Caroni Swamp is a mangrove swamp located on the northwest coast of Trinidad in the island republic of Trinidad & Tobago just south of the capital, Port of Spain. It is reminiscent of the tip of the Everglades National Park near Flamingo although significantly smaller.
Just like the Everglades is noted for its birds, the same can be said for Caroni Swamp. As we approached the swamp in our Maxi Taxi, we begin to see cattle egrets in the fields and snowy egrets flying overhead. As soon as we emerged from the van, we were greeted with a huge billboard at the Caroni Swamp Visitor’s Center featuring the beautiful scarlet ibis, which is Trinidad’s national bird.
The Visitor’s Center had pictures and stuffed animals featuring the cast of characters found within the swamps boundaries. The silky anteater, scarlet ibis, lineated woodpecker, little blue heron, and the snowy egret were some of the featured stars found in the swamp.
A group of spectators just outside the museum were pointing in the trees. When people are pointing in the trees in a place like Caroni, you go and see why. A sleepy tropical screech owl in a tree about twenty yards away turned out to be the ruckus culprit. We had not even entered the boat and a beautiful owl was already checked off the birding list.
About forty people entered the boat and the tour lasted about two hours culminating in views of a scarlet ibis rookery. We had a guide in front who really knew his stuff, and he worked wonders with the operator of the boat. Every time a bird was spotted by the guide in front he worked with hand motions and quiet sounds in order to the direct the boat driver to maneuver to the shoreline in order for the tourists on the boat to spot wildlife.
We sputtered quietly through tree lined channels. The first bird seen was a little-blue heron. As we motored on we saw a couple of tree boas constricted in a ball high in the trees. These snakes are harmless and nocturnal explained our guide.
A few minutes later another ball in the tree caught our tour guide’s eye. It turned out to be a silky anteater rolled quietly in the tree. We reversed into a nook in a mangrove just underneath the small furry animal. Our guide tugged softly on the tree limb hoping to rouse the ball, but it ignored the vibrations. Not wanting to disturb his slumber anymore, we let him be.
Other birds seen as we tooled through the channels included a pair of lineated woodpeckers, a black hawk, a hummingbird, an impressive osprey with fish in talons, and more little-blue herons. As we began to emerge from the channels into the main open area of the swamp we started to see some brilliant red birds roosting in the mangroves. They were scarlet ibis, which turned out to be foreshadowing of what we would see in spades in a few minutes.
Caroni Swamp is a protect area in Trinidad & Tobago and can only be entered via permit. It is my understanding that in order to get a permit entrance must be with a guide. You can either do a group tour or you can kayak Caroni Swamp with a personal guide. The tour I took was combined with Asa Wright and was an awesome day tour for $80.00 per person with Jesse James. I highly recommend this tour operator and this tour. For more adventurous kayak tours, check out this outfit.
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