Q: Is there any problem traveling to the Dominican Republic, politically or medically? It seems I've heard something about it in the news recently. I'm thinking about an expedition there with the Oceanic Society to study the humpbacks. What else can I do there?
Adventure diversion: the tranquil beaches of the Dominican Republic
-Ann Hampson, Pismo Beach, CA
The news you heard was probably about the recent polio outbreak in the Dominican Republic and HaitiÂ—a few cases were identified in the last six months or so, none of them among tourists. If you were immunized as a child (you almost certainly were, if you were born in the US), then this outbreak poses absolutely no threat to you. Not sure? Ask your doctor for the vaccine before you go.
For future reference, bookmark these two sites for easy access to travelers' health and safety information: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travelers' health page (www.cdc.gov/travel ) and the U.S. State Department's travel warnings page (travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html). Between the two, you'll never cross a border unaware.
With those worries pushed aside, you have one amazing trip to look forward to. Oceanic Society Expeditions (www.oceanic-society.org) makes it possible to snorkel on the surface of the Silver Bank humpback sanctuary while endangered whales nurse their new calves beneath you. It's the kind of experience you'd only want to have with a company like this one, whose reputation was built on its respectful relationship with the environment.
Back on land, lounge on one of the Dominican Republic's fabulously pristine beaches, or consider a different kind of adventure. Get Wet (www.hispaniola.com/GetWet) offers all kinds of high-adrenaline day trips into canyons, caves and rivers. My pick would be the Lower Jimenoa canyoning trip, where you'll rappel down the edge of a waterfall before taking the steep dive into a lake. Think of it as a scenic way to shock your system out of vacation mode right before it's time to go back to work.