Eco Tourism in Dominican Republic with Peace Corps Business Development Volunteers

(music) 27 Charcos is a beautiful place that is still one of the best kept secrets of the Dominican Republic. It is 27 natural waterfalls and small cliff jumps that tourists come to led by guides. And they climb up the first seven or so, through the actual waterfalls, climbing up over the rocks where they then turn around and enjoy the water slides and small cliff jumps on the way back down. So what I, along with the guides try to facilitate is, we took advantage 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 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. So, it’s going to be the first time that the local community members will benefit from an immediate tourist attraction and protection of a natural resource. (Guide speaks in Spanish) 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 them. And there’s a lot more publicity for the falls as well as the tourist attraction. The tour trucks arrive from these tourist centers up on the north coast and they pass by the guides’ waiting area and a couple of the guides jump on the trucks and they go with the trucks down to the parking lot where the tourists get outfitted with lifejackets and helmets. And they explain to them that they are going to get a guide to go up to the falls themselves. Follow me in the water…come on. The guides then take over and they lead the tourists up through a pathway which is about 20-25 minutes and they then arrive at the first waterfalls, big open deep beautiful crystalline pool. And from there that’s where the actual real touring adventure really begins. The tourists, they swim up through, they crossover through these pools, they 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 turnaround and come back down. And 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 is technically industrial engineering which is 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 and education, and mesh that with kind of the business training that I’ve had to try to create an ecotourism business based in the communities. So, it’s been a mix of the environmental aspects but still the economic training that I had in school. (Guides speak in Spanish) He said he’d really like to thank the Peace Corps for all their help and support. And he thanked me as well and he said that I was like their father.

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