Dominican Republic birding tour

December 6–15, 2024

From the heights of Pico Duarte to the depths of Lago Enriquillo, the island of Hispaniola—of which the Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds—nurtures a wide variety of habitats such as cloud forests, mangrove swamps, pine woodlands, and thorn forests, that are home to a whopping 35 endemics. Among these are Palmchat, Hispaniolan Trogon, Bay-breasted Cuckoo, Broad- and Narrow-billed todies, and Eastern and Western chat-tanagers. Join the ABA and EcoTour Barahona to discover the Dominican Republic’s exceptional avifauna, from unique endemics to migratory marvels.

Day 1 12/6/2024 Arrival Santo Domingo airport & transfer to Sabana de la Mar
Day 2 12/7/2024 Birding in Los Haitises NP
Day 3 12/8/2024 Birding in Los Haitises NP & transfer to Santo Domingo
Day 4 12/9/2024 Birding in Botanical Garden & transfer to Barahona with a stop at Bani wetlands
Day 5 12/10/2024 Birding in Cachote
Day 6 12/11/2024 Birding along Alcoa Road
Day 7 12/12/2024 Transfer to Duverge
Day 8 12/13/2024 Birding along Zapotén road
Day 9 12/14/2024 Birding along Rabo de Gato trail & transfer to Santo Domingo
Day 10 12/15/2024 Departure Santo Domingo airport

Specialty birds:

This tour focuses primarily on seeing as many national and regional endemics as possible.

Ridgway’s Hawk, Broad-billed tody, Black-crowned Palm-Tanager, Hispaniolan Oriole, Ashy-faced Owl, Vervain Hummingbird, Hispaniolan Woodpecker, Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo, Palmchat, Hispaniolan Parakeet, Eastern Chat-Tanager, Hispaniolan Trogon, Hispaniolan Spindalis, Hispaniolan Emerald, White-winged Warbler, Narrow-billed Tody, Hispaniolan Pewee, Hispaniolan Parrot, Hispaniolan Palm Crow, Hispaniolan Crossbill, Golden Swallow, Bay-breasted Cuckoo, Flat-billed Vireo, White-fronted Quail-Dove, Hispaniolan Piculet, Antillean Siskin, Greater Antillean Elaenia, Western Chat-Tanager, LaSelle Thrush, Hispaniolan Euphonia, Hispaniolan Crossbill, Green-tailed Ground-Tanager…

Landscape, scenery, habitats:

Mangroves, mudflats, white sandy beaches, thorn forest, pine forest, and cloud forest.

Dates: December 6-15, 2024

Number of days and nights: 10 days / 9 nights

Start and end point:

  • Starting: 6 December 2024, Santo Domingo (SDQ) (make sure to arrive before noon!)
  • Finishing: 15 December 2024, Santo Domingo (SDQ)

Group size:

  • Minimum number of participants: 8
  • Maximum number of participants: 15

Guides and ABA staff: 1 Dominican Republic lead guide and 1 ABA staff

Focus:

Birds

Birding pace:

High

Photography opportunities:

Medium (this is not specifically a photography tour). 

Physical difficulty:

Medium-High:

To reach the highland forests, we need to start some of our days well before the break of dawn, as we’ll want to be near our destinations at sunrise. Other departures will be more leisurely, but we do make sure we are out in the field when bird activity is highest, in the early morning hours.

This is a high-paced trip, with several long drives (given that accommodation in the Dominican Republic isn’t necessarily that close to our birding sites). Many of the roads in the DR aren’t great, and when we’re headed up into the mountains of Cachote and Zapotén, they are little more than dry riverbeds, requiring us to travel in off-road vehicles. Be prepared for extremely bumpy rides on those days.

Most walks aren’t very strenuous, but especially when in the highlands, we will need to walk for several miles on uneven terrain and up- and downhill.

Accommodations are generally comfortable, but for the two nights spent in Duverge, we’ll stay in very basic apartments (private rooms, potentially shared bath). These really are the only accommodations at less than a half-day drive from our hotspots for that region. There will be electricity and running water but be prepared for rustic. And it’s only for two nights!

Price:

  • $4,000 per person in double occupancy (twin or double)
  • $450 single supplement

Included:

  • 9 hotel nights
  • 3 meals per day from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on day 10
  • All local private transportation to and from sites visited and transportation from airport to hotel and day 1 and from hotel to airport on day 10
  • All guiding fees for tour leaders and local guides
  • All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
  • All activities as described in the itinerary

Not included:

  • Transportation to and from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (SDQ)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Purchases of a personal nature, including (but not limited to) laundry service, room service, phone calls, toiletries, souvenirs etc.
  • No insurance is included. We strongly recommend you get your own travel, cancellation, and medical insurance
  • Extensions of the trip due to circumstances out of our control
  • Any tips you would like to offer tour leaders, guides, drivers, porters, wait staff, housekeeping, etc. for outstanding service

Optional add-ons:

If you want to arrive before December 6, 2024, or leave after December 15, 2024, we can book extra hotel nights in Santo Domingo for you, at an additional fee. You can indicate this in your booking form.

Terms and conditions:

aba.org/terms-conditions

Booking and secure payment:

12/06/2024: Arrival Santo Domingo airport & transfer to Sabana de la Mar

We will be waiting for you at Las Americas international airport (SDQ) in Santo Domingo. Please make sure to arrive before noon. As soon as the group is complete, we start driving to Sabana de la Mar, about 3 hours driving from the capital. We will have our first group dinner in the Dominican Republic shortly after we arrive at the hotel. We will make time for introductions, and to go over the plans for the following days. After that, a good night’s sleep will be welcome, so we’re all well-rested for our birding adventure.

12/07/2024: Birding in Los Haitises NP

Paraiso Caño Hondo is the entrance gate to Los Haitises National Park. The park is famed among birders because it is the stronghold of the endemic Ridgway’s Hawk. The entire population (about 300 individuals) of this rare and unfortunately, critically endangered, raptor lives in Los Haitises. Terrestrial bird species we will encounter here include White-crowned Pigeon, Plain Pigeon, Hispaniolan Parrot, White-necked Crow, Broad-billed Tody, Greater Antillean Pewee, Stolid Flycatcher, Black-crowned Palm-Tanager, and Hispaniolan Oriole.

After dinner, during an optional owling session, we’ll look for yet another Hispaniolan endemic: Ashy-faced Owl.

12/08/2024: Birding in Los Haitises NP & transfer to Santo Domingo

This morning, we’ll focus on the waterbirds and shorebirds that inhabit nearby wetlands and flooded fields. We will get a full host of egrets, herons, night-herons, gulls, terns, plovers, terns, pelicans, etc. In case we missed any targets yesterday, we can also take some more time to look for those.

After lunch, we drive back to Santo Domingo. Depending on our time of arrival, we will go for a stroll through the colonial heart of the city or along the beach. Thanks to the historical buildings, beautiful colonial architecture, and sea breeze, this is a very nice part of the capital. 

12/09/2024: Birding in Botanical Garden & transfer to Barahona with a stop at Bani wetlands

Early in the morning, we drive to the Botanical Garden. It is the largest one in the Caribbean, with 2000 hectares and over 69,000 plant species (both native and introduced). It was founded in 1943 and named after the first Dominican botanist to write a catalog on the flora of La Española, Dr. Rafael Moscoso. The garden offers a great introduction to many of the more common bird species of the Dominican Republic, including some of the endemics. Targets here are Vervain Hummingbird, Broad-billed Tody, Hispaniolan Woodpecker, Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo, Palmchat, Black-crowned Palm-Tanager, Hispaniolan Parakeet, and the near-threatened West-Indian Whistling Duck.

Afterwards, we drive to the southwestern side of the Dominican Republic. Our first stop will be at the Baní wetlands, which are a hotspot for American Flamingo, Magnificent Frigatebird, Clapper Rail, White and Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black-bellied Plover, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated, Western, Least, Pectoral and Stilt Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, but also for wintering songbirds such as Blackpoll Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, or Prairie Warbler, and for the resident subspecies of Yellow Warbler.

12/10/2024: Birding in Cachote

Prepare for some rough terrain today, as the bumpy ride in the car over steep rocky roads and through riverbeds will surely shake you up. However, it is worth it, because this is where we will look for some of the harder-to-get endemics. Primarily the Eastern Chat-Tanager, which is pretty much impossible to get anywhere else, and the main reason to even drive up this road. Other species we can see here include Hispaniolan Parakeet, Hispaniolan Trogon, Hispaniolan Spindalis, Hispaniolan Emerald, White-winged Warbler, Rufous-throated Solitaire, Bicknell’s Thrush, and Narrow-billed Tody.

12/11/2024: Birding along Alcoa Road

Today we’ll be focusing on the so-called Alcoa Road, a fairly good dirt road leading up to the Hoyo de Pelempito entrance on the south side of Sierra de Bahoruco National Park. We make several stops along the road to look for Antillean Euphonia, Antillean Piculet, Antillean Siskin, Hispaniolan Pewee, Hispaniolan Parrot, Hispaniolan Parakeet, Hispaniolan Palm Crow, Hispaniolan Crossbill and Golden Swallow.

If time allows, we may make a short stop at Cabo Rojo on the way back to our hotel and add some more waterbirds and waders to our list.

12/12/2024: Transfer to Duverge

Today, we drive around the Sierra Bahoruco to the northern slope of the mountains. We should still have time this afternoon to look for Bay-breasted Cuckoo, Flat-billed Vireo, White-fronted Quail Dove, Broad-billed Tody, Narrow-billed Tody, Hispanolian Piculet, Hispaniolan Oriole and Hispanolian Lizard-Cuckoo. After dark, we can go owling and try to get the endemic Ashy-faced Owl.

12/13/2024: Birding in Zapotén 

Another rough drive today, this time along Zapotén road. Though ‘road’ is actually too much credit for what we will be driving on because most of it is actually a dry riverbed. You will understand why we need the 4WD and high clearance car! But again, this is a must-go location, since it is one of the best spots to look for White-necked Crow, White-winged and Green-tailed Ground-Tanager, Antillean Siskin, Hispianolian Spindalis, Greater Antillean Elaenia, Western Chat-Tanager, and LaSelle Thrush.

12/14/2024: Birding along Rabo de Gato trail & transfer to Santo Domingo

This morning we bird along the nearby Rabo de Gato trail. An easy and pleasant walk through a beautiful forest and along a lovely stream. This area is home to Flat-billed Vireo, White-fronted Quail Dove, Key-West Quail-Dove, Broad- and Narrow-billed Tody, Hispaniolan Piculet and Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo, among several others.

After our morning bird walk, we drive back to Santo Domingo for our final group dinner.

12/15/2024: Departure from Santo Domingo

We will bring you back to Las Americas international airport (SDQ) in time for your flight.