Everyone assumes that Trinidad, as the bigger island, is more rowdy and hedonistic than sleepy Tobago. Yet, while Trinidad undoubtedly has a bigger urban sprawl – with neon-lit bars, highways and traffic lights in its lively capital city – its wildest side is what it offers lovers of Mother Nature. Take a look at our quick Trinidad guide to discover nature’s island.
As a birder’s paradise on the main migratory path for exotic species journeying south through the Antilles from North America, Trinidad is a go-to isle for wildlife nuts. The colourful birds that spill over from the continent into Trinidad rarely ever make it to Tobago, which is also a very good reason why nature-lovers prefer to holiday here too.
It is also Trinidad where the Antillean species, on the way to their wintering grounds in South America, are spotted. To fully connect with nature on a Caribbean isle there really isn’t a better place to be.
The Trinidadian government has earmarked almost 15 per cent of the island for conservation status to ensure principal areas of resplendent tropical rainforest, semi-deciduous rainforest, elfin woodlands and mangrove swamps remain a protected cacophony of birdsong year-round. Prime wildlife hotspots are centred in northwest Trinidad, in the countryside that surrounds Port of Spain. Indeed, just a half-hour drive from the city centre’s bustling shopping malls, coffee bars and fast food joints yields an extraordinary diversity of birds and wildlife.
As one of the richest outposts of biodiversity in the Caribbean, Trinidad is home to more than 450 bird species, 108 types of mammals (100 of which are endemic), 55 reptiles, 25 amphibians and a staggering 620 types of butterflies. The island's location - on the very tip of equatorial South America - ensures its unique habitat of flora and fauna. Quite unlike the other Windward Islands, which have ecosystems dominated by island endemic species, Trinidad is a wildlife wonderland.
Outdoorsy types keen for a jaw-dropping adventurous vacation will discover that the island is riddled with palm-lipped hiking trails that lead to wildlife-rich rainforests. Birds flutter, rustle, squawk, chirp, tweet and shriek around Trinidad’s spectacular waterfall cascades, deep canyons and creature-filled forests, while fertile waters fed by the bountiful Orinoco River guarantee an abundance of marine life, from dolphins, sharks and turtles to big game fish and almost 40 species of reef building corals. Endangered species found in Trinidad include the manatee, the golden tree frog, the crab-eating raccoon and the blue and yellow macaw.
Wildlife-loving holidaymakers in Trinidad can arrange visits or guided tours at any of the parks below.
Queens Park Savannah, tel: (868) 622-1221
Royal Botanic Gardens of Trinidad and Tobago, tel: (868) 622-1221
Caroni Swamp Visitor Centre (Protected Area), tel: (868) 662-5114 or 645-1205
Nariva Swamp (Protected Area), tel. (868) 662-5114 or 645-1205
Header image © Roger McClean/iStock/Thinkstock
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About the author: SarahWoodsSarah Woods
Award-winning travel writer, author & broadcaster Sarah Woods has lived, worked and travelled in The Caribbean since 1995. She has visited resort towns, villages and lesser-known islands where she has learned to cook run-down, sampled bush rum, traded coconuts, studied traditional medicine, climbed volcanoes and ridden horses in the sea. Sarah is currently working on a travel documentary about the history of Caribbean cruises.