I did another fantastic excursion this week! The last time I went on the "Two Islands" tour was in 2006. I think the company modified it a bit to give us a day more in tune with what we were seeking at the time (Seavis has always been extremely people pleasing, regardless of owner), but this time I did the advertised tour. http://seavisbayahibe.com/2Island_e.htm
This excursion includes the must-see sights along the way from Bayahibe to Saona Island (the mangroves, the rocks of Penon and the Piscina Natural) but then is licensed to go into the breeding ground of the Magnificent Frigatebird and then on to Catalinita Island at the border of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Our guide was the fantastic Carlos (from Barcelona, Spain) who loves his newly adopted area and more particularly the animals within. He leads you on a walk through the water to show the greatest things of Catalinita and then you have a fruit and cake break on the island for nourishment before snorkeling. While there, Carlos gave a snorkel lesson which was, I was surprised to note, the first time I've actually been instructed in how to snorkel. Clearly it's not overly required but the tips he offers are really helpful. You buddy up for safety and are set loose at Cayo Raton. They start snorkeling at the beginning of the reef and head with the current along the Catuano Channel. There is one guide at the front of the pack and one at the back. The boat follows alongside. As I can personally attest, they keep a very watchful eye on the snorkelers and ensure the safety of all. This is a phenomenally healthy and vibrant reef. The plant life is outstanding, and eagle rays and reef and nurse sharks are regularly sighted (we had a reef shark appearance on our outing). There is a fistful of standard hand signals that you are taught and meant to use for communication with the guides, running from "OK" to come this way to go straight and even a signal for shark. They'll also call your name over the water to draw you to a showy specimen! Lunch and the afternoon is spent at Catuano Beach on Saona Island where you can again snorkel at the pilings of a pier frequented by hundreds of fish. We saw a spider crab and squid which were particularly different, but there were so many of the regular fish.
Not to be counted on but a really lucky thing about our outing was that an Italian man living in the Dominican Republic for more than 20 years, Tony Tosto, was along for the ride taking pictures of the day. He caught the best moments (barracuda fishing frenzy and the reef shark) as well as hundreds of pictures of our group, individually and together, portraits and candids. He sells a CD of the day, including a personal photo session of you alone or with whomever you'd like which you can take with you when leaving the island. The CD sells for $40 and included 340 pictures of our day as well as a set of professional style Dominican landscapes plus your personal "sitting".
This is a full day tour which sells for $95. We met at the Bayahibe Beach at 8:30 and were returned by about 4:30 (a cab will pick you up and return you to Dominicus or Punta Cana if that's where you're staying). I'm often asked and hard pressed to say whether this one or the Saona VIP (http://seavisbayahibe.com/Saona_e.htm) is better for snorkeling, but this may be it. There is nothing better in the world than Canto de la Playa on the VIP tour, but the Catalinita stop and seeing the Frigatebirds as babies, youth and with their red balloons on display are opportunities you don't get otherwise. The Cayo Raton reef is the difference I think.
I'll try to get my pictures ready as soon as possible and will add comments here as I think of them. Please let me know if you have any questions.
P.S. Note that this is CatalinITA Island being referenced and not Catalina Island.