Trinidad and Tobago, two islands set in the Caribbean Sea. The name Caribbean conjures up images of blue seas and white sand beaches set against green hills. It brings to mind images of lying on the beach sipping pina coladas or rum and coca-cola. For the holiday traveler Tobago meets those expectations. For the outdoor enthusiast however, Trinidad and Tobago can be islands of outdoor recreation adventure with hiking trails and hidden waterfalls, bird and turtle watching, cycling through verdant countryside or kayaking past wildlife filled forests.
Trinidad and Tobago has a range of hiking opportunities with many of the hikes leading to waterfalls. Rincon waterfall in the Rincon valley on the north coast of Trinidad is a 250-foot vertical drop. The hike begins in the valley amidst small farms, fording several crystal clear streams and then winds uphill, culminating with a steep descent to the base of the waterfall. The 32 kilometer trail from Blanchissuese to Matelot on Trinidad’s north coast is considered a jewel. Along the hike one alternates from unspoiled rainforest to untouched beaches. Starting from Blanchissuese you encounter Paria Bay after two to three hours (depending on the hiker’s level of fitness). A short trail from the beach leads to Paria waterfall where there is a deep clear pool below the falls surrounded by heliconia, fringed lilies, and philodendron. If you choose to continue the hike after Paria Bay, the trail rambles over a succession of small ridges, crossing several small streams, until you next encounter Gran Tacarib, which is a 1.2 kilometer crescent shaped beach. From Gran Tacarib the trail continues to the Madamas river and then Madamas Beach. Both Madamas Beach and Gran Tacarib are nesting sites for Leatherback turtles, during the nesting season of March to September. After Madamas it is a continuation of the up and down hiking and crossing small streams and then the Petite Riviere river. The trail continues through abandoned estate lands with cocoa, coffee, tonka bean, nutmeg and papaya (pawpaw) until you arrive at the Matelot River and the village of Matelot.
For those who want to lie on the beach but also engage in some outdoor activity there are several less strenuous hikes. Argyle waterfall on the outskirts of Roxborough in Tobago is an easy hike along the Argyle River to a three level waterfall. The hike to the Rio Seco waterfall on Trinidad’s north-east coast goes through semi-cultivated land and then through stately mora forests to a small waterfall with a refreshing emerald pool, ideal for swimming.
Both Trinidad and Tobago abound with birds and at almost every turn an avian spectacle can be observed. Trinidad and Tobago has some of the most diverse bird species to be found in one location with over 460. This variety in species can perhaps be attributed to the fact that the islands lie close to South America so migration is easier, resulting in unusually diverse fauna. Asa Wright Nature Center, is Trinidad and Tobago’s premier birding location and it has been widely recognized as one of the most successful eco-tourism stories in the world. The listing of birds that can be seen at this center is too long for this article but has been identified in the vicinity of 159. Some of these birds include; Purple Honeycreeper, Green Honeycreeper, Crested Oropendola, Silver-beaked Tanager, White-necked Jacobin hummingbirds, Bananaquit, Red-legged Honeycreeper, White-chested Emerald hummingbird, Cocoa Thrush, Chestnut Woodpecker, Great Antshrike. This Nature Center is located at a height of approximately 1,200 feet in the hills of the Northern Range, seven miles from the town of Arima. It is reached by a single lane road that winds through verdant countryside dotted by small villages and isolated houses. There are numerous trails throughout the property and very knowledgeable guides.
Grafton Wildlife Sanctuary, Tobago, is a former cocoa and coconut estate that was destroyed by Hurricane Flora in 1963 and as a result was converted into a wildlife sanctuary. It is approx. 200 acres in size and is covered in secondary forest. There are three main forest trails. As you enter, the first trail on the right leads downhill and is relatively short. The second trail on the left also gradually leads downhill and then eventually climbs uphill. The main trail, which is directly facing the entrance, leads uphill and winds past several abandoned estate buildings and stables. There are benches along the main trail and at some points they provide panoramic views. There are at least three smaller trails that branch off from the main uphill trail but these are not always maintained. The three main forest trails are maintained. It is possible to spend an enjoyable hour or an intense four hours. The entire sanctuary abounds with birds of varied species.
Trinidad and Tobago are islands in the Caribbean Sea so there are myriad opportunities for kayaking. However for those who do not want to contend with large waves, ocean swells and ocean currents, Trinidad and Tobago offers a choice of sheltered saltwater and freshwater kayaking opportunities. Two kayaking areas of particular note are Bon Accord Lagoon and the Godineau River.
The azure waters of Buccoo Bay and the Bon Accord Lagoon in Tobago are sheltered by the offshore Buccoo reef, providing a kayaking area with only gentle swells. Kayak rentals are available at the nearby Storebay and also at Pigeon Point. The fringing Mangrove swamps of the Bon Accord Lagoon provide a scenic contrast to the white sand beaches along Pigeon Point and at the center of Buccoo bay. The offshoots of the reef also shelter the adjacent Milford Bay, allowing one to kayak to the south-east from Bon Accord Lagoon around Pigeon Point and into Milford Bay or vice-versa.
The Godineau River in south Trinidad, also known as the South Oropouche River, is one of the rivers in Trinidad that provides a year round kayaking opportunity as the water level is always sufficient. Kayaking in the Godineau area takes you through a variety of habitats, from saltwater mangrove swamp to fresh water marshland to partially cultivated areas. A variety of birdlife can be seen on these kayak trips including Scarlet Ibis, Southern Lapwing, Osprey, Savannah Hawk, Wattled Jacana, Cattle Egret, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-bellied Whistling Duck and a variety of migrating ducks (during the northern winter). This kayak trip can be started either from the sea along the area known as the Mosquito Creek or inland from the Woodland area.
Trinidad’s network of old agricultural & oilfield roads plus (relatively) quiet country roads, along with hiking paths provide a range of surfaces and environments for cycling. In addition terrain ranges from flat land to rolling inclines to hillsides. For those with a preference for road biking almost every area of Trinidad has country roads with reduced vehicle traffic. The cross-country rider will be able to find undulating land with natural vistas. Those whose interest lies in mountain biking can find forest trails with logs, bamboo and streams across the trail requiring navigation and dexterity.
So the next time you are looking for outdoor recreational activity with a difference, experience Trinidad and Tobago, islands of Adventure.