Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ile a Vache Ecotours

Abaka Bay.
Yesterday my translator James and I went to Ile a Vache to scout it out for ecotours lead by AUC.  Ile a Vache is a large (2 mi x 8 mi) island off the coast of Les Cayes.  It is rather forested compared to the mainland, and the coastal waters are clear, good for swimming and snorkeling.  Once we plan an itinerary and formal tour, we will post it to the AUC Audubon Center website.

We got to Ile a Vache in a small wooden motor-powered boat, which had life jackets.  They gave us a plastic sheet to cover up so we didn’t get totally soaked with seaspray.  The boarding area in Les Cayes is super trashy – James had a talk with some people there about cleaning it up to attract more customers.  And you have to be carried out to the boat which is in waist deep trashy water.  If you are staying at a resort on the island, they come get you in a fancy boat that is covered in the lodging price.  For our ecotours we will arrange for customers to be picked up at the large dock nearby.

The boat dropped us off at Port Morgan resort, and from there we walked to two other hotels.  Here’s summary of the differences and benefits of them.  All three have a port for drop off and pick up by boat, and all 3 have restaurants.  Click on their name for their webpages.
Port Morgan – Has a nice pool.  Guest rooms are on a hill with a great view of the bay.  You walk down the hill to get to the beach.  Like Abaka Bay, they say you have to be a guest to rent kayaks and other equipment, but eating a meal there counts as being a guest and you can use the pool.
Abaka Bay – Rooms and the dining area are directly on the beach.  We rented kayaks here, $30US for 2 kayaks for 2 hours.  I took my snorkeling gear along in hopes of finding a reef, but there weren’t any right in the bay.  We’ll need to scout out snorkeling places for the ecotours.
Village Vacances – The simplest of the lodges and right on the beach.  Would appeal to people who want to have a palm beach to themselves and like simple accommodations, or for a team who wanted to rent an entire place for themselves.  Touted as an ecolodge.  They are planning on having kayaks. 

Port Morgan from the hotel rooms.
These lodges are all on the western end of the island where there are no roads.  You get from place to places on foot paths, and get to see Haitian life.  They are all within 40 minutes of each other.  The less adventurous (my non-ecologist friends!) would prefer Port Morgan or Abaka and could spend their entire time at those resorts.  Those who want to see Haiti and like hiking (my ecologist friends) could walk to all the resorts to visit, and might prefer Village Vacances.

Warning – prices are very high!  Meals are American prices ($10 for hamburger, $2 for a coke) and lodging at Morgan and Abaka is around $150 PER PERSON, even if you share rooms.  I suspect Village is cheaper.

The wharf in Les Cayes was super busy when the boat brought us back at 4pm.  This time the boat had 5 other customers on it.  I don’t think this mode of transportation is for the unadventurous – you sit low to the water and it seems kind of small and tippy.  The wharf was chaotic upon our return, lots of other small wooden boats trying to get close to shore.  Ours couldn’t get very close so we had to get into another one that was even ricketier, and it seemed to me pure chaos as we all jumped into the other boat, and as soon as we were near shore men whisked us onto shore on their backs.  That was the most stressful part of the trip, and I work on the water for my profession!  If the boat captains and workers came together they could pool resources to clean up the area and build a proper, safe dock.  In the meantime we won't be using that area for ecotours!

If you are interested in visiting Ile a Vache, contact me at naturesphoto at hotmail dot com and I’ll put you in touch with James who is an excellent translator and tour guide.
The boat ride to Ile a Vache which you can see in the background.

View of Abaka Bay.

Lunch at Abaka Bay.

The vache (cow) on Ile a Vache, with Abaka Bay in the background.
Village Vacances.

View down the beach from Village Vacances.

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