This is a full day excursion that runs every day from all resorts in Punta Cana. The company behind the excursion is called Luna Tours and is one of the biggest in the country with offices and excursions running in Puerto Plata, Samana and La Romana.

The Bavaro Runners Safari is a full day excursion. The safari truck arrives just after 8 o'clock. It is an open safari truck where you have to climb a metal ladder in order to get onboard. It is big enough to seat 25 people sitting on padded benches. The tour guide jumps off the truck holding his notepad and calls out "Bavaro Runners".

He starts checking tickets from the people who almost immediately form a line to get on the truck. Everyone has shown up, tickets in hand, and after just a few minutes, we are good to go. We are off on our Dominican adventure, but not before we make a stop at several other resorts to pick up more people. It takes almost an hour before the safari truck is full of excited tourists from all over the world. Finally, we can head out of Punta Cana and Bavaro and off to the countryside.

The Bavaro Runners Safari an all-inclusive excursion like most of the resorts in Punta Cana. On the safari truck there is an open bar, i.e. a large cooler stocked with bottled water, soft drinks, local beer and local rum. Our tour guide makes sure that everyone is happily served throughout the day, while driving along the Dominican roads and taking in the breathtaking scenery.

Everything is incredibly lush once you get a bit away from the city. There are almost endless grass fields; some with cows grazing, and coconut plantations. Our tour guide tells us that the national palm tree in the Dominican Republic is called the Royal Palm tree. That is the one we see, which has a long spike rising up from its center, usually with a small bird perched on top. The leaves are typically used to build roofs (the kind of thatched palm-roofs that you can see almost everywhere in the Dominican Republic), and the trunk is used in constructing houses. While driving in the countryside, we see a lot of small wooden houses, each carefully painted in bright colors of blue, green and pink.

We stop at one of these houses, which belongs to Maria; a warm and welcoming woman who greets us wearing a traditional, Dominican folklore dress in red, white and blue.

"Bienvenidos! Welcome," Maria exclaims, stretching out her arms, as we gather around her front door. She immediately begins to laugh a hearty laugh. Our first cultural experience of the day is a visit to this typical, Dominican home in the countryside. We walk through the small rooms of this small house while staring and taking pictures of its contents.

The walk-through feels very strange, almost inappropriate. Here we are, a bunch of tourists walking through someone's house, home and life while taking pictures with our cameras that costs as much as someone living here might make in a month. The house is very dark and sparsely decorated with furniture and things that seem almost randomly thrown together.

The traditional family structure in the Dominican Republic is completely different than in most western countries. Here, the family typically sticks together and helps out each other across various generations. It is therefore not uncommon to have three or even four generations living together in the same house.

Maria has 7 children, our tour guide tells us. Some have moved away to live and work in the city (i.e. Santo Domingo) while some are helping out with the family business, a small cocoa plantation that surrounds the house. Everything is grown organically, and we are given a tour around the grounds, which makes up for our second cultural experience of the day.

Our tour guide shows us a wide variety of plants and trees that are native to the Dominican Republic and include banana, mango, vanilla, pineapple, coffee, aloe and, of course, the cocoa trees.

Maria also has a special area where a concrete square has been made especially for drying her cocoa beans in the sun. She shows us how the beans are laid out in the sun and how she uses a rake to turn them over. She even has a special song that she sings for us while doing so. It is all very educational and entertaining.

After walking through part of the grounds, we end up in a small hut with a thatched palm-roof and benches lined up. The "show-and-tell" portion of our visit begins as we sit down in front of a long table where a selection of local products is carefully displayed.

We get to taste a variety of fruits as well as coffee, rum, hot cocoa, etc., and we "ooh", "aah" and "mmm" as if none of us have ever eaten pineapple or tried a cup of really good coffee before. Our tour guide explains to us that these products are ORGANIC, and that these are the absolute best products that we can purchase in the Dominican Republic. There is nothing wrong with his sales techniques.

The underlying message is that now is the time for us to whip out our wallets and buy some of Maria's products, which many of us do. Most of these products are things that people would normally want to take home from their vacation, and it seems ideal to be able to support a local farmer.

We say goodbye to Maria and leave her to her house and her cocoa plantation. Everyone climbs onboard the Bavaro Runners safari truck, and we are off to seek our next adventure.

To be continued...

For more information about the Dominican Republic or plan your next vacation in e.g. Punta Cana, feel free to visit or contact Ragnhild Hansen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.