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Saona Island, wild nature

Saona Island

The smaller islands surrounding our island enclosed places are worth a visit. This time we will make a trip to Saona, the biggest island belonging to the Dominican Republic, located in the southeast of the country.

The adventure begins early in Saona Island. Tours set off from different parts of the country for ports Romana, Bayahibe or river Chavón. Most of the boats leave from Bayahibe, a picturesque fishing village that it’s worth taking advantage of.

On the way back, if you have time it is recommended to sit at one of the restaurants to enjoy a fried fish and watch the sunset from one the few places in the country where the sun disappears in the sea. But in the meantime, everything is ready to set sail.

You can make the trip on a speedboat with capacity for 20 passengers, or if you like a more tropical experience, there are several catamarans where fun, drinks and snacks on board are provided. In fact, all tours offer lunch service on the island and prices vary according to the menu. (You can choose from grilled lobster to a typical Dominican lunch with rice, green beans, meat and salad). There are options for everyone’s tastes and packets.

The sea journey takes about 30 minutes and seems very short when we see that the keynote of the trip is the crystal clear waters, colorful fish and if lucky the dolphins playing in the waves caused by the boat. Upon reaching the island, most operators have spaces reserved having loungers where you can sunbathe and enjoy the beach. At midday when we are almost starving, the smell of fresh grilled seafood, tropical fruits and delicious salads invade the beach, so it’s time to take advantage of it.

The food is in charge of the few inhabitants in the Mano Juan town, the only settlement that exists in the area, that’s why you certainly will eat there the freshest seafood prepared with recipes passed down from generation to generation.

Now, a full stomach makes for a happy heart. As we rest from a tremendous banquet, we can go for a short walk through the village placed a few meters from the beach; it is worth carrying camera in hand because the houses painted pastel are the ideal and picturesque Caribbean scenario for taking pictures.

Saona has many practically deserted beaches. Besides its natural beauty, the island has a great historical value by the evidence left by the Tainos stay, especially in the Cotubanamá cave where the chief of the same name hid for some time before he was executed by the Spaniards due to his resistance to conquest. It is also part of the Eastern National Park which indicates that we are in a conservation area where as a result there are many species of birds and mammals. Those who enjoy diving can be lucky enough to run into other endangered species like the hawksbill and green turtles.

Some tours may include a walk through the mangroves of Catuano channel that separates Saona Island from mainland.

How to get there

From Santo Domingo, take Las Americas highway and Eastern Boulevard. About 19 kilometers before arriving at La Romana take the beltway and then the Coral Highway. Just at kilometer 20 should take a right to the end of Bayahibe. The village is located about eight kilometers from the deviation and the road ends just in front of the marina where the boats to Saona can be taken. From Punta Cana, take Coral highway, the end of Bayahibe, the ride is about 40 km.

Now, it was time to sail back again. We already change the catamaran for comfortable speedboats, but before that you must pass by one of the most famous attractions of the island: the natural pool.

This phenomenon is actually a sand bank which is about 400 meters away from the beach. It has an average depth of 1 meter and is very easy to see at a glance lots of species of fish swimming around us. But the hundreds of underwater starfish “steal the show” indeed, the idea is not touch them but take pictures with an underwater camera, we should keep in mind that we are in a park dedicated to preservation and we must care about these species so they can exist for many years.

In this way, having that nice feeling to see and enjoy live the wonders of nature, we return to Bayahibe, where perhaps, after so many emotions, a fried fish and a “cold beer dressed as a bride” could be the best while the sun disappears in the sea.

TIPS for the trip

Bring candy, children of Mano Juan are very friendly and will appreciate the gesture very much. A few breadcrumbs on the water will be the beginning of a show of multicolored fishes at the natural pool. Keep some pieces from lunch to take a picture exceptionally good.

TEXT: Geizel Torres; IMAGES: Suresh