Floating in a calm waters, the color of a turquoise gem stone, waters that are huddled by a jungle of foliage, it's easy to forget that you are just minutes from your air-conditioned hotel room. The Reserva Ecologica Ojos Indigenas (Indigenous Eyes Ecological Reserve) is the only private forest reserve in Punta Cana and it sits smack on the property of the Puntacana Resort and Club in the Dominican Republic. Tasked with protecting the area's natural resources, the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation seeks to conserve the region's biodiversity by preserving this park.
Hundreds of different plants, including mahogany, mesquite, red mangrove as well as feather, coconut and sabal palms make up the dense foliage of this reserve that's home to numerous bird species found only in the Dominican Republic.While you're enjoying the refreshing pools, you'll spot tilapia and other freshwater fish as well as mud turtles.
On the 1,200 protected acres, 12 fresh-water lagoons are fed from the underground Yauya River that flows into the sea. Most of the lagoons bear names, such as Inriri, Corcote, Buren and Guacara that reflect words from the Tainos Indians, the island's first inhabitants who were wiped out because of European colonization. (The Tainos would refer to these pools as ojos or eyes because of their shape.) Each lagoon has a different depth and color but only three of the dozen lagoons are regularly open for swimming plus one additional that rotates. Yauya is shallow, a mere three-feet deep, with a wide wooden deck where benches are inset. At Casinbajagua, you can leave your gear on two wooden planks and climb down a ladder into the cool lagoon.
As I walked a shaded ribbon of a path lined with limestone rocks that links the lagoons, I heard shouts of glee in the distance. These were coming from Guama, a lagoon that you can dive into. Here I found a family from Germany with their three teenagers. The teens were diving in over and over again while the parents took the more tame route by climbing down into the water.
It's easy to spend hours in this reserve, bird watching, lounging, swimming, exploring the plant life. And, when you decide you've had your fill of the sub-tropical paradise, you can head back to the trail head, and wait for the shuttle bus to take you back to your air conditioned room. And, if you can't get enough of this little Eden, you can always return tomorrow.