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Q & A with Jose Alney Uribe Mendez, Founder, Rincones de Mi Pais [ Corners of My Country ].
A tour company based in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and dedicated to ecotourism, nature, culture, and photography since 2010.
First they should learn that the Dominican Republic and Haiti share the same Caribbean island which is known as Hispaniola. But we are actually two separate countries with very different histories. Haiti was at one time a French colony and the Dominican Republic was a Spanish colony. So you see we have different cultures and languages.
Second, some people get confused about our independence. Yes, we were a territory of Spain, but actually we received our independence in 1844 from Haiti because they governed us for 22 years following Spanish rule.
Today we are an independent, civilized and modern country, and this surprises many first-time visitors. I guess they are coming here expecting to find mostly a jungle and a primitive society! Well in some cases we do have natural places and cultural traditions that have not changed over the years. We do enjoy showing these things to our guests.
Also, some travelers confuse us with another Caribbean island called Dominica. The name may sound similar, but actually that is a French territory that is located more than 1,000 km away from here!
HOW DO YOU CONVINCE VISITORS TO SKIP A DAY OR TWO OF SUN WORSHIP ON THE BEACH AND TAKE A TOUR WITH YOUR COMPANY?
Actually what motivates some travelers is changing, so this is not difficult. People are looking for real experiences where they can see the lifestyle and the nature resources of the community. They read good reviews about us and see all the lovely pictures we have to show, and then they have the confidence to book with us.
IT MAY BE HOTTER AND MORE HUMID IN THE D.R. THAN MANY VISITORS ARE USED TO. WOULD YOU SAY THEY COME PREPARED FOR THE WEATHER? OR NOT?
Yes, this is very popular. The Dominican Republic receives thousands of humpback whales every year between January and March; they migrate south all the way from northern Canada! They favor the warm and deep waters of Samana Bay and the Silver Bank, and so during those months we can take visitors by boat to see the whales. The Silver Bank is known to be a breeding and calving area going back many many years.
Yes we have in the past. We have strong relationships with local experts in biology, herpetology, entomology, and botany, so we can offer custom itineraries in these fields.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE LOCAL BIRD OR ANIMAL?
My favorite bird is the Hispaniolan Trogan (priotelus roseigaster) which is actually the national bird of Haiti, our neighbor. I also like the two endemic species of the tody bird, the Broad-Billed Tody (todus subulatus) [pictured left] and the Narrow-Billed Tody (todus angustirostris), both are beautiful and temperamental. As for animals, I like to watch the humpback whales just as much as our guests!
Actually most of our tours are very family-friendly, but just to give a few examples, I would suggest the Limon Waterfalls or the Monte Plata Waterfalls, the Los Haitises National Park, and the Cayo Arena Sandbar and Mangrove Forests.
WHAT IS YOUR CRITERIA FOR GUIDES?
To be a good tour guide for ecotourism, you need to be passionate about nature and have respect for local cultures and values. So for us, we pay less attention to the formal degree, we look for the individual who is passionate about nature and conservation. Number two, they have to have a genuine personality that is fun and friendly. And number three, they need the endurance for long days and the patience to answer many questions.
La Bandera Dominicana, this is considered to be the national dish that consists of white rice, stewed red beans, stewed pork and salad.
Mangu, a side dish, which is mashed green plantains or green bananas with onions on top, raw or fried.
Sancocho, this is a traditional thick soup with lots of meat, and vegetables.
Fried Fish Boca Chica style.
Population growth and poverty both put stress on natural places. Poor families who live in rural places near the National Parks want more land for raising livestock and planting crops. If we can bring conservation education to these communities and give incentives and benefits for generations to come, that will be useful in changing attitudes. Sadly, illegal logging has been going on for years and still remains an issue.
The government needs better surveillance of preserved areas and stronger consequences imposed on law-breakers. This needs to be more of a priority in my opinion.
There is hope for the future because we are the fastest growing economy in the Caribbean region with the growing tourism industry. More income means the government should be able to hire more workers to keep watch over the parks.
BEST OF LUCK JOSE.
It has been my pleasure to speak with you.
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