Trip Report: Kayaking in Las Caobitas’s Bay, Domenican Republic

Early in the morning is the only real opportunity you will have to see the tip of the coral reef due to the heavy waves that crash there. At this time, the strength of the current is sufficiently weak as to paddle close enough enabling us see the true colors of the corals.

After delighting ourselves with the vivid reds and yellows of the corals of the reef and watching the playful multicolored fish, we paddled out to the first mangrove island. The water was so clear and calm that we could see almost beneath us all the colorful crabs and small jellyfish thanks to the slimness of the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two.

After crossing by the Punta Barreras tip, we got to the second mangrove island called “Cayo Agua Dulce”. This mangrove island has a small passage between it and the chain of protective coral reefs. The feeling of kayaking through a corridor of gushing water that came from the sea through the reef was impressive. Imagine yourself crossing a low-level river with a medium current pushing you constantly towards the mangroves. We soon learned, by over a third of the distance into the passage, that it was pretty shallow and full of coral lumps. Thanks to the flexible and resistant material of the hull we were able to get though in a somewhat harsh way, but indeed we came through. One of the things that makes the Malibu Two a MacGyver type of kayak is the design of its hull which balances performance and stability. If in that unexpected situation we would have being riding a sharp keeled kayak, we would’ve been forced to retreat and go around, or face a high probability of damaging the hull.

Kayaking Las Caobita’s Bay, Domenica Republic

Up to this point we are entering the mid-section of the bay and all we could see around us were mangroves and an impressive turquoise and calm sea with spots of deep blue; perfect for fishing and kayaking. Paddling through such a mirror like surface in a streamlined kayak such as the Malibu Two takes almost no effort at all. The contrast of the blue-greenish sea with the intense yellow of the kayak sure must render a great picture moment.

As we paddled along, we came across the most extensive patch of mangroves called “Cayo Puerto Viejo” or “Old Port Keys“. There are three nice things to say about it. First, it has two gorgeous newly formed beaches. You can say they are newly formed because there are a little shaky and loose and are manly held by the mangroves. Second, it has a kind of secret mangrove channel that is even more calm and crystal clear than the bay. You can see it’s like the nursery of the bay, because we had the opportunity to spot baby rays, baby barracudas, and small jellyfish. Not to mention the swarm of small scardy little fish that jumped out of the water with almost every paddle we took. Once we came out of that passage of mangrove, we hit the second beach. This beach had the third nice thing of “Cayo Puerto Viejo”. It had a nice area of solid dry land between the mangroves, large enough as to set a BBQ and at least 4 tents. It would be the absolute camping spot being in an island of an island surrounded by water and mangroves with only the sea as an escape route. The mangroves serve as protection from the winds and wave of the fierce Caribbean Sea and the Caobitas bay at our foot served as the ultimate snorkeling playground. Boy did we snorkeled in that spot.

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But the Trip wasn’t over, up to this point we were only half way of the point of return, so we hit the paddles right away.

We paddled alongside the coral reefs up to the tip of the bay. At this point things got real. Experience, courage and a stable torso had to be recruited for this new scenario, we were in open sea for the first time on the trip.  Two things were in our favor, the sea was calm at that time of the day and the design of the kayak didn’t make balance an issue. The waves were like sluggish giants coming slowly at you. They gave us a small thrill, just enough to remind us of the sleeping monster that it could turn into. We had a good reminder of that potential watching the break of the waves at the tip of the coral reef.

Although the waves at sea weren’t breaking, they were rising and almost tubing at the tip. I mean surf like waves. A total paradise for short board surfers. In my case, as a long board surfer, I was having my second thoughts. My girlfriend and I watched the break from a distance. Although the anatomy of the break was pretty interesting, from where we were filming, we were getting hit by the same wave that 50 meters from our right was breaking after tubing. That’s a rare view. We knew better so we kept paddling to the other tip of the bay, leaving behind the stretch of open sea which promised many other adventures. We will leave that for some other time and with other type of kayak. We had to remind ourselves that if things went wrong, meaning a splashy sea, we were going to be in a though spot, because these kayaks are not designed to cruise under those conditions. So, having that on mind we headed back closer to the shore.

Nonetheless, kayaking that strip of open sea in the Malibu Two injected a good amount of adrenaline and rouse our alertness like any other part of the trip. Not even watching the small rays got me so excited and gave me the feeling of defiance of the elements as that part.

At the other tip of bay, which was already connected to the mainland, the same scenario of the breaking waves of surf grade was happening. Except for the part that there was no formation of tubes. By this part my girlfriend, her cousin and I had already 3 hours kayaking. The breakfast we ate in the morning was long gone. In their case, they were feeling the hunger. In my case, being overweight, gave me an extra energy reserve that took me through the whole 7 hours round trip. We spotted a nice little beach and stopped to get some shade and some rest. As soon as we got to shore, they devoured the little snacks that were left.

If it wasn’t for the fatigue my girlfriend and her cousin would’ve enjoyed that small and pristine beach. While they rested, I took a brief exploratory walk. The walk inland quickly came to a halt due to a small lake is formed due to the high tide. Around it you could see “chivos” or goats grazing the few grasses that grew there. The view didn’t last because, although not being wild goats, those weren’t used to seeing people around and ran away.

When we were heading to the point of return, we saw something to our right that immediately caught our attention. It was the most beautiful stretch of pure white sand beach. We couldn’t believe it because gray and rocky sands are predominant in this area. How come there could be a strip of beach of such quality and beauty, similar to “Bahia de la Aguilas” or “Eagles’ Bay”, so close to Santo Domingo. As tired as we were, we were compelled to beach in that marvel of nature. Its beauty extends a little more than half a kilometer of white sandy beach with a sea floor of pure soft white sand and no algae. We were in a mini remote and off the radar paradise.

The winds were rising and the small snack refuel were slowly withering away. More to our reluctance we left that beautiful beach behind and headed to the point of return… “Playa los Negros”.  If we had a little more experience we would have known not to go into that beach under those rising conditions. Having the wind in our back and the surf of the waves helping us to get faster to the beach should’ve told us something in that point…. that getting out of that beach later on would be a hell of a fight. 30 minutes later and a couple of more knots in the wind delivered that fight. Oblivious to what was about to worsen and with the increasing hunger of my girlfriend and her cousin we beached at “Playas los Negros”. We hoped to get something to eat there, taking into account that this was a crowded beach. There was a small problem with all of that…we took no money with us. When we departed, we swore in our minds that this was going to be a 3 hours trip tops. But the thing that we didn’t account for was the 2 pm wind which scrambled the sea. Thanks to the hospitality that is characteristic of all Dominicans we grabbed something to eat and refueled ourselves.

Being hit in that beach by the wind and seeing the never-ending rows of crashing waves coming at us foreshadowed the fight ahead. Everything became a struggle from that point on. What by that time had being a seemly effortless two and a half hours kayaking trip will become into an almost American Gladiator challenge trip.

I will leave it at this… if it weren’t for the lightness and aerodynamics of the Malibu Two my girlfriend and I would have experienced the type of capsize that her cousin was experiencing, because his kayak although more stable for having a broader hull, also meant that it was going to be hit harder by the waves. In total he capsized 3 times, at least that we saw, losing in the first occasion all the seashells he had collected by that time on the trip. He fell behind for most of the time and was way more exhausted than we were. To get back we had to literally strategize, but such tales will be told some other time.

Overall… kayaking “Las Caobitas’s Bay” was a great and humbling experience. Up to the point of return the trip is an experience that I truly recommend to those how love being in contact with the greatness of nature.

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