The Caribbean is not widely known for its mammal life, or even much terrestrial wildlife at all. And it is right that many species have become extinct since the arrival of Europeans to the New World in the 1400’s But there are some species still, mostly clinging to existence in the more remote areas of the larger islands such as Jamaica, Cuba and Hispaniola. With the help of the foremost biologist and conservationist on the island (Dr. Brocca) we will be able to track down two of the Caribbean’s most elusive and unusual mammals. The solenodons and hutias have nothing else like them in the natural world, when they are lost forever this entire group of animals becomes extinct. So it cannot be underestimated the importance of the work being done by Dr. Brocca and his team. The two main mammals that we will be looking for on this trip are the Hispanoilan solenodon and Hispaniolan hutia, they are both endemic to Hispanoila (although largely extinct in Haiti) and are the only members of these genera that are still alive today. The solenodon is so unusual that its description defies belief, about the size of a house cat, with an awkward and slow gait, they look like oversized shrews that have a venomous bite and a ball and socket joint on their nose. Hutias are giant arboreal beavers in appearance and struggle to survive as they are favoured for food and suffer when deforestation occurs. This short trip is one that will fascinate anyone interested in rare and unusual wildlife. Alongside the two targeted mammals we will also search out endemic birds and reptiles within this short time frame. Despite being a short trip and there not being a huge variety of wildlife to be seen, this trip is designed to offer the chance of seeing and photographing two of the world’s most unusual, little known and critically endangered mammals. On this aim we have very high hopes and should be successful
Cuban Fig-eating Bat
Jamaican Fruit-eating Bat
Santo Domingo / Pedernales
On arrival in Santo Domingo you will meet Dr. Brocca and be transported westward along the southern coast. The drive takes us past some stunning coastal scenery, the waves of the turquoise sea crashing onto the limestone cliffs, eventually arriving at the fishing town of Pedernales. The rest of the day is free to relax and rest as we will be heading out in search of the solendon after dark. After sunset we pick up the local trackers in a nearby village. The local trackers are trained by and paid for by Dr. Brocca and his organisation. They nearly always used to be poachers and are now employed to track and monitor the solenodons and hutias in the region. We then climb in altitude into Jaragua National Park, this is the habitat of the solenodon. In fact the insectivorous solenodons have now adapted reasonably well to cattle pasture and so we would focus our searches around the farmland neighbouring the forest. Finding a solenodon is best left to the local guides and so off they go into the pastures and forest as we wait in the car on the main road for the call. Once the solenodon has been found it is caught by the trackers and placed into a canvas bag, when Jorge catches up with the trackers the animal is weighed, tagged, measured and also checked for parasites and disease. We will then have some time with the animal after it is released for viewing and photography before the solenodon retreats back into the wilderness to continue its nights feeding and we retire to our accommodation.
Jaragua National Park
When we start today will be dictated by whatever time we get back to the accommodation last night after searching for the solenodons. When you decide to start the day we will travel to the coast and the sharp and jagged limestone and salt karst formations in search for reptiles and birds. This harsh landscape has kept most of the area wild and it is the best place to see some of the larger animals in the island. The two species of iguana that inhabit Hispaniola, the large and more common rhinoceros iguana and the poorly understood and very endangered Ricord’s iguana. These would be our two targets this afternoon. Reptiles are best looked for in the afternoon as the sun is at its height and the reptiles are sunning themselves and very active. As well as looking for the many smaller lizards such as ameivas and curlytails around the limestone rocks we hope to see some huge rhinoceros iguanas. Along the coastline we can also see a wealth of birdlife, from frigate birds and tropic birds flying over the sea to small todys and hummingbirds in the mangroves; we will also head inland a little way to larger cliffs and the preferred habitat of the endemic and critically endangered Ricord’s iguana. This reptile is in severe decline and now confined to one small area of cliff, this land is now protected to an extent however the farmland abuts the protected land and habitat encroachment is rampant here. But luckily Dr. Brocca has found local guides and works with iguana researchers with a genuine knowledge and passion for protecting these animals. We will continue our exploration around the coastline here for a little longer, visiting sites like Bahia de Aguilas. These coastal lagoons are fantastic places for birds and in the right season turtles, manatees and even dolphins enter the bay (although these are very hard to spot at this time of year).
After visiting here we would head back to town and have some dinner and wait for it to get dark enough for the hutias to be active. Tonight we could go back to search for the solenodon again (if we didn’t find on last night or the sighting wasn’t as good as you may have hoped for), but otherwise we spend tonight searching for hutias. They need the forests to live in and so we headed to a different area in Jaragua National Park and with the same guides we used for the solenodons we would wait until they called having located one in the trees. They are harder to find than the solenodons as they do not make any noise and can remain in the thick foliage of the trees. But our guides are well skilled and have a great track record in finding them. Once again it could be a long night and afterwards we will return to the accommodation.
Lagoon Oviedo & Barohuco National Park
Like yesterday the exact time of our start this morning will be dictated by what time we get in from looking for solenodons or hutias last night. But our first stop in the morning will be to Oviedo Lagoon. This is a good birding location and we will be on the lookout for species such as Verbane hummingbird (the second smallest bird in the world), mockingbirds, terns, frigate birds, brown pelicans, red-billed tropicbirds and many other species. In the afternoon we will drive high into the central Cordillera and into the heavily forested Barohuco National Park. This park is a good habitat for solenodons and many species of birds, reptiles and amphibians. But one of the most unusual aspects of this forest is the strange mixture of vegetation. The conifers are interspersed with palms, mosses, ferns and orchids. The forest is incredibly diverse and one of the most important areas in the whole of the Caribbean and is well protected now. The park is very hilly with a good selection of pathways, depending on your interests, you can search out some of the endemic birds here or just hike around the various view points and take in the spectacular scenery. This evening will also be left open, depending on what we have seen on the previous nights and whether you wish to have another night looking for solenodons or hutias. If we have satisfied your thirst for these species then we can have a night at the hotel and catch up on sleep.
Today is our last full day in the Dominican Republic and we will depart from Pedernales and head back along the coast to the capital Santo Domingo. Along the way back we would once again visit Lagoon Oviedo and this time enjoy a boat cruise on the waters. There are many species of birds to be found here and lots of species of fish come into the lagoon to spawn. However our main focus today would be visiting several small limestone islands that are home to dozens of rhinoceros iguanas. After visiting these islands and spending some time with the very friendly iguanas, we will visit some very old petroglyphs (~1,000 years old) on another island nearer the coast. After leaving Lagoon Oviedo we would carry on and along the way visiting some bat caves along the coast (if you are interested), these caves are the roosting site of several species of bat and we would enter to see which species are here today. Our journey would continue and on arrival at the hotel in Santo Domingo we would check into the hotel and the rest of the evening is free for you to relax.
Today you will be taken to the airport in in time for your flight home.
Please note that the itinerary stated above is correct as our planned intentions for the tour. However adverse weather conditions and other local considerations can necessitate some modifications of the itinerary during the course of the tour; any changes will be made to make the best of the time and weather conditions available to us.
This tour is available on different date (subject to availability) please contact us for more details about running this tour on a date which suits you more.
The Dominican Republic is a country with a tropical and maritime climate. The annual mean temperature is 25°C. Temperatures rarely rise above 32°C (89.6°F), and freezing temperatures only occur in winter in the highest mountains. We will travelling in the dry season and do not expect any rain whilst we are here.
Everything mentioned in the itinerary is included. Including three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner – expect when in cities, such as Santo Domingo). There will be an amount of bottled water (approx 1ltr) available for each guest each day. We have our own private vehicle with an excellent driver and naturalist for all transfers and wildlife excursions. Specialist assistance from Dr. Brocca the leading expert of Hispanolian wildlife and his skilled team.
All our excursions including guided walks and park entrance fees are also included as per the itinerary.
We recommend you bring along your own binoculars or scope (not essential) as well as appropriate clothing; which should be light and airy clothes as well as comfortable walking shoes. As the nights can be a little chilly up on the solenodon site we recommend you bring a fleece and long trousers. Insect repellent is handy as there can be mosquitoes. Any medication, books or other items of a personal nature is of course up to you to bring along. Oh and please bring plenty of memory cards or film for your camera. Also do not forget sun cream, sun hat and sun glasses as the sun can be strong here during the day.
We provide a comprehensive species list of all the vertebrates present in the areas we are visiting as well as some of the best field guides and reference books for the areas we are visiting. There is usually a spare pair of binoculars but in a group of 4-6 people these do not stretch too far.
Nearly everything is included in this tour. The only things not included are international flights, travel insurance (contact us for more information one what is required from your insurance policy), any food bought outside of the three main meals and when in Santo Domingo, drinks outside of any offered with the meals and the bottled water provided each day and any items of a personal nature such as souvenirs and tips. Any applicable departure taxes and not included (but maybe included in the cost of your flights). Please check before departure.
As we are based in Manchester we recommend flights from Manchester International Airport.
We recommend Air France as good airlines for flights to Santo Domingo. One of the best websites to search for the best fares is for both flights is www.opodo.co.uk. They are an IATA accredited agent and this provides all the securities related to ATOL protection. Please check our terms and conditions regarding booking flights.
Please contact us for more information about flights and we can provide you with a link direct to the flights from another supplier; in which case you only have to enter the passenger information and payment details. By using the above link you will leave our site and we at Royle Safaris hold no responsibility for the content on the site.
All UK passport holders and most other nationalities are required to have a visa for the Dominican Republic. However these are given out on arrival at the airport, you will need to pay USD $10 for a tourist card and the visa is usually valid for 90 days. But please confirm this as less if sometimes given. The easiest way to find information is by visiting www.southafrica.info (be aware that this link leaves our site and we at Royle Safaris hold no responsibility for information on the site).
There are no mandatory vaccinations needed to visit Dominican Republic, but it is recommended to be protected against Diphtheria, tetanus, MMR, typhoid, rabies and hepatitis A&B as well as taking a form of malaria prophylactics. Please consult your GP about your individual requirements for visiting Kenya as soon as you have decided on this trip.
Chris Scharf, California
Dr. Stewart Summers, Australia
Kieth Dentith - Chester, UK
Mr. Steve Morgan - England, UK