As I sit in my bed in a palapa this evening, under my mosquito netting, the world around me is singing. It is a constant rhythm of crickets with the symbolic chirps of various varieties of frogs whose music crescendos and minuends with the fresh tranquil breeze.
Here I am in the mountains between Puerto Plata and Santiago, Dominican Republic on the Ruta Panoramica which I believe is the next big area to become an off-the-beaten-path destination. And, wow, is it ever beautiful! For all of those people who think the Dominican Republic is all about Punta Cana beaches, it is time that you discovered more!
I’m staying at Tubagua Plantation Eco Lodge, hospitably welcomed by the owner, Tim Hall. Originally from Montreal, Canada, he’s been living in the Dominican since 1983 and opened the Lodge about four and a half years ago.
When I arrived, I followed a lovely little stone pathway to a kitchen area where there were two or three women. I asked for Tim and one of them led me to his nearby office on the terrace of one of the palapa buildings.
It isn’t your normal reception area to lodging for the night, but soon I understood how it all fit into the beautiful rustic essence of the entire experience.
Tim gave me a warm welcome and then showed me to the main palapa that functions as a meal hall and meeting area. Here we sat and talked for the next couple of hours about his story, his venture into creating Tubagua Eco Plantation and his involvement in the Ruta Panoramica.
Check out the amazing view! I guess this is what you should expect from the top of a mountain! Pure nature and beauty!
One of the staff brought us a few nachos with freshly made delicious salsa and we continued to chat away about Tim’s adventures in the Dominican Republic over the last 20+ years. The hospitality was grand and Tim was quick to offer me a beer, wine, or a meal, but I wasn’t hungry and I can only wish that I liked beer or wine, but I truly don’t, so it should not be wasted on me. Tim, however, enjoys his cigars and wine!
Over the years, this Canadian turned Dominican had quite the story. Way back when he was working for the Montreal Gazette and a Toronto newspaper and had the opportunity to travel to the north coast of the Dominican Republic to do a travel story on the area. He revisited the area a couple of times but then decided to move to the area permanently.
Over his 20+ years in the country, he listed a wide variety of jobs that he had held and stressed that most people who move to the Dominican have to have several jobs just to make ends meet. It is not a place to get rich, but if you are rich, it is a wonderful place to live! His jobs covered everything from travel writing to co-owning a local newspaper, a security monitoring company, restaurant owner and now, owner and creator of Tubagua Eco Plantation and honorary Consular General for the north coast.
He explained that he had the vision for the eco-lodge and started building it in small steps about four and a half years ago. Initially, he built one building that would sleep, six people. This was used for his family at first, but since expanding it is used for a combination of where he sleeps and sometimes the extra bedroom is for guests.
When it was time to expand, he had visions of how everything could be tied together with stone pathways and open-air palapas for a truly natural experience.
Today, four and a half years after starting, Tubagua Eco Plantation has the capacity to host 30 people. There are large group accommodations, as well as two individual palapas that are great for small groups or for families, as well as one special suite offering privacy for a romantic getaway,
Tim gave me a tour of all of the buildings and gave me a choice to sleep in a palapa or in the ‘guest’ house. On my second night, I would have to sleep in the guest house because a group of tourism students was coming in and he’d need all of the beds in the palapas for them. I decided, for the full experience that my first night I would make myself at home in an open-air palapa.
We sat down for supper at around 7:30 pm. It was fettucini with a lovely cream sauce, a nice fresh salad with local cheese and mango, toast and cake with chocolate syrup for dessert.
Over supper, Tim and I discussed his business more and his plans for growing the Eco Lodge. This then led to conversations about how we might be able to work together … and once again I am back to thinking about offering photo tours in the Dominican.
Before retiring for the evening, Tim reminded me that the sunrise would likely wake me up as the sun would beam in proudly through the non-existent walls of my palapa. To be honest, I couldn’t think of a better way to wake up!