Trinidad and Tobago is not well known as a holiday destination. Compared to it’s neighboring Caribbean isles, it has few resorts since the discovery of petroleum left the country without a strong dependence on tourism. However, the islands are known to nature lovers by the unique and interesting association of both North and South American species. Following in the footsteps of numerous wealthy scholars and BBC presenters, M and I traveled up into the Northern Range mountains to Asa Wright Nature Centre to experience the fusion for ourselves.
Walking through grand colonial corridors, past shelves heavy with books and chairs with reclining intellects, we got our first glimpse of the grounds. From the veranda, the forest opened up endlessly into a tangle of green. Looking over the railing, a large lizard basked in the sun. Dozens of colourful birds flew overhead, nesting in the shutters and picking at fruit. Hummingbirds of all shades hovered loudly at face-level. It was a busy place but all at once, very relaxing. It wasn’t long before Molly – a guide at the Centre for over 10 years – walked us away from the estate for a tour of the forest; a tour I viewed as private, since M and I were the only companions during the low tourist season. Captivating flora guided us along our path – only one of many routes. This is where the real adventure began.
deep into the jungle. It’s funny how many of the impressionable birds I’ve seen on documentaries (most likely narrated by the wonderful David Attenborough) I managed to catch sight of that day: the Golden-headed manakin or ‘Michael Jackson’ bird, who ‘moonwalks’ as part of an elaborate dance to woo females, the White-bearded manakin who claps its wings together in rapid succession, also to woo females and the Bearded bellbird who exhibits one of the loudest calls of the forest. Even Molly was impressed at how close we were able to get to old George, the grayest and most senior bellbird. I’m unable to decide if we were lucky or not to escape an encounter with any of the four venomous snake species that the forest is native to.
Here is a quick video I took: listen to George, in all his glory!
We returning to the Centre in time for food which was in itself worth the journey alone. The mouthwater lunch buffet was served against the backdrop of the rainforest and followed by cake and coffee on the veranda, grown right from the very soil we were standing on. Birds continued to fly past in a windless breeze and the song chorus never stopped. It was the best coffee I will ever have.
All too soon, it was time to depart. M and I looked back enviously at the older, established couples who seemed comfortable to the point of being unphased in their surroundings. It was likely that they were staying at one of the lodgings. Vowing to one day return for accommodation purposes, we left feeling invigorated and at ease. Asa Wright Nature Centre fosters nature and nourishes the soul using sensations of both excitement and calm – a place of beautiful compliments.