This Dominican Republic Endemics Tour was elaborated for the more avid birders. We will have some time to learn about culture, history, and nature in general, but the focus is clearly on seeing all or most of the country endemics (31 in total) and regional endemics.
The trip is not particularly strenuous. The walks are usually short, and even on the longest hikes restricted to about 3h. We will walk on nature trails, but they generally are relatively flat and not difficult to walk. Of course, we also walk slowly, as we will be birding all the time. Anyone in reasonably good health and with a general level of fitness can take the tour. On several occasions, birding will be from the car and we will make stops along the way where we walk only short stretches, looking for particular species or following a flock.
The car rides can be tiring, especially along Zapotén and Cachote road. We will be traveling in a 4WD high-clearance vehicle (the main reason for the limited number of participants on the tour), and you will notice that is absolutely necessary. Roads are sometimes not even roads but rather dry river beds. However, your endurance will be rewarded with some excellent species. Other drives, to get us from A to B can take up to 4h on good roads, although we try to limit the long driving days during the tour.
D1 Arrival Santo Domingo airport & Transfer to Sabana de la Mar
D2 Birding in Los Haitises NP
D3 Birding in Los Haitises NP & Transfer to Santo Domingo
D4 Birding in Botanical Garden & Transfer to Cabo Rojo
D5 Birding in Cabo Rojo & along Alcoa Road
D6 Birding along Cachote Road
D7 Free morning & Transfer to Villa Barrancoli
D8 Birding along Zapotén road
D9 Birding along Rabo de Gato trail & Transfer to Santo Domingo
D10 Departure Santo Domingo airport
The island of Hispaniola is shared by the Dominican Republic in the east and Haiti in the west. With a surface of about 76,000km², it is the second largest island in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic occupies roughly two thirds of its land mass, and Haiti the remaining third. It is also the most populous island of the Caribbean archipelago, counting over 11mio Haitians and a good 10mio Dominicans.
When it comes to bird life, Hispaniola benefits from its unique location: It sits on an oceanic archipelago between the Caribbean Sea in the south and the Pacific Ocean in the north, and pretty much in the middle between North and South America. It may not have the high species numbers of other countries in the Americas (though it still counts just over 300 species total), but it has relatively high numbers of endemic and regional endemic species. In total, Hispaniola boasts 31 strict endemics (that is, species that are not found anywhere else in the world). Only one of those – Grey-crowned Palm-Tanager – has not been seen in the Dominican Republic, since it is restricted to southwestern Haiti. Besides the strict endemics, Hispaniola is also home to about 20 regional endemics, or species only found in the Caribbean. Then we are not talking yet about the nearly 50 resident sub-species. And on top of that, the island is an important wintering or stopover site for hosts of migratory warblers, ducks, and shorebirds that are a lot easier to see here in winter than in North America in summer, simply because they are concentrated in a much smaller area.
Hispaniola also enjoys a wonderfully varied geography and habitats: from lowland swamps and rainforest, to broad savannahs, to arid deserts, to montane rainforest, to highland pine forests. It has several unique geographical features, like Lago Enriquillo, a salt lake 40m below sea level, and Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the whole Caribbean 3,145m.
Culturally, Quisqueya, as Dominicans affectionately call their home (meaning “mother of all lands”) is also a country of superlatives. This was the first permanent Spanish settlement in the Americas or the “New World,” with the arrival of Christopher Columbus on his first voyage in 1492. Aside from choosing the Dominican Republic as his sole residence in the region–a land blessed with fertile soil and gold deposits–Columbus and the Spanish Crown used the country as a launching pad for conquests across the Caribbean and United States. Today, the first city of the Americas, Santo Domingo, is the capital of the Dominican Republic, and continues to thrive while preserving its history and original Spanish architecture.
Thanks to its good connections to both the rest of the Americas and to Europe, its good infrastructure, variety and diversity in landscapes, flora, fauna and things to do, its pleasant climate, its laid-back vibe and its delicious gastronomy, the Dominican Republic is bound to conquer a space in any visitor’s heart.
The climate in the Dominican Republic is best described as a tropical, with sunny days year-round and average annual temperatures hovering just below 80°F (26° C). Variations from that average are determined more by altitude than anything else. Temperatures at higher elevations in the central mountain range, the Cordillera Central, can drop into the 60s F (17°C), and it’s not uncommon to see temperatures above 90°F (32°C) on the coastal plains. Northeast trade winds blow off the Atlantic year-round and are especially welcome on the northern side of the island. The average temperature in the capital, Santo Domingo, is 75°F (24°C) in January and 80°F (27°C) in July.
Changes in seasons in the Dominican Republic means changes in rainfall patterns as opposed to changes in temperature. The rainy season for the north coast runs from November to January; for the rest of the country, rain falls more regularly between May and November. During the rainy season, rains tend to fall in the afternoons in short bursts after which sunshine returns. The mountainous northeast see the heaviest rains, with average annual rainfall of more than 100inches (2,540mm). The western valleys along the Haitian border, as well as the northwestern and southeastern extremes of the country, are relatively arid and usually see only about 20 inches (500mm) of annual rainfall. The humidity can be oppressive during the heat of summer months, but winter brings relief in the form of cooler, dry nights.
Generally, hurricane season in the Dominican Republic is from June to November. Historically the most active month is September, but some of the most severe and destructive storms have come significantly earlier in the year; it’s impossible to predict when the storms will come. While a major storm hits once every quarter-century, the island is affected by at least outer bands of storms more frequently—close to every five years.
The Dominican Republic is mostly Spanish-speaking. English and French are mandatory foreign languages in school,although the quality of foreign languages teaching is poor. Haitian Creole is the largest minority language in the Dominican Republic and is spoken by Haitian immigrants and their descendants. There is a community of a few thousand people whose ancestors spoke Samaná English in the Samaná Peninsula. They are the descendants of formerly enslaved African Americans who arrived in the nineteenth century, but only a few elders speak the language today. Tourism, American pop culture, the influence of Dominican Americans, and the country’s economic ties with the United States motivate other Dominicans to learn English. The Dominican Republic is ranked 2nd in Latin America and 23rd in the World on English proficiency.
The local currency is the Dominican Peso. The exchange rate varies, but is currently around 50.6 DOP for 1 USD or 57 DOP for 1 EUR. Most There are ATMs in Santo Domingo, which work with Visa and Mastercard. Be careful with money and other valuables. Many areas in the Dominican Republic are poor, and temptation can get the better of some. Try not to display your money, jewelry and other valuables more than necessary.
Health & Hygiene
Consult your doctor timely about vaccinations and medication and inform us of any health issues or dietary requirements, so we can take the best possible care of you.
Tap water in the Dominican Republic is not for drinking. Hotels will provide purified water for drinking, brushing teeth etc.
Hotels we visit are comfortable to basic. They are clean, have hot water, usually have a fan or A/C (though not always), provide purified water for drinking, and good overall service. Restaurants we select to take our clients have been trained to cater for tourists. They maintain the highest possible hygiene standards and use purified water in all drinks (and ice) and food preparations.
Even when taking all possible precautionary measures, the change of climate, food, activity level etc. sometimes weighs on people, causing nausea or diarrhea, which can ruin a day. Bring the necessary medicine to alleviate symptoms of the most common traveler’s conditions. We also always carry a first aid kit in case you need it.
Recommended bird guide
Birds of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Steven Latta et al. (2006)
Birds of the West Indies. Princeton Fieldguide. Herbert Raffaele et al. (2003)
What to bring (in addition to your usual packing list)
- Light shirts with long sleeves;
- Light long trousers;
- Sun hat or cap;
- Footwear with good grip;
- Personal medicine and products for personal hygiene);
Price per person for the tour with 4 to 6 participants.
Price per person for the tour with 3 participants.
Price per person for the tour with 2 participants.
Price for the tour with 1 participant (fully private).
We will be waiting for you at Las Americas international airport in Santo Domingo. As soon as the group is complete, we drive to Sabana de la Mar, on the northern shore of the island. We will likely arrive late, so after our first dinner together we crawl into bed to be fit for our first birding day tomorrow! Or if you still have some energy we could give the Ashy-faced Owl a first go.