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    Dominicana On Line - El Portal de la República Dominicana

    National Parks

    The Dominican Republic has the most extensive network of national parks in the Antilles. Around 24% of its national territory is declared a protected area.
    The National Parks of the Dominican Republic do not only conserve a complete picture of our natural heritage, but also preserve long chapters of our pre-Hispanic history.

    The great cultural heritage of the Tainos, the ancient inhabitants of the island of Santo Domingo, is preserved in the cave art that they created. They were so prolific in their artistry that today, our island has one of the largest collections of cave art in all the world. A painted cavern, the José María cave in the Parque Nacional del Este, contains more designs than any others that have been discovered in the world.

    The National Parks are biological reserves and living museums. They allow us to admire the beauty of plant and animal species while at the same time studying them in their environment. They equally serve the curious visitor and the most detailed researcher.

    Bird watching is perhaps the most gratifying of all the activities to enjoy in the nature of the National Parks. In the Parque Nacional Jaragua, more specifically in the cays of Los Pájaros, in the interior of the lake of Oviedo, we are witnesses to the authentic experience of drawing near to the nests of the herons and ibises, prepared in the spiny arms of the cactus called “cayuco”. Guided by a park ranger and on a typical boat used by the traditional fishermen of the lake, we maintain a wise distance but still draw close enough to observe the amazing animals with long, curved beaks flying before us. Closer to the shore, we find flocks of flamingos that stake the shallow waters of the seaboard with their pink color, dying it the color of their feathers. Together with them, the spoon-billed sand pipers stroll about, their flat bills buried in the mud in search of food.

    In the Las Calderas bay, in the Parque Nacional del Este, we are witnesses of another unique spectacle. The colony of frigatebirds that nest in the mangroves is one of the largest found in the Caribbean. The enormity of their wings and the elegance of their flight are testimonies to the beauty the nature of Santo Domingo can give us. Also in the park, we can observe pelicans, seagulls, grey herons, sandpipers, woodpeckers, owls; an unending list of different birds, always willing to be the object of our amazement upon finding them in their natural habitat.

    But we can find more than just birds in our National Parks. The adventure tourist can also observe various species of iguanas, dolphins, manatees, whales, sea turtles and an innumerable quantity of species widely represented in our island fauna, whether on land or at sea. Our national parks also protect coral reefs, which are heavy with a legion of original and interesting fish, always willing to swim among the scuba divers that draw near to them.

    Leaving the pure observation of nature, we have the option of visiting the cultural remains that still linger, almost untouched, in the Protected Areas. The principal attractions are the caverns with rock art. In the national park of Los Haitises, after an unforgettable journey in boat through mangroves and cays covered in tropical vegetation, we can visit the caves of Ferrocarril and de la Arena. There, frozen in time, are the images of many sacred animals that lived with the first settlers of this island. Fish and birds remain etched on the walls of the grotto, surrounded by images of the indigenous deities, the cemies of the Tainos.

    In the Parque Nacional Jaragua, in the cave of Las Colmenas, we can observe hundreds of sketches drawn by the indigenous peoples on the very rock, which those who know call petroglyphs, distributed among the rocks and walls of the cavern. We also discover around the middle of the painting that some of them represent the same sandpipers that we observed on the Laguna de Oviedo.

    However, if we want to see cave art, the Parque Nacional del Este is the place to go. There we can visit the Berna cave, with almost 400 petroglyphs and the oldest rock paintings discovered on the island. The Cueva de Panchito preserves the impressive image of a Taino deity almost a one meter high. There are also the Cueva del Puente, with its interesting petroglyphs and the Cueva de Bienve, where in addition to petroglyphs, interesting indigenous pictographs grace the walls.

    The José Maria and de Ramoncito caves are also in Parque Nacional del Este, but these spectacular archaeological deposits, due to their fragility cannot currently be visited, with the exception of specialists and academics of archaeology. Their importance is such that the Dominican Republic has requested UNESCO to declare the Parque Nacional del Este as a “World Heritage Site” for cultural and natural reasons.


    Adolfo López Belando
    Advisor to the Asociación de Hoteles Romana Bayahibe.
    Member of the Patronato del Parque Nacional del Este.
    Researcher associated with the Museo del Hombre Dominicano.

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