Published: October 29th 2008October 14th 2008
Trinidad is known as the Hummingbird Island.
Birds, birds, and more birds! Trinidad has over 10,000 species of birds and is considered to have the most number of birds per land mass. In fact, it is second only to Peru for the most number of birds in the world. It is a dream for many avid bird watchers to visit Trinidad. So as the old saying goes... if you are in Rome, do as the Romans. Thus we will do as the birders and go on a tour to the Asa Wright Bird Sanctuary and Caroni Swamp.
The Asa Wright Bird Sanctuary was originally a coffee and coco plantation, which was purchased by Newcombe and his wife Asa Wright in 1947. The Wrights were amateur ornithologists and would often host other bird watchers and naturalists to their estate and it soon became a major research station. Eventually the Wrights turned their estate into a conservation area and donated the land to a non-profit trust after they passed. Today Asa Wright Bird Sanctuary is just that, over 2,000 acres of protected land and a true sanctuary for the exotic birds of Trinidad. One can visit for the day or spend the night at this eco-tourist lodge.
Asa Wright Bird Sanctuary
Looking out at the hills of the Northern Range.
drive up to the Asa Wright Bird Sanctuary is spectacular. You quickly leave the hustle and bustle of Port of Spain as you enter the rain forest and start the 1200 foot ascent of the hills of the Northern Range. It becomes quiet and peaceful as you bop along this rugged road, over waterfalls and thru christophene Fields. Along the side of the road you find the red coco pods and local plums and cherries (which our driver picks for us to try). And at the end of the road is the Asa Wright Center, a refurbished 90 year old plantation house with mahogany floors and antique furniture- absolutely stunning. The entire back porch of this house is open to the lush valley below. After a quick hike with our tour guide thru some of the forest, we spent the rest of the day on the balcony overlooking all the birds. The Asa Wright Center puts out bird feeders which attract not only the exotic birds, but golden tegu lizards and agoutis as well. It was awesome to just sit there and watch as the wildlife came out of the forest. I had never seen so many different types of
One of the workers in the christophene fields on the road up to Asa Wright.
birds in one place.
The afternoon was hot so we decided to hike up to the Avocat Falls for a quick dip in the refreshing water. Of course we got lost on the way to the waterfall, but enjoyed all the beautiful flora and fauna along the way. We still can't get over how beautiful the tropical flowers are in Trinidad, from the abundant trumpet flowers to the giant ginger lilies- amazing. Eventually we came across the path that would lead us down to the falls. Avocat Falls is only 36 feet tall, but cascades down into a very inviting pool. Unfortunately we did not bring our swim wear, so just decided to take a quick skinny dip. When in nature, you might as well go wild!
It was a wonderful day at the Asa Wright Bird Sanctuary, but our tour was not over yet. The next stop was the Caroni Swamp where we boarded a skiff and went for a sunset bird watching cruise. The Caroni Swamp is the largest mangrove wetland in Trinidad, just over 20 square miles. And it is famous for the Scarlet Ibis, which fly in from Venezuela at sunset to roost for
Asa Wright Center
The refurbished plantation house at the Asa Wright Bird Sanctuary, which opens up to a balcony on the back to watch all the birds.
the night. I don't think I have the words to describe this experience- it was awesome! The scarlet ibis are so incredibly red and quite large. The captain of our boat took us thru a maze of mangrove swamp to an open area to watch the show. As soon as he turned off the outboard motor, flocks of literally hundreds of scarlet ibis came to roost on a nearby tree as well as snowy egrets and blue herons. After a few minutes it looked like a decorated Christmas tree. And the noise the birds made, thousands of birds all squawking at once, is like nothing I have ever heard before. It was the second national geographic moment we have had in Trinidad, a country so rich in nature and wildlife.
Even though the scarlet ibis was the focus of our Caroni Swamp tour, there were plenty of other wildlife sightings that we enjoyed, including lots of other birds and mammals. It was the first time we have ever seen a 4 eyed fish (not the type you see on the Simpsons because of a nearby power plant, these little guys are just another example of how amazing evolution is).
One of the nests for the Corn Birds that we saw on the hike.
And little anteaters that live way up in the trees, they look like just balls of brown fur. We were also fortunate enough to see a 6 foot tree boa constrictor hanging out in the mangroves, probably digesting its last meal. We didn't want to get too close to that one though- egads!
But the highlight of our Caroni Swamp tour was when our guide spotted a caimen, which is a small alligator. We slowly motored up to the caimen and he didn't move a muscle or even blink an eye (he thought he was camouflaged and we couldn't see him). We joked that it wasn't even alive, but our guide quickly proved us wrong by splashing some water on the gator. I don't know who jumped faster, us or the caimen. He clasped his mouth shut and thrashed about in the water. We gained new respect for this little gator and made sure to keep all hands inside the boat after this. A couple minutes later he slowly sauntered off into the murky water, not to be seen again. But it definitely was an exciting encounter.
Unfortunately it was getting dark so our captain turned the boat
One of the many trumpet flowers we saw on our hike to the waterfall.
around and took us back. But it was a wonderful day. And who knows, we might become avid bird watchers after this.
There are more photos below