Manatees, sometimes adorably called sea cows, are marine mammals that like to hang out in slow moving tropical waters. And you can see manatees in the Dominican Republic. Rumor has it that even one lives at Kitebach!
These gentle giants are about the size of a small car. They can grow to 4 metres (13ft) long and weigh up to 600kg (1,300 pounds). A manatee’s lifespan is just a little shorter than a human’s, they live 60-70 years.
In the coastal waters and river mouths of the Dominican Republic, manatees can be spotted, playing in the warm water. A century ago, there would have been far more regular sightings than today.
The best place to see them in the DR is the Marine Mammal Sanctuary (Santuario de los mamiferos marinos) in Estero Hondo, on the North Coast. Estero Hondo lies west of Cabarete, passed Puerto Plata, but is very much reachable for a day trip.
There are a couple of trails you can hike that will take you to the protected lagoon, where you can climb a tower and look out for manatees.
The sanctuary is also a protected space for many species of tropical birds, so there is plenty of wildlife to observe.
According to Dominican legend, there was a 16th-century chief who befriended a manatee, and it would carry him around on its back wherever he wanted to go!