Posted by: Anni Orekh | December 13, 2010

Caves in the Dominican Republic

The Caves of the Dominican Republic:

Prehistoric Beauty. The Dominican Republic has the most extensive cave system in the Caribbean. Not only are these caves fun to explore, but many of them also contain artwork painted and etched on the cave walls by the indigenous Taino Indians, dating back 1,000 to 3,000 years. The Dominican Republic has preserved many of these natural and man-made wonders in national parks. Intrepid visitors can explore independently or take one of the many cave tours offered throughout the country.

 
Santo Domingo; The Capital

If you are staying in or around Santo Domingo, the easiest way to go caving in the Dominican Republic is to visit the sprawling city park, Mirador del Este. The park is riddled with caves, most of which are really limestone sinkholes, created eons ago. The most famous, and one of the most accessible is “Los Tres Ojos”. This large cave, filled with stalactites and stalagmites is reached by taking a long staircase carved into the side of the cave. Three lagoons of varying depths grace the caverns, and daredevil divers sometimes plunge into the deepest one to the amazement of the crowd. Well-maintained walkways make exploring easy. The park is open daily and admission is around US $1.

Western: El Pomier, San Cristobal

Some archeologists consider that the caves of El Pomier, near Santo Domingo, just outside San Cristobal, are to the West Indies what the pyramids are to Egypt.

In Reserva Antropológica El Pomier (15 kilometers north of San Cristóbal, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily) there is a series of 57 interconnecting caves, the most significant collection of rupestrian art found in the Caribbean. The drawings and carvings (the latter are found only in the front of the cave where the sunlight is) in this anthropological reserve are from not just the Taíno Indians, but the Igneri and Carib as well, and are estimated at as much as 2,000 years old. For the Caribbean, this is tantamount to what the pyramids of Egypt are for the Middle East.

The caves contain over 4,000 paintings and 5,000 rock drawings. Cave One contains 590 pictograms alone. Most of the paintings depict animals and birds with some that are believed to be representative of deities.

Some 57 caves dot the landscape here and contain thousands of pictographs (pictures or symbols representing words) and hundreds of petroglyphs (drawings or etchings on rock). Most of the drawings tell a story and feature humans, animals, and strange monsters, perhaps gods. Though they haven’t all been dated, the pictographs and petroglyphs here are thought to be the work of the Taino Indians, who lived here over 1000 years ago. Now protected and fitted out for easy visitor access by the Dominican government, these caves are thought to be a sacred site for the Tainos, where they used to celebrate their ceremonies and rites of passage.

The best way to get to the caves is by taxi or motoconcho, but make sure the driver knows that you need a ride back so that they either wait for you or come back. If you decide to drive, follow Avenida Constitución (in front of the cathedral) all the way out of town. It will lead you past the Casa de Caoba. Keep going until you see a sign to turn left to the cuevas (before the La Toma turnoff) at the fork in the road.

Eastern region: La Romana

Cueva de las Maravillas
La Cueva de las Maravillas has been open to the public since 2003. It is just off the road between San Pedro and La Romana, at Cumayasa. The cave’s attractions are its natural formations and Taino cave paintings. It’s managed by an independent board that works closely with the Ministry of Environment and the grounds and gardens are well designed and maintained. They have used plants native to the area, which is scrubby and semi-arid. There are good facilities – clean toilets, museum, shop and cafeteria.

Visits to Cueva de las Maravillas are strictly controlled, in small groups with a guide. In the cave the walkways, steps and ramps make exploration easy, and the lighting, which uses sensors, is carefully monitored. There is even disabled access to some parts of the cave by means of ramp. There is also an elevator but do not count on this to be in service. The tour takes about one hour. Photography of any sort is banned, unless you seek specs. permission in advance. The site is open to the public Tues-Sun 10:00am – 6:00pm, and admission is about US$3. Tel.. 696 – 1797 for more information.

Cuevas ‘Fun Fun’ in Hato Mayor

The Fun Fun cave in the eastern part of the country is accessible for visitors to the Dominican Republic’s south and east coast resorts. Formerly known as La Cueva del Diablo, or Devil’s Cave, Fun Fun is said to be one of the largest in the world, and is certainly the Caribbean region’s longest cave. It has over seven kilometers of tunnels, underground rivers and spectacular rock formations, and is reached on horseback and on foot from Rancho Capote. Access to this cave is through a private property. There is little signage to get to the cave, so visitors need to secure a cave expert as a guide, or take one of the tours that are offered. This is not a cave that can be visited by oneself.

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