|Native name: Isla Saona|
|Area||110 km2 (42 sq mi)|
|Length||25 km (15.5 mi)|
|Width||5 km (3.1 mi)|
|Highest elevation||35 m (115 ft)|
|Density||2.73 /km2 (7.07 /sq mi)|
Saona Island (in Spanish Isla Saona) is a tropical island located a short distance from the mainland on the south-east tip of the Dominican Republic. It is a government protected nature reserve and is part of East National Park (in Spanish Parque Nacional del Este). It is a popular destination for tourists from all over the Dominican Republic, who arrive in fleets of catamarans and small motorboats on organized excursions every day. The Island is famous for the natural beauty of its beaches, and has been used on many occasions by film-makers and advertisers looking for a stereotypical "desert island" setting for their film or product. It is promoted amongst European visitors as the setting for the famous Bounty chocolate bar adverts.
The island was baptized "Saona" by Christopher Columbus, who discovered it in May 1494 during his second voyage to the Americas. The name was meant "... to honor Michele da Cuneo, [Columbus'] friend from Savona." Columbus named Michele da Cuneo the first governor of the island.
The seas around the Island are rich in wildlife, with many species of birds and tropical marine fish, and there are large areas where natural sandbars offshore bring the depth to just a few feet. These are once again popular with the tourist trade, with small boats stopping hundreds of meters off the beach and disgorging tourists into the waist-deep shallows where they snorkel, drink and check out the fields of starfish indigenous to the region.
- Paolo Emilio Taviani, Columbus the Great Adventure, Orion Books, New York (1991) p. 185
- Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Columbus, Oxford Univ. Press, (1991) pp. 103-104.
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