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Los Haitises National Park
Los Haitises National Park Review
One of the highlights of a trip to the Dominican Republic—and probably the most extraordinary part of a visit to the Samaná Peninsula—is a chance to explore Los Haitises National Park. Los Haitises (pronounced High-tee-sis), which is across Samaná Bay from the peninsula, is famous for its karst limestone formations, caves, and grottoes filled with pictographs and petroglyphs left by the indigenous Taíno who inhabited this area before Columbus's arrival.
The park is accessible only by boat, and a professionally guided kayaking tour is highly recommended—especially so you can kayak along the shoreline (there's no place to rent a kayak without a guide); regardless, a guide from a licensed tour company or the government is mandatory. On a trip you'll sail around dozens of the dramatic rock islands and spectacular cliff faces. Swirling around are hundreds of beautiful coastal birds that represent 121 different species, including Magnificent Frigatebirds, brown pelicans, brown booby, and varieties of egrets and herons. The sight of dozens of different birds continually gliding past the boat at any time is enough to make a bird-watcher out of anyone.
A good tour will let you visit the many caverns. Your flashlight will illuminate Taíno and pre-Taíno petroglyphs. You'll also find out how the forest slowly consumes the caves. But the best experience is being able to kayak here. Unlike those in the Florida Everglades, for example, the mangroves here are dramatically flanked by the karst formations. It's a continual sensory delight. The islands rise dramatically and have wild growths of plant life and birds swooping around. You'll feel tiny, like a human speck surrounded by geological grandeur. You can arrange a stay adjacent to the park, at the rustic Caño Hondo Ecolodge, with its series of waterfalls, through dominicanshuttles.com
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