Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Los Haitises National Park

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The winds didn't seem to be dying down very much at all as the 10th came to an end so we were pretty sure that we were out of luck for going to Los Haitises and were bummed about it. This stop was especially high on Mike's list of must-see's for our trip but with the 11th being our final day on the Samana peninsula it was our last chance. We got up that morning (all packed up from the night before) and were just hanging around our little house waiting for the final decision. I went outside to try to get a better wifi signal and saw the driver from our previous tour with Tours with Terry walking up. We were on!!! We hurried and grabbed our things and headed off for our day at Los Haitises National Park!
Los Haitises is about 1,000 square miles and is home to untouched mangrove forests, Taino Indian cave drawings, secluded beaches, pirate hideouts and a great diversity of endemic flora and fauna. Haitises means "highlands" or "mountain range" in the Taino Indian language and only a small portion of the park is open to visitors.
We first drove 30 minutes to Samana and then got on a boat with some other tour groups. Our boat wasn't too packed which was nice and our family ended up kind of taking over the back of the boat. The kids really enjoyed sitting up by the driver. They also really enjoyed that they were served soda multiple times on the ride over :-).
As we crossed the bay and began to spot land on the other side I wasn't initially very impressed. It was green and pretty but nothing very different from what we had seen so far. Then we entered Los Haitises and continued on and I was shocked. It was so gorgeous and so unique! I had not looked at any pictures ahead of time and had no idea that it was going to be so beautiful! All these little rocky islands with green tops and birds soaring through the sky. Pictures really do not do it justice.
The boat ride continued around different islands giving us a nice little tour before docking and letting us off to explore some caves. They were very similar to others we had seen around the island, but much more crowded ;-). There were a couple spots where the water from the bay was coming in under the big rocks and that was cool plus a few more pictographs and petroglyphs to spot (Mike got really good at finding them without the guide).
We got back in the boat to see more of the national park, including an area full of mangrove trees. There is an option through most tours to kayak through the mangroves and I think if we make it back we would definitely do that as well.
Our last stop was at the island of Cayo Levantado, which was very near Samana. The whole island is part of a hotel but one beach is available for public use. We had lunch with our tour group and then had a couple hours to ourselves. It was extremely windy and Mike and I were actually chilly sitting on the beach but the kids still got right in the water :-). Because of the wind the water wasn't as clear as normal but the kids still ended up finding handfuls of little conch shells! Addie found the most and Preston found the largest one but they all had fun and were so proud of their discoveries!
We spotted so many rainbows while staying on the Samana peninsula, especially on our boat ride!
It was a long and fun day and we were feeling so grateful that we were able to experience it!
We had dinner one last time at El Gato Negro and the kids were dying to feed some of the stray animals waiting by our table when we were done (like every other meal in the DR). This one dog really fell in love with us though...maybe because the kids fed him bites of their hamburger and bacon haha. He followed us up and down the street as we looked for a large conch shell for Addie's souvenir, got in a fight with a cat while we picked up French pastries one last time and then even followed us home where he laid on our front porch! We fed him a bit more and then after awhile he left when he realized the food was gone, but he was a cutie!
Mike went to pay for our stay and noticed little lights in the grass on his way back to our house. Little lightning bugs were everywhere in the grass and Addie and Preston had a blast catching them. They even made a little habitat so they could keep some inside by their beds before we turned in for the night. The next morning we were heading out early for our final destination, Punta Cana!
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