The South is poorest region of the Dominican Republic, almost untouched by tourism and with very little economic development. Maybe this is the reason why it has managed to keep intact its impressive scenery and extremely diverse wildlife. The South contrasts greatly with the rest of the Dominican Republic because it is covered by deserts and savannas.
The Flamingos of the Lago Enriquillo
The most accessible town in the South is that of Barahona. If you seek to explore this region, you stay in one of the hotels at Barahona. The beaches at Barahona are very distinct from the others in the Dominican Republic: don't look for palm trees and white sand here! Instead, you will find a very exotic black sand, rugged mountains, cliffs and the lush green vegetation that covered the rest of the island's coasts before coconut and palm trees were brought by the Spanish colonizers. The beaches of Palmar de Ocoa offer a similar landscape. An intriguing spot at Barahona is the Polo Magnético or "Magnetic Pole": if you leave your car in a particular part of a hill, it will go up the hill, not down! Come and try it for yourself! (It all seems to be an optical illusion, not a strange supernatural magnetic force as it is often believed to be, but you should check it out, nonetheless!)
View from the Observatory at Hoyo de Pelempito
In the valley surrounded by the rugged, rocky and arid mountains of the provinces of Independencia and Neiba you will find the Lago Enriquillo, a salt-water lake below sea level that once belonged to the Caribbean Sea. The lake is filled with alligators, surreal-looking white, leaf-less trees, and pink flamingos, while being surrounded by an iguana-infested rocky desert. In these barren lands you can find the Dominican Republic's endemic rodent, only found in the island, known as the Solenodonte. There are always locals trying to take visitors to the Cabritos Island in the middle of the lake. The boat ride surrounded by alligators is also surreal, and once you get to the island, you will see the wall paintings of the first inhabitants of the island, the Tainos. Not far from here is another lagoon, the Laguna de Oviedo, with a very high content of sulfur, which is said to be very good for your skin. This lagoon features a similar wildlife, with pink flamingos, but without the scary alligators.
The rest of the South is as full of surprises. The presence Bauxite Mines has created quite a unique landscape in some areas of the south, in which the red earth contrasts greatly with the green vegetation. In the province of Independencia, close to Pedernales, you will find a very unique spot: the Hoyo de Pelempito, one of the deepest natural depressions in the Western hemisphere, similar in a sense to Colorado's Grand Canyon. However, although it is surrounded by a rocky desert, the gorge itself is lush and green with pine trees and vegetation. There is an observatory by Pedernales from where the whole area can be admired.
However, the most impressive place in the province, and possibly in the whole island, is in the very secluded Bahia de las Aguilas or "Bay of the Eagles." To get there, you need to depart from the border town of Pedernales in the Independencia province, and take a boat ride to the bay, unless you have a very, very resilient jeep. Bahia de las Aguilas is one of the most beautiful beaches in the island, completely untouched by man, and filled with wild animals such as dauphins and manatees. The water is crystal clear, the savanna-like vegetation is very surreal, and the miles and miles of beach are usually empty. Dominicans have fought hard to preserve this area free of touristic development, as they see in Bahia de las Aguilas the best-kept "jewel" of their country. If you're adventurous enough to get there, you will never forget it.