An ‘estero’ is a combination of a bay and a widened river mouth where the river enters the sea. The Scientific Reserve Caño de Estero Hondo is such a lagoon. It is completely surrounded by mangroves with a quiet stretch of uninhabited beach and home to one of the last remaining populations of manatees on Hispaniola.
But in addition to manatees, the Estero Hondo provides protected habitat for a variety of coastal birds, including herons, egrets, and warblers. A variety of ducks and shorebirds may also be present. An island at the mouth of the estero is a large roost for egrets, and especially late in the afternoon flocks of Cattle Egrets and other species flying into the roost is a special sight. The mangroves host Yellow Warblers and other Neotropical migratory species, as well as resident White-crowned Pigeons and Mangrove Cuckoos. These birds are all best seen by hiring a boat to take a trip on the lagoon.
American Flamingo, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, Cattle Egret, White Ibis, Black-necked Stilt, Burrowing Owl, Village Weaver
The Scientific Reserve Caño de Estero Hondo is west of Puerto Plata, however, due to the uncertain condition of roads, it is best to approach the reserve from Santiago. From Puerto Plata take the main, well-marked highway C-5 west, which then turns south towards Santiago. This will intersect the Carretera Duarte (highway C-1) northwest of Santiago near Navarrette. Turn here to head west on 1 towards Monte Cristi.
If leaving from Santiago rather than Puerto Plata, take the main Carretera Duarte (Highway C-1) out of Santiago heading west towards Monte Cristi. At the Cruce de Villa Elisa turn right where there is a sign for Punta Rucia. This quickly becomes a pot-holed dirt road that passes through pasture and scrub habitat dominated by mesquite. The road slowly rises in elevation and in about 25 min you will reach the top of the range. In another 20 minutes and about 16.1 km (10 miles) from the Cruce de Villa Elisa you will reach a fork in the road; the left-hand fork will go to Punta Rucia; at a second fork, bear right to reach Punta Rucia.
The highlight here is a boat trip on the lagoon to look for manatee and birds. Boats and guides are available at the park office. We recommend a local bird guide, Antonio, who may be reached at 809-973-8699. Birding is also possible by walking the road into the national park house through the dry thorn scrub.