In a slow, lilting, surfer’s voice, our paddleboarding guide John identifies each plant we see, sometimes tearing off a leaf and shoving it in his mouth. We’ve only known him for 5 minutes, but we scramble after John through a winding natural maze in his backyard leading down to a lagoon, pausing now and then to hear what he says about a certain tree or flower, the names of which we don’t recognize. Though Ryan and I are both nodding our heads as John talks.
Plucking a leafy green stem from a nearby plant, John urges me to eat it. “This stuff is the best thing for you,” he says. “Put it in your salad and you’ll live forever. Want some almonds?” And before I can say no, a smiling Dominican woman appears, takes out a knife and splits open a beige pod on a tree stump. She hands me two almond halves in their shells and I marvel at how little meat comes from such a fat, stubborn casing.
I’m not sure if it was the email exchange with John, in which he sold me on the paddleboarding tour including “a lunch of coconuts, almonds, sugar cane, and a 10-herb Noni tea, fresh from the garden,” but when Ryan and I turned up to the “Method Lodge” at 9 am, I truly expected our guide to be a local Dominican who’d been exploring this area since he was a toddler.
Instead, John turned out to be a nature-loving American who spent 15 years in Hawaii teaching surfing and kiteboarding until government bureaucracy drove his business elsewhere. And with the Dominican Republic being open to enterprise, and Cabarete being the Caribbean home of kiteboarding, John came to Kite Beach, built a new school, and started inviting people into his backyard to look at the plants, eat from the trees and tour his beloved lagoon by stand-up paddleboard.
As a result, this was not just your average paddleboarding trip led by some employee of a tour company. As you can see in this photo essay, our host John invited us into his home, fed us from his garden, introduced us to his family (and adorable dog) and taught us things about the wildlife and ecosystem of this Dominican lagoon, which only someone who lives, breathes and loves this place could teach us. Really, it wasn’t so much a tour as it was an experience.
Would you like to experience the Method Lodge tour? Email John Holzhall at firstname.lastname@example.org. He loves visitors and teaching his guests about Cabarete’s natural surroundings.