Lake Enriquillo

Lake Enriquillo is a Dominican hidden gem. It’s not as well known a feature as the pristine white sand beaches of Bayahibe or the impressive colonial monuments of the capital city.

But, this lake is something quite special.

What’s so special about Lake Enriquillo?

Lake Enriquillo is pretty superlative: at over 350 sq km (135 sq miles), it’s the largest lake in the Caribbean, and it’s the lowest point of the Caribbean at 43m (140ft) below sea level. It has the largest American crocodile population of any region in the Caribbean, and is home to plants and wildlife that endure in arid conditions, like cacti.

The Lake has no outlets, so has become a natural saltwater lake. Its salinity varies between being comparable to the saltiness of seawater and being up to three times saltier. This is called hypersalinity, and makes for a harsh ecological environment.

lake enriquillo

Life nevertheless thrives in this place of breathtaking natural beauty. The lake is surrounded by a beautiful tropical and dry forests, natural springs, and fruit plantations where coconut, banana and mango are grown.

Visitors can enjoy the lake by car, driving the 60km road around the perimeter, or by taking a boat trip on the lakewater.

You can also visit Lake Enriquillo’s picturesque island, Isla Cabritos, which means ‘little goat island’. It takes around an hour to reach the island by boat from the town of La Descubierta.

Taino History, Las Caritas

Lake Enriquillo is named after a 16th-century Taino leader, called a cacique, who rebelled against the Spanish colonisers. Enriquillo is said to have escaped into the mountains south of the lake.

The Taino people are indigenous to the island, and were a dominant social group at the time when Columbus arrived to terrorise the Caribbean.

While not many artifacts remain of their culture, there is a fascinating wall of petroglyphs, or stone carvings, from the Taino. It is called Las Caritas, which means ‘the little faces’, and is on the north shore of Lake Enriquillo.

The name refers to the carvings, as many are smiling faces etched into the rock.

For visitors who want to learn about the cultural history of the island before colonisation, this is an obligatory stop and one well worth your time.

Crocodiles, and Iguanas, and Flamingoes – oh my!

Lake Enriquillo is what you might call a sun trap. It receives a lot of strong sunshine, and there are not many areas of shade to take shelter.

While not ideal for humans, these hot sun conditions are glorious for crocodiles, iguanas, flamingoes, and colourful exotic birds.

Iguanas sunbathe all year round, but crocodiles and flamingoes are a less constant presence on the lake. American crocodiles are mostly seen during the dry season of January to June, whereas flamingoes stop at the lake in their migration pattern between April and July.

You’ll notice there’s a bit of crossover. That means if you’re in the area around April, May, June time, Lake Enriquillo could be an amazing adventure to add to your trip.

A lake to remember!

You’ll find Lake Enriquillo near the border with Haiti. It has been a protected area since 1974, and has ben part of the Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve since 2002. Understandably, the Dominican Republic is keen to preserve this natural treasure and secure the future of its astounding wildlife.

Lake Enriquillo is a Caribbean dreamland: exotic fruit, otherworldy trees, bright flamingoes, stunning blue waters.

For regular visitors to the DR, it’s definitely one for the Caribbean bucket list.

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