Hiking and Horseback Riding
Horseback riding and hiking tours are popular with those who are fit and who want to have a real eco-experience. Since feet and hooves are the usual mode of locomotion in the mountains, certainly for those who live "in the bush," you'll have a chance to visit many small villages along the way and meet locals, who genuinely enjoy these visits. They may offer you coffee or fruit, a trademark of true Dominican hospitality since they have precious little for themselves. Guides can identify the different species of wild orchids and often do bird calls that attract beauties such as parrots, hummingbirds, papagayos, and even jilgueros (finches), which can make nine different sounds. You will also learn how the residents live off the land and survive; some are coffee-bean pickers, while others cultivate mangoes, avocados, and cacao. These villages are high up in the cloud forest (Cachote), which can be chilly and humid. Dress in layers. Lunch breaks for some all-day hikes and horseback riding treks are taken either at the new visitors' center in Cachote, built by volunteers from the University of Ohio, who also constructed campground sites and installed solar panels. Another lunch option is Rancho Platone, which is an impressive wooden compound with a waterslide that goes into a pool—perfect when you're hot and sweaty.
A new tour for athletic types, orchestrated by Eco-Tour Barahona, begins in Santo Domingo's Colonial Zone and includes three days of biking (two in Higuero, and one in the Zone). Participants are then transferred by van to the Southwest for three days of nature hiking. Hotels and meals are included in the price.
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