From as early as 5 am last Sunday, young and old gathered outside RBC Royal Bank’s head offices in St Clair, Port-of-Spain.
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Kayaking at Caroni Bird Sanctuary: An eco-treat beckons
I awoke the day after with intense shoulder pain but shrugged it off. The experience of exploring my country was worth more than any physical pain. Truth be told, I brought the pain on myself. It was not an intense exercise but I really wanted to see how fast I could kayak in the vastness of the swamp.
It was my first time kayaking through the mangrove. The serenity and stillness of the place was the perfect setting to listen to the chirps of birds and other sounds of the animals that inhabit the region.
Blue herons, snow egrets, the Scarlet Ibis, a lone flamingo, a tree boa constrictor wrapped up in a branch and fiddler crabs are some of the species you can expect to see while on tour. The snakes live on the trees to feed on the birds.
The brilliant red of the Scarlet Ibis could be spotted from a distance. The tour began early in the morning and finished after midday, so it was difficult to see as many birds as compared to the evening.
The swamp has three types of mangroves—red, white and back. The swamp runs along the banks of the Caroni River and has several channels, brackish and saline lagoons with inter-tidal mudflats and contains fresh water and salt water marshes.
T&T truly is an amazing place and I encourage everyone to visit and learn about our eco-system and the many species that inhabit the swamp that is approximately 12,000 acres.
The Caroni Swamp is protected under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. Not only is it the roosting place of our national bird but it is home to over 100 avian species.
Photographer Ayanna Kinsale and I accompanied Experience T&T to the Caroni Wetlands Kayaking Tour. Apart from tour guides Rodney and Khemraj there were 11 visitors from around the country.
Wednesday morning started off with persistent showers but by 10 am we managed to head out on the double sit on top kayaks despite the gloomy skies. Khemraj, Ayanna and another guest took the boat.
Thick trees and foliage form a canopy through the water channels, making it seem at times like a green tunnel. Small creatures in the mangroves pop out, stare and crawl back into their holes. Ever so often, Rodney, who kayaked with me, stopped to point out the birds or crabs. He even took us directly under the tree where the boa constrictor had settled itself.
More specifically, it was interesting to learn that the mangroves grow from the top to bottom. They look like giant pencils, attached to them are oyster shells. Thousands of crabs live in holes on either side of the swamp. In the water there are Atlantic swimming crabs. These are omnivorous and will eat just about anything they find. Khemraj said there are even groupers, tarpons and snappers in the water.
“The biggest grouper we brought in here was over 300 pounds and the biggest tarpon was about 250 pounds.”
Enlightening the group about the other species, he said there were raccoons, iguanas and mongoose and over 180 species of birds—the most common being the egrets.
We kayaked for about two and a half hours into the swamp with a perfect blue sky by noon and a lush, green northern range to the back of us. It was close to 12.30 pm when Rodney said we had to switch from the kayak to the boat to head back.
Wednesday afternoon ended as it started with rain. We were all drenched as we exited the boat but one thing was for sure: It was all worth it!
Visitors: Awesome experience
Mr Cunupia, a regular caller to Sky 99.5 FM who won himself a pair of tickets for the tour, said he grew up in El Socorro and lives in Cunupia and had never visited even after passing so close all those years.
“This has been such a tremendous experience for me. I have never visited before and this was my first opportunity and I decided to seize the opportunity. It is the first but not the last.”
He praised Experience T&T “for doing something great for the country.”
Mr Cunupia said he always thought the bird sanctuary was for tourists.
“It was an excellent tour and I look forward to coming back to see the birds in the evening,” he said.
School teacher Samantha Llewellyn, from Sangre Grande, said the tour was informative and interesting.
“The kayaking was the best!” she said.
Llewellyn said she wanted her SBA students to visit at some point in the future.
Mark Subidar is an avid hiker and nature seeker. He had visited the bird sanctuary about ten years ago.
He told the Sunday Guardian, “It was educational and awesome. The guides were quite knowledgeable and it was just a nice experience. I will definitely recommend this tour to other people.”
Tunapuna resident Keron Ameerali, who teaches in Port-of-Spain, said even though he lives so close he had never visited.
He said, “It was a really nice experience where you get to kayak instead of being driven by a boat. All in all it was a good experience.”
The Sunday Guardian has partnered with Experience T&T as we embark on a Staycation Series for the month of August. Read the Sunday Guardian to get the first-hand experience of reporters participating in the available tours. Anyone interested in tours can email [email protected] or call 497-6403 497-6404 343-3012 343-9439