Asa Wright Nature Centre and Port-of-Spain, Trinidad

To travel and to have fun at the same time is always our goal. This really came true on the second day at Trinidad! It was lively, unique, exciting and a special adventure in many ways! Yes, it had everything.

Despite arriving back yesterday after midnight from our late night turtle watch, the expedition leader’s voice came through the PA system early. Right after 6:00am. Soon we boarded the vans for a one hour, but scenic drive to the northern range of the island. The aim was the Asa Wright Nature Center, a former coffee-cocoa-citrus plantation known as Springhill Estate. The buildings still had the flavor of an old British colonial style, but the plantation has been allowed to be reclaimed by the tropical forest. Nowadays nature rules again and for anyone interested in birds and wildlife, this is one of the premier sites in the world.

Without breakfast at the ship, before our early departure, everyone rushed into the line as we arrived to Asa Wright Nature Centre. Fresh pawpaw, local grown coffee, and fresh bread were on the list for a delightful breakfast in tropical surroundings.

No one wanted to stay too long in the dining room, since the verandah deck was the next place for “liming” (Trinidadean for relaxing in a very comfortable environment). Right outside was a parade of birds: tanagers, honeycreepers, hummingbirds, and oropednulas, giving us a full view at the close up feeders. Birding at its best! Colorful birds, huge diversity, an endless parade of beauty!

The more adventurous grabbed the unique opportunity offered by Asa Wright Nature Centre for the first time in about 10 years, to visit the Dunstan Cave and the oilbirds. The famous explorer and polyglot scientist Humboldt first encountered this bird about 150 years ago. So far unique by the way of feeding, on oil palm fruits at night (!) and the use of eco-location and its strange breeding behavoir, in large, dark caves in large colonies. It is confined to northern part South America and the name “oilbird” derives from the use to extract oil from the fat chicks.

Others made the walk down into the Arima valley to encounter bellbirds with their strange call, “klonk,” and to admire the endlessly displaying male whitebeard manakin with his strange wing snap. Of course, the number of tropical plants was almost endless along the trails and our local guides from Asa Wright Nature Centre were eager to tell and explain.

As the day went on the tropical heat came along and it was time for us to depart from this very comfortable and tropical colonial verandah deck. Just before we boarded the vans a large ornate hawk-eagle and a channel-billed toucan flew over our heads. It was too soon to leave this paradise.

After lunch, those still with energy left, were offered a visit to the National Museum of Trinidad and Tobago. The exhibitions swept a tremendous span: Arawak Indian culture, Spanish early colonial time, an anchor from one of Christopher Columbus ship, slavery and sugar plantations, carnival, old canons, rum, and natural history. The shoppers, of course, took advantage of the time to scan the shops in the city center of Port-of-Spain. Good bargains can be made, but as always, you have to know what you are looking for.

In the late afternoon it was time for the typical tones of Trinidad: calypso and the steel drums together with limbo dancing. As the steel drum sound came through, soon the pool deck was filled by dancing guests. The rhythm really made it easy to move around. Three flashy girls also gave us an insight into the limbo dancing. A few of us were able to try, but still not near what the girls could do. Not even a burning limbo stick about one foot over the floor was not too low for these girls! How do they do it? The “party” turned into a great dancing competition and the prize was, of course, a bottle of the finest Trinidad rum. Much of the history of the Caribbean is the history of the wealth made by sugar cane and a bottle of fine Trinidad rum puts an appropriate end to a wonderful day.