By Nadia Ali. Peaceful, serene and green, that’s how a tour on the Caroni Swamp Bird Sanctuary boat ride felt like as we took to the water to see the Scarlet Ibis, the national bird of sweet T&T nest return to roost in mangroves of the Caroni Swamp.
It is located in the Gulf of Paria on the north-western side of Trinidad on the Caroni River which is the largest river in the nation. Known as the second largest mangrove in the twin isle after the Nariva Swamp, Caroni Swamp provides a home to many species of flora and fauna.
On what started as a rainy Sunday, we decided this was the day we were going to the Caroni Bird Sanctuary. We called Nanan’s and reserved our seats. We arrived at 3.40 p.m. as requested and sat at the visitors hut while they prepared the boat.
Don’t expect anything fancy, it’s just a pirogue painted in green with about eight to ten benches across the width, but the seats do have cushioned leatherette covering for comfort. There is no overhead shelter so if it rains you will get wet.
There was quite a lot of rain water in the boats, so an electric pump was used to get rid of the excess water. By 4 p.m. they started boarding calling my group by name to sit in assigned seats near the front of the boat. The engine then roared and away we went.
There is lush greenery on both sides of the waterway which is also reflected in the mirror-like surface of the river. The trees of the mangrove looked like they were standing on their roots with twists and curves stretching out of the water. It looked ideal for a magical scene with mystic creatures.
Throughout the ride, the tour guide alias the captain kept a look out for points of interests. He has keen eyesight and pointed out a green iguana resting on the upper branches of a tree. Fortunately, we had a tour guide sitting behind us who was accompanying a foreigner on the trip and we got lots of great information from him.
The scenery is beautiful and looking ahead down the river there is nothing coming or going so you can see the slightest ripple on the water. The ride is slow enough to allow the photographers to capture images and the best part is when the captain sees something he suddenly cuts the engine and shifts it into reverse to point something out. We saw two snakes coiled on trees, clustered shells on tree roots which were actually oysters and the tiniest of crabs walking along tree branches.
The waterway got wider and wider and soon we were on a lake area the northern range created a beautiful backdrop to the blue skies and rippling water. Then above there was the bright red of the Scarlet Ibis. The Scarlet Ibis known as the Eudocimus ruber in scientific terms is as its name suggests scarlet in colour. It is not just red but a brilliant, striking red easily visible as it flies overhead. It has a long slender bill which measures about 7-8 inches long that allows it to sink its beak deep into the mudflats to find food. It feeds mostly on crabs along with shrimp, snails, frogs and stilt roots. The birds flew in formative v-shaped lines to a large roosting area and the white egrets flew inches from the water surface heading towards the same area. The scarlet ibis sit on the outside and the egrets on the inside of the roosting bushes and trees. The engines of the boat ceased and we sat and watched, photographed and admired natures beauty. The sun began to set as we made our way back.
Yet, tomorrow two hours before sunset, the beauty of the Scarlet Ibis, the peace and serenity of the boat ride will take place at the Caroni Swamp Bird Sanctuary.
October 2016 www.sweettntmagazine.com
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