Trinidad – Nariva Swamp

As I foreshadowed in the TnT teaser post (here), we had to be off by 5 am so that we could drive across the island to Nariva Swamp.  We did stop for doubles again (yay!) plus we had our nice boxed breakfast from Thanna’s.  Oh, as well, we had to take all of our luggage with us since we would be flying to Tobago in the afternoon.

We were aiming to get to the coast and the swamp as early as possible.  Which means we were treated to this along Manzanilla Bay:

Ah, yes, a tropical sunrise!  The ocean is rough on this side of the island (it is the Atlantic after all), but the scenery just lends itself to photography!  (You'll see more later).
Ah, yes, a tropical sunrise! The ocean is rough on this side of the island (it is the Atlantic after all), but the scenery just lends itself to photography! (You’ll see more later).

We headed a bit further down the road to Nariva Swamp.  Nariva Swamp is the largest swamp in Trinidad and Tobago.  This swamp is different from Caroni, in that it is a freshwater swamp.  It is actually inland from the coast, and some of it is separated from the Atlantic by coconut plantations (hence the photo op above!).

Nariva has a complicated history of protection, sustainable use and illegal use; it is designated as a “Wetland of International importance” by the Ramsar Convention.  One of the areas within the swamp’s borders is Bush Bush Island, which has many interesting species of plants and animals.

We met our guide, Shamu, who lives at the edge of the swamp, and headed out:

Heading out into the mangrove forest of Nariva Swamp.
Heading out into the mangrove forest of Nariva Swamp.  These mangroves seemed to be denser than the ones at Caroni.  It was in this stretch that we saw the American Pygmy Kingfisher, a very very small and shy kingfisher (so no photo….).
Fantastic reflections along the way!   "D"
Fantastic reflections along the way! “D”
The light at the end of the tunnel.  You don't really think about how dark the mangrove tunnels are, until you see the sun in the marsh ahead.
The light at the end of the tunnel. You don’t really think about how dark the mangrove tunnels are, until you see the sun in the marsh ahead.
Passing through the marsh to Bush Bush island.
Passing through the marsh to Bush Bush island.  It’s interesting seeing the different vegetation that makes up Nariva.

Once we landed on Bush Bush Island, Roger gave us the “talk”.  When you are on Bush Bush you are supposed to “walk in the person ahead of you footprints” as much as possible.  That’s when he told us that Bush Bush Island has Bushmasters on it.  Sometimes I’m envious of Scott because he had no idea what that meant.  I on the other hand, suddenly developed a keen desire to walk as close behind Shamu as possible.  I’m not afraid of snakes (or any wildlife, really) but I do have a healthy desire not to get bit.

On Bush Bush with Shamu, our local guide.  He is deaf, but what a fantastic wildlife spotter!
On Bush Bush with Shamu, our local guide. He is deaf, but what a fantastic wildlife spotter!  This is the path we took, which is actually a fire break on the island.  When Shamu isn’t guiding, he helps keep this clear.
A Sandbox tree (Hura crepitans), also known as Monkey no climb tree!  I guess not, but they are interesting to look at!
A Sandbox tree (Hura crepitans), also known as Monkey no climb tree! I guess not, but they are interesting to look at!
A research cabin, I think belonging to the University of the West Indies.
A research station cabin, I think belonging to the University of the West Indies.
We came across this GIANT termite nest.  I know this isn't the best photo since Roger is behind a twig, but he's there for scale!  Roger is over 6' tall, so you can gauge how big the nest is!
We came across this GIANT termite nest. I know this isn’t the best photo since Roger is behind a twig, but he’s there for scale! Roger is over 6′ tall, so you can gauge how big the nest is!
Some lovely dappled sun on the path.
Some lovely dappled sun on the path.

And then it was time to go.  Along the way, we saw some Red Howler Monkeys (spotted by Shamu), some fun species of birds, heard stories about the snakes that live there, I ate a termite, and Scott and Roger got some interesting shots.

Shamu waiting for us to board!
Shamu waiting for us to board!

After our swamp visit we had a little time to try to hunt down more species of birds for the list!  We headed to Kernaham Village, which is just off the Manzanilla-Mayaro road at the bottom of the swamp.  This is a tiny place with small farms, many of which have small ponds near their houses.  It is very picturesque in it’s own way, since many of the ponds were full of blooming, pink waterlilies.  One of the ponds was also full of Wattled Jacanas (actually, a few of the ponds were crawling with Jacanas).

"My, what big toes you have,” said the lily to the jacana. “The better to walk on you with,” replied the jacana. “My, what a long beak you have,” exclaimed the lily. “The better to pick at you with,” assured the jacana. The wattled jacana (Jacana jacana) is unmistakable with its exaggerated feet that are fit for a fairy tale and red, turkeylike wattles. Also called the lily-trotter, its toes and toenails distribute its weight over large areas to help it sprint across aquatic vegetation as if defying gravity. (photo Scott Walker)
“My, what big toes you have,” said the lily to the jacana. “The better to walk on you with,” replied the jacana. “My, what a long beak you have,” exclaimed the lily. “The better to pick at you with,” assured the jacana.
The wattled jacana (Jacana jacana) is unmistakable with its exaggerated feet that are fit for a fairy tale and red, turkeylike wattles. Also called the lily-trotter, its toes and toenails distribute its weight over large areas to help it sprint across aquatic vegetation as if defying gravity.
(photo Scott Walker)
One of the cows of Kernaham consults with her Egret council.
One of the cows of Kernaham consults with her Egret council.
This one of the interesting and important (in my mind) sights of Kernaham - it's building of worship.  It is built to serve the Hindus, Muslims, and Christians - all in one building.
This one of the interesting and important (in my mind) sights of Kernaham – it’s building of worship. It is built to serve the Hindus, Muslims, and Christians – all in one building.  (Scott’s photo).

 

It was time to hit the road again, which meant going back along the Manzanilla- Mayaro road to Arima.  Along the way there is this spectacular scenery:

Looking south on Manzanilla beach.
Looking south on Manzanilla beach.
Looking north on Manzanilla beach.
Looking north on Manzanilla beach.
The palms left over from the coconut plantations, at Manzanilla bay.
The palms left over from the coconut plantations, at Manzanilla bay.  I just love this photo – I feel like this is what you would see if you were shipwrecked in a tropical island!
The road through.  It's a long straight shot along the ocean.
The road through. It’s a long straight shot along the ocean.

We stopped briefly at Brigand Hill Lighthouse, which is maybe the ony place to get high enough to have a long view of Manzanilla Bay.  It was a bit hazy, so my photos didn’t turn out that well, but it still was a fun place to visit.  On the way to the car, Roger spotted this fellow trying his best to look like a twig:

Me and the Horsewhip snake (Oxybelis aeneus).  That's one long, skinny snake!
Me and the Horsewhip snake (Oxybelis aeneus). That’s one long, skinny snake!

Then it was off to Arima for a quick roti lunch, before heading to the airport for our first night on Tobago.

The sign for Castara Bliss from our balcony.
The sign for Castara Bliss from our balcony.

It was dinner and then of to bed for us – oh, except the Danish Zoomba group were having their farewell party….

Valerie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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