TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO BIRDING TOUR

Birds By BIJS

Trinidad and Tobago: Caribbean Birding Paradise

This dual island nation is a globally regarded and highly desired bird watching and wildlife-viewing destination. Armed with a diversity of tropical residents and migrants of Amazonian and West Indian origin, the colorful spectacle of birds found in Trinidad and Tobago brings people from all over the world to this stunning location. The perfect weather, world-class accommodations, and Caribbean atmosphere make this one of our favorite offerings. Come search for the critically endangered and endemic Trinidad Piping Guan, photograph the pugnacious Tufted Coquette, meet the stunning Ruby Topaz hummingbird, meet the densest colony of Leatherback Turtles, swim and soak up the beautiful Caribbean vistas on pink-sand beaches and so much more!

Join us for this action packed journey and explore some of the most charismatic and desirable bird species found on these dreamy South Caribbean islands.

All images © Birds by BIJS © Faraaz Abdool

Located just off the coast of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago is unique amongst other Caribbean Islands due to its shared geologic history with the nearby South American mainland, and the many West-Indian bird species found here. Our skillfully crafted 10-day tour offers excellent opportunities to see amazing birds like Tufted Coquette, Bearded Bellbird, Ruby Topaz Hummingbird, Black Hawk Eagle, Turquoise Tanager, Red-billed Tropicbird, Red-footed Booby, Oilbird and of course, the world-famous Scarlet Ibis.

Although our trip is certainly centered on bird watching, our eclectic itinerary will appeal to general nature enthusiasts as well. We’ve got opportunities to swim and snorkel on secluded pink-sand beaches, soak in salt-water pools while basking under the glorious starry skies of Tobago. Additional wildlife viewing opportunities include looking for Red Howler and White-faced Capuchin Monkeys calling through the forest, as well as we staying at the world famous Grande Riviere beach, among the densest population of nesting leatherback turtles in the world. Have a chance to see these behemoths – the largest turtles in the world – up close and personal right where sir David Attenborough sat to film Blue Planet II. Our top-notch eco-lodge accommodations will provide amazing relaxation opportunities and delicious meals throughout our travels.

TOUR INFO

Dates: 3 April – 14 April 2020 (11 days/10 nights)

Price:  $3,750 per person/double occupancy

Single Supplement: $800

TRIP OVERVIEW

Type: Bird watching and Wildlife Viewing
Length: 11 days
Starting city: Port of Spain, Trinidad
Ending city: Port of Spain, Trinidad
Pace: easy to moderate
Physical difficulty: easy to moderate
Focus: Bird Watching and Wildlife viewing
Max group size: 8 + 1 leader + local guide(s)

Trinidad and Tobago is a dual-island nation located in the South Caribbean sea, just off the coast of Venezuela. Unique amongst other tropical islands, this highly-biodiverse destination has over 400 species of birds reported from here. A wide-variety of neo-tropical bird families are present on T&T which makes this trip an excellent introduction to Neo-tropical birding, as-well as great opportunities to spot endemic species like the Trinidad Motmot, and Trinidad-Piping Guan. Did we mention we’ll be heading into an easily accessible cave to view a colony of bizarre, nocturnal, and unique Oilbirds and have intimate views of Leatherback Turtles laying eggs on the same beach Sir David Attenborough filmed them for Planet Earth 2?

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ITINERARY

Day 1: Apr 3 Asa Wright

The first day of our tour kicks off as our shuttle driver collect us from either Piarco International Airport or your hotel. We will then be whisked away to the world famous Asa Wright Nature Centre. Along the way we’ll enjoy an introduction to Trinidad’s rich avifauna including Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Common Black Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk and Zone-tailed Hawk. Along our journey we will enjoy the transition from flat, open plains to the heavily forested Northern Range, amongst which lies our destination for the next few nights. The Northern Range of Trinidad is the northernmost outcrop of the Andes Mountains, and extends horizontally across the entire island. Although the highest peaks fall just short of 1,000m, its forests are very diverse – the majority lower montane, and merge into cloud forest on the highest slopes. We will be welcomed into Asa Wright Nature Centre by Blue-grey, Palm andSilver-beaked Tanagers, Copper-rumped Hummingbirds and even the smallest bird on the island, the flamboyant Tufted Coquette. The raucous sounds of Crested Oropendolas are easily heard as these icterids call from the tropical trees overhead. Channel-billed Toucans and Bearded Bellbirds are often heard in the distance. If we arrive in the evening, we will listen for Ferruginous Pygmy Owls, Spectacled Owls and other nocturnal birds. Our main focus tonight is settling and getting comfortable, however, optional night-walk with a resident Asa Wright guide to spot interesting invertebrates and other nocturnal creatures will be available. In some cases lucky guests have seen Nine-banded Armadillos and Brazilian Porcupines.

Bearded Bellbird- © BIRDS by BIJS

Day 2: Apr 4 Asa Wright

As the cacophony of neotropical sounds gently wake you from a peaceful slumber, saunter a few meters from your comfortable room into the main lodge. Enjoy a hot coffee or tea from the world famous lodge veranda. Make sure to have your binoculars ready for amazing birds like Barred Antshrike, Piratic Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Orange-winged Parrots, Ruby Topaz, Blue-chinned Sapphire and Tropical Mockingbird. We will spend the day birding around the lodge, and enjoy all of our carefully prepared meals right here. The lodge veranda is a great place to bird from, serving up good views of approximately twenty species, we can expect to see White-necked Jacobin, Black-throated Mango, Long-billed Starthroat, White-chested Emerald, Green Hermit, Bananaquit, Purple and Green Honeycreeper, White-lined, Silver-beaked, Turquoise and Bay-headed Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Spectacled Thrush, Violaceous Euphonia and maybe even the locally rare Brown Violetear. Other non-avian species like Red-rumped Agouti and Gold Tegu lizard. With a wide variety of trails, we will explore the grounds searching forWhite-necked Thrush, Plain Woodcreeper, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Grey-throated Leaftosser, Great Antshrike, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Guianan Trogon, Green-backed Trogon, Collared Trogon, White-bearded Manakin, Golden-headed Manakin, Bearded Bellbird, Yellow-olive Flycatcher and Yellow-breasted Flycatcher.

Tufted Coquette © BIRDS by BIJS

Day 3: Apr 5 Asa Wright and Oilbirds

We will bird around Asa Wright for the morning as we look for more birding and photography opportunities, making sure to look out for species we may have missed on the previous morning. Following this exploration we will take one of two options:
  1. Hike to the Oilbird cave to see the famous colony of nocturnal, fruit-eating birds, the only of its kind in the world. The Oilbirdis also known as the “Guacharo” or devil-bird for its raucous, blood-curdling shrieks. Many other forest species will be observed along the hike, for example White-bellied Antbird, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager and Long-billed Gnatwren.
  2. Day trip to Nariva Swamp to visit Bush Bush Wildlife Sanctuary, where both of Trinidad’s native primate species can be observed. Red Howler Monkeys and the endemic Trinidad White-fronted Capuchin, as well as birds like Plain Antvireo, White-fringed Antwren, Red-bellied Macaw, Blue and Gold Macaw, Savanna Hawk, Southern Lapwing and White-tailed Goldenthroat are all possible.
Oilbird from the Oilbird cave at Asa Wright © Faraaz Abdool

Day 4: Apr 6 Arima-Blanchicheusse Road and Grande Riviere

On day four, we will rise early to enjoy a change of scenery amongst a higher elevation forest, along the Arima-Blanchicheusse Road, the only road in the country with such an extreme altitude profile. Along the way, we will be searching for Common Black Hawk, White Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Swallow-tailed Kite, Scaled Pigeon, Blue-headed Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Collared Trogon, Channel-billed Toucan, Chestnut Woodpecker, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Stripe-breasted Spinetail, Grey-throated Leaftosser, Black-faced Antthrush, Euler’s Flycatcher, Speckled Tanager, Sooty Grassquit and many others. We will also keep an eye out for migrant warblers such as Northern Waterthrush, American Redstart and Yellow Warbler. Following this highland adventure, we will return to the lodge for lunch, and head to Grande Riviere our home for the next two nights. Additionally, time permitting we will search a wet pasture for the migratory Wilson’s Snipe, as well as residents such as Masked Yellowthroat and Red-breasted Meadowlark.

Critically Endangered and Endemic Trinidad Piping-Guan © BIRDS by BIJS

Day 5: Apr 7 Grande Riviere and Galera Point

Another relatively early morning awaits us today, as we take a short drive to look for the critically endangered endemic Trinidad Piping Guan. The forest at Grande Riviere is the only reliable location in the world to see these large, turkey-like birds. But, don’t worry; we will enjoy a nice assortment of other birds as well! As the dark fades and the light grows, we’ll listen for nocturnal residents such as Common Pauraque, Rufous Nightjar, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl and Mottled Owl. Following this, other birds on show could likely include Guianan Trogon, Silvered Antbird, Trinidad Euphonia and Rufous-tailed Jacamar. Due to the Trinidad Piping Guan’s critically endangered status, the guan will be our primary target for this location. After some good looks, and a beautiful forested setting, we’ll make a drive back to our lodge for a delicious oceanside breakfast. For the next activity on tap, we will visit a secluded river estuary on Trinidad’s northern coast, where a refreshing natural bath could be had. Birding is always an option here, with Magnificent Frigatebirds dotting the sky and Grey-lined Hawks surveying from the roadside.
In the afternoon we will visit Galera Point, which is on the north-eastern tip of Trinidad. Weather dependent, we may have the chance to soak in views of sister island, Tobago, just a few miles away in the Caribbean Sea. From the scenic and birdy, Galera Point we’ll look out for Common Tern, Roseate Tern, Royal Tern, Laughing Gull, Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Pelican, Brown Booby and Ruddy Turnstone from the safety of the rocky cliffs. Other avian possibilities in the vegetation nearby are Lilac-tailed Parrotlet, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Grey Kingbird, Smooth-billed Ani, Common Ground Dove and Scaled Dove.
Magnificent Frigatebird © BIRDS by BIJS

Day 6: Apr 8 Tobago and Cuffie River

This morning we have the option of repeating the birding for the Trinidad Piping Guan– should anyone wish for better views or simply another opportunity –or to take some extra hours rest. If we have already gotten sufficient views and pictures the day before, we can instead explore the densest population of nesting leatherback turtles in the world. These behemoths – the largest turtles in the world – are easily seen up close and personal right where sir David Attenborough sat to film Blue Planet II. After breakfast at our hotel, we say good-bye to Grande Riviere and transfer to Picaro International Airport where we will board our flight to Tobago. Upon arrival, we will promptly transfer to the luxuriant and homey Cuffie River Nature Retreat, where will get settled for the next few days, with of course chances to pick up snacks and good birds along the way!
Our next destination is a breathtakingly beautiful lodge situated above a small creek in the upper hills of Tobago. This locally owned gem, is a one of a kind experience and all six species of hummingbirds found on Tobago including, Copper-rumped Hummingbird, Ruby Topaz, White-necked Jacobin, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Black-throated Mango and Rufous Sabrewing await us. Do you happen to somehow hate hummingbirds? Not a problem, a plethora of other attractive birds like Trinidad Motmot, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Red-crowned Woodpecker, White-winged Becard, Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Orange-winged Parrot and Green-rumped Parrotlet will all be vying for our attention! After we all settle into our rooms, feel free to enjoy a beverage and take in the lodge’s ambiance and buzzing hummingbird feeders. We’ll then get ready for dinner, where our talented chefs and amazing hosts have prepared a delicious meal. Once the sun sets, we will be on the look-out for Common Potoo and White-tailed Nightjar.
Rufous Sabrewing glistening in the tropical sun © BIRDS by BIJS

Day 7: Apr 9 Cuffie River

Mornings are incredible around Cuffie River, and we’ll be sure to enjoy this one. Today we we’ll take in exceptional views of the endemic Trinidad Motmot, and other specialties like Tropical Mockingbird, Tropical Kingbird, Grey Kingbird, Caribbean Martin, Grey-rumped Swift, Shiny Cowbird, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Palm, White-lined and Blue-grey Tanager(subspecies endemic to Tobago). Following this, we will hike into the rainforest from the lodge itself, keeping eyes out for Broad-winged Hawk, Great Black Hawk, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, White-fringed Antwren, Scrub Greenlet (subspecies also endemic to Tobago), Brown-crested Flycatcher, Venezuelan Flycatcher, Collared Trogon, Blue-backed Manakin, Grey-throated Leaftosser, White-necked Thrush, Stripe-breasted Spinetail, Olivaceous Woodcreeper and Barred Antshrike.We will return to the lodge for lunch and spend the afternoon here, as the photographic opportunities at Cuffie River are top notch in the afternoon. At this time we can enjoy the setting sun soaking the colorful hummingbird feeder arrays in golden light. Or feel free to enjoy a soak in second story saltwater pool, where we can observe Caribbean Martins, Short-tailed and Grey-rumped Swifts taking turns drinking from the pool. After another decadent meal at Cuffie River tonight, we can chat, and enjoy the lodge’s lovely accommodations. However… don’t stay up too late! You’ll want to catch some zzz’s before embarking on our exciting day tomorrow.

Ruby Topaz Ruby Topaz a crowd favorite in Tobago © BIRDS by BIJS

Day 8: Apr 10 Tobago Lowlands

We rise early and drive to Tobago’s low-lying wetlands, these areas can be excellent for good views and photo opportunities of water birds such as Anhinga, Neotropic Cormorant, Osprey, Wattled Jacana, Purple Gallinule, Common Gallinule, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Tricolored Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron and Yellow-crowned Night Heron. Rarer birds will be up for grabs, such as the secretive Masked Duck, Mangrove Cuckoo and Least Grebe. We will spend some time enjoying this location. Lunch will be served at a tried and true local diner. From here we’ll proceed to a stunning waterfall where another bath in refreshing fresh water bath is possible and we’ll see whatever birds want to come say hi. After this, we will return to Cuffie River for our final dinner. You may be sad to leave this amazing sanctuary but we’ve got more exquisite destinations and beautiful birds to show you!

Black Bellied Whistling Duck © BIRDS by BIJS

Day 9: Apr 11 Main Ridge Forest Reserve and Blue Waters Inn

After breakfast, we will start our journey to Speyside, passing through Main Ridge Forest Reserve where we will have a stop with the option of a short walk into the rainforest. Birding will be a little more difficult but very rewarding, with species not commonly seen elsewhere such as Red-rumped Woodpecker, Yellow-legged Thrush and White-throated Spadebill. Main Ridge Forest Reserve has a very rich history and is the oldest officially protected rainforest in the Western Hemisphere (and possibly the world)! We will also bird along the road, pit stop and snack break at the forestry ranger’s outpost. This evening we’ll check in at the breathtaking Blue Waters Inn where we can soak in the infinity pool, and have dinner with a view of Little Tobago Island and the turquoise Caribbean waters crashing on the shore.

Golden Olive Woodpecker on a trail in the Main Ridge Forest Reserve © BIRDS by BIJS

Day 10: Apr 12 Blue Waters Inn and Little Tobago Island

After breakfast, we will board a boat at the lodge and motor out to some of the best snorkeling locations in the Caribbean, all the while keeping a lookout for Bottle-nosed Dolphins, sea turtles and flying fish. After soaking in the clear Caribbean Sea and lounging on a secluded pink sand beach, we return to a local kitchen for lunch and then return to the boat to spend the remaining portion of the afternoon on Little Tobago Island. This famed offshore islet houses one of the largest and most accessible breeding colonies of Red-billed Tropicbirds in the region. In addition to the elegant tropicbirds, we will also get views of species such asBrown Booby, Red-footed Booby, Magnificent Frigatebird and Brown Noddy. Sooty and Bridled Terns are also possible. During our time on Little Tobago, we will also search for Scaly-naped Pigeon, Chivi Vireo, Brown-crested Flycatcher as well as roosting White-tailed Nightjars.

Red-billed Tropicbird streaming on Caribbean wind currents © BIRDS by BIJS

Day 11: Apr 13 Caroni Swamp and Trip Wrap

This morning we’ll have breakfast and then depart Blue Waters Inn for the airport to catch our flight back to Trinidad. Upon arrival in Trinidad, we will head to another world famous site, the Caroni Bird Sanctuary where we will set out on our boating trip for the afternoon. This mangrove ecosystem is the second largest of its kind on the island and is extremely rich in terms of avian life. Possible birds we can spot from the boat are Little Blue Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Common Black Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Blue-winged Teal, Mangrove Rail, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Black-necked Stilt, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Ani, Tropical Screech Owl, Masked Cardinal, Pygmy Kingfisher, Green-throated Mango, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Black-crested Antshrike, Northern Scrub Flycatcher as well as a roosting Common Potoo. We will end the tour with a relaxing viewing session of more than a hundred American Flamingos feeding while a jaw-dropping few thousand Scarlet Ibis return to their roost in droves. Once the boat has returned to dock, we will have a closing meal together at a nice restaurant nearby, and then transfer folks to their hotel for the evening. Most guests elect to fly out the day after the tour’s official end to grab a shower and nice night’s sleep before returning home the following day.

Scarlet Ibis flock in the famous Caroni Swamp © BIRDS by BIJS

OUR LOCAL GUIDE

Our local guide is a top-notch bird watcher, prolific photographer, outspoken conservationist and local Trinidadian. Faraaz masterfully leverages his long-term relationships with local contacts, and wields an intimate knowledge of the region’s ecology and wildlife. Faraaz’s passion for wildlife, dedication to conservation, and his laid-back vibe make for a great time.
In his free time he guides for the Trinidad and Tobago Naturalist Club, and delivers presentations to local groups on wildlife photography, and bird conservation. Recently featured in Audubon Magazine, our local expert is here to serve up an unforgettable experience at a digestible pace.
Join us and experience his beautiful Caribbean home for yourself!

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