A recent trip to the Dominican Republic led me to a gem of an experience and full adventure afternoon. I discovered the Parque Ecologico Historico Cuevas near the town of Cabarete. While the goal was to visit underground stalactites and stalagmites crystal rock formations found in caves deep inside a mountain; the trek quickly became an herbalists ideal garden walk as our guide took the time to chat about local growing plants and herbs nearby, I was in my element!
Our tour (just us and our guide) began with some meandering around quick sand, which our guide called fast mud as we learned some history about the parque, originally established by the man whose name is carved into the rock, John Dittrich. We nibbles on the tart fruit of almonds before opening to savor the almond meat inside and munched on scented leaves of medicinal plants, taking time to admire moringa, noni, verbena, lemongrass, bitter orange, hibiscus, caoba and tiny pineapple and papaya plants and other medicinal plants along our path.
Finally we arrived at the caves, the bowl shaped Voodoo cave was the first, after admiring the impressive throne once used for ceremonies and above our heads, hanging roots of trees determined to find moisture, we put on our hard hats and turned on flashlights to meander down hundreds of steps into the dark caves.
I was in awe – the stalagmite formations are simply incredible, such a stunning creation of nature. Crystal spheres, rounded shapes, we entered a room where clear water beckoned at our feet, our guide said there is a saying… that to swim in the water of the underground caves one would merge with the spirit of the Dominican Republic and develop healing capacities! HA! Of course I had to take a quick dip! The water was clean, clear and refreshing and apparently travels from cave to cave in connected underground streams. We also ventured into the Museum cave, and the crystal cave where we gently tapped on the stalagmite formations like crystal glassware – creating various harmonic tunes echoing throughout the cave. A tiny frog sang back. The last part of our tour was a stop at an open cave and watering hole where I again took a refreshing swim. Men with machetes were working outside the cave clearing the path.
** note these 3 photos of the caves are NOT my photos (in the humidity all my underground photos were sadly blurry)- these 3 cave photos were borrowed from the internet – http://www.cabaretesurfcamp.com/ and http://cabaretecamping.com/ and http://youtubekeylargo.com/
For more information on the caves and a beautiful short video visit Dominicantreasures.com The Cuevas de Cabarete in Puerto Plata. I highly and enthusiastically recommend the tour – our guide was amazing and the caves are impressive beyond words! The Tour is locally run and more tours are in the works of development.
There was some mix up on our arrival – (humor is important while travelling) -the location is in the Parque Nacional El Choco, so when we told our motorcycle guide please take us to “El Choco” he was unclear of the destination, taking us first on a ride on the highway to Sosua. The road and entry point to the Caves is actually by the traffic light in Cabarete, just outside of town, walking distance actually from the town centre. Later we understood that an entire area of land (75 km?) is the National Park, El Chocho with numerous entrances- one near Sosua; with the underground caves, las cuevas, being at the other end of the park closer to Cabarete.