No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Asa Wright Nature Center

June 15, 2015

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Asa Wright Nature Center

Trinidad is 50 miles long by about 37 miles wide, and dominated by the Northern Range, which rises to about 3,000 feet and was historically covered by tropical rainforest. Here, in this lush part of this beautiful island, you will find the magical Asa Wright Nature Center.

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The continental origin and proximity of Trinidad to South America, along with its varied habitats, has resulted in an extremely diverse biota. Species lists for this island are impressive, including 97 native mammals, 400 birds, 55 reptiles, 25 amphibians, and 617 butterflies, as well as over 2,200 species of flowering plants. No other area in the West Indies, and few areas of comparable size in tropical America, can match this spectacular species diversity. 

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Located at 1,200 feet in the mountains of the Northern Range, seven miles north of the town of Arima, the Asa Wright Nature Center (AWNC) is a world-class natural history destination for students of tropical ecology and is of particular interest to birdwatchers. The AWNC is a “Not-for-Profit” Trust established in 1967, by a group of naturalists and bird-watchers to “protect part of the Arima Valley in a natural state and to create a conservation and study area for the protection of wildlife and for the enjoyment of all.” It was one of the first nature centers to be established in the Caribbean.

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Comprising nearly 1,500 acres of mainly forested land in the Arima and Aripo Valleys of the Northern Range, the AWNC’s properties will be retained under forest cover in perpetuity, to protect the community watershed and provide important wildlife habitat.

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The Center’s main facilities are located on a former cocoa-coffee-citrus plantation, previously known as the Spring Hill Estate. This estate has now been partly reclaimed by secondary forest, surrounded by impressive rainforest, where some original climax forest on the steeper slopes have a canopy of 100-150 feet. The whole effect is one of being deep in tropical rainforest.

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A special attraction on the property is a breeding colony of the nocturnal Oilbird, or Guacharo (Steatornis caripensis). Located in Dunston Cave, a beautiful riparian grotto, it is perhaps the most easily accessible colony known for this remarkable species. Indeed, the World Wildlife Fund made a substantial contribution toward the establishment of the Center in order to protect the colony. Since its inception over 38 years ago, the AWNC has been a leader in ecotourism — long before that word was even coined. It remains a world-class leader in this field, unsurpassed not only in Trinidad & Tobago but across the Caribbean, and is a world-renowned nature destination.

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Kathy and I loved our time at Asa Wright, we spent time taking guided naturalist tours of the trails, including visiting the rare oilbird cave to see the oilbirds, which was outstanding. We also spent time swimming in the beautiful natural pool that is feed by a cool river waterfall. It was like something out of a movie, being totally immersed in the beautiful rainforest.

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It was so beautiful that I took the opportunity to try out a few of the artistic settings on my camera, which is something that I rarely do, but I wanted to see what the watercolor, painting and pop-art settings looked like and you can see from these photos that some interesting photos resulted from my experimentation.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Trinidad and Tobago

June 14, 2015

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Trinidad and Tobago

A few years back, Kathy was working for our friends Larry and Mark’s company, Caligo Ventures which organized birding and wildlife ventures to exotic locales such as Trinidad and Tobago. She was able to travel there while she was employed there and had a wonderful trip and has wanted to make a return trip, bringing me along ever since. Though Larry and Mark sold the company and Kathy’s job was eliminated, she has remained in touch with the new owners and has retained her desire to return to the islands once again.

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This summer, she was able to organize a trip for us, returning to spend five nights in Trinidad and four in Tobago, bringing me along to experience the tropical wonder and beauty of the islands. While I knew that Trinidad and Tobago was in the Caribbean, I really was not all that aware of exactly where it is located. In actuality it is part of South America as it is in the very southernmost part of the Caribbean, south of Grenada and just off the Northern coast of Venezuela. 

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For this reason it is one of the most biodiverse nations in the area and has a plethora of flora and fauna that draws in visitors interested in the wide variety of wildlife, specifically birds. While we are not birders per se, we do enjoy being out in the beauty of nature and the first part of our stay in Trinidad was at the beautiful and famous Asa Wright Nature Center.

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Asa Wright is the oldest and also one of the best nature center of its type in the West Indies. Nestled among 270 acres of beautiful rainforest in the Arima valley the nature center and lodge is famous for the research conducted there, the large number of species of birds and animals found there and the sheer beauty of the property.

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Kathy and I were greeted at the airport in Trinidad by one of their excellent guides and driven up incredible, twisty roads that led up to the property. It was green and lush everywhere and just a beautiful experience. We checked in to the delightfully comfortable little bungalow then headed to the beautiful veranda of the old house to check out the beautiful view and amazing amount of birds and wildlife that are readily visible as you look out over the Arima Valley.

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I could see immediately what Kathy found so entrancing about the place, it was just exquisite and amazing to be surrounded by such a beautiful display of nature. The first couple of days, we had the place pretty much to ourselves, there was a birding group staying there, but they seemed constantly gone on various field trips. We did make friends with a wonderful Trini couple who were staying at the lodge where they actually got engaged while there, that was pretty cool to see.

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We spent a lot of time initially just relaxing on the veranda sipping rum punch, taking the occasional stroll on the trails leading in to the forest where all sorts of birds and other creatures could be easily witnessed. There were an incredible abundance of cool insects, spiders (including some cool tarantulas), small mammals such as the Agouti, which were a common sight and various reptiles and amphibians.

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