Travel Diary: Caroni Bird Sanctuary, Trinidad & Tobago

Remember when I said that I would be doing more travel pieces focused on my home, Trinidad & Tobago. Well, I'm finally getting around to it. I considered highlighting a beach for the first one but I decided to share something a bit more unconventional instead: a bird sanctuary/ mangrove swamp.  They are probably two things that do not immediately come to mind when thinking of Caribbean travel but Trinidad & Tobago is not the typical Caribbean destination in many ways. Thus, I figured  it made perfect sense to do the initial post on one of T&T's bird sanctuaries.

Due to our islands' location, there is a dizzying combination of South American and Caribbean species. Take the birds alone for example. Experts have confirmed that almost 500 types call Trinidad & Tobago home. This may sound like a small number but it's impressive for a place so small. The bird population has made T&T a favourite destination among bird watchers. They flock to see hummingbirds and parrots, yes but  also  more unusual winged creatures such as the cave dwelling oil bird that uses a built in gps system to fly in the dark. However, the star of the show is arguably our national bird, the scarlet ibis, which is so called because of its vibrant plumage. The special species of Ibis is brown when young and becomes increasingly red due to the crabs it consumes. It is a truly spectacular sight to witness. Every few years I re-visit the sanctuary to see these beauties. It's a great way to spend time with nature while taking a break from the beach. 

The Swamp covers 15,000 acres of marshland, tidal lagoons and mangrove trees. As a child, I went on school excursions there but I did not really appreciate the beauty of the setting until I returned as an adult. Early each morning, the scarlet ibises fly from their Trini home to neighbouring Venezuela. At dusk they return to our island to roost. The tours at the swamp coincide with this return. At the entrance of the sanctuary,  a very humble set up greets you but I suppose this makes the contrast of what's in store more riveting. You climb into a boat with other visitors and the guides head toward the mangroves. As the boat moves, you catch glimpses of snakes, crabs, blue herons and other animals if you're lucky. The deeper into the Swamp you are, the more it feels like you are in a separate world. The ride is peaceful and relaxing. There is a point where the guides stop the boat to spot the red ibises flying in from their daily trip. Sitting in what may or may not be the centre of the swamp, you feel like it's just you and nature. The water is a pewter shade of blue, the sky is a powdery blue. The setting sun casts a golden glow unto the mountain range. Flamingos stand on mudbanks striking their famous elegant posture and flocks of the stunning scarlet ibis soar across the sky. As they land on the trees they look like flowers. I might be biased but I think that the scarlet ibis is one of the most exquisite birds in the world. Don't take my word for it! Visit the Caroni Swamp and see for yourself! 

Have you ever been to a bird sanctuary? 

Doing the tour 
The Nanan family has the official tour company for the Sanctuary. In the 1940's, their late patriarch Winston Nanan,  organised a  petition to  have the Swamp covered by conservation protection as a bird sanctuary. The  family's long standing connection to the reserve is evident during the tours. The guides rattle off knowledge gleaned from years spent in the wetland. They take their time to accommodate visitors who may have questions or want to take photographs. The tour usually lasts for about 2 hours, between 4 and 6:30 pm.

For one person the price of the tour is $10 US. However, if you would like to arrange transportation the cost is $50.US for the tour plus pick up and drop off. I think there may be special packages if you are going with two or more persons. Contact the Nanan's at or 1-868-645-1305; 1-868-681-8274

The Nanan Tour company will arrange transportation for you to and from the tour if necessary. Contact them for details.

What to Pack
*Light clothing but it should also cover your body fully. (It's a swamp so there are mosquitos.  
 Granted I wasn't assaulted by any during my last visit but it's good to be prepared).
*Ecologically friendly mosquito repellant.
*Water in a re-useable water bottle
*Nothing that will be left behind at the sanctuary. 

Photographs (except the 3rd and 6th) by Rhema Baksh 


  1. Yup, I remember. This is a great place to start with when it comes to Exploring Trinidad and Tobago

  2. It's somewhere I never tire of visiting and it's such a precious part of Trinidad & Tobago.

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