The Dominican Republic is a tropical paradise. Watersports fans and beach-lovers are not the only ones who enjoy the warm Caribbean waters. We are lucky to live alongside some truly amazing sea creatures, including whales, dolphins and turtles.
You can take a close look at the bustling underwater world by diving or snorkeling. The DR has rich, colourful marine habitats, teeming with life.
Serious conservation efforts are needed to counter tourism’s negative impact on the ocean and on marine life. It’s not enough to use marine resources wastefully and take all these beautiful animals for granted.
If we don’t actively look after sea life, it will not be around for much longer. (Check out our post on ocean conservation in the DR for more info.)
Be sure to always approach the ocean and its wildlife with respect and care. The animals are not in a zoo, they are wild and do not belong to anyone.
With the right attitude, you can observe the lively delights that lurk just under the surface, and leave only bubbles behind!
For now, though, let’s explore some of the larger species that live in the waters around the Dominican Republic.
Samana Bay is world-famous for its humpback whales. Every year from January to March, around 3,000 whales make their way to the bay to breed and calve. It’s one of the most breathtaking natural spectacles on the planet.
WWF rates Samana as one of the top places in the world to whale-watch. You can watch them from the shore or take a boat tour to see these majestic creatures up close. Tours usually run for around two to four hours, so you’ll almost definitely get to see your share of whale shenanigans.
There are a set list of boats authorised to take whale-watching trips in Silver Bank (Banco de la Plata) in Samana. This is so the protected whales aren’t crowded by too many people, and they can go about their mating event undisturbed.
The DR take the safety of their whales very seriously. The 650-square-mile area of Bancos de la Plata y de la Navidad was declared a protected marine wildlife sanctuary in 1986, the first of its kind in the Caribbean.
We’re lucky to see humpback whales at eXtreme, as they pass Kite Beach in their hundreds.
Seeing a humpback whale splash and roll around on the water is not an experience you’ll forget any time soon. Don’t miss out on this humbling and awesome chance to see some of the biggest mammals on Earth.
As you’ll see, there are many opportunities to ‘swim-with-the-dolphins’ in the Caribbean, including in Punta Cana. However, as an eco-hotel, we at eXtreme cannot condone this activity. A photo of you kissing a dolphin might be a cute souvenir but if you care about dolphins, do not swim with them.
Dolphins are wild animals and not suited to being kept in captivity. If you’ve seen Blackfish (it’s on Netflix), you’ll know about the well-documented abuse of killer whales in SeaWorld. Sadly, the treatment of dolphins is no better.
The normally docile animals turn psychotic with frustration. They are kept in tiny, concrete pools and are forced to perform tricks many times a day. Captive dolphins are often malnourished from poor-quality frozen fish, and some even have sunburnt skin because of their shallow pools.
The message is clear: Don’t swim with dolphins. They’re not happy, and being a good, responsible eco tourist means not supporting animal cruelty.
On the bright side, there are many species of dolphin that you can see in the wild off the shores of the Dominican Republic.
Bottlenose dolphins hang out off Playa Dorada in Silver Bank and by Saona Island, as do playful spinner dolphins. Risso’s dolphins like to be close to land, so you can see their leaping forms from the shore.
I just love guilt-free dolphin-watching.
The DR is home to Leatherback, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, and Green turtles.
On the North Coast, where we are, you’ll tend to see more leatherback turtles. The green ones live on the South side of th island.
Kitesurfers in Cabarete report seeing turtles swimming around them out on Kite Beach, so keep an eye out for them in the water!
Leatherbacks nest on Cabarete Beach between May and July. Watch them dig themselves into the warm sand to lay around 80-90 eggs!
March to November is turtle nesting season in the DR. Leatherback, Hawksbill and Green turtles lay their eggs on the shores of Jaragua National Park and Saona Island. Their nesting grounds are protected but, still, all the DR’s turtle species are critically struggling for numbers.
Leatherbacks mainly feed on jellyfish, which is why plastic in the ocean is so very dangerous for them. They mistake plastic bags and other floating plastics for jellyfish and choke on them.
Their survival is also threatened by getting captured or having their eggs stolen. Eggs and turtles are sold as food for humans, and as material for crafts and souvenirs for tourists. Turtles can become entangled in fishing nets, both in use and discarded nets.
Turtles are stunning creatures that have played a part in human spirituality and folklore for millenia. For some reason, we tend to feel a connection with turtles. However, this semblance of understanding has not protected them from being exploited by humans for profit.
If you are lucky enough to see a magnificent sea turtle, please enjoy it and marvel at it! Just keep your distance.
As well as large marine animals, there is a whole world of life buzzing around the coral reef. The reef itself is alive, and can be compared to an anemone or jellyfish. It houses hundreds of species of bright tropical fish, including clownfish (yes, Nemo), trumpet fish, lionfish, Atlantic sailfish, and barracuda.
Manta rays, moray eels, sea urchins and sponges also inhabit the coral reef. All round, it’s a magical underwater scene!
Sosua is the next town as you head West from Cabarete. The crystal-clear, flat water there will offer the best underwater view of the amazing coral reefs. You can rent snorkel gear or bring your own.
It can be a good shout to pay for a sun lounger on the beach, so you can leave your stuff and not have to worry while you swim.
There are various adventure tour companies that offer scuba diving and snorkeling trips. Ask our friendly hotel staff, they’ll be happy to sort you out.
Remember to stay safe and approach the ocean with respect. In Cabarete, we get our energy and life from the ocean. We love it and want you to love it too, but we need your help to take care of it.
So, don’t forget to pack your ‘responsible tourist’ hat when you come to Cabarete for your active vacation!