Tag Archives: Trinidad and Tobago


Northeast Tobago Earns Valuable ‘Man and the Biosphere’ Recognition

Last October, as Trinidad and Tobago were in the midst of a 16-month COVID-19 lockdown, UNESCO declared a large swath of Northeast Tobago a “Man and the Biosphere” reserve, a prestigious designation that is expected to help the tourism sector recover and continue to develop sustainably.

“By joining the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, the community aims to revitalize cultural and spiritual bonds between people and nature and boost the preservation of this fragile and remarkable human and natural landscape,” UNESCO wrote in its declaration.

One of now 714 UNESCO Nature Reserves, among Caribbean sites only Guadalupe Island’s reserve is larger.

Fifteen communities and 10,000 people live inside the massive terrestrial and marine reserve, which envisions them working sustainably to develop Tobago while preserving its biodiversity.

Of course nature tourists, and especially birders, knew all about Trinidad and Tobago’s natural wonders well before the UNESCO biosphere designation. Caligo Ventures guests have been coming to Trinidad and Tobago for decades, and we’ve long worked with trusted local partners to sustainably explore areas inside the new biosphere boundaries.

Both our 10-day Classic and 12-day Ultimate 2-Island tours visit the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, one of the most compelling natural features cited in the UNESCO designation. The marine portion of the UNESCO nature reserve also encircles Little Tobago, where our guests discover awesome pelagics like the Magnificent Frigatebird, Red-billed Tropicbird and many others.

Red-billed Tropicbird

Forming the spine at the heart of Tobago, Main Ridge is famously the oldest protected tropical rainforest in the world, older even than the United States. It is home to 210 species of birds, according to UNESCO, “the most outstanding being the bird species Campylopterus ensipennis – the White-tailed Sabrewing Hummingbird – that is both rare and endemic to Tobago.”

The White-Tailed Sabrewing is a Tobago endemic that lives in the newly designated UNESCO nature reserve.
White-tailed Sabrewing. Photo Credit: Peg Abbott

As other Caribbean Islands saw forests clear cut for sugarcane plantations during the colonial period, in 1776, Main Ridge was set aside “for the purpose of attracting frequent showers of rain upon which the fertility of lands in these climates doth entirely depend.”

It was the culmination of an 11-year lobbying campaign by an enlightened member of Parliament, Soame Jenyns, who was influenced by the work of English scientist Stephen Hales linking rainfall and forests.

The protection was remarkable, but sadly an outlier. Only 10 percent of Caribbean forests remain intact, noted UNESCO in its biosphere reserve designation.

Although Trinidad and Tobago is one of the wealthiest nations in the Caribbean, its tourism sector is much smaller and less developed than its neighbors.

The Caribbean is often called “the most tourism dependent region in the world,” with 14 percent of collective GDP generated by visitors. By contrast, just 2 to 3 percent of Trinidad and Tobago’s economy comes from tourism, while 40 percent of GDP and 80 percent of exports are tied to vast fossil fuel deposits, including oil and natural gas.

The hope and the expectation is that the UNESCO nature reserve designation will help focus more investment not just in sustainable tourism, but in diversified industries that are compatible with protecting its biodiversity.

“Some of the expected benefits to Trinidad and Tobago include the generation of sustainable green and blue economic activities beyond tourism, including fisheries, agriculture, cultural heritage promotion, scientific research and education, among others,” according to the UNESCO nature reserve declaration.

Below, longtime guide Jason Radix speaks about the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, and the birds we expect to see there.

Asa Wright Nature Centre with David Allen Sibley

Renowned field guide author and illustrator David Allen Sibley spent time with Caligo Ventures’ groups at the Asa Wright Nature Centre to celebrate the Centre’s 50th Anniversary.

A special thanks to Carol Comeau, who hosted the two groups and Steve Wolfe who photographed the birds and the good times throughout the week. Thank you to Carol and Steve who worked together to write this guest blog. And finally, thank you to David Allen Sibley for joining us at the Centre. Continue reading Asa Wright Nature Centre with David Allen Sibley

The Big Sit: October 7, 2017

Every year, a group of locals and travelers participate in The Big Sit at the Asa Wright Nature Centre.

The Big Sit
“Sitting” on the Asa Wright Nature Centre’s Verandah by Jeane Azen

Birdwatcher’s Digest‘s The Big Sit! worldwide bird survey is pretty well known by now. On one designated day every year, you bird-watch from dawn till dusk at one particular site, never straying outside of a five meter radius, documenting the number of species you see or hear.

This year, like many other years, field guide author Martyn Kenefick participated in The Big Sit. Caligo Venture‘s group was lucky enough to be at the Centre during the event … the following is Martyn’s account of the big day.

Continue reading The Big Sit: October 7, 2017

Birding Trinidad at the Asa Wright Nature Centre

Long-time friends of Caligo Ventures’ owner Peg Abbott enjoy birding Trinidad on their first trip to the Asa Wright Nature Centre.

Birding Trinidad
Carol & John Exploring

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. Continue reading Birding Trinidad at the Asa Wright Nature Centre

Edward Rooks is Artist in Residence at Asa Wright Nature Centre

Join Trinidadian artist Edward Rooks for a week of wildlife and creativity at the Asa Wright Nature Centre.

Edward Rooks
Janice Edgerly-Rooks & Edward Rooks, courtesy Edward Rooks

Indulge your creative side with a special art and nature learning vacation this June! Going a step beyond our well-known Trinidad tropical nature and birding tours, Caligo Ventures has designed an in-depth summer session with June’s Artist in Residence Edward Rooks to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Asa Wright Nature Centre.
Continue reading Edward Rooks is Artist in Residence at Asa Wright Nature Centre

Join Scott Weidensaul at the Asa Wright Nature Centre

Caligo Ventures helps celebrate the Asa Wright Nature Centre’s 50th Anniversary with birding celebrity Scott Weidensaul.

2017 marks the 50th Anniversary of the famed Asa Wright Nature Centre, and we are so excited! We can think of no better way to commemorate this incredible milestone than by celebrating with author Scott Weidensaul in a style that is completely in sync with the mission of this unique non-profit: Inviting YOU to visit, learn, bird, and enjoy — Trini-style!

Scott Weidensaul
Scott Weidensaul by Bill Clark

So, what could be better than a late-winter trip to Trinidad and Tobago? How about a late-winter trip to this warm, bird-full island nation with a birding celebrity? Author, researcher, and educator Scott Weidensaul visits the Asa Wright Nature Centre March 18 – 25, 2017, and you’re invited to join him.
Continue reading Join Scott Weidensaul at the Asa Wright Nature Centre