Located in the Southwest Dominican Republic, 5 hours from Santo Domingo by car, is the uniquely hypersaline lake: Laguna de Oviedo in the Jaragua National Park.
Laguna de Oveido is part of a protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and listed as an important area for bird conservation and biodiversity (for land, plants, and animals– many which are exclusively only found here) as well as a wetland of high, global importance.
This milky lake is approximately 1 to 5 feet tall and thus three times as salty as the sea! The nearby coastline, which is just a narrow strip of sand dunes away, is also home to several species of sea turtles; particularly the laud turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) during the spring months.
FUN FACT: Laguna de Oveido is the second-largest lake in the country. The largest lake and the lowest point in the Caribbean is El Lago Enriquillo.
In Jaragua National Park, in addition to Laguna de Oviedo, you could also stop by Beata Island, Alto Velo Island, Bahia de las Aguilas Beach, Trudille Beach, Los Pozos de Romeo, Taino caves, Cabo Rojo, and the Baoruco mountain range. Consider an overnight tour of this region!
Why Visit Laguna de Oviedo? The Top 5 Things You Can’t Miss
1. Mangroves & Their Importance
Laguna de Oviedo is home to some of the most important mangroves in the country. Mangroves are a unique and critical ecosystem endemic to tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Their roots serve as a refuge for a number of fish and shellfish (including crabs, snails, sponge, and other unique marine organisms). Some marine animals also use the mangroves as a place to guard their young offsprings. In turn, these fish attract a wide variety of birds who either live in the area or migrate from afar (including North America).
Mangroves also serve as a barrier between the sea and the earth, protecting communities, tidal boats, extreme waves especially during storms. But most importantly? Mangroves trap the highest amount of carbon out of all forests– helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.
“Mangroves trap the highest amount of carbon out of all forests– helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.”
In this region, mangroves are comprised of the following types:
- Red Mangroves (Rhizophora mangle)
- Black mangroves (Laguncularia racemosa)
- Button (Conocarpus erectus)
2. Flamingos & Bird Watching
Surrounded by mangroves, forests, sand dunes and beaches, Laguna de Oviedo is the perfect home to over 150 species of birds that live/visit from abroad especially during the winter months. As such, Laguna de Oveido is one of the best travel destinations for bird watching.
You can get up and close to flamingos and other special bird species from the comfort of your shaded boat.
3. All-Natural Mud Bath
This is one of the most unique experiences on the island is giving yourself a natural mud bath to nurture your skin. Ask your boat driver to stop for a “baño de barro” (or they won’t stop for it). He should be able to find you a good spot with a nice chunk of the smoothest mud laying beneath the water.
I suggest using a moisturizer after you leave the lake. This is to even out the naturally occurring high concentration of salt from the mud.
4. Isla Iguana & Seeing Other Unique Rocky Coral Islands
With 28 kilometers square, the lake is also home to a number of islands and keys of rocky coral formations inhabited by a number of birds and iguanas.
For the protection of the ecosystem, Isla Iguana is the only island you can disembark on in Laguna de Oviedo. Here you still find an island inhibited by several iguanas who will come out to greet you upon hearing you arrive. This is likely because they have been trained to think of humans as bearers of food now.
5. Jaragua National Park’s Gems & Nearby National Wonders
Laguna de Oveido is located smack dab between several other natural wonders in the area. Allocate at least a few days to see some of the many incredible natural wonders that this region of the Dominican Republic can offer.
In Jaragua National Park:
– Laguna de Oviedo
– Bahia de las Aguilas
– Trudille Beach
– Los Pozos de Romeo
In the region of Pedernales/Barahona:
– Los Patos Beach/River
– La Plaza Hike
– Arroyo Salado
– El Hoyo de Pelempito
– Lago Enriquillo
– Las Caritas (Taino open cave facing Enriquillo Lake)
How to Get a Tour of Laguna de Oviedo
The Association of Guides to Laguna de Oviedo (AGUINAOVI) offers guided tours and excursions in collaboration with local guides trained in eco-tourism. They work with experienced boat drivers. Tours range from one hour to over 3 hours depending on the things you want to see and do.
Prices start at approximately $75 per boat and go up depending on the number of people. This does not include the entrance nor the tip for the boat driver who is usually paid very little for the day.
Laguna de Oviedo tours are available between 6:00 AM and 5:00 PM.
Some numbers to call for a Spanish-speaking guided tour:
- Pablo Feliz: +1(829)704-7586 – Highly knowledge local guide who can provide transportation.
- Luis Manuel Cuevas +1(809)704-8914
For English guided private tour email: email@example.com – These start at approximately $300 a day with bilingual local from Santo Domingo, food, transportation, and accommodation included.
Preparation: How to Pack for Laguna de Oviedo
- Sunscreen [ECO FRIENDLY ONLY]
- Moisturizer for after the natural salty mud bath
- Reusable bottle of water
- Clothes and shoes that can get wet
- This Waterproof Bag to protect your belongings
- Binoculars for bird watching
- Bathing suit
- A compact towel