TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
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Situated just off the coast of Venezuela, the twin-island country of Trinidad and Tobago offers much more than just idyllic tropical island scenery, excellent weather, good food and a friendly welcome. In the forests we will look for a diverse selection of South American birds: hummingbirds, trogons, woodcreepers, tanagers and honeycreepers. In the savannah grasslands we shall watch various kites, caracaras, nightjars and lapwings. Wetlands support an abundance of birdlife from resident terns, skimmers, herons, gallinules and ibis to migrant waders from North America. Finally, there are islands where we can see a selection of tropical seabirds such as frigatebirds, tropicbirds, noddies, terns and boobies.
We shall spend seven nights on Trinidad, based at the famous Asa Wright Nature Centre, surrounded by tropical forests. Here we shall see hummingbirds from the veranda as well as visiting a Scarlet Ibis roost and the most accessible Oilbird colony in the world.
On day eight we shall fly to Tobago, the smaller of the two islands, measuring just 32 miles by 8 miles. If vibrant Trinidad is South American in character, then Tobago by contrast has a Caribbean flavour. The local inhabitants are very laid back and the birdwatching is appropriately relaxed. We shall spend our first three nights on the north-east coast at the Blue Waters Inn, in the fishing village of Speyside. We will see exciting seabirds and other species which do not occur on Trinidad. Our last night will be at Crown Point at the western end of the island, where we will visit nearby wetlands before our flight home.
On Trinidad much of our birdwatching will be done at and around our base, the Asa Wright Nature Centre. Situated on a valley side at 1200 feet, the centre is surrounded by mature rainforest and overgrown coffee and cocoa plantations. The first birds to greet us will be the hummingbirds which come to feeders on the centre's veranda. These include Copper-rumped Hummingbird, White-chested Emerald and White-necked Jacobin. Nearby flowering plants attract other hummers including Blue-chinned Sapphire, Green Hermit, Little Hermit, Rufous-bellied Hermit and the delightful Tufted Coquette. The latter is one of the smallest birds in the world and yet it sports an elaborate plumage, making it one of the most sought-after birds on the island. However, the star bird at Asa Wright is the Oilbird, a nocturnal species which roosts in caves. We should get good views of them near the entrance to the cave during the day.
Along with the hummingbirds, many other forest species are attracted to the bird-feeders by the veranda. Whilst sipping delicious home grown coffee before breakfast we will be treated to a natural festival of colour. Bananaquits, Great Kiskadees, Green Honeycreepers, Purple Honeycreepers, Blue-grey Tanagers, Silver-beaked Tanagers, White-lined Tanagers, Barred Antshrikes, Yellow Orioles and Crested Oropendolas all emerge from the forest and can be watched at close range in large numbers. We will visit the display grounds (or leks) of both White-bearded and Golden-headed Manakins. A special effort will be made to find the unusual Bearded Bellbird.
On the east coast about an hour's drive from our base is Nariva Swamp. This extensive area of mangroves, fringed by woodland, is a very productive place for birdwatching. Here we have our best chance of seeing Pinnated Bittern, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Yellow-headed Caracara, Azure Gallinule and Green Kingfisher. Perhaps the highlight here is the evening flight of Red-bellied Macaws and Yellow-crowned Parrots returning to their roost site in stands of royal palms.
An even greater spectacle awaits us during an evening visit to Caroni. A boat will take us into this mangrove swamp and we will be greeted by the sight of hundreds of Scarlet Ibis flying to roost. Their flaming plumage will be enhanced by the evening sunlight, leaving a dazzling image in our minds. On previous visits our boatman has regularly found a nocturnal Common Potoo roosting on a broken stump during the day.
Just south of the Asa Wright Centre is an extensive area of dry savannah where we can expect a completely different assortment of birds. These may include Pearl Kite, Savannah Hawk, Smooth-billed Ani, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher and Yellow-rumped Cacique. An evening visit should yield the Common Pauraque, a South American nightjar, shouting out its name to proclaim its territory.
After seven days of birdwatching on Trinidad we will take the short flight to Tobago, for the remainder of our holiday.
Our birdwatching on Tobago will be very relaxed. There are fewer species but a number of them do not occur on Trinidad. Most importantly there are impressive colonies of tropical seabirds found on islands off the north-eastern coast.
As on Trinidad, there is exciting birdwatching on our doorstep. Blue Waters Inn, situated on the north-east coast, is our base for the next three nights and is home to a host of bird species. These include Grey Kingbird, Green Heron, Broad-winged Hawk, Rufous-vented Chachalaca, White-tipped Dove, Short-tailed Swift, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Brown-crested Flycatcher and Caribbean Martin.
During our visit here we will take two boat trips. The first will be to Little Tobago, an island off the north-east coast. Our boat will leave Speyside and during the one mile crossing we will be treated to views of numerous birds including Bridled Tern and Magnificent Frigatebird. We will stay within a sheltered bay where the sea is normally calm. Seabird colonies on the eastern side of the island are home to large numbers of Brown Boobies, Sooty Terns, Bridled Terns and Brown Noddies. Less numerous is the Red-footed Booby which will nevertheless be seen regularly. The most delightful seabird on Little Tobago is the Red-billed Tropicbird and small numbers will be seen nesting. Weather permitting, we will also take a boat trip around St Giles Island, the next island to the north. Here seabird numbers are truly spectacular and should include hundreds of boobies, noddies, tropicbirds and frigatebirds. A small number of Masked Boobies can sometimes be found here.
We will visit the Central Forest Reserve, stronghold of the White-tailed Sabrewing, a rare hummingbird. There is also the chance of seeing Collared Trogon, Venezuelan Flycatcher, Yellow-legged Thrush, Stripe-breasted Spinetail, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, White-necked Thrush, Blue-backed Manakin and the dazzling Red-legged Honeycreeper. Butterflies are particularly spectacular here, none more so than the huge Blue Morpho. A nearby wetland site holds a good range of species, including Pectoral and Western Sandpipers and American Purple Gallinule. Herons are represented by Tricoloured, Green, Little Blue, Great White Egret, Snowy Egret and Yellow-crowned Night-heron.
After three nights at Speyside we will transfer to the Kariwak Village Hotel near Crown Point for our last night. This beautiful hotel has lovely gardens and superb food.
Being near the airport, Kariwak Village is a convenient place to spend the last day. It is also just a short drive from Tobago’s best wetland sites. Anhingas give great views, along with Least Grebe, White-cheeked Pintail, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, American Golden Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher and many other waders. On recent visits we have had great views of Hudsonian Godwit, White-rumped Sandpiper and Upland Sandpiper.
Breakfast will be taken at about 7.30am most mornings. This will give us plenty of time to enjoy the 'birds-and-coffee' experience at the Asa Wright Centre as well as take short pre-breakfast walks on the trails. On several days breakfast may be taken earlier, to take advantage of the cooler early mornings. Basic fitness is all that is required. We will siesta during the heat of the day. There will be some uphill walking on both islands, but this will be at a sensible pace.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD
Full-board accommodation is provided, with seven nights at the Asa Wright Centre (on Trinidad), three nights at the Blue Waters Inn and one night at the Kariwak Village Hotel (both on Tobago). All offer good quality accommodation with en suite facilities and excellent food. During the day we will sometimes take a picnic and other times eat at the hotel.
PRICE INCLUDES …..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader, local guide on some days, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 7th, ending with lunch on 18th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-bus, three boat trips, reserve entrance fees, internal flight from Trinidad to Tobago, international flights and airport taxes.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED
Travel insurance. Items of a personal nature, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
Flight from London Gatwick to Trinidad, returning from Tobago, using the scheduled services of British Airways. Outbound flight departs late morning, return arrives back mid-morning. Domestic flights from Manchester and other UK airports are avaiable on this tour. See booking form for details.
White-necked Jacobins are regular visitors to the Asa Wright feeders.
Collared Trogon can be found in the grounds of the Asa Wright Centre
click here to see the photographs in our Trinidad and Tobago Album
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