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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

The Dominican Republic

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for this tour. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

ENTERING THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC:  U.S. citizens must have a passport valid at the time of entry and with at least one blank page for an entry stamp. 

Citizens of other (non US, UK, or Canada) countries may need a visa and should check with their nearest Dominican Republic embassy. If required by the embassy or visa-granting entity, WINGS can provide a letter for you to use regarding your participation in the tour. 

All tourist travelers to the Dominican Republic are required to obtain a tourist visa (USD$10) upon arrival. The tourist visa fee is paid before clearing customs (at a small kiosk on the right of the immigration room adjacent to a currency exchange) once you have disembarked at the airport.   

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S.  Department of State Country Specific Travel Information for the Dominican Republic at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/dominican-republic.html , and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Dominican Republic at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/dr.html.

PACE OF THE TOUR: Although not physically demanding, this tour involves long days, with one very early start (2:30 am), and several pre-dawn starts with subsequent long drives (two to three  hours each way) due to the distance of our hotels from the best birding sites. Although the main highways in the country are generally in excellent shape the mountain roads can be very rough.  We’ll return to the hotel between 5 and 6 p.m. (with at least two optional after dinner trips for night birds).

Walks will vary from easy to moderate and will in several cases involve walking on rocky, gradually inclined roads for two to three hours. Much of the birding is along roadsides. If the close Ridgeway’s Hawk nests are not active we will offer an optional walk to a nesting area in a nearby valley, about two miles round trip with an elevation gain of 800 feet. 

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. 

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Dengue Fever is not common on the island but is increasing in the Caribbean.  Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure. 

Malaria: The CDC says there is a low risk of Malaria throughout the Dominican Republic (but no risk in the cities of Santo Domingo and Barahona).  We do encounter a few mosquitoes during the tour, and on some years small biting gnats can be a nuisance on one afternoon.   Please consult with your physician before the tour for advice. 

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations for the Dominican Republic can be found on the CDC’s  Travel Health website at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/dominican-republic

Elevation:  On two (possibly three) of the days we venture into the higher reaches of the Sierra de Bahoruco (above 5500 ft), but most of our birding is near (or even below) sea level. 

Smoking:  Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail. 

Miscellaneous:  It is worth noting that the island of Hispaniola is pleasantly free of chiggers, but small midges and mosquitoes are present in low numbers. 

CLIMATE: The days in the lowlands are generally quite warm (often hovering around 90 degrees F), and summer clothes are suitable year-round. Please be prepared for the possibility of cool, damp (or rainy) weather on our three days in the Sierra de Bahoruco.  It can feel surprisingly chilly (in the low 50’s) at the top of the mountains, so a light or even medium weight jacket/sweater will be useful. 

ACCOMMODATIONS: We’ll stay in comfortable hotels. Our starting hotel in Santo Domingo is located inside of the old colonial town, and within a block of the main walking street and most important tourist sites.

In Barahona we stay in a secluded cliffside hotel run by Europeans.  In the past we have experienced some issues with a lack of hot water in the bathrooms, but this has been steadily improving over the years. The rooms have recently been renovated with upgraded bathrooms.  In Sabana de la Mar we stay in an incredible hotel that could easily have been designed by Salvadore Dali.  Rooms there are large, many with forested balconies, and we will take our meals near the artificial waterfalls in an open air atrium. The final hotel used on the tour is a modern chain-type hotel located conveniently out by the airport.

INTERNET: Wifi is good in Santo Domingo, but often too slow to be reliably useful in Barahona, and absent in Sabana de la Mar. 

FOOD:  Most breakfasts and lunches will be picnics taken in the field.  Our breakfasts will generally consist of standard cold fare, with yoghurt, hard-boiled eggs, cereal, fruit, etc., although on several days we will make use of our hotel’s more substantial offerings. Lunches in the field will consist of sandwiches, fruit, snacks, and cold drinks. Dinners will be taken at or near our accommodation and are varied, ranging from restaurant fare to the excellent three-course family-style dinners prepared by our hotel in Barahona.  Chicken and fish are widely eaten in the Caribbean, while beef is less common.

Bottled Water: Bottled water will be available in the tour vehicles throughout the tour. 

Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions. 

TRANSPORTATION: For much of the tour we’ll be on rough gravel roads with clearance issues so we use four-wheel drive SUV’s, with a maximum of 4 participants per vehicle. Participants should be able to ride in any seat in tour vehicles.  For the drives to and from the Southwest corner of the island (on excellent paved highways) we’ll also have luggage in the car so it will be necessary for three participants to share the rear bench seat for this leg of our tour.

We will offer at least 2 boat trips during the tour.  One on a shallow brackish lagoon in a small mostly covered skiff with a single outboard that typically lasts about an hour.  The other out into Sabana Bay in a small powerboat, probably 20 ft long.  We’re never more than a few hundred yards from shore in a protected bay.  There is no toilet but we disembark onto docks in a few places that have facilities, and we’re only on the boat for stretches of 30 minutes or less.

Updated: 26 April 2017