Recently I was blessed to join fellow travel writers on the inaugural sailing of Carnival Cruise’s new brand called Fathom Travel which offers cruises to the Dominican Republic and Cuba focused on social impact travel. This is an in-depth look at my participation in the “Reforestation & Nursery” impact activity. For my full Fathom Travel experience check out my blog Fathom Travel: Making an Impact on the Dominican Republic & Beyond.
Reforestation & Nursery
Traveling to a nursery in a nearby village outside of Puerto Plata, Sylvia from IDDI told us, “If you weren’t here, we wouldn’t be doing this.” Together Fathom Travel and IDDI are working together on reforestation projects in the DR to restore land that has been degraded largely due to agricultural deforestation. This impact activity gives Fathom Travelers the opportunity to plant seeds at a nursery or trees throughout the region. If it matters to you, when you sign up for the reforestation projects I suggest asking the impact guides whether your trip is heading to the nursery or planting trees elsewhere because they are very different experiences.
On my trip, we were the first group ever taken to a nursery to help increase its output on a larger scale. Currently reforestation projects in the region rely on shipments of trees from nurseries over three hours away. With the help of Fathom Travel and IDDI, our goal was to raise its current output levels. Right now, this local nursery has to make do with no more than eight people planting seeds once a week.
During our visit, my group of Fathom Travelers worked together to plant over 1,300 different seeds. We turned a somewhat empty nursery into a home for ready-to-grow seedlings. We learned it takes roughly four to five months for seedlings to reach a point where they are ready to be planted into the ground. Once it is planted, there’s still only about a 50% chance that the tree will survive. With a nearly 50-50 survival rate, any increase in scale has the potential to make a big difference for reforestation projects.
If your work with Fathom Travel’s reforestation projects takes you beyond the nursery, you’ll be thrilled to get your hands dirty in remarkably beautiful locales. Reforestation locations vary day by day taking into account what environmental projects need assistance, planting season, distance from the port and the availability of local volunteers. Whether you’re working in the mountains or the mangroves, you are guaranteed to be immersed in environments that the vast majority of Caribbean tourists will never see.
According to my good friend and fellow Fathom Traveler Rachel Rudwall, her reforestation project brought volunteers to a series of mangroves and caves located in El Cabarete, about an hour drive from Amber Cove. With a large and able-bodied group of travelers, the Monumento Nacional Laguna Cabarete and its park staff planted over 350 mangrove tress in an endangered habitat. By planting new trees, the Monumento team aims to encourage environmental rehabilitation in a region encroached upon by foot traffic and unsanctioned construction.
After their tough work was complete, Rachel’s group then explored the park with local guides by dipping down into caves full of stalactites/stalagmites and watching kids dive from ledges into crystal blue swimming holes. The experience was topped off with a lunch under the shade of mango trees and a hearty series of handshakes from grateful park staff.