Thursday, October 18, 2012

Haitises National Park: One of God's Incredible Creations

"Haitises National Park: One of God's Incredible Creations"
Elder Darrel L. Hammon

Entrance to Los Haitises Park

There comes a time in one’s life when you see things and experience things that make you reflect the creation and how it was done. I am a firm believer that God knows how to create amazing things. Today we witnessed one of those amazing creations.
Hermana Hammon
                Several senior missionaries went to Haitises National Park, a national park on the remote northeast coast of the Dominican Republic. With very little road access, Haitises National Park is protected because it is an ecopark. The government created the park in 1976. Plus, because it is a national park and has a protected virgin forest, there is a limit on the number of tourists who are allowed to visit. We were very fortunate in begin some of those tourists.
Opening to one of the caverns
The word Haitis is a Taíno Indian word meaning “highland or mountain range.” Actually, it is an incredible array of various hills that have spurted out of the ocean as small islands, some ranging from 98–130 feet high. Because of water erosion over a long period of time, numerous caverns or caves are part of the park, and you can see many of them as you boat around the little islands.
One of the images
The Taínos and others utilized these caverns to live, worship, and hide out from the Spaniards. Consequently, many pictographs and petroglyphs can be found on the walls. According to our guide, many of these pictographs have not been identified. In fact, he stated that many of them may predate the Taínos.
For me, it was just a great adventure. We boarded a boat and headed off across the Samaná Bay. It took us about 30 minutes or so to motor across the ocean. As we neared the Park, I was impressed with the majesty of the little hills, jutting out of the water.
Magnificient Frigatebird

One of the island mounds served as a spot for all kinds of birds. They just circled and circled the little island. Some landed. On some of the other small islands, various birds perched and just watched us pass while pruning themselves.
Bird Island
We stopped at a couple of caves and walked through. Interestingly, we each had a small flashlight. Once we landed, we paid our $100 pesos each to enter the National Park. They placed a wristband around our wrist and away we went. The caves were intriguing. The guide told us about how the natives took advantage of these caves, particularly during the time the Spaniards were trying to find some of the leaders in order to kill them for destroying Columbus’ people in the first settlement Columbus had developed. We did see some figures on the walls. Some of them were definitely suspect; others looked realistic to me.
Baby Pelican ready to take his first flight

 We visited another cave and then weaved in and out of the small islands, taking in the beautiful scenery. From the sheer walls hung varying types of vines and other bushes. Baby pelicans were trying to take their first flight. I wish we could have been in a canoe or small boat and taken our time. I would have enjoyed getting closer to some of the caverns and exploring. But we did have a good time.
We eased into an inlet and slowly motored up it. Soon, we were surrounded my mangrove trees, their long fingers digging deep into the water and offering refuge to tiny fish, crabs, and other living organisms. They were beautiful. It almost seemed eerie motoring up. Soon, we docked next to another boat that was moored to the dock. We climbed out of our boat, onto the other boat, and then on to the other side. We walked down the path that once was going to be part of a promising railway system that would have connected Santo Domingo to this part of the island.

Tree inside cave
We entered a cave that had more pictographs and various rock formations. In the middle of one of the many openings in the cavern, a huge tree grew out of the rock and shot through one of the openings in the ceiling. It was incredibly ornate and unique. The light shone through. It seemed like I was in the middle of an ancient movie. According to the guide, some movies have been shot here.
Vines from cliffs
After climbing back into the boat, we headed back down the small inlet and into the open sea. Soon, we were landing on Cayo Levantado, where we were to have lunch. Our lunch consisted of the typical Dominican meal of rice, beans, chicken. Thrown in were a pasta dish and bread. It was fairly good. We had bottled water to drink.
Cayo Levantado is an island just off the coast of Samaná where there is a large resort. One side of the island belongs to those who are staying at the resort. The other side of the island is for people who come just to play on the beach and have lunch. Plus, the vendors are plentiful and a bit aggressive. In fact, on the way out, one of the sisters was chatting to one of them about a pearl necklace. She was a bit reluctant to purchase. He followed her all the way out to the boat and offered her a price she couldn’t refuse. So, she bought. It was a pretty necklace.
Park islands
We stayed for an hour. Some of us snorkeled while the others rested and talked. I saw lots of fish, including a huge school of large fish. I followed them for awhile. They emitted little puffs of gray stuff. Perhaps, it was shooting out the sand that got in or perhaps it was something else. I prefer to think it was sand.
Soon, our stay ended and we headed out to the boat. We board and headed back to the dock, which was a mere 15 minutes away.
Overall, we had a good day. I would definitely recommend the Haitises National Park tour.