Limeland House Manzanilla, Trinidad & Tobago WI

Manzanilla, bounding the county of Nariva, is a wonderfully serene part of Trinidad.

The Nariva swamp is the largest freshwater wetland in Trinidad & Tobago spanning approximately 24 square miles (62km2) Within the wetland is an elevated peninsula known as the Bush Bush Sanctuary. This is our target area today. Protected by international law it is an area of lowland tropical rainforest measuring 6 square miles (15km2)

During wet weather we access Bush Bush forest via a scenic but narrow and shallow manmade boat line. This boat line (influenced by the Atlantic tide) proves unreliable during dry conditions. Luckily, we can still get to the reserve on foot during the dry season with the comparative luxury of much less water, mud and mosquitoes!

This easy hike begins in rural and fascinating Kernahan Village. The walking distance is short but this is an educational tour where your experienced Eco-Guide will be stopping to answer queries and explain points of interest.

The east coast agricultural estates are where the first East Indian indentured servants where deposited from 1845. After the abolishment of slavery in Trinidad (1838), they were enticed here by the then British Colonial overlords because of their hardworking reputation. Throughout the watery village of Kernahan stilted, wooden houses hover above lily-covered ponds where descendents of the indentured laborers live today.

On leaving the village we walk through melon patch. This is open agricultural land where raptors, parrots and vultures soar overhead. From the exposed fields we now enter the Bush Bush forest! Exotic cannonball trees, l'epinet and enormous sandbox trees are to be admired here. We also walk through a section of forest comprising exclusively of palms _ manac, moriche, roseaux, palm real, carat, tirite and cocorite palms to name a few.

Howler monkey The comical chatter and clockwork flight of pairs of yellow-headed Amazon & orange-winged parrots are guaranteed to be seen and heard. On the Bush Bush trail we are looking for monkeys! Two species of monkey inhabit Bush Bush Island. We have to tread and speak softly at junctures where the red howler or capuchin monkeys may be found. Following the discretion of the guide, we safely and respectfully view the Red Howler monkeys. If we're very quiet and lucky we may see the white Capuchin monkey - a species only to be seen in this unique preserve of Trinidad and Tobago. Like the parrots and macaws, the white Capuchin monkeys thrive on palm nuts unique to this part of Trinidad.

Even before the hike there is lots to see! The drive from LimeLand along the beach road to Kernahan is incredibly beautiful. The Manzanilla/Mayaro road is flanked by hundreds of thousands of coconut palms. Beyond the palm trees are the rich Nariva mangrove and islands of royal palms. To your left lies the longest stretch of beach in Trinidad & Tobago where evidence of Leatherback turtle activity is seasonally observed. The relentless, rugged, rolling Atlantic Ocean perpetually delivers sleepy Nariva a constant, calming, cooling breeze.

Nariva Swamp harbors giant, grazing aquatic mammals known as Caribbean Manatee. Infrequent sightings suggest few numbers although research is difficult due to muddy river water that renders these animals almost invisible _ not a bad trick for an animal that can weigh in close to 2000 lbs!

The swamp ebbs and flows into the Atlantic via the scenic Dragoon where the Nariva River meets the sea. We stop here briefly for pictures and often see many birds _ local and migratory. The mangrove makes Nariva a perfect nursery for large open sea fish species. Tarpon, grouper, snook and even shark mature unmolested between the elaborate root systems. Very lucky visitors have glimpsed manatee here!

During this tour you will also see evidence of the original inhabitants of Trinidad. This entire region was home to communities of Amerindian Tribes. 2000 year old remains, lodgings and artifacts of these people are unearthed & studied annually by European archeologists.

Largest Sandbox Tree in T&T! There are 32 different bats, many reptiles including large tegus and iguanas in this forest. The heaviest snake in the world is here, the Anaconda. Don't worry; rarely encountered and very shy!

A Treasure for Birders! : Blue and Yellow macaws, Amazonian parrots. Hawks include savanna, grey, white, osprey, zone-tailed and great black. Plumbeous, grey-headed and pearl kites. Yellow-headed caracara, kingfishers, white-bearded manikin, golden-headed manikin, woodcreepers, antshrikes, hummingbirds, ahinga, vultures, red-breasted blackbirds, whattled jacana, fork-tailed palm swift, yellow-hooded blackbird, southern lapwing, yellow-chinned spinetail, pied water tyrant, white-headed marsh tyrant, great egrets infact 34 families representing 171 bird species in all.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Largest Sandbox Tree in T&T
  • Sea Shells and pottery discarded by Amerindian Hunting parties 500 to 1000 yrs ago!
  • White capuchin monkeys (3 troops. 8 to 15 individuals per troop)
  • Red Howler monkeys (12 troops.)
  • Medicinal plants
  • Large lizards
  • Butterflies
  • Macaws, Parrots & birds of prey
  • Cannon Ball (Jumbie Calabash) trees
  • Massive Wild Fichus tree- home to insectivorous bats
  • Large tropical butterflies
  • If v. lucky! : Caribbean Manatee, tree porcupine, scarlet ibis, black hawk-eagle

Tour Essentials:

  • Insect repellent
  • Headwear
  • Long trousers
  • Change of footwear for journey home
  • Broad-rimmed hat
  • Long sleeves
  • Drinking water
  • Rain poncho
  • Binoculars
  • Birds of Trinidad & Tobago by Richard Ffrench.