Ebano Verde, located an hour and a half from Santo Domingo, is a scientific reserve that protects 2,300 hectares of broadleaf cloud forest, pine forest and riparian forest. Some 90 species of birds have been reported here, with more than half of them permanent residents, including 20 endemics. A non-profit organization, the Progressio Foundation, was permitted to administer, protect and develop the reserve, and Progressio has continued to be at the forefront of conservation planning in the Dominican Republic.
There are two entrances to Ebano Verde, Casabito and Arroyazo. From the Casabito entrance, the guard opening the gate will probably accompany you and serve as your personal guard and guide. From the gate, drive up the road to the communication towers. You will need a vehicle that is stable, has good traction and clearance, and a lot of power to get up the very steep, rough sections of the road. It’s only about 2 kilometers but it is tough going. Park by the buildings and walk into the trail that starts just past the buildings. Continue down until you get into dense understory with some canopy. This is the best or perhaps only chance to see one of the main target species, the Eastern Chat-Tanager. But you must be in the forest by dawn. Walking the road from the Casabito gate to the communications towers is also an option – and many birds will be seen — but usually it means not getting the Eastern Chat-Tanager since it takes too long to get to the appropriate habitat.
From the Arroyazo entrance, the best trail for birding is the Arroyazo Sendero de Nubes trail, which starts at the visitor center and ends at the top of Casabito. The trail extends 6 km (3.7 miles) through pine forest and second-growth areas which were formerly populated but are now recovering. Halfway up the trail, you start walking beside El Arroyazo stream and the vegetation changes to riparian forest, characterized by the manacla palm which typically grows in humid soil. The upper part of the trail, near the Casabito entrance, passes through beautiful, undisturbed cloud forest that is very much worth seeing. For most of its length, the trail is a relatively easy walk, although the final ascent to the top of Casabito Mountain is fairly steep.
Along the trail it is common to see Vervain and Emerald hummingbirds, Hispaniolan Trogon, Narrow-billed Tody, Hispaniolan Woodpecker, Greater Antillean Elaenia, Hispaniolan Pewee, Stolid Flycatcher, Caribbean Martin, Rufous-throated Solitaire, Black-crowned Palm-Tanager, Hispaniolan Spindalis, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Yellow-faced and Black-faced grassquits, and Antillean Siskin.
Target species for birdwatchers include some of the rarest endemics on the island largely restricted to high elevation cloud forests, such as White-fronted Quail-Dove, Eastern Chat-Tanager, Rufous-throated Solitaire, and Hispaniolan Highland-Tanager. But species partial to pine forests are also included, such as Plain Pigeon and Rufous-collared Sparrow.
Other species include Sharp- shinned Hawk, Scaly- naped Pigeon, Plain Pigeon, White- fronted Quail- Dove, Ruddy Quail- Dove, White- collared Swift, Hispaniolan Emerald, Hispaniolan Trogon, Greater Antillean Elaenia, Golden Swallow, Cape May Warbler, Black- throated Blue Warbler, Black- throated Green Warbler, Yellow- throated Warbler, Pine Warbler, Green- tailed Ground- Tanager, Eastern Chat- Tanager, Hispaniolan Spindalis, Black- faced Grassquit, Rufous- collared Sparrow, Antillean Euphonia.
Click here to download a pocket-sized bird checklist for Ebano Verde.
To get to the reserve you must drive north of Santo Domingo on the Autopista Duarte, the main south-to-north highway. Once you pass the town of Bonao, take the exit to Constanza, after which you will immediately start climbing up a mountain on the Carretera de Casabito.
There are two entrances to the Ebano Verde Scientific Reserve. The first is marked by a sign at the highest point of the Carretera de Casabito and is known as the Casabito entrance. Look for a driveway of about 20 meters, then a chain-link fence/gate. There should also be a sign for Ebano Verde / Fundación Progressio. This entrance should only be used with a four-wheel-drive vehicle, and if you have coordinated beforehand with the reserve personnel to open the gate. The second entrance is on the right as you descend the mountain and is immediately after the second bridge, El Arroyazo. This is the main entrance and is the primary access to the Fernando Aquino Visitor Center.
Birding at Ebano Verde requires advance preparation. Permission must be obtained in advance. You will not be allowed onto the trails without previous authorization from the main office. Try telephoning the Fundación Progressio. While it is easier, and entrance is more assured, to begin your hike at the lower entrance to Ebano Verde, we prefer to enter from above at the Casabito entrance. The advantages are that first you will have access to the best habitat (high elevation moist broadleaf forest) where the most sought after species are likely to be found early in the day, and second, you will be walking downhill instead of climbing up. However, be forewarned that the guards are notoriously inconsistent about keeping appointments.
Entrance fee is RD $100-200 per person.
Contact Fundacion Progressio:
Fundacion Progressio is working on creating cabins to accommodate overnight visitors.