Located in the Trinidadian mountains covered in lush rain forest, this former cocoa plantation is now a protected area from poachers and people seeking to use the land for agriculture. It is home to hundreds of bird species and a place all birders must visit in their lifetimes.
I didn't want to do anything predictable this year. The word "Trinidad" made me curious. Over the past several years, I've birded the Americas and wanted to do something different. The place came highly recommended by friends who had visited the centre. I called them up and made a reservation for a week and instantly fell in love. They picked me up at the airport and within 30 minutes I walked down this corridor of history to the veranda. Like the thousands of visitors before me, I walked out to overlook this amazing world of forest. For the days to follow, I would explore the grounds alone or with others.
During my first day, I saw so much activity. Like a baby learning his first words, I began to say the bird names out loud for the first time. Not all of them rolled off my tongue like I had hoped. However, after a few days, I was a pro and began calling out birds for people on the veranda.
It is said that some locals kill and eat anything from the wild. Several vacationing Trinidadians saw the Brazilian Agoutis(also known as the Red-rumped Agouti) and started talking about how great they tasted. They said the meat was tough so it had to be properly prepared. I'll take their word for it. It was the only time I saw agoutis on the island.
The Bananquit(above) got into everything. If you didn't watch your fruit dish, they'd sneak a piece off your plate. During my stay, I had hoped to see a Purple Honeycreeper as they are quite common at the lodge.....or so people had said. But not once did I spy one.
The infamous veranda was often VERY busy and full of people. It was here I met Yosanna, my guide for the first couple days. She is a kind soul and quickly became a new friend during my stay in Trinidad. The guy to the right is Nick. He was a character. He's doing research right now on the vegetation around the property and trying to figure out a way to save the Trinidadian piping-guan, a critically endangered bird. The centre would like to bring these guans back to the property and right now Nick is in charge of mapping out the forest. If they can find a way to establish a food source, they might have a chance to help bring this species back from the brink of extinction.
Speaking of meals, when you get a place at Asa Wright, all your meals are included. They served breakfast, lunch and dinner. In between there was always coffee and tea. And at 6 every night, there was rum punch! And if you still craved to munch on something, they had a bar fully stocked with beer, chips and other goodies. It really is a place for people to just go birding and enjoy. There is no need to want as they take care of you during your stay.
|Hands down, the star of the hummingbird show at Asa, the male Tufted Coquette|
There are two types of poisonous snakes that hang out on the trails. One is the Fer-de-lance. And yes, I saw them. I ALWAYS stayed on the trails because there were terrible bugs and snakes under the leaf litter. Sometimes you couldn't avoid the leaf litter and my legs were a casualty of these treks. Yes, I used every spray and powder possible but it never works on me. I even wore long pants with geeky socks covering up the bottom of my pants to keep the chiggers out. It didn't work. One time I was SO careful that I got stabbed by a dangerous palm! When did palm trees become like a cactus?? The back of my leg was covered in spines and blood. It acted very much like a Cholla cactus here in the Sonoran desert. After that incident, I was super careful and avoided brushing against palms.
|Dog sized lizards known as the Tegu would slink from the bushes, recently split goes by the latin name, Tupinambis cryptus|
It rained every day while we were there. During those moments of sunshine, I utilized my time to capture the brilliance of their plumage and scales. White-necked Jacobins(below) dominated the feeders and chased off many of the hummingbirds reminding me of our aggressive male Rufous Hummingbirds that buzz through this month in Southern Arizona.
Violaceous Euphonias were also very common. Their name is so strange to say. There is a similar Euphonia called the Trinidad Euphonia. I never did get to see them. They have a blue throat and like to forage HIGH up in the canopy of the rain forest.
Someone told me that Woody the Woodpecker was inspired by the Linneated Woodpecker below.
My favorite part of the day was breakfast in the dining room. There we had the best omelettes made from scratch.
When the rain began to fall, it was out on the veranda. Here we'd see birds of prey hanging out on branches waiting for the things to calm down.
During the course of my stay, I met so many amazing people. The board was really a fun group of people. I met Julie Fannon of Caligo Ventures. This birding company is located in beautiful Portal, AZ of all places. It's important to know the name of this company as they do exclusive packages with Asa Wright for birders from North America. And I'm sure they do work with people outside of North America as well. They will organize everything for you like your day trips, etc. I didn't know that a lot of the day trips etc were scheduled with Caligo so I had a little bit of extra work to do on my own. And I got it all done, but it would have been easier going through their company. HOWEVER, I'm my own person and do much of my own guiding alone. I am trained in the ways of the force:) and don't like going through 3rd parties if I don't have to. I have spent thousands and thousands of hours researching places around the world. And as a guide, I think it's important for me to figure things out on my own to keep me on my toes. So one can lodge at Asa Wright and bird the property but if you are looking to do day trips that will require some planning. Caligo Ventures makes it easy for you. Julie was awesome and it was great to get to know her and the company better.
It is my personal opinion that every birder should visit this historic place. I saved money for it all as it can be a little pricey. And I did A LOT of research before I went. Asa Wright Nature Centre was an awesome experience. It's Trinidad's national treasure and the country is VERY proud of this preserve. I felt safe and protected. I never went hungry. The people were awesome and super friendly. If you are on a budget like I am, plan to go in the summer when it's the off season. Rooms go for 150 dollars a night (but this also includes your meals and professional guides on the veranda). My plane ticket was also reasonable at around 600 dollars round trip. This was a very special experience for me and I liked being a lone wolf. People were surprised that I was traveling alone in Trinidad and not with a group. I'm an independent one. I'm the first born in my family and prefer doing things on my own often. Asa Wright gave me that safety net to help prepare me for the week to follow on my own. They say that one can get 40 lifers before breakfast right from the veranda and they weren't lying:)
Our next visit will be to another Trinidadian gem, the Caroni Swamp/Wetlands. Stay tuned for more fantastic adventures from Trinidad.