DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, March 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- With more than 25 percent of the country made up of protected lush land and pristine coastal areas, Dominican Republic has seen steady interest in its ecotourism offerings in recent years. The spring season becomes particularly popular with nature-minded travelers with the arrival of 3,000-5,000 humpback whales, which breed and calve in the country's lush northeastern region.
"Dominican Republic's natural beauty makes it a unique and special place to visit – we take great pride in preserving the ecological health of the country," said Magaly Toribio, Marketing Advisor for the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism. "Tourists will find that the list of things to do is plentiful. Our world-renowned whale-watching opportunities, for example, are only one of many attractions that fulfill the desires of guests wanting to fully immerse themselves in our environment, wildlife and culture."
Since 1962, the country has worked tirelessly to establish powerful partnerships with environmental leaders like The Nature Conservancy, the United Nations and The Smithsonian to protect and preserve the beauty and stability of the nine distinct ecological zones that make Dominican Republic the most bio-diverse country in the Caribbean.
Just like the thousands of guests that visit Dominican Republic every year, humpback whales migrate to Samaná Bay in search of warmer temperatures. In fact, up to 5,000 of the gentle creatures visit the bay annually, where they can comfortably mate and nurse newborn calves. The whale season lasts from mid-January until late March when the whales return back to their normal habitats – until then, there's no better time or place to experience and watch the largest mammal on earth from just a few hundred feet away.
There's much more for nature lovers to explore in the country. Enjoy these top 10 activities and hotspots, sorted by region:
Whale-watching in Samaná Bay
Samaná is widely recognized as a tranquil, relaxing destination and is defined by unspoiled beaches, rich blue waters, and lush green hills. The Marine Mammal Sanctuary of the Dominican Republic was established in 1986 and surrounds more than 200 mi2 (518 km2) of the Samaná Peninsula. It is considered one of the first whale sanctuaries to exist and provides a perfect place for the animals – that can weight up to 40 tons – to mate and take care of their young. Tours offered for guests to observe the humpback whales and listen to their songs at close range take great care not to disturb the creatures' home.
Los Haitises National Park
Creating the southernmost border of Samaná Bay, Los Haitises National Park is a remote protected area composed of lush conical hills, sinkholes, mangroves, and caverns. This verdant humid forest contains a number of rare bird and mammal species, many endemic to the island, with some caverns still displaying native Taíno Indian pictoglyphs within them. Boat tours of the islets and cavern hiking tours are available in this popular natural attraction, but the number of tourists allowed to enter annually is limited to protect the area.
Salto El Limón
Located about 12 miles outside of the town of Samaná, El Limón waterfall impresses with a 130-foot (40 meter) drop from the top of the Sierra Samaná. Visitors can make the 1.5-mile (2.5 kilometer) trek either by foot or by horseback and can cool off by dipping into the water under the majestic waterfall once they arrive.
Estero-Hondo Marine Mammal Sanctuary
Whales aren't the only sea animals you can admire in Dominican Republic. The Estero-Hondo Marine Mammal Sanctuary in the Puerto Plata province is a protected marine area that stretches over 30 mi2 (48 km2) and is the largest home for manatí (manatee) in the country. The area is also home to a variety of birds and flowers, all of which are protected. Tours are available seven days a week.
Salto de Jimenoa
Enjoy a spectacular waterfall with a 200-foot (60 meter) drop in Jarabacoa, about an hour south of Santiago de los Caballeros in the center of the island. The spray from the water plunging down is known to project magnificent rainbows on the surrounding rock. In fact, the waterfall is beautiful enough to merit it being in an opening scene of Jurassic Park!
Climb Pico Duarte
Stretching over the skies at over 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), Pico Duarte is the highest peak not only in Dominican Republic, but also in the Caribbean as a whole. Usually accessed through the town of Jarabacoa, it is part of the Central Cordillera Mountain Range in the Santiago province and attracts thousands of hikers, campers and mountain bikers each year. March up its beautiful trails or experience wild white water rafting on the Yaque del Norte River – the longest in the Caribbean – and explore some of the country's most sensational views and experiences.
Explore Caves and Springs
Los Tres Ojos, in English "The Three Eyes," is a national park in Santo Domingo that highlights a series of gorgeous open limestone caves and fresh springs. Further east in San Pedro de Macorís, guests can explore the Cueva de las Maravillas, or "Cave of The Miracles," which is another series of spectacular caves – some of which have native Taíno Indian drawings still visible on their inner walls.
Catamaran to Saona Island
Saona Island is just a short distance from the mainland and can be conveniently reached with speedy Catamaran boats. As a protected natural reserve, the island boasts pure white sand and magnificently beautiful, clear water. It is the country's largest offshore island, stretching 42 mi2 (68 km2) and is home to 112 species of birds, turtles, sharks, bottlenose dolphins, whales, and manatees.
Cruise Lake Enriquillo
This massive salt lake between the provinces of Bahoruco and Independencia spans an area of 145 mi² (375 km²) and falls at 148 feet (45 meters) below sea level – making it both the largest lake and the lowest elevation of the Caribbean. Surrounded by towering mountains, Lake Enriquillo is home to a variety of flora and fauna – iguanas, crocodiles and flamingos as well as many different species of cactus call the lake and its dry forests home. Boat tours of the lake are available to ecotourists curious about this hidden and largely untouched corner of Dominican Republic.
Explore Under the Sea
The country is not only home to over 1,000 miles of pristine beaches – it's also surrounded by the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea offering endless snorkeling and diving opportunities. Hobby and professional divers consistently rank Dominican Republic as a top spot for outstanding underwater attractions and beautiful sea life, including shipwrecks, schools of colorful fish, underwater art, ancient caves and vibrant coral reefs.
For more information on ecotourism attractions and events in the Dominican Republic, visit www.GoDominicanRepublic.com.
About Dominican Republic
Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the north and the Caribbean Sea on the south, our lush tropical and paradisiacal country boasts nearly 1,000 miles (1,609 km) of coastline, 250 miles (402 km) of the world's top beaches, magnificent resorts and hotels, and a variety of sports, recreation and entertainment options. Here you can dance to the pulse pounding thrill of the merengue, renew in our luxurious and diverse accommodations, explore ancient relics of centuries past, delight in delicious Dominican gastronomy or enjoy ecotourism adventures in our magnificent national parks, mountain ranges, rivers and beaches.
Known for our warm and hospitable people, Dominican Republic is a destination like no other, featuring astounding nature, intriguing history and rich cultural experiences like music, art and festivals, plus uniquely Dominican specialties such as cigars, rum, chocolate, coffee, merengue, amber and larimar.
Dominican Republic features the best beaches, fascinating history and culture, and is a chosen escape for celebrities, couples and families alike. Visit Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism's official website at: www.GoDominicanRepublic.com.
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SOURCE Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism