Dive Into EcotourismNatural waterfalls, waterslides, and cliff jumps help to bring tourism to a national park in the Dominican Republic. Hear how returned Peace Corps Volunteer Joe Kennedy worked with his Dominican colleagues to promote and implement ecotourism.
|Joseph Kennedy, Dominican Republic|
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Dive Into Ecotourism
Peace Corps Volunteer
Dominican Republic, 2004–2006
Twenty-seven Charcos is a beautiful place that is still one of the best kept secrets of the Dominican Republic. And it's an area—it's 27 natural waterfalls and small cliff jumps that tourists come to led by guides. And they climb up about the first seven or so, through the actual waterfalls, climbing up over the rocks where they then turn around and enjoy the waterslides and small little cliff jumps on the way back down.
So what I, along with the guides—what I tried to facilitate is—we took adv antage that the area was a newly-declared national park. And we used their guide association as an organization to win a concession agreement from the secretary of the environment who's in charge of all the national parks. That agreement gives the guides regulatory authority to control all environmental aspects of the park, and that includes regulating arrivals and even entrance fees. And so, it's going to be the first time that local community members will benefit from an immediate tourist attraction and the protection of a natural resource.
(Spanish spoken by guide)
He said that things have changed quite a bit in the past two years. He's pointed to the tremendous trail maintenance and initiative that the guides have done—putting in staircases and completely rebuilding it—and that there's a lot more publicity for the falls as well as a tourist attraction.
The tour trucks arrive from these tourist centers up on the north coast. And they pass by, what is at the moment, the little guides' waiting area, and a couple of the guides jump on the trucks. They accompany—they go with the trucks down to the parking lot where the tourists get outfitted with life jackets and helmets, and they explain to them that they are going to get guides to go up the falls themselves.
(Guide) Follow me in the water, come on…you no follow me?
The guides then take over, and they lead the tourists up through a walkway, which is a pathway which is about 20, 25 minutes and upon—they then arrive at the first waterfall. I t's a big, open, deep, beautiful, crystalline pool. From there, that's where the real actual touring adventure begins. The tourists, they swim up through, they cross over through these pools and climb up the rocks with the help of the guides, actually swimming right up through the waterfalls themselves, climbing up the rocks with the help of the guides. The typical tourist tour only goes up to the first seven, so it's about a quarter of the entire way, where they then turn around and they come back down. The falls themselves are all natural, but they make actually perfect natural waterslides and small little cliff jumps into these deep, crystalline pools.
It's actually been surprising. My degree was technically in industrial engineering, which was more along the lines of business and economics. And what I've been able to do here is take the environmental aspects of my sector, environmental awareness education, and mesh that with the business training that I've had to help, to try to create at least, ecotourism business based in the community. So it's been a mix of the environmental aspects but still the economic training that I had in school.
(Spanish spoken by guide)
He said he'd really like to thank the Peace Corps for all of their help and support and thank me as well. He said that I was like their father.