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Touring Trinidad’s natural & built heritage

Trinidad offers a wealth of natural (forests, savannahs, reefs, and wetlands) and built heritage (colonial mansions and estate homes, churches and cathedrals, mosques, mandirs, forts, and museums) to explore

For the history buff (whether human or natural), there are a great many archaeological and historical sites in Trinidad and Tobago. T&T has been moving toward preserving both our natural heritage (forests, savannahs, reefs, and wetlands) and built heritage (colonial mansions and estate homes, churches and cathedrals, mosques, mandirs, forts, museums, and other sites of historical significance).

Many buildings that have survived are in the process of being protected and preserved by the National Trust as national heritage sites with legal protected status. Those which have been officially listed as heritage sites or which appear on their Heritage Asset Register (the second of an eight-step process before which a site can become an official, legally protected Heritage Site) are indicated with the + symbol in this article. Some protected sites require permission to access from one of several state authorities, which reputable guides can arrange.

These historic buildings tell the story of the people who shaped the island, while our landscape, flora and fauna tell the story of Trinidad’s unique mix of Caribbean and South American lineage. Trinidad owes its phenomenal diversity of flora, fauna and topography to this distinctive combination of island and continental characteristics (the island was originally connected to the South American mainland). The result is an exciting blend of island and continental ecology, a distinctive legacy that is visible all around — mountain ranges (the northern, central and southern) cloaked in tropical rainforest; mangrove swamps; savannahs; waterfalls and rivers; and distinct coastal waters that are sometimes jungle green, aqua blue, and deep, dark blue, washed by the nutrient-rich waters of Venezuela’s Orinoco River. There are coral reefs off the northwest and northeast coasts, with rocky, windy islands off the Chaguaramas peninsula, featuring coves, caves and beaches. Caroni (on the west coast) and Nariva (in the southeast) are the two main swamps.

Read on to learn more about how you can see and explore the rich natural and built heritage Trinidad has to offer.


Fort George. Photo by Adrian Bernard

Around Port of Spain

Angostura Museum and Barcant Butterfly Collection

Located on Eastern Main Road/Trinity Avenue, Laventille. View the famous collection of Trinidad’s colourful butterflies, including the beautiful Blue Emperor. Hear the history of the company’s unique bitters, tour the manufacturing room, bottling plant and distillery and sample some of Angostura’s much-loved rums. Tours begin at 9.30am and 1.30pm, Monday to Friday and last approximately two hours; advance booking required. www.facebook.com/AngosturaMuseumAndBarcantButterflyCollection

+Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Photo: Stephen Broadbridge

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Photo: Stephen Broadbridge

Recently refurbished and standing at the eastern end of the Brian Lara Promenade downtown, this Catholic cathedral was built between 1816 and 1832.

Designated as a minor basilica, one of its most distinctive features is its stained-glass windows, which depict Trinidad’s history.

+Cathedral of the Holy Trinity

Completed in 1818 in the Gothic revival style, with its hammerbeam roof made of local wood, this is one of several historic buildings overlooking Woodford Square.

+Holy Rosary Church

Also undergoing restoration works, this Gothic revival church near the eastern end of Park Street dates back to 1866. Like the Cathedral downtown, its stained glass is absolutely stunning.

The Marionettes perform at a fundraiser for Holy Rosary Church. Photo: Maria Nunes

The Marionettes perform at a fundraiser for Holy Rosary Church. Photo: Maria Nunes

Emperor Valley Zoo and the +Botanical Gardens

Giraffes at the Emperor Valley Zoo. Copyright MEP Publishers

Melman and Mandela are popular additions to the Emperor Valley Zoo in Port of Spain. Photographed by MEP Publishers

Also around the Savannah, along its northern side, the Zoo was opened in 1952 and recently upgraded. Its nearly 3 hectares house hundreds of animals. Tigers, giraffes, lions, macaws and lots of snakes. Kids will love it. The young giraffes are adorable and the new lions and tigers are big draws.

Get a good look at some of the many species of monkeys, parrots, macaws, snakes, fish and reptiles that inhabit the forests of this land. Open every day exept Christmas and carnival. Admission: Adults TT$30, children TT$15, 8am–5:30pm (weekdays) and 8am–6:00pm (weekends). www.zstt.org

Trinidad's Botanical Gardens. Photo: Ayanna Young

Trinidad’s Botanical Gardens. Photo: Ayanna Young

The nearby Gardens (est. 1820) are a favourite for picnics and walks, and home to one of the oldest collections of exotic plants and trees in the western hemisphere. Next door is the President’s  House official home, which has recently undergone significant restoration work.

+President’s House

The President’s House. Photo by RAPSO Imaging, courtesy the Office of the President of Trinidad & Tobago

Along the northern flank, the Botanic Gardens and the Zoo adjoin the stately and recently refurbished President’s House — fronted by its own manicured gardens. The site — with its original structure called “the Cottage” — was used as the Governor’s residence from 1867, and the current structure replaced the Cottage in 1876. After the islands became a republic in 1976, the building was designated as the President’s House, and became the official residence of the president (which it remains). Key architectural details include its blue limestone facade, Welsh Ditchess slate roof, Victorian columns and railings, and Victorian Italianate style arched portals and loggias.

The roundabout beyond gives access to the suburbs of St Ann’s and Cascade (on the left, with the iconic performing arts facility Queen’s Hall on the left, and the Prime Minister’s Residence & Diplomatic Centre just after), and the Lady Young Road which snakes over the foothills to join the highway out of the city heading east.

+Fort George

Fort George, Trinidad. Photo by Chris Anderson

Fort George, Trinidad. Photo by Chris Anderson

High in the hills overlooking Port of Spain, the Gulf of Paria, west Trinidad and Central Trinidad is Fort George. The British landed on this coast in 1797 and snatched the island from Spain. Fort George (1804), 1,100ft above Port of Spain, became the main defence against attack. But it never experienced any military action, was decommissioned in 1846 and become a signal station in 1883. Original cannon, cannon balls and part of the dungeon remain. But the real attraction now is the panoramic view (the hills to the west are Venezuela’s Paria peninsula). Open 10am to 6pm, admission free.

Gingerbread houses

History buffs will find cannons and other relics scattered throughout the island. The gingerbread house has delicate wooden filigree, jalousie windows, peaked roofs, dormers and a gallery. George Brown, a Scottish architect who came to Trinidad in 1880, created the gingerbread style, which can be found across the island, in remnants of stately mansions once owned by planters and merchants, as well as the humble cottages of the working class. Among the most notable is the aptly named George Brown House (Victoria Avenue and Queen’s Park West), which brown himself designed in 1888 for the Seigert family. Brown’s daughter, Jessie Simpson, and her husband bought it from them in 1941.

Quite a few other gingerbread houses can be seen in Woodbrook, the western suburb of Port of Spain that is now the liming hub of the country. A living museum of architecture, this former sugar estate became a respectable suburb for a new emerging middle class in the early 1900s. Belmont, to the east of the Queen’s Park Savannah, has also held on to some of its beautiful old homes, which are in remarkably good condition.

+Knowsley House

Knowsley house in Trinidad. Photo by Chris Anderson

Knowsley house in Trinidad. Photo by Chris Anderson

Occupying the block between Chancery Lane, Dundonald Street and Albion Lane, on the southern side of the Savannah, this is another heritage building which has been beautifully restored within recent years (2011). Originally designed and built in 1904 by Taylor & Gillies for William Gordon, its structure features imported yellow bricks and hand hewn local limestone, with Italian marble on the ground floor veranda, plaster of Paris on the ground floor ceilings, and a magnificent interior staircase built from Guyanese purple heart wood. In June 1956, Kowsley was purchased by the government of Trinidad and Tobago for use as offices for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

+Magnificent Seven

Queen's Royal College, Trinidad. Photo: Ariann Thompson

Queen’s Royal College, Trinidad. Photo: Ariann Thompson

Described as the lungs of the city, the Savannah is a hub of recreational activity. Its vast grounds are popular for sports, kite-flying (especially around Easter), and even photo shoots. Walkers, joggers, dog-walkers, and food/drink vendors (including a series of colourful Carnival stalls in season) dominate its perimeter. The Savannah is said to be the world’s largest roundabout (approximately 3.5km and 260 acres) and the Caribbean’s oldest recreation ground. Originally part of the Paradise Estate, a portion of land in the centre remains a burial ground for members of the Peschier family (its previous owners); it was converted into a city park in 1817.

A row of grand old houses on the western side of the Savannah were built between 1900 and 1910. The most southerly is Queen’s Royal College, whose most famous alumna is Nobel Prize-winning writer (and quintessential Trini) VS Naipaul. Hayes Court was the residence of the Anglican Bishop of Trinidad and Tobago and is still the property of the Anglican Church. It is currently under renovation. Next door is Mille Fleurs, which was built in 1904 for the Prada family. It was bought by the government in 1979 and has benefitted from significant restoration work.

Roomor, originally known as Ambard’s House, was commissioned by a cocoa merchant. It is the only one of the seven still functioning as a private residence. Just three doors down from the Anglican bishop’s residence is the home of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Port of Spain. The building has been renovated and is used by the church.

Whitehall was, until 2008, the office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago since shortly after independence. It has also received significant restoration work, with plans for it to be used as a Protocol House for visiting dignitaries.

The northernmost of the seven, Killarney or Stollmeyer’s Castle. It remained the property of the Stollmeyer family until the 1970s and was eventually bought by the government in 1979. It has recently been refurbished.

+National Museum & Art Gallery

The National Museum & Art Gallery. Photographer: Aisha Provoteaux

The National Museum & Art Gallery. Photographer: Aisha Provoteaux

Though not part of the Queen’s Park Savannah’s Magnificent Seven, the National Museum and Art Gallery is housed in a building of significance. Established as the Royal Victoria Institute, in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, the building is an example of the German Renaissance architectural style. The more celebrated example of this style in Trinidad – and no more than a stroll away from the museum – is Queen’s Royal College. The two buildings share a common architect: Daniel M. Hahn, an old boy of QRC, who received training in Germany. Today, the building houses both the national art collection and a history collection comprising artefacts from the country’s earliest known Amerindian settlements to (almost) the present day. Admission is free, and the museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm.

Two smaller museums in Port of Spain complement the main collection:

  • The Museum of the City of Port of Spain: A collection designed to narrate the history of Trinidad’s capital. Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Fort San Andres, South Quay, Port of Spain (opposite City Gate bus terminal). Tel: 623 5941/624 6477/623 0339 [Closed for refurbishment works, with April/May 2020 the projected date for re-opening]
  • Police Service Museum: There has been a Police Force in Trinidad since 1592, established by the Spanish. For its first two hundred years, however, it was never more than half-a-dozen strong. It is bigger, and busier, now. Opening hours: Tuesday to Thursday, 9am to 5pm; Saturday, 10am to 3pm. Old Police Headquarters, St Vincent St, Port of Spain. Tel: 624 6722

+Red House

The Red House, seat of the T&T parliament, in Port of Spain. Photographer: Marc Seyon

The Red House, seat of the T&T parliament, in Port of Spain. Photographer: Marc Seyon

Reopened in early 2020, and undergoing the very final stages of major restoration works, the original building was constructed between 1944 and 1948, modified in 1892, and the government offices painted red in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee — therefore earning the name by which it became known: the Red House. The original building burnt down in 1903 during the Water Riots. With Daniel Hahn as architect, the Red House was rebuilt with some alterations (including neoclassical ornamentation) using most of the external walls, and reopened in 1907. It houses the nation’s Parliament, which was temporarily relocated to the International Waterfront Centre during the renovations. A First Peoples burial ground was recently found at the site, including remains and artefacts (430–1400 AD).

+Woodford Square Heritage District

The fountain in Woodford Square, Port of Spain, Trinidad. Photo: Ryan Kong

The fountain in Woodford Square, Port of Spain, Trinidad. Photo: Ryan Kong

Several distinct buildings overlook historic Woodford Square, which has been designated as the Woodford Square Heritage District. The Square was established in 1917 by Mayor Dr E Prada and named after Sir Ralph James Woodford, the British governor who contributed significantly to the development of Port of Spain. In the years leading up to independence in 1962, Dr Eric Williams (the islands’ first prime minister) and the People’s National Movement used Woodford Square for their public rallies, with the Square coming to be known colloquially as the “University of Woodford Square”. Restoration of the water fountain — showing Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, and her son Eros — was nearing completion in early 2020.

The buildings surrounding the Square are equally notable. Completed in 1818 in the Gothic revival style, with its hammerbeam roof made of local wood, is the Anglican +Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. The Hall of Justice lies to the north; the +Old Fire Station and National Library (originally built in 1897, then refurbished and integrated into the new Library) to the west, across the road from the +Red House (originally built in 1844, formerly the seat of Parliament, but currently being restored — work has been slowed by the discovery of First Peoples remains and artefacts dating to 430–1400 AD); and the remains of the razed Greyfriars Church to the east.


The Bamboo Cathedral in Chaguaramas. Photo by Chris Anderson

The Bamboo Cathedral in Chaguaramas. Photo by Chris Anderson

+Chaguaramas

Boats, parties, hiking, biking, history, restaurants, water-sports, beach-bumming, golfing … or just lazing on the Boardwalk or under magnificent samaan trees. The Chaguaramas National Heritage Park is home to all this. It is managed by the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA, chaguaramas.com), which also provides onshore and offshore tours.

Some highlights:

    • The +Bamboo Cathedral is a lush, serene and easy walk beneath a long and beautiful stretch of arching bamboo forest canopy — unless you plan to trek uphill to the top of Morne Catherine with its abandoned +World War II tracking station (a popular spot for astronomers and star-gazers)
    • Also in beautiful +Tucker Valley is +Edith Falls — located in an abandoned cocoa estate nestled against the eastern side of Morne Catherine and overlooking the golf course. A fairly gentle hike, you will hear red howler monkeys in the forest canopy along the trail.
    • Military & Aviation Museum: chronicles the military history of the country from 1498 to the present. Admission fee; guided tours available upon request (militarymuseumtt.com).
The Gasparee Caves, Trinidad. Photo: Stephen Broadbridge

The Gasparee Caves, Trinidad. Photo: Stephen Broadbridge

Down-de-islands (“DDI”)

Going “down de islands” (DDI) is a favourite jaunt for those owning or renting holiday homes, or dropping anchor in one of the coves or bays. There are three sets of islands off the northwest coast, each with distinct features and histories:

  • the Five Islands (of which there are actually six); the Diego Islands; and then Gaspar Grande, Monos, Huevos, and +Chacachacare
  • +Nelson Island, one of the Five, was used to quarantine indentured immigrants
  • Gaspar Grande has the stunning +Gasparee Caves, formed by a coral reef pushed up from the sea. Water has since eroded the limestone, creating dramatic stalactites, stalagmites, earth pillars and a massive blue-green pool, lit by sunlight from a hole above
  • +Chacachacare has a salt pond, a lighthouse and, most famously, a leprosarium, now defunct. The remains of the chapel and dwellings of the ministering nuns are still there
  • Carrera, one of the Diego pair, has been a prison island.

Lopinot estate and historical complex in Trinidad. Photo: William Barrow

The beautiful Lopinot estate and historical complex in Trinidad. Featured on the Ghost Hunters International television show, it is said to be haunted, with the Compte de Lopinot riding the estate on his horse at the full moon. Photo: William Barrow

The Northeast

+Asa Wright Nature Centre and Lodge

The rare oilbird is the only nocturnal, fruit-eating bird in the world. Asa Wright has the country's most accessible colony of them, while Cumaca (pictured), has the largest. Photo by Chris Anderson

The rare oilbird is the only nocturnal, fruit-eating bird in the world. Asa Wright has the country’s most accessible colony of them, while Cumaca (pictured), has the largest. Photo by Chris Anderson

Nestled at the head of the Arima valley, this is birdwatchers’ paradise, and a conservation and study centre for professional and amateur naturalists. Off the Arima-Blanchisseuse Road, this is one of Trinidad’s most outstanding bird-watching and eco-centres; the New York Zoological Society established a research station here in 1949. Originally a coffee, citrus and cocoa plantation (now partially reclaimed by secondary forest), the estate and its carefully preserved great house, Springhill, were bought in 1947 by a retired English solicitor, Dr Newcome Wright, and his Icelandic wife Asa. When Newcome died, Mrs Wright sold the land on condition that it remained a conservation area; a non-profit trust was set up in 1967. The century-old great house has been preserved, and houses a dining hall and an open verandah for observation, especially of birds.

The Centre now spans 1,500 acres in the Arima and Aripo Valleys of the Northern Range. Its eco-lodge, veranda, restaurant and reception are open to day visitors: the admission covers a half-mile guided tour and some access to the grounds (including a fresh-water pool that you can bathe in). Overnight visitors enjoy greater access to the trails and caves, including the rare oilbirds’ habitat at Dunston Cave. This is perhaps the most easily accessible colony of these rare, nocturnal, fruit-eating birds to be found anywhere. Some 166 species of birds have been spotted at the Centre — hummingbirds, bananaquits, honeycreepers, and tanagers are the most common. Books on T&T’s natural environment are on sale at the gift shop. asawright.org

+Toco Lighthouse at Galera Point

Galera Point at dawn. Photo by Chris Anderson

Galera Point at dawn. Photo by Chris Anderson

There’s a rocky outcrop at Galera Point, just beyond the Keshorn Walcott Toco Lighthouse (1877) at the northeastern tip of the island. Here two great bodies of water meet: the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Caribbean Sea to the west, with a distinct demarcation in colour. It is also here that Amerindians, fleeing the Spanish occupiers after the Arena uprising in 1699, are said to have thrown themselves into the water rather than suffer further oppression. In February, Orisha devotees celebrate the Olukun Festival here. There is a small picnic area.

Lopinot Historical Complex

The river at Lopinot. Photographer: Marc Seyon

The river at Lopinot. Photographer: Marc Seyon

Nestled in the Northern Range off the Eastern Main Road near Arouca, Lopinot was originally developed (1806) as a cocoa estate by a French count, Charles Joseph de Lopinot, who had fled to Trinidad in 1791 to escape the Haitian revolution. +Lopinot House comprises the former tapia estate house, prison and slave quarter, which have been turned into a museum. The area is popular for picnics, family days, retreats, sports, bird-watching and hiking (there is a river and also caves nearby). The village residents are a quintessentially Trini mix of First Peoples, Spanish, French, African and East Indian heritage, and remain close to the land. Some still speak Spanish, French and patois. At Christmas time, the area is a hub for parang and pastelles. At any time of year, make sure to take in the delights at Café Mariposa. Legend has it that on dark, stormy nights the count appears on a black horse dressed in military regalia and gallops across the Lopinot savannah. After a visit in 2011, TV show Ghost Hunters International (SYFY Channel in the US) reported that they had found more evidence of paranormal activity here than anywhere else in the world.

+Mount St Benedict

The Christ the Redeemer statue at Mount St Benedict. Photographer: Owen Washington

The Christ the Redeemer statue at Mount St Benedict. Photographer: Owen Washington

Perched 245m/800ft above the central plain, off St John’s Road in Tunapuna, Mount St Benedict is the oldest and largest Benedictine monastery in the Caribbean. The 600-acre complex includes a nature park with walkways and trails, perfect for hiking, bird-watching and enjoying the magnificent views. The Pax Guesthouse offers accommodation, a tea-house and terraces for bird-watching. The monks make and sell yoghurt, and the Pax Abbey Shop sells religious items. Afternoon tea is available.

UWI Zoology Museum

Banwari Man, Trinidad. Photo: Desiree Seebaran

Banwari Man, Trinidad. Photo: Desiree Seebaran

Based at the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine campus, this is the largest and most significant collection of zoological specimens in the country. The Banwari Man is also preserved here — the human skeleton found lying in a crouched burial position by the T&T Historical Society in 1969, and still the oldest evidence of human activity on Caribbean soil. The area in which it was found (Banwari Trace — see below under South Trinidad) has yielded artefacts belonging to the Ortoiroid people, dating back to 5,000 BC. Tours of the Museum can be booked 8am–4pm, Monday–Friday. Admission: free.  facebook.com/uwizoologymuseum, 662-2002 x 82231

 

Yerette: home of the hummingbird

An Amethyst woodstar humminbird at Yerette. This tiny bird first appeared in Trinidad in 2015. Photo by Wendell Stephen Jay Reyes

An Amethyst woodstar humminbird at Yerette. This tiny bird first appeared in Trinidad in 2015. Photo by Wendell Stephen Jay Reyes

This is a chance to sit and have tea surrounded by hummingbirds. The Fergusons allow visitors to take tours of their garden in Maracas St Joseph, where 15 species of hummingbirds have been photographed, along with scores of other birds.

There are three tours daily. Meals featuring cuisine made with all-local ingredients and all-natural local juices are also available. yerette.com


The Temple in the Sea at Waterloo at sunset. Photo by Nyla Singh

The Temple in the Sea at Waterloo at sunset. Photo by Nyla Singh

Central Trinidad

+Hanuman Murti and +Dattatreya Yoga Centre

The Dattatreya Yoga Centre near Chaguanas. Photographer: Marc Seyon

The Dattatreya Yoga Centre near Chaguanas. Photographer: Marc Seyon

Churches, temples, kingdom halls, mandirs, faith centres and mosques stand side by side in the Trinidad landscape. One of the most impressive structures is the 26m/85ft statue of the Hindu god Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god of strength, donated by an Indian swami, and the tallest of its kind outside India. Consecrated in 2003, it towers over the adjoining Dattatreya Yoga Centre mandir and ashram at Orange Field Road.

Nariva Swamp & +Bush-Bush Sanctuary

Kayaking in Nariva swamp. Photo by Stephen Broadbridge

Kayaking in Nariva swamp. Photo by Stephen Broadbridge

One of Trinidad’s most significant wildlife areas and (like the Caroni Swamp) a Ramsar Site, Nariva is the only place in Trinidad to see the endangered manatee or sea cow, which can grow up to 3m/10ft in length, weighing about 900kg/1,985lbs. There are also resident red howler monkeys, anteaters, porcupines, capuchin monkeys, caiman and birds like the orange-winged parrot, yellow-capped Amazon parrot, savannah hawk, agoutis, tegus, cascadura (armoured catfish), anacondas (the heaviest reptile in the world, and the longest in the Americas, which can grow up to 9m/30ft long), and other endangered species like red-bellied macaws and owls. At the Bush Bush Wildlife Sanctuary you will find channel-billed toucans and tree-climbing porcupine. Scarlet ibis also roost here. You will need a tour guide and permit to explore the swamp, by kayak, boat or (in the dry months) on foot.

+Our Lady of Montserrat church

Known for its beautiful stained glass windows, bought in France over 100 years ago, this little wooden church is located high on a ridge of the Central Range in the village of Tortuga. It is one of the most wonderful places to watch the sunset as it faces westward towards the Gulf of Paria. This Roman Catholic church was built by its first priest and architect, Fr Marie Jules Dupoux, and blessed on 24 December, 1878. A special festival is held every year on the Sunday nearest to 8 September and is attended by hundreds from all over Trinidad. It’s also known for the wooden figure of the Black Virgin.

+Temple in the Sea at Waterloo

The Temple in the Sea at Waterloo. Photo by Rapso Imaging

The Temple in the Sea at Waterloo. Photo by Rapso Imaging

Off the Southern Main Road — 150m/500ft out into the Gulf of Paria at the end of a causeway — lies the “floating mandir”. It’s the reconstruction of a Hindu temple built single-handedly over 25 post-war years by Siewdass Sadhu, a sugar labourer (whose statue is in the temple’s parking lot). Forbidden to build a temple on land, he built it in the sea instead, beyond the control of colonial officials and land owners. The effect of sea erosion prevented Sadhu from completing it, but in 1994, the government finished it in time to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first arrival of Indian indentured workers. At low tide, the mudflats around the temple are excellent for bird-watching. The causeway is generally open 6am–6pm: the temple itself is open at the caretaker’s discretion.

+Winston Nanan Caroni Swamp & Bird Sanctuary

The River Caroni at the Caroni Swamp. Photographer: Maria Huggins

The River Caroni at the Caroni Swamp. Photographer: Maria Huggins

This is one of Trinidad’s most popular eco attractions — home and roosting ground of the stunning scarlet ibis, Trinidad’s national bird, plus 100 other species of birds, anteaters, raccoons, caimans, snakes and opossums. It was recognised in the 1996 Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance, placing a legal obligation on the government to ensure the area is protected and maintained.

The roughly 60sq km sanctuary, just off the Solomon Hochoy Highway in Central Trinidad, comprises tidal lagoons, marshland and mangrove forest bordering the Gulf of Paria, between the mouth of the Caroni and Madame Espagnole rivers. You can buy tickets for boat tours on site (many boat tours depart at 4pm to catch flocks of ibis coming home to roost, though some can be booked all day), or arrange with a reputable tour company. Kayak tours are also available.

 

+Tamana Bat Caves

Tamana Bat Caves in Trinidad's Central Range. Photo by Stephen Broadbridge

Tamana Bat Caves in Trinidad’s Central Range. Photo by Stephen Broadbridge

A series of lengthy limestone cave systems in Mount Tamana (the highest of the Montserrat Hills) is home to huge colonies of bats (12 different species), thousands strong, which leave the caverns en masse to feed before dusk. Some claim there can be over a million. Go with a reputable, experienced guide who can ensure both your safety and minimal impact on the natural environment.


Photo courtesy the Pointe-à-Pierre Wildfowl Trust

Ducks in the lake at the Pointe-à-Pierre Wildfowl Trust. Photo courtesy the Pointe-à-Pierre Wildfowl Trust

South Trinidad

+Banwari Trace

The oldest evidence of human activity on Caribbean soil is in Trinidad: the archaeological site at Banwari Trace has yielded artefacts dating back to 5,000 BC. These were once the belongings of the Ortoiroid people, named after the Ortoire river. “Banwari Man”, the human skeleton found lying in a crouched burial position by the Trinidad & Tobago Historical Society Society in 1969, is preserved at the University of the West Indies (St. Augustine). Banwari Trace was included in the 2004 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. Access requires permission from the National Trust.

+Devil’s Woodyard Mud Volcano

There’s nothing to be afraid of here, at Trinidad’s most visited and accessible mud volcano. Located about 30 minutes east of San Fernando (there is another active and accessible site in Piparo), these are small volcano-shaped cones of mud and clay, usually less than 1–2m/3–7ft tall. Cousins of the sulphur spring, they are formed by hot water and fine sediment spilling from a vent in the ground like lava. European settlers in Trinidad believed that the sound of the mud bubbling below the surface was the sound of the devil stockpiling wood: hence the name. Some Hindus consider it a sacred spot and worship here. For the most part, local mud volcanoes splutter and bubble harmlessly, or lapse into inactivity, but do erupt occasionally (with varying intensity). There are recreational facilities on site.

Pitch Lake. Photo by RAPSO Imaging

+Pitch Lake at La Brea

About 90 minutes from Port of Spain, this extraordinary natural phenomenon may look like an enormous car park after a rain shower, but is in fact the largest of only three natural asphalt lakes in the world (the other two are in Venezuela and Los Angeles).

Ever-replenished by bitumen oozing from a geological fault (a 12x12m/40x40ft hole refills within three days), this 95-acre, 107m/350ft deep “lake” has been mined and its fine asphalt exported since 1859, supplying roads and airport runways around the world. Most of the surface is firm enough to walk on, though some spots are too soft for traffic. Natural springs, reputed to have healing properties, appear at the centre during the rainy season. You will see small bubbling puddles and smell the gases that escape from within.

Legend has it that a tribe of First Peoples was swallowed by the lake as punishment for eating hummingbirds, which hosted the spirits of their ancestors. In fact, this slow-motion “black hole” constantly pulls things into itself, and is said to have “feelers” stretching outward for several miles, veins of pitch extending from the main lake. A small museum houses artefacts recovered from the lake. La Brea Pitch Lake Tour Guides Association: 651-1232

+Pointe-à-Pierre Wildfowl Trust & Oropouche Lagoon

Anhingas at Pointe-à-Pierre Wildfowl Trust. Photo by Chris Anderson

Anhingas at Pointe-à-Pierre Wildfowl Trust. Photo by Chris Anderson

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Wildfowl Trust is a must-see for any nature-lover, or anyone wanting a restorative retreat. Located about 45 minutes south of Port of Spain, on the Petrotrin refinery grounds at Pointe-à-Pierre, this non-profit Trust encompasses 32 hectares and two fresh-water lakes, with free-roaming wildlife and enclosed breeding areas.

It’s the only eco-centre in the world located within an oil refinery complex. Over 86 species have been recorded here. The aviculture programmes breed five endangered waterfowl species (wild ducks) as well as the scarlet ibis (the national bird), and the blue and gold macaw. Visitors can get close to these beautiful birds. Over the years, the Trust has bred and released several thousand birds back into the wild.

Wooden walkways take you right around two lakes, which are full of water lilies and lotus flowers, and there are several natural walks and interpretive trails including Faerie Woods, Forest Walk and Devil’s Ear Trail. The learning centre at the entrance provides a photographic display of the reserve’s plant life, insects, shells, and a small First Peoples Museum. For those wanting to stay overnight, the Trust’s Petrea Place offers lodging and meals.

Over its 50 years, the Trust has been a pioneering force for environmental conservation, education, and sustainable development. It will be celebrating its landmark achievements from November 2015 to November 2016. Reservations are required to visit. 658-4200 x 2512, 612-2463, papwildfowltrust.org

+San Fernando Hill

The San Fernando Hill. Photo by Chris Anderson

The San Fernando Hill. Photo by Chris Anderson

Once a sacred Amerindian site known as Naparima, the San Fernando Hill stands like a monument, a green one, in the midst of all the industry and construction of south Trinidad. From the top you can see why San Fernando seems even more crowded and busier than Port of Spain: this is the commercial hub of the energy industries in the south-west of the island (you can see the Pointe-à-Pierre refinery to the north), on which much of T&T’s enormous wealth is based. The town has spread in all directions and up here, parakeets and other birds have found shelter in the trees. Visitor facilities, lookouts, picnic huts and a children’s play park make this a lovely location for a family outing, and it is one of the main event venues in the city.

To get to San Fernando Hill, leave the highway at the San Fernando exit, turn left onto the San Fernando bypass, and at its crest take a right turn; almost immediately Circular Road branches off to the right, and by Soong’s Great Wall restaurant a small signposted road on the left climbs the hill almost to the summit.

Vintage car museum

Vintage Red T Ford. Courtesy Angelo Bissessarsingh

At the Brij Maharaj Auto & Heritage
Museum in San Fernando you will find
one of only four Chervolet Phaetons
known to still exist in the world today,
part of a remarkable collection of
antiques that includes the country’s
oldest working car, a Model T Ford, with
a manufacture date circa 1917.
Courtesy Angelo Bissessarsingh

For more than 40 years San Fernando businessman Brij Maharaj has been collecting antique cars and restoring them. Among his collection are historically important automobiles, including the oldest working vehicle in the country – a 1918 Ford Model T Runabout. Many of his cars are the only examples of their kind locally; while two are believed to be the only ones in the world today. The museum also has a collection of antique motorcycles, bicycles and vintage automobile collectibles.

Brij Maharaj Auto & Heritage Museum, 2 Hubert Rance Street, Vistabella. Open to the public once a month by appointment. Admission: free. brijmaharajmuseum@gmail.com


African Legacy Tours

These inspiring and educational tours take in sites of African heritage across the two islands. Africans were first brought here in 1606 to work on tobacco plantations. However, most came in 1783 with the plantation owners of islands that the French had claimed. Emancipation was proclaimed at the Treasury Building in Port of Spain by Governor George Hill on August 1, 1834; the freedom for which the Africans had ceaselessly fought was finally achieved four years later, on August 1, 1838.

The tours celebrate the rich legacy of the Africans, as well as the contributions of their descendants, to the heritage and culture of Trinidad and Tobago. You will learn about their resistance, Maroonage, Pan Africanism and links to continental Africa, as well as their spirituality and ancient legends, new discoveries and modern heroes. Tel. 461-8637


Contacts

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