The large pirogue, manned by an almost silent boatman/guide, veered onto the dark, mangrove lined Aquatic Avenue. Seemingly counterproductive to nature voyeurism, the boatman/guide played a deft hand by taking our rowdy group through a dimly lit section of the recently renamed Winston Nanan Caroni Bird Sanctuary in honour of the late pioneer who sought to preserve the area for decades.
As he slowed down, the pirogue grew dangerously close to the sharp mangrove roots and angry looking mangrove crabs. A few moments later, he shifted the pirogue about a slight hair-pin bend and in an instant a clear flat lake underneath a light blue sky burst through the end of the tunnel. The collective audible gasp of delight brought a knowing smirk to his face. Mr. Boatman knew what he was doing.
On the flat expanse of the man-made lake (according to the guide), white egrets walk along the edges of marshland with leggy grace. But it’s the bright vermillion that we’re all looking for; the pride of the Swamp and Trinidad and Tobago’s national bird, the Scarlet Ibis. The sky is blotted with streaks red, pink and dots of grey as evening grows near. The Scarlet Ibis goes home for the night, but above the many boats that anchor to watch, herons and other birds join in the aerial bedtime routine.
Located on the West Coast of Trinidad, the Winston Nanan Caroni Bird Sanctuary is the largest mangrove wetland where the Caroni River meets the Gulf of Paria. According to the Caroni Swamp Ramsar Wetlands document, ‘the Swamp is ecologically diverse, consisting of marshes, mangrove swamp and tidal mudflats in close proximity. The wetland provides a variety of habitats for flora and faunal species and as such, supports a rich biodiversity…’
Mostly the trip is an eyeful rather than earful. There’s always something to catch the eye. A mysterious movement in the water, a wayward breeze lifting a suspicious leaf or the sudden scuttling of some kind of water creature seems to capture the most attention. There are no spooky sounds, other than the rumblings of the motor boat and faint laughter.
The lure of the Winston Nanan Caroni Bird Sanctuary is the serenity and shameless natural beauty. Bird lovers go for the Scarlet Ibis and other birds, but nature lovers go for the entire experience. I guarantee that any visit to this haven for all living aviary and aquatic things will leave you feeling both relaxed and regretful at the same time. Regret only, since the end of the journey means leaving the simple serenity behind.
Address: Bamboo Grove Settlement, Valsayn, Trinidad
Phone: (868) 645-1305
Address: #37 Bamboo Settlement #1
Uriah Butler Highway, Caroni, Trinidad
Phone: (868) 663-0458, (868) 737-2069