Visit the City of Manatees in Rep Dom Island Cruising Family
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Visit the City of Manatees in Rep Dom

The marine mammals Sanctuary of Estero Hondo



Friends of ocean protection, you can visit all year round the marine mammals Sanctuary of Estero Hondo, located in the North of Dominican Republic,  Western Puerto Plata province.


There you can access the mangroves and observe the manatees in a natural reserve. Its protected lagoon is where the largest number of endangered Caribbean manatees reside. Nearly 50km2 of land and sea are dedicated to them.


This protected area is one of the two places where they can be observed in the Dominican Republic, and one of the few of the 20 countries in the Americas where the manatee species lives naturally.





Will you spot a baby manatee?


baby manatees

Manatee calves at Estero Hondo – Rep Dom

In 2021, the Sanctuary had the chance to witness the birth of a new member to the 40 manatees living here! This is an event as manatee female is very dedicated and keeps her cub by her side for 5 years.


If you are interested to visit the Mammals Sanctuary of Estero Hondo, note that it is away from the major cities so you may like to plan 2 days if you have young children and maybe sleep at Punta Rucia for the night (the next fishermen village with amazing beaches). Unless you prefer to head back to Puerto Plata or Santiago area for a simple day trip.


Getting to stay longer on-site, you put all the chances on your side to observe the manatees from the two observation platforms.




Overview of the natural reserve


Manatee Map

Manatee Sanctuary Map

The name of Estero Hondo means literally the Deep Sanctuary. It comes from its particular geographical characteristics, situated in a low area surrounded by mountains.


The dry coastal forests, mangroves, numerous species of birds, insects, invertebrates and the interesting presence of the manatee make it an ideal place for environmental education.


Undoubtedly, the populations of manatees in Estero Hondo are among the most numerous and best conserved today. Their population is estimated at 41 in Q1 2022. It seems to be the largest population that exists on the island and possibly in the Caribbean.


Daily, manatees swim around the bay and go out into the deep sea in search of food. Patience, they can stay 5 minutes under water before coming up to the surface.



The backwater beaches of the natural reserve of Estero Hondo are home to corals, fish, molluscs and crustaceans. It serves as a setting for bird watching, nesting sea turtles and refuge for hundreds of other species.





Manatees: danger of extinction


Group at observation deck with Emilio Nunes – Director of the Manatee Sanctuary of Estero Hondo

The “Sea Cow” was a very abundant species until the beginning of the 20th century throughout the Carribean islands and other tropical/ subtropical countries of America.

The “Tainos”, the pre-columbian inhabitants of the greater Antilles, fed on them and carved handicrafts with their bones. Today,  though he does not have any natural predator, the star of the reserve is in danger of extinction.

The government made it illegal to kill manatees, however, our friends let us know that there are still opportunist poachers in other provinces where they live. Manatees are still at threat outside the reserve.

The knowledge you will gain at the Sanctuary of Estero Hondo is precious. Emilio Nunes, Director of the sanctuary, guided us through the site and got us know better these mysterious marine mammals.





Sustainable tourism & the City of Manatees



Decided to promote the attractiveness of manatees, the citizens of Villa Isabela have created an innovative project supported by Japan and the  Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism. Seeing the urgent need to protect the existing species in the Sanctuary, the Ministry of the Environment joined their forces.


A pilot project has been set to promote sustainable tourism. Its municipal brand is “Ciudad de Manatí” (the town of the Manatee).

Since then, trails have been traced through the forest and a visitor center has been built along with the two observation decks over the Bay.

The City of the Manatee (the town of Isabela) is certainly a unique place with a rich biodiversity worth visiting and supporting the endangered species.




Special family tips


Manatee on his back

Relaxed Manatee of the Sanctuary Estero Hondo – Dominican Republic

Now, here are our very special family tips to enjoy and relax:


Come with your Kayak or a Stand Up Paddle Board and make sure you have informed of your arrival and ask for an authorisation. Paddle smoothly in the lagoon and the shallow waters of the river and be quiet while you’ll approach the manatees. They surely don’t like screams around while munching, even if these are screams of joy.


You will receive a warm welcome from the staff in charge of the Sanctuary and all the information on the flora and fauna you’ll need. If you inform on your group venue in advance, they may even be able to coordinate a meal on site for you.


You can now shop on-site a souvenir : A line of products was created to support the manatees. The kids will love their ‘Manati’ mug.






Contact infos of the Manatee Sanctuary


Contact the Manatee Sanctuary – Estero Hondo

Booking /Infos: +1 (829) 492-3362 / whattsapp also possible

FB @SantuarioMamiferoMarinoDeEsteroHondo  · Community

Free contributions for day tours : make sure you have change as there is no ATM nor banks in the surroundings.



Sustainable Tourism | Animal Conservation| Marine Mammals | Ocean Protection | Family Travel | Environmental Education