IntroductionMy beautiful wife Kimberly and I had some free plane tickets that we decided to use in order to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We were thinking that we would go somewhere in the Caribbean. I was thinking of Saba and Sint Maartin, but after Kimberly read about the wildlife in Trinidad and Tobago, she wanted to go there.
Trinidad and Tobago is full of lots of fantastic wildlife and has some great hiking and beaches as well. Both islands are extensions of the Andes Mountain chain so are well endowed with mountains.
It sounded like a great place to celebrate our 20th anniversary so off we went! (Our anniversary was actually in August, but we couldn’t get away then, so we had to wait until December).
Trinidad is the southernmost country in the Caribbean and is just off the coast of Venezuela. The trip was a great adventure and we definitely got off the beaten track from what most tourist do in the Caribbean. It was a very fun and enjoyable trip!
December 9: Asa Wright Nature Reserve (Trinidad)After a long day of travel, we awoke the next morning to head by taxi up to the Asa Wright Bird Sanctuary location in the Northern Range of Trinidad. Even before we started the guided hike (a guide is required for most of the trail) we saw countless birds, an agouti, and a big monitor lizard. We saw several lizards and bats as well.
The guided hike was interesting and we were shown many other birds (hummingbirds, honey creeper, oriole, trush, etc.) and different kinds of plants and flowers (the monkey ladder plants were really neat). There were many small birds, and then some larger ones such as parrots. There was also the biggest ant colony that we had ever seen.
After returning back to the lodge for lunch, there was a big downpour. After lunch, Kim and I hiked to the freshwater pool where there was a large pool and a small waterfall. There were many small frogs around. I took a swim.
December 10: El Cerro del Aripo (Trinidad)Today we set up to climb El Cerro del Aripo, the highest mountain in the country of Trinidad and Tobago. It sure was an exciting climb! Because the road was in poor condition, we had to walk a ways to the trailhead. It took us a while to find the correct trail, but once on it we made good progress through the rain forest and up to the saddle between Morne Bleu and Cerro Aripo, often while walking through the pouring rain. From here, the route would become much more challenging.
There was no real trail to Cerro Aripo after the saddle, and it was all through really thick rain forest and pouring rain. There were also several steep and significant subpeaks to climb along the way. The route was somewhat marked with the occasional piece of flagging tape on the trees. The steep sections were extremely slippery, especially with the pouring rain. We were also completely covered in mud.
Along the way to the summit we saw many strange plants and flowers. We were also startled by a mountain crab. When the rain briefly would taper off, there were plenty of butterflies and bats as well. I had one huge caterpillar on my shoulder, and only noticed that it had stinging spines after touching it to brush it off.
We reached the summit right at 1 pm. There were no views in the thick rain forest and rain, but it was still really beautiful. Because we were pressed for time, we had a very quick lunch and then descended the mountain.
The climb back was even more slippery than the climb up and we still had to reclimb all the subpeaks, still in the rain. We also got off track a few times in the thick jungle.
We got back to the trailhead and rushed along the road on foot in order to not miss the ridge that was supposed to pick us up. We were a little late, but it wasn't a problem. It sure was a good climb.
Blue butterflies such as this are all over Trinidad and Tobago. We saw several of them on our climb to Cerro Aripo.
December 11: North Coast/Paria Bay (Trinidad)The original plan was to explore the Guanapo Gorge, but heavy rains but an end to those plans. Instead we decided to hike the North Coast to Paria Bay and Falls since it was thought that it would be safe in the rain.
The ride to the North Coast was longer than the original plan and several parts of the road were washed out. The trail was in mostly good condition, but some sections were washed out or had trees fallen across the path. Because of the heavy rain, there were also several river crossings as well.
The coast, beaches, forest, and waterfalls were really beautiful. There were actually three waterfalls that we found and I took a swim in one pool (though we were already soaked from the rain!).
The walk back was about the same as the walk in, though I got a big thorn caught between my eyebrow and eyelash from a low hanging branch. It stabbed be good and I was lucky that it didn’t get my eye. It left a bruise.
We say several parrots, other birds, butterflies, and bats along the way. It was a beautiful, but longer than expected day, mostly in the pouring rain.
December 12: Nariva Swamp/Bush Bush (Trinidad)Today we finally saw some sunshine! It was decided to go to Bush Bush (island) in Nariva Swamp in order to see the wildlife (which was Kim’s primary motivation in choosing Trinidad as a vacation destination.
After getting up very early, we headed for the East Coast and the Nariva Swamp. After arriving at the national park we arranged a boat ride through the mangrove swamp in order to reach Bush Bush. The first thing that was noticed was the mosquitoes, so we really put on the bug juice.
After riding a small motorboat through the mangrove swamps, we arrived at the island and set off to explore. The first things we saw were some gigantic snails and then red howler monkeys. We spent quite a bit of time hiking and looking for more monkeys. We never did see the Capuchins since because of the recent rains they were out in the swamp looking for more snails. I had really wanted to see and Anaconda as well (I still haven't seen one in the wild), but no we didn't see any.
We saw a lot of birdlife and some giant cicadas. We also saw different trees and plants, including the incense tree which has flammable (but good smelling) sap. After exploring the jungle on the island we returned to the water, but since the boat was not ready, Kim and I explored around and saw some more howler monkeys.
On the boat ride back, we also saw a caiman. Once out of the swamp, we headed to a nearby mud volcano to check it out before heading back to Arima. Along the way we stopped at a mud volcano and saw some really big flowers.
That night the bed and breakfast threw us a surprise anniversary party since they knew we were there to celebrate our anniversary even though it was back in August (we celebrated it late this year). They made us a cake, other food, sparkling juice (since they knew we didn't drink alcohol), and played us some music on the steel drums. It was really nice.
December 13: Mount Tabor (Trinidad)Today we climbed Mount Tabor since it was thought that it would be a good choice with the threat of rain. We caught a ride to the Saint Benedict's Monastery and took a little bit of time to wander around and locate the trail up Mount Tabor. We did find it and climbed up the steep trail past the old fire lookout and through the pine forest. The views were good and we saw several big vulture like birds. We also saw a gigantic grasshopper that was more than 6 inches (15 cms) long.
After reaching a small summit, the trail became less distinct. It actually got more difficult the higher we went. We also ran into a gigantic spider and after that a huge millipede. There were many razor sharp ferns (that would draw blood!)and some of the plants really stung like stinging nettle, but much worse. Thinking the trail would eventually improve, we continued up by bushwhacking. The route became more miserable as we climbed. I lost the camera somewhere in the thick brush and we had to backtrack in order to find it.
We eventually reached the top of the mountain, but couldn’t find the alternate route down, so we set off back the same way. It was a relief to get through all the sharp plants and the stinging ones as well. We had rain on and off, but as soon as we got down it really began to pour.
Mount Tabor was the only climb we did in Trinidad and Tobago that wasn’t that fun. It was fun climbing up to the first peak at the top of the pine forest, but beyond that it wasn’t very pleasant. I don’t think I’d repeat that part of the climb again! Luckily the monastery sold good ice cream!
After the climb and visiting the monastery, we head for the airport for our late evening flight to Tobago.
December 14: Pigeon Peak/Man of War (Tobago)Today Kim and I decided to attempt Pigeon Peak and Man of War, two of the highest peaks on Tobago. We were weary of our experience on Mount Tabor the day before, so we weren’t quite as motivated to reach the summits this time, so we didn't get a really early start. In the morning we saw a very large and colorful caterpillar before a leisurely breakfast.
After catching a ride to the saddle between Pigeon Peak and Flagstaff Hill, we located the trail and headed towards the mountain. The trail was a bit overgrown, and we were startled by a huge frog and then a mountain crab. We saw a small snake as well. We made good progress to a big gully and then found the trail up towards the peaks. The “trail” to the saddle between the peaks was extremely steep and slippery. We had to find walking sticks in order to climb it. We also had a tight squeeze through a section of bamboo. Over all though, it was a fun and very exciting climb. It rained a bit as well.
Once we reached the saddle, we set off to climb Pigeon Peak first. Although the route to the peak wasn’t much of a trail, it was easier than the climb up to the saddle. We had to pay close attention to little blazes on the trees and eventually we found ourselves on the summit. There were some peekaboo views of the surrounding coast on both sides of the island.
We returned to the saddle and decided to climb Man of War as well. This route was harder to find than the route to Pigeon Peak. We left a water bottle behind at the saddle retrieved later) in order to mark the route for our return.
We carefully made our way to the summit of Man of War using very faint blazes on the trees. Along the way we passed under a huge fallen log with a very interesting bird’s nest. There was also a huge ants nest as well.
We returned to the saddle after climbing Man of War and were glad that we had left the water bottle behind in order to mark the route. After locating the trail it was a very steep and slippery descent down the mountain. We both took several spills and were very glad to have walking sticks.
After arriving back at the trailhead we walked all the way back to Speyside where we were staying at the Blue Waters Inn. We had a well-deserved dinner before walking on the beach and retiring for the night.
December 15: Argyle Falls (Tobago)This morning we took a boat ride out to Little Tobago where we planned on doing some snorkeling and hiking, but it the ocean was too rough to land. We instead went snorkeling at the reef which was off the coast of the island. It was really wavy though and despite the fact that I took Dramamine, I still got seasick.
After the snorkeling adventure, we headed for Arglye Falls, one of the most spectacular sites in the country. We wanted to climb up to all four waterfalls. The hike to the highest falls has a reputation as being quite difficult, but after our previous hikes the past few days, we actually found it to be quite easy. There were some scrambling sections, but the steepest sections had fixed ropes, so it wasn’t bad, nor was it as slippery as some of our previous hikes.
The waterfalls were wonderful and we spent some time admiring in them and wading in the pools. I swam in the pools, but Kim was happy with just wading in them. It was a very beautiful area and very enjoyable. There were many lizards scurrying around as well.
After spending much time at the pools and falls, we headed back to the trailhead and caught a ride back to Speyside. It was a good day.
December 16: Flagstaff Hill/Speyside Nature Trails (Tobago)Kim wanted a fairly easy hike today, so we headed for Flagstaff Hill. Most of the hike was on a seldom used road, but it was still a really good hike. The views from Flagstaff Hill are probably the best on the entire island since the rainforest has been cleared as it used to be an old lookout.
We also saw several birds and on the return trip saw a wild boa, my first that I’ve seen in the wild! It was a great hike and we walked all the way back to Speyside. We did some more walking on the beach before and then hiked all of the nature trails around the Blue Waters Inn. There were some interesting old ruins and many lizards.
In the late afternoon, it was time to start heading for the airport where we would fly back to Trinidad and then back home.
It was a really great trip.