Long-time friends of Caligo Ventures’ owner Peg Abbott enjoy birding Trinidad on their first trip to the Asa Wright Nature Centre.
By Guest Bloggers Carol Comeau & John Roser
For several years, we have been encouraged by friends to visit the Asa Wright Nature Center located in the Arima Valley of Trindad’s Northern Range. We finally had the opportunity to enjoy birding Trinidad and booked a 5-night Independent Birding Venture (IBV) through Caligo Ventures in April of 2017, and we found it to be one of the best trips we have taken. We appreciated how easy it was to make our travel arrangements. We booked our flights, and Caligo Ventures took care of the rest. To prepare, we received a detailed clothing and gear recommendation list, a bird list, and luggage tags. After flying to Trinidad from California, it was wonderful to arrive in Port of Spain and be warmly greeted at the airport by Asa Wright Nature Centre staff.
“It was non-stop, brilliantly colored action.”
Since we arrived late at night, we were eager to get up early on our first morning and visit the famed verandah. It did not disappoint. We loved sitting on stools at the edge of the verandah, coffee in hand, watching and listening as the forest awoke. Hummingbird feeders lined the verandah, attracting hordes of hummingbirds, honeycreepers, and bananaquits. On the ground level, fresh fruit was placed on feeding platforms. Throughout the day a diverse, abundant, and endless parade of birds came to the feeders. It was non-stop, brilliantly colored action. As an added bonus, agoutis and big, burly tegu lizards scampered beneath the feeders in search of scraps. Identifying so many new species of birds was overwhelming at first. We were grateful that there were always Centre naturalists on the verandah to help with spotting and identification. As general naturalists, we appreciated that the staff were well versed in many topics.
Caligo Ventures provides the opportunity for IBV guests to determine how they want to spend time at the Centre. Since we enjoy walking and exploring independently, we settled on a plan that involved trail time with guides (for example, visiting the famed Oilbird cave or taking a night hike), but also lots of time slowly exploring the variety of habitats along the well-marked trail system at our own pace. Using a trail map, we were able to easily find our way around the 1,500-acre preserve.
We fell into a pattern of 6:00 AM coffee and birding on the verandah, breakfast, exploring the nature trails, lunch, more trail exploration, 6:00 PM rum punch while birding from the verandah, 7:00 PM dinner, bat watching or night hikes, then early to bed. We booked two off-site tours: Caroni Marsh for the nightly Scarlet Ibis spectacle and Night Birding. We enjoyed both excursions.
The staff was always cheerful and helpful. As retired educators with science backgrounds, we especially enjoyed spending time with Johanne Ryan, a Conservation Officer at the center. Part of Johanne’s job is to teach environmental education lessons in the local schools. Once back in the US, we were happy to assist her efforts by finding some nature books that she can use in her classroom lessons. Johanne is also an excellent writer. Be sure to check out her Bellbird Newsletter articles and bird descriptions on the online checklist.
Finally, meal times were enjoyable. Food was served buffet style and we eagerly sampled tasty local Trinidad specialties. Meeting and sharing a meal with other travelers from around the world was a highlight. After hearing guests enthusiastically describe off-site excursions beyond the sample of trips we took, we’ve decided we will need to return to the Asa Wright Nature Centre to see more of what this fine nature center has to offer.