Could we go someplace with warm water to swim in gorgeous beaches an easy walk from our hotel? Could we take nature tours of rainforests? Birdwatch? Swim in a pool below a waterfall? How about listening to lively local bands at night? Could we go someplace English speaking? Could we go someplace relaxing and tropical but not crowded with tourists? Could we try to match our values to be socially and ecologically responsible?
This fall we marked Dad's 70th birthday and overcame various challenges and Dad wanted to invite our family to celebrate life and holiday togetherness with a warm family vacation.
And that is how our wonderful parents invited their daughters and S.O.s to join them for an eco-tourism holiday to T&T with Greener Travel.
My sister gifted our folks rash-guards and I bought them a field-guide to the birds of Trinidad and Tobago.
We spent two enchanting weeks touring the nature-sites of the two islands, learning local history and culture, and delighting in eating the famous Trini foods. We went birdwatching along ponds and mangrove swamps and rainforest trails and saw caimans (smaller South American cousins to alligators) on both islands. We also hiked along streams and waterfalls on both islands.
Please look through my photos (see slideshow above) and descriptions below.
The first photo in the slideshow: Pigeon Point, Tobago.
Pigeon Point and the area near it is packed with beautiful beaches protected by reefs. It is a lovely place to start sailing or glass-bottom boat snorkel tours, which pick up very close to three of the beach hotels. You can also windsurf, jetsky or paddleboard.
We stayed at a hotel on the beach four nights where we strolled and waded in the water past local's fishing boats while watching the Magnificent Frigate Birds at 'Shallows' beach and swam at Pigeon Point Heritage Park.
Friday was Christmas, so we ate special Trini Christmas dishes like pastelles and black cake (rum or wine-soaked fruitcake), fresh creole spiced fish, West Indies style curries and fried fish with Roti. We lit Shabbat Candles and watched sunset from our beach-side deck. We snorkeled Buccoo Reef and swam in the Nylon Pool with the locals via a glass-bottom boat with a sassy Rasta captain. Another day we braved high seas and passing showers on a Catamaran sailing tour to a remote bay. The snorkeling at Cotton Bay was beautiful, the secluded beach looked like it belonged in a movie and we had the area all to ourselves.
Do you see the waterfall photo in the slideshow? We hiked to, climbed above and swam in the pool below the lovely Argyle Waterfalls, Tobago. We tasted cocoa from trees growing beside the path, saw a baby caiman and cool lizards, and watched a hummingbird dip the stream.
The hike to the waterfall was pretty easy even for our partially disabled elder using two hiking canes. Of course everyone was careful in 10 yard path over slippery boulders along the stream. As we reached the base of the waterfall we were tempted by a huge swimming area. On the side lay a steep rope-assisted climb where we saw people returning in bathing suits and flip-flops (not recommended). Mom stayed behind swimming. Dad rushed to start the climb, with me chasing to keep up with our newly minted septuagenarian. Yes, the climb a bit challenging but fun!
The reward? The delight of watching birds in the upper canopies above a waterfalls gorge while one of the upper cascades's waters drum a massage on your back. Do not miss this!
After the lowlands a guide and driver picked us up for birdwatching on the way to a serene eco-lodge in the rainforest. At the eco-lodge birdfeeders we watched many hummers, a gorgeous potoo and even a woodpecker (see the slideshow).
We saw seven kinds (some rare) of humming birds in front of the entrance at the lodge at Cuffie River. Hummers were right in front of our rooms eating when we woke early as pairs and then dozens of squacking parrots flew laps above at 5:30am.
At first we thought the woodpecker must be eating insects on the hummer feeder but if you look at the photo you can see the woodpecker's bill dripping droplets of sugar water (thieving from the hummers) at the Cuffie River Nature Retreat, Tobago. One day we hiked along the Gilpin Gorge in the Main Ridge Reserve to a pretty waterfall. We saw beautiful rare birds, bats (sleeping on a leaf), and many beautiful plants. Back at the lodge we watched the parrots return fly-over 6pm while we swam in the salt-water pool before eating one of the most delightful meals prepared by our very skilled hostess. The next day we took a great hike through the Cuffie River grounds to a muddy dirt road through old plantation orchards and rainforrests.
After a couple nights in the rainforest we flew to Trinidad for a New Years (Old Years Night) celebration, more waterfall hiking and beaches and a cultural/history tour.
In my photos you will see a shot showing prayer flags, detritus from ceremonies, fishing boat and a brown pelican beside the Temple in the Sea, Waterloo, Trinidad. This site is considered a national treasure, holds a story of the determination of the human spirit and hard work towards religious tolerance in Trinidad.
Yes, we took many more photos of Trinidad but they didn't fit in this slideshow.
Charismatic guides charmed us with tales of natural history, history and culture of the islands and advised us on fun activities and foods to try in our free time and future seasons. We were on the islands at the end of the wet season, right before Carnival and many months before the various sea-turtles lay their eggs. There is so much more to explore!
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In my next post: Culture! Calypso New Years in Trinidad at "De Nu Pub", "Sunday School" in Buccoo, and becoming celebrities, or how we danced our way onto the local newspaper at a Calypso Association Carnival party.
In this blog Greener Travel will write about eco-tourism and unique travel experiences!