Captions: Alyse Cori // © 2016 Alyse Cori
Feature image (above): Cori advises that clients incorporate voluntourism, scuba diving or snorkeling and the use of a private guide when planning a Caribbean vacation. // © 2016 iStock
Born and raised in New York, Alyse Cori got her footing in the travel industry through corporate travel, working for MGM Studio executives and then for touring musical artists and bands including Art Garfunkel, the Grateful Dead and The Cranberries. One of her greatest passions wherever she goes is connecting with locals. She enjoys traveling by conversation — a testament to her positive outlook — whether it’s with a local shop owner or expert divers in the area (Cori is an advanced scuba diver.) She started her own agency, Sonoma, Calif.-based Travelwize, in 2006, with the goal of focusing on the destinations she loves most.
We spoke with Cori to learn more about experiential travel options in the Caribbean.
Where can clients go to experience the more intimate communities of the Caribbean?
One of the best things to do is volunteerism. It's a new direction of sharing your time and knowledge. Helping at a school or bringing music or sports to a community are some ideas. There’s personal satisfaction in helping others. I would recommend that agents try it themselves at least once. It can be so simple; it can be while they’re doing a site inspection. Ask, is there something I can do? Anything you can do is rewarding. You meet locals and not tourists.
The Caribbean is a celebrated destination for leisure travelers, but what are some lesser known spots or activities that would appeal to adventure seekers?
Grand Cayman has one of the largest skateboard parks and a big butterfly reserve. Guests can also visit the Cayman Turtle Centre, where they can swim with turtles. I always suggest taking the local bus, which is usually very inexpensive, and chatting with the bus driver — you can learn so much more than when you stay in an all-inclusive resort, whether it’s about the local government or the best places to visit.
Where’s the best place in the Caribbean to scuba and snorkel? Is there an ideal season to do it?
Each season offers different species to see. You never know what’s going to swim by. My favorite scuba destination is Dominica, not to be confused with the Dominican Republic.
My advice is to go wherever tourists do not go — when there are so many people, it can scare the fish away. You can also bring food to feed them, if it’s permitted in the area.
That said, I can go to the same place five days in a row, and it will be completely different. Sandals and Beaches Resorts include scuba diving, which is a great value.
What other less commercial adventures can guests experience in Dominica?
Dominica is not very commercial and has such warm people. I would suggest a private driver, though it's not easy to get around, as the roads are not the best, nor are the signs and directions. It is best to get someone to take you around the island. Flooding happens due to poor drainage and because it’s so close to sea level. This is an "untouristy" location in comparison to other countries. Many of the best diving spots are not located near where the ships come in.