Our holiday was based around a package tour to the north coast of the Dominican Republic with UK operator My Travel, 6th to 13th May 2003. We stayed at the 4 star Tropical Beach Club hotel in the popular resort of Cabarete which is 25km east of the airport at Puerto Plata on highway 5.
Birds of the West Indies, Herbert Raffaele ISBN 0-7136-4905-4
Geocenter Holiday Map of the Dominican Republic ISBN 3-89707-013-8
We had planned to hire a car in our resort. However the insurance terms offered were unacceptable so we arranged transport with our My Travel representative.
Away from the resorts hardly anyone speaks English. A basic grasp of Spanish is a definite advantage.
The Dominican Republic Peso is the only currency accepted away from the coastal tourist areas and credit cards are not widely accepted. 1US$ = 21.5 DR Peso.
Despite our best precautions we both came home suffering from the effects of food poisoning. Mosquitoes and biting insects are a problem at El Choco and Ebano Verde. Valle Nuevo is 2000m and Ebano Verde is 1560m above sea level.
1. The 6th and 7th were spent exploring and birding around our hotel. The gardens and beach provided a surprising collection of birds. Just across the road our sister hotel, the Tropical Casa Laguna Hotel backs onto a large marsh, the inland end of which has a rookery with Great White and Cattle Egrets. A large tree next to the main entrance to the Tropical Beach hotel is the nightly roost for hundreds of Village Weavers. Birds seen around the hotel included, Palmchat, Hispaniolan Woodpecker, Grey Kingbird, Caribbean Martin, Red legged Thrush, Bananaquit, Greater Antillean Grackle and White winged Dove. A single Magnificent Frigatebird was seen off the beach one morning before the throngs of windsurfers got going.
2. 8th May. El Choco Reserve. 500m east of Cabarete on Highway 5. Signposted. Drive inland through the village to the reserve entrance. Walk the rough track to the t-junction and turn right, the left turn goes to the tourist caves www.hispaniola.com/cabaretecaves . We saw Cattle and Great White Egrets on the way through the village. Along the reserve trails we saw Turkey Vultures, Sharp shinned Hawk, White crowned Pigeon, Plain Pigeon, Common Ground Dove, Mangrove Cuckoo, Palmchat, Antillean Palm Swift, Vervain Hummingbird, Antillean Mango, Hispaniolan Emerald, Hispaniolan Woodpecker, Antillean Piculet, Hispaniolan Pewee, Northern Mockingbird, Black whiskered Vireo, Bananaquit, Black crowned Palm Tanager, Yellow faced Grassquit and Greater Antillean Bullfinch.
3. 9th May. 0800 start for the drive to Constansa, arrived 1400. Booked into Hotel Altocerro. Email email@example.com, Tel 539-1553 The hotel is visible on the north side of the road at Colonia Kennedy 500m to the east of Constanza. Camping facilities are also available there. We paid around US$25 per night for a two bed apartment. The hotel grounds held Helmeted Guineafowl, Mourning Dove, Smooth billed Ani, Pine Warbler, Hispaniolan stripe headed Tanager, Black faced Grassquit and Rufous collared Sparrow. Night at Hotel Altocerro.
4. 10th May. Two hour drive through Constanza and Colonia Japonesa to Valle Nuevo. The road is quite rough and a 4 wheel drive is recommended. At the old army camp walk the track sign posted Alto Bandera, along this track opposite the new army camp gate a path through the pines leads to a greenhouse complex. Along this path we saw American Kestrel, Mourning Dove, Antillean Palm Swift, Antillean Mango, Hispaniolan Emerald, Hispaniolan Woodpecker, Greater Antillean Elaenia, Golden Swallow, Red legged Thrush, Pine Warbler, Hispaniolan stripe headed Tanager, Black crowned Palm Tanager, Yellow faced Grassquit, Antillean Siskin, White winged Crossbill and Rufous collared Sparrow. Night at Altocerro Hotel.
5. 11th May. A predawn start for the one hour drive to the Ebano Verde reserve. The upper entrance (1565m) is sign posted close to a shrine on the summit of route 12 near the radio masts. We met Steve here at 0630 and walked the trails down to the reserve centre nearly 1000m lower down the valley. Permits to enter the reserve must be requested by fax at least 14 days prior to your visit. Phone 809 565 1422, Fax 809 549 3900, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Steve Brauning well beforehand and see if he can help. The reserve is probably the best place to bird in the whole of the central mountain range. We saw Red tailed Hawk, Plain Pigeon, Scaly naped Pigeon, Grey headed Quail Dove, Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo, White collared Swift, Antillean Palm Swift, Antillean Mango, Vervain Hummingbird, Hispaniolan Emerald, Hispaniolan Woodpecker, Antillean Piculet, Broad billed Tody, Narrow billed Tody, Hispaniolan Trogon, Stolid Flycatcher, Hispaniolan Pewee, Greater Antillean Elaenia, Caribbean Martin, Rufous throated Solitaire, Pine Warbler, Antillean Euphonia, Bananaquit, Stripe headed Tanager, Black crowned Palm Tanager, Black faced Grassquit, Rufous collared Sparrow, Hispaniolan Palm Crow and Green tailed Ground Warbler. We then took the 4 hour drive back to our hotel in Cabarete.
6. 12th May. Some easy birding around the bridge over the Rio Yasica near Los Brazos on route 21 10km or so south of Cabarete produced Green Heron, Snowy Egret and Sand Martin.