Imagine a dry, deserted island that’s covered in endangered iguanas. Now, imagine that island’s inside a lake that’s over 100 feet below sea level, and has cactus, crocodiles, thousands of birds, and scorching, 120° temperatures? No—this isn’t a place from a fantasy novel or a mythical foreign land, but an image of Isla Cabritos National Park in the Western Dominican Republic. Here in the middle of Lake Enriquillo—a saltwater lake near the border with Haiti that’s the largest in the entire Caribbean—Isla Cabritos is an arid strip of ecological wealth. Not only is this island exceptionally remote, but it’s also home to the critically endangered Ricord’s and Rhinocerous Iguana—two species that seem directly descended from when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Hire a boat from the park entrance outside of La Descubierta, and spend the day exploring a landscape where only the hardiest of visitors venture.
Isla Cabritos National Park is located 90 minutes west of Barahona and 3.5 hours from Santo Domingo. There are no facilities on the entire island—so be sure to plan ahead—and all the transport and logistics are arranged through local eco-tour operators. Since temperatures in summer can be dangerously hot, it’s best to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon. And, since scorpions are common on Isla Cabritos, this is one of the world’s only sandy islands where it’s best to wear closed toed shoes.