Bahoruco isn’t nearly as spooky and inhospitable as depicted here.
The sizable province (495 square miles) centrally located in southwestern Dominican Republic about a three-hour drive west of Santo Domingo is home to The Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve boasting three distinctive biogeographic regions.
Natural ecosystems here encompass just about everything you might encounter most anywhere in the Caribbean. Tropical highlands, karstic terraces, cloud forest, dry forest, islands and cays, mangroves and coastal wetlands, caves, lagoons, mud banks – Bahoruco has it all.
Enriquillo Lake, pictured above, stands out among the Bahoruco ecosystems. At 145 square miles, it’s the largest lake in the Caribbean. It’s also the spot of lowest elevation in the region (-88 feet below sea level), which keeps the water rather salty. Curiously, it’s also filled with crocodiles, one of just a handful of saltwater lakes in the world that’s home to the normally freshwater aquatic reptiles.
Crocodiles are just one of 67 different reptile species you’ll find in Bahoruco. The area is also home to 100+ different species of birds, making Bahoruco a must for adventure-seekers keen on spotting endemic West Indian wildlife in their own, protected natural habitats.
Bahoruo is also great if you love mountains… and jewelry. The Sierra de Bahoruco is the southern-most mountain range on Hispañola. It’s also the spot where the famed larimar stones unique to the Dominican Republic are mined.
Oh, and apropos of the Halloween season, the Bahoruco highlands are also haunted.
As the local legend goes, these mystical mountains are home to Biembiens, monstrous half-human creatures dating back to the 1700s that came into being after an African slave and some Indians escaped from their Spanish masters to the mountains. It’s said that after remaining cut off from civilization for some time, the escapees mutated into the wild beings that roam the area today.
Biembiens are not mischievous like this character or some other West Indian duppies and spirits we’ve covered before. In fact, they’re downright horrifying, preying upon humans who they apparently eat or use as sacrifice!
At least that’s one side of the story. I’ve also read that Biembiens are harmless and so painfully shy that they avoid all human contact altogether.
So, how will you know a Biembien if you see one?
Well, it’s said they don’t wear any clothes, are pretty ugly, and don’t speak, employing grunting sounds instead of words. They’re also quite proficient in climbing trees and only really venture out at night… in search of food.
What should you do if you encounter a Biembien along your adventuring around Bahoruco?
One word: RUN!!
*Lead photo credit: Flickr user Carlos Gomez.