised...for about 2 minutes...then...
...I looked back at our chairs and everyone was already lined up for lunch. Gasp! So much for trying to be first in line and getting lunch over with to enjoy the rest of the day we had there. We were now last.
I signaled Sakari to come out of the water and she pulled her normal "I can't see you for some reason" glance-away look, as she turned her head. It's like pulling teeth to get her to come out of the water. It's even a bigger chore to get her to eat if it means coming out of the water. Threats are usually made "eat or no swim". That usually works.
I snapped pictures of our lunch. Of course my first thoughts were "we just had spaghetti last night oh my", but once again we would have some spaghetti and it was pretty good. Actually everything I had was good (which I tried a little of everything except the pork chops because I'm not a big red meat eater unless it's hamburgers) and here I didn't even think I was hungry to begin with.
Even Sakari ate and ended up taking a piece of my chicken.
Finally she managed to convince us that the mermaid tail was a good idea.
I headed off to take more pictures of the area.
This is the other side of the beach (that wasn't for us) and where the boats were pulling in at. I still kind of question why they park there instead of their side. This is the snorkeling area and I see nothing but potential problems with getting hit by boats coming in (which several boats came in as we were there).
I went back and talked Sakari in to getting out of the water and coming over to the "snorkeling spot" with me. At 12 noon we headed into the water...but it must have taken me a good 5 minutes or longer to try to actually get IN the water. First of all it was cold, but the main reason was there was nothing but rocks in the entrance...everywhere. You couldn't step anywhere without twisting an ankle. Then top it off with the huge waves coming in...this had the potential to end up disastrous for me. Sakari was over there like "just lay down and float in"...um girlfriend, momma's not skinny and little like you, if I lay down, I'm going to be beached like a whale, stuck on a rock".
I slowly but surely made my way out as the hubby looked on and I wasn't sure if he was hiding back his laughter or had to go potty.
Sakari made it out a little ways and I summoned her for a report. "Do you see anything?" Her reply was "Just a little". I was deep down inside hoping she would give me a report of "nope, nothing to see here" so that I could just turn around and crawl out of this mess...but then I got a reply "I think I see some fish on the bottom"...wait... "What do you mean you THINK you see fish". She finally confirmed that it was just too cloudy to see anything and the waves were making it impossible. Of course this confirmation came AFTER I had finally made it in the water. Sigh
Welp, here's your snorkeling picture for this trip....
There were several people that actually adventured out a little ways to the "missing pier", but at that point, I had decided I was done. I know the further you get out, the less stirred up things usually are, but it just wasn't fun at this point and now my mind was completely focused on just how I was going to manage to get out of here.
A few more pictures to snap before I tackle how I'm going to get back out of this water without breaking something...
Oh look, birds!
I decided that I would cross over (toward the new pier) the boats and anchors (which I had no idea where the anchors lied in the sand due to no visibility) and try to hope for better results over there. Slowly but surely I made my way over, only managing to trip over one of the boat lines and making it look like I meant to take a dip under water because walking on rocks is a work out (true story I kid you not), and then over to the beach. There's a certain way to do this that makes it a little more elegant than looking like you are walking a tightrope. I'm sure you have all tried it in the past, whether walking on rocks, or walking on sand...you look down and pick your next stepping spot, you wait for the wave to come and that's your nudge to move up (with a little help from the water). Inch by inch, foot by foot, you do this, acting as if you are just enjoying a leisurely stroll coming in from the ocean. The goal is to not take baby steps forward and giant steps backwards when the waves return back out to the sea and pushes you backwards.
I'm pretty sure the hubby is no longer laughing at this point...but instead cheering me on "You can do it!!!" Sigh.
I finally made it out, in one piece, no scrapes, no bruises, no falls this time around.
The hubby..."Are you o....k" wait, puppies! Then off he went.
I figured I would have better luck walking something that is more my style and this would do it...
Ok, truth be known, that wore me out. It's a good excuse to sit on the pier and act like I'm only doing that because I'm taking these perfect pier shots that might some day appear in a Ocean Life magazine.
See, you lay down on a pier to catch your breath and hold your camera up and others just think you a taking pictures and nobody has to know you are resting. (A trick I learned a long time ago when I started getting fluffy...truth is out, now you all can use my tidbits, tips and tricks to elegant resting).
Well whattaya know, the sun came out for a split second and I managed to get a shot, from the pier, of a mermaid down on the beach.
I approached one of the other cruisers, that was on the tour with us, and ask her what time they said we were leaving. Obviously I was not the only one shocked by the short time frame we would be here because she hadn't heard that tidbit of information either. Oh well, I guess when I start to see people heading toward the boat, I'd know.
Walking back toward "our side":
Oh, one thing I forgot to mention...I have a new "friend" I am going to be taking with me on cruises. I found this mentioned on a scuba social media site and I just knew I had to have one! A lego scuba diver that's holding a camera!!! YES!
I looked them up on ebay and about had sticker shock when I seen prices ranging up to $25 for a scuba lego person! Really?
I did manage to find one a tad bit cheaper...actually a lot cheaper ($4 plus delivery) and I immediately ordered it for this cruise. When it arrived, I was equally shocked to find that it was smaller in size than half my finger! Wow. Not at all what I expected. But, I have a macro function on my camera and I knew I would be using this to take pictures of the scuba photographer. The only issue is, you have to put it together and it comes apart easily...especially the fins and mask. I really meant to super glue it together, prior to leaving, but never got around to it. So...I was extra careful when handling it and prayed that it didn't get washed away by the water on some of the shots I had planned on taking.
I totally forgot to take pictures of it in Grand Turk the previous day and was completely kicking myself for it. I could have managed to get some great shots with the huge stingrays in the water behind it and also a few cute ideas come to mind using all those conch shells. Oh well. It's new to me and hopefully I'll start to remember each time.
So here we go....
Sakari made new friends and spent time photographing them.
We were told these are just "island dogs" and they run free and it's believed that they are brother and sister.
At 12:30, they started telling everyone to pack up and get on the boat. I was so sad. I guess I'm grateful that it was not a beautiful sunny day because if it had been, I wouldn't have wanted to leave at all. We were there approximately almost 1 hour and a half. Just not enough time in my book and I hate when tours are like this. It almost feels like wasted money. But, I'm glad I had the experience.
This time Sakari decided she would sit with daddy on the ride back. Since she was on the opposite side as me, she managed to get a great shot of the birds as we pulled out.
They stopped at some point to tell us about the mangroves.
Then within 8 minutes, we were at our sandbar location for the starfish. Well that was quick!
It was time for our second portion of the tour.
You can find my second half of this tour by clicking here ---->
The island was very beautiful, however it was a cloudy/rainy day, which does put a bit of a damper on things. I'm sure in the sun, this place would be gorgeous.
The taxi situation really STINKS at this place. It almost caused us to miss this tour. The located to Sevis, from the cruise port, is 32 minutes.
You are required to put a 20% deposit down, so I'm not sure with the taxi situation...if you are to miss this tour, would they refund your money?
It takes 32 minutes to get to Saona Island and you really don't have much time there...which is ashame. By the time we got off the boat, found a spot to sit, then made it down to the water, it was time to eat already. We were only at the island for a small time over 1 hour. This really isn't enough time to enjoy yourself.
I do like that the chairs are spread out and you are not sitting on top of each other.
Snorkeling...well I couldn't tell you but I do know trying to get in and out of the water is VERY rocky and unsafe and to add to that, you go in and out where the boats come in. That seems a little unsafe as well.
I really didn't like that the boat docks in one location and you have to walk to another to stay.
The meal that comes with the tour was decent, but they don't carry diet drinks, which is a draw-back for me.
All-in-all, I would not do this trip again for the mere fact that you are just not there long enough to enjoy it. Had we stayed longer, it probably would have been worth it. But you spend more time in traveling than at the island and I book things based on the beach and enjoying my time there.