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Manati Park

This animal park, opening in 1997, is the most controversial in the Caribbean. It's your choice if you want to patronize it or not. It features an array of sea lions, parrots, and even a dancing horse show, inspired by the traditional equestrian performances in the Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera. There's even a crocodile cage, a parade of elegant pink flamingos, and a collection of caged snakes and iguanas. There's also a fenced-in area where brave animal lovers can get close to a colony of iguanas, although we strongly discourage any reader from attempting this, particularly since we've been told that the iguanas tend to attack anything orange and, by extension, anyone wearing clothing that's colored orange. The park is controversial because of its policy of allowing people to swim with dolphins. Marine biologists have claimed that the tank holding the dolphins is too small and that the animals are forced into regular contact with humans. This, it is believed, upsets their natural bacteria levels. That, in turn, can lead to a breakdown in their immune systems. Already, four "stressed-out" dolphins have died since the park opened. Many countries, including Canada, have requested that the Dominican Republic close this exhibit, calling the park's policy "inhumane." If you must visit, the park is open daily from 9am to 6pm, charging adults RD$1,117 and ages 2 to 12 RD$559. A swim with the dolphins costs RD$3,539 with advance booking required. Call tel. 809/221-9444, or log on to www.manatipark.com.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.