WILD AND WONDERFUL
Eco-tourists are rewarded with a wealth of natural treasures in Trinidad & Tobago
If Mother Nature were to take a Caribbean vacation, she’d surely pick Trinidad and Tobago. The dual-island nation’s unique ecological heritage and topographical diversity make it a prime habitat for:
- More than 430 species of birds
- 620 species of butterflies
- 2,300 varieties of flowering shrubs and plants, including 700 types of orchids
- 100 kinds of mammals, including agoutis, armadillos, opossums, deer, peccaries, ocelots and anteaters
- 70 types of reptiles
The islands enjoy a wide range of landscapes, from mountains, savannahs and deciduous woods to rain forests and fresh and saltwater marshes. In addition, the country is on the migratory route for many species of birds, making it a natural aviary.
Among species ornithologists are likely to encounter here are the Trinidad piping guan; bearded bellbird; rufous-breasted hermit, white-necked Jacobin, and scarlet ibis, Trinidad’s national bird.
Nutrient rich waters support a staggering array of marine life, including most types of hard and soft coral and manta rays, some with wing spans exceeding 10 feet. Also thriving in waters here are kingfish, barracudas, sailfish, African pompanos, groupers, snappers, billfish and wahoo.
From March through September, endangered leatherback turtles, weighing as much as 1,000 pounds apiece, lumber up from the sea to lay their eggs on beaches in Trinidad and Tobago. A single turtle may deposit more than 700 eggs in a season. It takes about 70 days for babies to hatch and skitter back into the water.
Trinidad maintains more than a dozen wildlife sanctuaries. Among the best known is the Asa Wright Centre. High up in the Northern Range, the centre attracts more than 80,000 nature lovers a year, including 2,000 guests who stay in the 24 room lodge. Here you may spot as many as 30 species of birds before breakfast, including the violaceous pepperstrike, turquoise-billed toucan and chestnut woodpecker.
The Caroni Bird Sanctuary provides a habitat for more than 130 species, including pelicans, egrets, plovers and spoonbills. And at Nariva Swamp you’ll find colourful parrots and macaws, along with red howler monkeys, rare Suriname toads and paradox frogs.
Tobago also boasts a wealth of natural attractions -- and protects them well. In 1765 Tobago declared its rain forest a protected area, establishing the first such preserve in the western hemisphere.
Buccoo Reef, a protected marine park since 1973, harbours multitudes of tropical fish, as well as elkhorn, brain and star corals. Nearby Bon Accord Lagoon provides a home for hundreds of birds, including the Caribbean martin, brown-crested flycatcher and white-tailed nightjar.
Satellite islands Little Tobago and St. Giles, meanwhile, offer scores of hiking trails with panoramic views and a wealth of wildlife. Little Tobago, in fact, is one of the Caribbean’s most important seabird sanctuaries, providing a home to red-billed tropic birds, boobies, wrens and myriad hummingbirds.