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The Caves of the Dominican Republic: Prehistoric Beauty
Samana

The Samana Peninsula offers visitors a myriad of caves to explore. Located in the far northeast of the country, Samana is a beautiful and small-scale tourist area known for its sleepy fishing villages, long expanses of sand, and its world-class whale watching. Los Haitises National Park, across the bay from the peninsula, is the second most visited park on the island. Almost impenetrable, the park is covered with tropical rain forest and is home to over 112 bird species and nearly 100 plant species. Three caves in the park contain pre-Columbian drawings. The most stunning of these is the San Gabriel cave because of the stalactites and stalagmites there. The caves here are said to have provided a hideout for some of the most notorious pirates of the Caribbean, such as Jack Banister and John Rackham.

The Linea cave, also in Los Haitises Park, houses the remains of an old, abandoned railway, built over fifty years ago to transport sugar cane to the port. Entrance to the park is RD $50, or around US$2.50. Elaborate, offshore underwater caves offer divers and snorkellers intriguing places to explore and are home to a wide variety of fish species.

North Coast

Cuevas Dudu near Cabarete (between Cabrera and Rio San Juan) is another underwater cave system that can be visited on diving excursions.

About 1km west of the beach town of Cabarete, and a 1km walk from the main road, are the caves that form part of the Natural Monument Cabarete and Goleta Lagoons (also known as El Choco National Park). Access is through a lush tropical jungle, up man-made steps, and then down through a passage to a natural Jacuzzi, a crystal clear pond in the middle of the earth. The caves in this area are the result of geological formations where sinkholes, disappearing streams, and underground caverns, often filled with water, are found beneath relatively flat landscapes. There are several caves in the area, some accessible with a one to three hour hike. Horse ranches take visitors on tours into the park to observe the numerous edible tropical fruit plants and the vast variety of birds.

Tours

Although you can explore the many caves in the Dominican Republic on your own, taking a tour allows you to learn about what you are seeing and also gives you access to caves you might not find on your own. Caving tours vary as to skill and interest level. Active tours combine repelling, hiking, and horseback riding to remote caves with sightseeing. Other tours concentrate on the history and culture of the Taino tribes and include an archeologist on the tour. Watersports lovers can take an underwater caving tour and snorkel, swim, or scuba amidst underground caves. Interested in helping to preserve the caves and cave art of the Dominican Republic? Several companies offer organized archeological study tours where you stay in the DR for several weeks and actually assist in the restoration work.

The Dominican Republic offers visitors history in a beautiful, lush, sub-tropical setting. Make sure you explore some of the fascinating caves here. They’re not commercial. They’re just rugged, interesting, and fun.
 
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