Monday, November 16, 2015

Trinidad - Rare, Exotic and Wild

Caribbean travelers recognize Trinidad's Carnival as one of the "Greatest Shows on Earth" - and the island where steel pan music originated . . .  

However this unique destination is the perfect choice for nature lovers, bird watchers, hikers, and adventurers.

My first visit to Trinidad was outside of carnival season, and I was amazed at the mountainous rain forests, swamps, expansive savannah's, the largest tar lake in the world, and the capital city Port of Spain. 

The capital's appearance is just like any major U.S. city, and strolling though city you run across a diverse ethnic population. 

While the island vibes to a Caribbean beat, you will discover remarkable animal life and cultural experiences found no where else in the region. 

Millions of years ago Trinidad was joined to the continent of South America.

After the separation what was once part of a continent became an island crowded with rain forests, swamps, rivers, and tropical grasslands. So while the island is located in the Caribbean geographically, the geology of the land is tied to the Amazon. Today the Gulf of Paria separates Trinidad from Venezuela.

El Tucuche - Photo Credit Island Hikers

Trinidad is home to 13 official wildlife sanctuaries - from the Caroni Swamp and El Tucuche to the offshore islands of Soldado Rock and Saut d-Eau.   

Mountainous rain forests covers much of the island, and are home to an amazing number of wild animals including the agouti, paca, armadillo, opossum, deer, wild dogs and pigs, ant-eater, and the tiger cat known as the ocelot. 

Trinidad and Tobago both rank in the world's top 10 list in the number of exotic bird species per square mile with over 400 total species recorded.  

One of the most breathtaking sights happens right before day turns to night in the Caroni Swamp. 

Photo Credit: Jyoti Communications

Thousands of Scarlet Ibis fill the sky as they return to their roost in the mangroves. The setting sun adds even more brilliance to their scarlet plumage. 

In the trees you hear the screams of Capuchin and Red Howler monkeys - and in the air colorful Amazon parrots and macaws are common sights. 

In the islands rivers, swamps, and surrounding sea you will find alligators, anacondas, manatees, four eyed fish, and  the rare Suriname toad and paradox frog. The endangered leatherback, green loggerhead and hawks bill turtles nest along Trinidad's east and northern coasts. 

Pitch Lake - One of the Caribbean's Wonders

The largest commercial natural deposit of asphalt in the world! 

This is one of Trinidad's biggest exports worldwide - used for paving roads and airports, natural gas pipelines, and as a lining for reservoirs. 

It's a pretty smelly place, but definitely worth a trip. You must go along with a guide for safety as you can sink into the asphalt lake.

During the rainy season when the sulphur levels are at their highest, villagers head to the lake they call the fountains of life. They claim it helps with joint pain, skin conditions, and many other ailments. 

You would not think anything could grow in this tar/asphalt environment, however colorful water lilies are in abundance around the perimeter

Hannuman, a Hindu Monkey God

Trinidad is home to the largest Hindu community outside of India. 
This 85 foot statue Hannuman, a Hindu Monkey God, was built by the followers of guru Sri Swamiji who believe Trinidad was once located on the Ganges River. 

World famous Asa Wright Nature Center

Located high up in the northern range of the island. This is the prime spot for naturalists and bird watchers. 

Stop for lunch, and enjoy the guided walks along the nature trails. 

Temple By The Sea (Sewdass Sadhu Shiv Mandir)

This entire temple was built by a poor laborer from India in the 1930's, and restored in 1995. Remarkable workmanship!

Island Hopping! An added plus to visiting Trinidad is making the 2 1/2 hour ferry ride to the smaller sister island Tobago.

Tobago offers a much slower vibe than Trinidad, offers fabulous beaches, and pristine waters for diving and snorkeling. 

Hopefully this article has peaked your interest in visiting the twin nation of Trinidad/Tobago. While very different, both islands offer travelers a very unique Caribbean vacation.

Happy Travels,
Linda Thompkins

Related Post:
Magnificent Seven Mansions in Trinidad
One of Port of Spain's most historical attractions 

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