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a close up of a reptile

Time to explore the South West of the Dominican Republic! While it’s on the opposite side of Punta Cana, there’s no reason not to visit this stunning piece of the country if you’re here for a while. Very different from the obvious beauty of turquoise waters and pearly beaches is the mysterious Lake Enriquillo (Lago Enriquillo), the biggest lake in the Antilles.

Getting to Lake Enriquillo

Visiting Lake Enriquillo takes about 6 hours driving from Punta Cana, in which you span the entire country. It’s wise to combine this trip with some sightseeing in the neighborhood, like a stop in Santo Domingo  or Barahona. These cities are both completely different, and will show you how diverse the Dominican Republic actually is!

If you’re not keen on driving yourself, you could take an ecotour to Lake Enriquillo with Explora Ecotours. The tour takes about 12 hours (a full day) and features English speaking guides, lunch, snacks and transportation from Santo Domingo.

The Lake

Lake Enriquillo is breathtakingly weird. As the biggest lake in the Antilles, this salty water covers an area of 145mi2. It’s the lowest point for an island country, falling 46 meters below sea level. This lake is so big that the climate actually changes to the eastern and western ends, with the northwest end being the one with the most rainfall. There used to be three islands in the lake: Barbarita, Islita and Isla Cabritos. However, due to the water levels continuously rising, Barbarita and Islita have disappeared under the surface. Cabritos is right in the middle of the lake and used to be open to tours – unfortunately, it’s closed because of scientific research now. Hey, that only means we’ll get much more info soon! #naturenerds

Right – we said that Lake Enriquillo is weird. Well, one person would call it weird, another would call it eerily mysterious. This is because the lake has many dead palms and other trees sticking out from the water. An ideal place for iguanas to lounge!

Fauna in Lake Enriquillo

This brings us to the animal life at Lake Enriquillo – which is significant. The lake is home to the largest population of American crocodiles in the Caribbean, so watch your back. We’re kidding, crocodiles are shy creatures. Just don’t go swimming here. Furthermore, the lake knows three different species of fish, and two rare iguana species! These Ricord’s iguanas and rhinoceros iguanas both live on the Cabritos island in the middle. When it comes to crocodiles and iguanas, we always marvel at the fact that they’re practically dinosaurs. These creatures have been around and seen some things!

If you’re happy to see some color, check out the eastern shore of Lake Enriquillo, where flocks of flamingos live. Going on the ecotour would mean learning lots more about these animals living in the lake. A recommendation!

Tourist tip : “Fossiled corals are also be found everywhere. There’s another sight point just few hundred meters from the park entry which is an old monument from the Taíno Indians who used to live there. The enormous rocks have Taíno paintings on them.”

Sleeping in the area

While Lake Enriquillo is a very cool place, there’s not many resorts or hotels in the near surroundings. We recommend you stay at Barahona or travel from Santo Domingo.

On a budget? Rent out this cute studio Virginia  in Barahona and stay close to the town center and the beach! Cheap, clean and a nice breakfast on the terrace. All you need to explore the surroundings!

Have a bit more to spend? Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge is SO stunning we’re almost in tears. Sleeping in a lodge high above the rainforest, with a view over the ocean and a good breakfast every day? YES please. The lush rooftops will have you marveling at nature’s tricks. Also check out the river suite, which is a beautiful wooden and glass house with a patio close to a wild rainforest river. Immerse yourself into the region!

We can’t wait to hear what you think of mysterious Lake Enriquillo! Tag us using #instaBOP or @bestofpuntacanaofficial!

Photo: Explora Tours