Parque Nacional Submarino La Caleta
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Parque Nacional Submarino La Caleta is among the smallest of the national parks. While it has a stretch of shoreline, the big attraction here is the underwater preserve. Parque Nacional Submarino La Caleta is just 20 kilometers east of Santo Domingo and has a large coral reef, Taíno caves, and two shipwrecks in its underwater portion.
The park was created in 1984 when the former treasure-hunting ship, the Hickory, was intentionally foundered to draw more divers to the area. This 44-meter-long ship, which sits about 18 meters below the surface of the water, was originally used to scour the Bahía de Samaná for treasures from the Spanish galleons that sank there in the 1700s. It is now home to sea creatures and sits in the warm, calm waters of the Caribbean Sea, making it an ideal spot for the diving newbie as well as for the experienced diver to explore.
The El Limón tugboat, which was scuttled in 1998, is also a showplace for fish like trumpetfish, blue tangs, and squirrelfish, and other sea creatures. The St. George is a 60-meter freighter that was sunk in early 1999. It sits along a slope. Visibility is excellent.
Although the shipwrecks hog a lot of the publicity for the attraction to this park, don’t forget to flipper over to the shallow coral gardens to navigate the spur-and-groove formations and take in the impressive varieties of hard and soft corals and fish.
La Caleta, as it is popularly known, is easily reached from a number of beach resorts and dive centers in Boca Chica. Best known is Treasure Divers, on the beach at the Don Juan Beach Resort, where travel and diving packages are offered for every skill level. Or take a half-day trip with Neptuno Dive out of Juan Dolio.
Unfortunately, damage to the coral reefs is a constant threat due to illegal fishing (sometimes chemicals such as bleach are used to fish!), artisanal fishing, and hurricanes. Nevertheless, La Caleta remains a popular dive site.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition