Tourism April 13, 2016 | 11:11 am

Manatee haven boosts first Dominican tourism mecca

Puerto Plata.- Puerto Plata province, on the northerncoast, in addition to bragging rights as Dominican Republic’s first major tourismdestination, now adds a heightened interest in the observation and protection ofmanatees to its array of attractions for locals and foreigners as well.

Just 240 kilometers from the capital, among the province’slist of great attractions figure both ecological tours and tourist resorts.

It also boasts the Caribbean’s only funicular cable car andthe little-known white sand beaches at Cayo Arena, La Ensenada and Punta Rusia. and

Also on the itinerary figure the Estero Hondo Park, home tothe spectacle of nature found at the Marine Mammal Sanctuary, home to 58 manatees,according to Sanctuary guides coordinator Freddy Garcia.

The 22 square-kilometer sanctuary features a lagoon fed byseveral rivers, protected from the sea by a sandbank which was established as aprotected ecosystem in 1996.

The Sanctuary’s calm and crystal clear waters house corals,fish and shellfish, as well as mangroves, mesquite, lignum vitae and othervarieties, which combine to form a spectacular landscape of coastal aridforest, and preferred by manatees.

"We protect all the species that inhabit the area, butwe provide greater protection for the manatees. This is Dominican Republic’s onlysanctuary set aside for their protection. We have a population of approximately58 to 68 individuals,” said Garcia, during a tour by several journalists hostedby tour operator Transporte y Excursiones Blanco Aybar.

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