Saona, the tropical paradise from the Bounty commercials, Dominican Republic

The real story of the island from the Bounty commercials: Why this tropical paradise is considered cursed

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Life on a tropical island for many seems a real paradise: clean sandy beach, palm trees, warm ocean and no worries. Roughly, as in the famous commercials for candy bars “Bounty. However, the realities of island life can be much more prosaic and nightmarish than even the most pessimistic ideas of ordinary people. As proof of this – the story of Pitcairn Island, which for more than 2 centuries has witnessed all the realities of the difficult life of people on a piece of land with an area of 4.5 square kilometers, lost in the Pacific.

Mutiny on the Bounty

Pitcairn Island’s “human” history began with the most famous ship mutiny in the British navy. In the fall of 1788, the British Navy’s three-masted sailing ship HMS Bounty arrived in Tahiti to load breadfruit seedlings. After wintering safely on the tropical island, the next spring, in 1789, the ship set sail for Jamaica with her cargo.

Three-masted sailing ship HMS Bounty / Source:

Further events began to unfold clearly not according to the plan of the sailing captain. It is not known whether the reluctance to leave the island or the abuse of Captain William Bligh by his subordinates led some of the sailors, commanded by Christian Fletcher (Bligh’s first mate), to commandeer the ship shortly after sailing.

Rebels boarding Captain Bligh and part of the crew of the Bounty, April 28, 1789. Painting by Robert Dodd. National Maritime Museum / Source:

Mutineers disembark Captain Bly and part of the crew of the Bounty, April 28, 1789. Painting by Robert Dodd. National Maritime Museum / Source:

The sailors who remained loyal to their captain with him were put out to the dinghy by the mutineers. They themselves went back to Tahiti.

The first settlers.

Most of the mutineers wished to remain in Tahiti, but Fletcher and 9 other sailors decided to find a place where they could not be found by the British authorities. As a result, the choice of the new captain of the HMS Bounty fell on the island of Pitcairn discovered by people only 20 years ago.

Along with Christian Fletcher and his sailors, 19 Tahitians-six men, twelve women, and a little girl-came aboard the Bounty to the salvageable island. After taking everything they needed from the ship to live on the island, the new colonists burned the sailboat, voluntarily cutting off their way to the “mainland.

Palm Root Rum and the Decisive Word of Women

For a few years Pitcairn was a paradise for its new inhabitants. In 1793, however, there was conflict in the small community. It was caused by a shortage of women. Tahitian men killed five of the nine white sailors. And then the unbelievable happened. The women, for whatever reason, sided with the Europeans and slaughtered their tribesmen. Peace returned to Pitcairn.

A still from the film Mutiny on the Bounty 1962. Christian Fletcher played by Marlon Brando / Source:

But already in 1797 the islanders faced a new problem. One of the former sailors, William McCoy, was able to make broth from the roots of the cabbage palm, from which he later distilled rum. Thus began a period of total drunkenness on the island, which ended only a few months later with McCoy’s death. The moonshiner, in a fit of fever, tied a stone to his neck and threw himself with it off a cliff into the sea.

Colombo - the diversity of races, cultures and religions in Sri Lanka

Eighteen years after colonization, in 1808, the first ship, the American brig Topaz, sailed to Pitcairn. On the island it was met by 10 women, 24 children, and the only surviving adult man, John Adams. Remarkably, all the children born on the island could read and write.

John Adams and his home on a postage stamp / Source:

It was a credit to Adams, who taught them to read and write from the only book present on Pitcairn, the Bible. John Adams died in 1829. He is buried on Pitcairn Island and is still considered the patriarch and founder of the local commune.

Dictator Preacher

In the fall of 1832 the Christian preacher Joshua Hill arrived on Pitcairn Island. After assessing the situation, Hill introduced himself to the islanders as an authorized representative of the British authorities. He took both leadership positions – schoolteacher and church pastor. But most importantly, the preacher became Pitcairn’s true dictator.

Pitcairn adventurer and self-proclaimed leader Joshua Hill. Drawing of one of the islanders / Source:

Pitcairn adventurer and self-proclaimed leader Joshua Hill. Drawing of one of the islanders / Source:

Pastor Hill ordered the construction of a prison on the island where all those guilty or who disagreed with the new policies were sent. In addition, before (or instead of) incarceration, Joshua Hill began to organize public floggings of all dissenters. Most importantly, the dictator strictly forbade moonshining on Pitcairn.

Mid-19th century map of Pitcairn Island / Source:

Naturally, the majority of the islanders were dissatisfied with such “reforms”. But there was no riot or revolution on Pitcairn. By the end of 1834, Joshua Hill, who was getting on everyone’s nerves, began to show all the signs of imminent insanity. So the tyrant and dictator was simply removed from office.

Attempts to flee the island

Over the years, Pitcairn’s population grew. The islanders began to worry that in the near future this piece of land would not be able to feed its inhabitants. Forty-one years after colonization, in 1831, people made their first attempt to leave the island. They went to the place from which the first settlers came to Pitcairn – Tahiti. However, after six months and 17 deaths from various diseases, all the “Pitcairnites” returned to their native island.

Pitcairn Island / Source:

The second time the Pitcairnians decided to leave their homeland was in 1856. At that time, the population of the island had already reached the “critical point” of almost 200 people – the lack of resources became acutely felt. They decided to move to the small island of Norfolk between New Zealand and Australia. Pitcairn became uninhabited again for almost 3 years, until four families returned here.

Death to all pigs

Centuries after the first settlers arrived on Pitcairn, John Tay, a missionary and pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, sailed to the island in 1886. The islanders voted at a meeting that Tay could stay on Pitcairn and try to explain his faith to the islanders.

Excursions in Verona, Italy

Landing of missionaries on Pitcairn. Archive of the Seventh-day Adventist Church / Source:

John Tay proved to be a very gifted preacher – four years later, in 1890, absolutely all the islanders became adherents of the Adventist Church. The people of Pitcairn did not hesitate to kill all their domestic pigs, refuse to drink alcohol, and were optimistic about their Christian future.

What Pitcairn Island is like today

For the whole 20th century Pitcairn lived in strict godliness, observing and keeping God’s commandments and the statutes of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But at the very beginning of the twenty-first century, the islanders experienced a serious scandal. One-third of the men living on the island, including its head, were accused of molesting minors and children. Pitcairn again had to be built a prison.

Pitcairn Island. Modern View / Source: Google Street View

These days, the island’s population is just over fifty people. Since 2010, the British authorities have been lobbying for a program to attract new settlers to Pitcairn. However, in the past decade, only one person has expressed a desire to become a resident of the island. It is likely that in the coming years Pitcairn will retain the title of the most sparsely populated territory on the planet.

Pitcairn Island residents / Photo:

Pitcairn Island is not the only remote territory from Britain, whose problems the authorities of Foggy Albion are trying to solve. Here is a story from which you can learn why the most remote school in the world, where there are 3 pupils, 2 teachers and a salary of 6 000 “green”.


Saona Island in the south of the Dominican Republic is one of the most popular tourist attractions. You can get here as part of a tour and on their own. Below you will learn all about this extraordinarily beautiful paradise place.

Table of contents:

  • Saona Island: Map and general facts
  • A brief history
  • How to get to Saonaona Island
  • What’s included and how to get there
  • Travel tips

Resources to help the traveler

  • The most adequate car rental – DiscoveryCar
  • Tours to the Dominican Republic, cheaper only to steal – Level Travel
  • Villas, apartments, hotels – Hotellook
  • Excursions with Russian guides – Tripster
  • Transfer from the airport to the hotel – Intui

Dominica vacation to the island

The color of the water is real. This is where it blows your mind. Color therapy for the eyes.

Saona Island in the Dominican Republic.

This place is especially popular with European and Slavic tourists, that’s why. All planes from the old world usually arrive at the airport of Punta Cana or La Romano. Resorts of Bavaro, Punta Cana and Cap Cana are located 20km from the airport and most tourists take a trip here.

By the way these resorts have a wide range of 4-star hotels, which are not much inferior to fives. Here are the ratings and reviews of 4* hotels in the Dominican Republic.

Venice, Italy: History, sights, national dishes

And the island of Saona, although far from the northern resorts or even the central part of the Dominican Republic, is very close to Bavaro and Punta Cana. This is why our tourists love to visit this attraction. And also because it is still very beautiful.


On the map above you can explore all points and places available for tourists. Well and further in the article I will tell you more about each of them.

Saona Island: general facts

  • This is the largest island of the Dominican Republic. Well not counting the fact that the Dominican Republic itself is an island.
  • The area of Saona Island is 110 square kilometers.
  • By comparison, the fourth largest island, Cayo Levantado (or Bacardi Island) is less than 1 sq. km.
    • Read more about this paradise island, where the famous Bacardi rum commercial was filmed, and how to visit it in the article at the link.
    • Saona Island is officially a inhabited island. There is one village, Mano Juan. It was once a fishing village of about 150 people.
      • Today, of course, fishing has given way to tourism.
      • Locals have opened stores with souvenirs and paintings, as well as trying to rent their huts for rent.
      • The island is a national park Este and is protected by the state. Therefore, on the territory of the island forbidden any thorough construction. There is not a single hotel or any other capital construction.
        • On the beaches of Saona there are plenty of sun loungers
        • Sun awnings
        • Bars and restaurants that are made from improvised materials
        • Restrooms
        • These are, perhaps, all the buildings of the island.

        A brief history of Saona.

        I don’t like to retype Wikipedia, but knowing the history of the place you are going to is important. So in a nutshell, and very briefly, the history of Saona.

        • In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered America on his first voyage. The first land he saw after crossing the Atlantic was the north of the Dominican Republic. He did not reach Saona on that voyage.
        • Saona was discovered by Columbus on his second voyage in September 1494. The official date is September 14. One of the sailors on Columbus’ ship and a friend of his, saw land through a spyglass. That was Saona.
          • Columbus later appointed this sailor as governor of the island.

          Good to know:

          Since the island had a maximum of 300-500 people living on it for most of its history, and its location at the very east of the country, kept Saona safe from big wars and conquests. Yes, there have been the conquistadors and the French, but there have been no major historical events. The history of the island of Saona has been calm and even, for 500 years after its discovery by the Spaniards. And today, life also flows slowly and evenly.

          Saona island Dominicana prices

          These are the boats that bring tourists to the island. The color of the water is real!

          How to get to Saonaona Island

          There are two options:

          • On your own.
          • As part of a tour.

          It is important to understand:

          Surprisingly, it is unlikely that an independent visit to the island will cost much less than as part of the tour. In any case, the savings with any variant, if any, are insignificant.

          To the island by yourself

          In order to get to the island on your own, you need two things:

          • Arrive at Baiaibe beach (marked on the map at the beginning of the article).
          • Find a boat – it is not difficult. I’d say it’s quicker to find the enterprising guys who offer to take you to Saona. Here are a few things to know:
            • It takes 30-40 minutes to sail from Baiaibe to Saona.
            • Clarify beforehand which beach you are going to and when you are going to be picked up. Usually tourists sail here for the whole day.
            • If things go well, when there are a lot of tourists, the boat costs about $30-40 per person round trip. But if there are not many tourists, it can be more expensive.
            • They can take you both to the beach in the western part of Saona Island and to the beach in Mano Juan Village.
            • Keep in mind that with the self-guided option, sun loungers, drinks, lunch and snacks will all be at an additional cost.

            Important to know:

            Near the southern shores of Saona, there is a long shoal about 1 km offshore. The maximum depth there is not more than one meter. And there you can meet huge starfish. So, if you sail to the island on your own, the boat does not take you here. And as part of the tour for half an hour are brought.

            What is included and how is the tour?

            You can buy an excursion to Saona Island at almost any resort in the Dominican Republic. But we’ll look at the most popular among European tourists and tourists from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus: Bavaro and Punta Cana.


            The farther your resort/beach/hotel is from Baiaibe, the more expensive the excursion. And about all the excursions in the Dominican Republic, read in a separate article.

            An excursion to Saona usually costs about $100 from Bavaro hotels. The price depends a lot on the services included, on the agency, on snacks and drinks and so on. For example, a very popular all-day excursion: Saona Island + the city of artists Altos de Chavon. There are excursions only to Saona for the whole day.

            Timing and composition of the tour:

            • Bus picks up from hotel between 8-9am.
            • Transfer to Baiaibe beach – from Bavaro 1 hour.
            • Boat transfer about 30-40 minutes to the shoal to the starfish and snorkeling
            • About 30-60 minutes you swim at the shoal and take pictures with the stars
              • In 2018, they put a ban on picking stars out of the water. You can now pick them up, but only underwater.
              • In 2022 there are very few stars, and I am afraid that soon they will forbid picking them up even underwater.
              • Around 12-13 hours you will be brought to the beach and given free time until 16 hours to swim, sunbathe, walk.
                • The beach on the island of Saona long, more than 8 km. There is fine white sand and a million palm trees.

                Good to know:

                There are still mangrove forests and remote deserted beaches on the island, as well as beaches for wedding ceremonies. But usually you can get to these places only on Vip guided tours.

                Saona Island: the best tours

                I recommend two excursion itinerary options and cool organizers:

                The most important thing with these guys is that they are Russian. In the Dominican Republic, as far as excursions are concerned, it is always better to deal with people close to our mentality than with locals. They are sly still :). Also:

                • Bring you to the island of Saona on a private beach, where there are few tourists, and deck chairs (free) enough for everyone.
                • The price includes not only lunch and snacks, but also alcohol and champagne.
                • Visit Altos De Chavon, which is also a big plus.
                • Nothing more to write, better to read the program at the links. Ideal for those who live in Punta Cana and Bavaro, will pick you up right from the hotel then.

                Travel tips

                • Even if you bought a tour with food and drink, take the money, alcohol, and even a snack. All day in the sun and water, and fed a full meal once. And the rest is for money.
                  • But it depends on the tour. On good programs feed and drink three times. Always check everything beforehand.
                  • And if you dream to spend the night on the island without tourists, there are literally a couple of options. These are huts, which locals have converted into apartments. There is little comfort, but do not need it. Palm trees, the beach and the Caribbean.

                  Good to know:

                  Choosing an overnight stay on the island only comes from these three options. There is nothing else. The occupancy rate of these bungalows is 95% throughout the year. If you find a free date, for the period of your trip – it’s destiny. Caribbean, island, no tourists and an overnight stay in a bungalow on the beach – what more do you need?

                  Saona main beach

                  Saona’s main beach is like this only in the early morning hours.

                  In conclusion: a trip to Saona Island in the Dominican Republic will definitely be one of your most vivid memories. No matter how you get here. That picture of paradise from bounty commercials and the color of the water will be etched in your memory for a long time.

                  If you find a mistake, leave it in the comments.

                  IMPORTANT: Below are links without which you can not organize a dream trip to the Dominican Republic.

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