By Alexandra Hall
The Dominican Republic is full of beautiful, tranquil oceans as well as breathtaking underwater caves. It was in this beautiful country that I experienced one of the scariest and most life changing experiences of my life.
One large tourist attraction in Puerto Playa is the Twenty-Seven Waterfalls of Rio Damajagua. Here, accompanied by tour guides who double as lifeguards, guests hike to the top of the waterfalls. They come back down by jumping, swimming, and sliding down natural waterslides.
Our package allowed us to explore 12 of the 27 waterfalls.
We were taken by bus from our resort to the beginning of our adventure. The guides introduced themselves and helped us get into our helmets and water shoes. They explained safety procedures and we set on our way up the waterfalls.
We were hot and sweaty. There were mosquitos everywhere. No one remembered to bring bug spray, but we eventually got used to being bitten and it no longer bothered us. We worked as a team to make sure that everyone was able to make it to the top. We all chit chatted and became friends as we walked. We talked about our lives back home and what brought us to the waterfalls that day. One couple was celebrating their honeymoon. Another was a mother daughter duo there on vacation.
We climbed for what felt like hours. We jumped from small cliffs and finally we reached the tallest, most terrifying cliffs I had ever seen. I watched as the members of our crew took their turns jumping, and then it was my turn.
I stood at the top of the cliff and looked down. It felt like I was a million miles away from the water. I tried to jump, and I froze. I just couldn’t do it. The rest of my group waited in the water, yelling encouraging comments
“Come on, Lex!”
“You can do it!”
“Jump! Jump! Jump!”
I was petrified. I had never been more frightened in my life. My hands were sweating. My legs were shaking. I pictured my body hitting the rocks on the way down. I suddenly remembered that I had only taken three of the six swim lessons that I paid for before leaving. I turned around to go back.
I told our guide, “I’ll just take the stairs,” but then I saw the group of 50 people waiting behind me.
I knew that the embarrassment of having to walk through all of those people repeating “Excuse me. Pardon me. Can I please get past you?” would be more even scarier. At that moment I knew exactly what I needed to do.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and jumped.
I hit the water and opened my eyes. I heard the cheers and congratulations from my group and all of the people who were waiting in line behind me. I saw a hand reach down and guide me back up.
The jump was exhilarating. When I came back to the surface, I knew that I had conquered my fear. At that moment it didn’t matter that I wasn’t a good swimmer, or that I was afraid of heights. I jumped, and I survived.
After the last jump we were led to a dining hall where they supplied us with lunch. We were then given an opportunity to browse the souvenir shop.
At the beginning of this adventure, I could not imagine jumping off of cliffs into deep water.
By the end, I left, a stronger, braver woman.
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