This tour showcases the best of Trinidad and Tobago, featuring birding, butterflies, photography, or simply relaxing in a tropical setting and letting the birds come to you.
Depending on the dates and itinerary you choose, begin at one of two well-regarded Port of Spain hotels—either the Hyatt Regency Trinidad, a full-service hotel perched on the edge of the Gulf of Paria, or Pax Guest House, an historic boutique lodge nestled high above the city, adjacent to the Mount St. Benedict Monastery and wild forest land. Regardless of which hotel you start your tour from, the itinerary will be the same but you will end your tour at the other hotel. Enjoy the same number of nights in each hotel with Tobago in-between.
While on Trinidad, explore from the verdant mountains of the Northern Range, to the lowland grasslands of the northern savanna’s Aripo Agricultural Station. Spend two nights at a boutique, beachfront lodge on Trinidad’s northern coast, Mt. Plaisir, where lush forests provide a stronghold for the endangered Trinidad Piping-guan. Scope the eastern coast on a full-day field trip to Nariva Swamp, and see the Scarlet Ibis at Caroni National Park as we boat through canals and waterways.
On Tobago the bird viewing platform at Cuffie River Nature Retreat allows for birds-eye viewing and accessible photography opportunities. Blue Waters Inn offers swimming or snorkeling right from their beach. Guided walks in the historic Main Forest Ridge Preserve lets you find more secretive forest species, while a short uphill trek to a lookout on Little Tobago Island rewards one with acrobatic tropicbirds, two species of boobies and Magnificent Frigatebirds at eye level.
- Experience outstanding comfort at the Hyatt Regency, our base for exploring the mountains, savanna and mangroves of Central Trinidad.
- Enjoy big vistas and hummingbirds at Pax Guest House—a quiet oasis just a short ride from coastal birding and the cultural hub of Port of Spain.
- Relish two nights at Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel on the ocean at Grande Riviere.
- Look for the highly endangered Trinidad Piping-guan and in season, Leatherback Turtles.
- Arrive to a frenzy at Cuffie River Retreat’s feeders, perfect for observation and photography. Enjoy creative tropical architecture; let the breeze be your ventilation in this peaceful mountain retreat.
- Enjoy Blue Waters Inn’s boutique air-conditioned ocean-front accommodations with private bath and porch or patio, and a picturesque vista across Batteaux Bay.
- Marvel at tropical seabirds and tropical fish on a boat tour to Little Tobago Island.
- Visit Tobago’s historic Main Forest Ridge Reserve with an expert local guide.
- Explore mangrove swamps, sandy beaches, and rocky coastlines for wetland, coastal and pelagic birds.
- Witness skies turned crimson with thousands of Scarlet Ibis as they fly in to roost at Caroni National Park.
- Travel with the island’s most expert guides who offer robust knowledge and friendly, world-class guiding skills.
Mon. Nov. 21: Welcome to Trinidad!
Upon arrival at Piarco International Airport, you are met at the airport. Drive to your lodgings for the next six days at the delightful Hacienda Jacana. Tropical air greets you as well – and the adventure begins.
Nestled into nature, Hacienda Jacana’s two-room casitas with kitchen and living room surround a small pond. Even from your porch the birding is terrific! This nature oasis has just four casitas and the main estate house, so our groups will stay small (7-10). Meals are catered and feature local, delicious Caribbean and “Trini” cuisine. The Hacienda is in an ideal location for our varied field trips and away from the bustle of the city of Port of Spain.
Note: If your flight arrives late, consider arriving a day early (additional cost), and enjoy an unscheduled morning. While our guides meet all flights, many travelers prefer to start the group tour well-rested.
Tues. Nov. 22: Birding Trinidad's Northern Range
Today’s scenic, day-long excursion takes us high into the Northern Range on the Blanchisseuse Road. Stately trees arch over the shaded road and views from overlook points are grand. We make frequent birding stops and then enjoy a local lunch in the picturesque village of Brasso Seco (with four or fewer participants a picnic lunch will be provided). We then continue through the mountains to the village of Morne la Croix to enjoy watching parrots flying in to roost.
Today also offers the opportunity to examine other species, perhaps the strange world of leafcutter and army ants or bright colored land crabs will catch your eye. The abundance of tropical life surrounds you – observe or photograph butterflies, orchids, and other tropical flora.
Wed. Nov. 23: Coastal Birding / Waterloo / Cultural Sites
The best area for finding shorebirds in Trinidad is the extensive area of tidal mudflats along the west coast—an area generically locally known as “Waterloo”. We plan our departure time with tides in mind. Of significant interest are birds arriving from mainland South America. From February to November large numbers of both Yellow-billed and the striking Large-billed Terns are present whilst from mid-April to October breeding Collared Plovers can be found. Many of the shorebirds found in Trinidad are passing migrants. During the appropriate seasons, resident birds are augmented in varying numbers by Wilson’s Plover; Spotted, Solitary, Pectoral, White-rumped and Stilt Sandpipers; American Golden Plover and occasionally Hudsonian Godwit. The shallow waters of the Gulf of Paria provide a haven from inclement weather and the list of rarities in this area is substantial. It includes the only Maguari Stork, Terek Sandpiper, and both Kelp and Greater Black-backed Gulls. In some years near Carli Bay, we can find rare resident Rufous Crab-Hawk.
Also of significant interest, is the beautiful Hindu Temple of the Sea, in view from our birding areas and well worth a visit. Additional cultural sites can be added to this day as time allows.
Thurs. Nov. 24: Nariva Swamp | Trinidad’s Atlantic Coast | Return to a Caribbean Thanksgiving Feast!
After an early breakfast, we depart for Nariva Swamp. There are some fascinating mangrove habitats to scan from the road and we make several stops along the way. Driving down “Coconut Alley” leads us through beachside habitats before we enter Nariva Swamp. Here, the Nariva River reaches the sea; freshwater environments of herbaceous swamp and mangrove swamp forest make for spectacular birding.
As the day warms up, we stop for a picnic lunch and seabird sightings on the beach at Manzanilla. Magnificent Frigatebird and Brown Pelican are the most likely species.
But save room for a feast – a Caribbean Style Thanksgiving dinner! Plan on a fun evening with much to be thankful for, we celebrate!
Fri. Nov. 25: Aripo Agricultural Station / Night Birds
This morning we depart for the lowlands of the Aripo Agricultural Station where the open countryside and semi-wild pastures offer new bird species.
We depart about 4:00 PM for an exciting night bird excursion, complete with your rum punch and hot dinner in tow. An unused airfield is the first birding stop (pre-sunset), then to a grove of palms that attract Red-bellied Macaws and Moriche Orioles. Next, we set out on a slow drive with lights for spotting night birds.
Sat. Nov. 26: Yerettê Hummingbirds | Scarlet Ibis of Caroni National Park
Enjoy some optional, early morning birding on our lodge grounds.
After breakfast, start the day with a special treat—visit the hummingbird retreat called Yerettê, “Home of the Hummingbird.” Located in the Maracas Valley, this private home and lush garden attracts up to 14 of the 18 species of hummingbirds found in Trinidad and Tobago. A photographer’s delight, hummingbirds gather at the feeders and native vegetation by the tens to hundreds depending on the time of year. Our visit includes a lunch featuring local foods – enjoyed with the birds!
From here, we depart for Caroni Swamp, birding along the way, training our scopes on some agricultural fields. To see Caroni National Park, we bird by boat (watch for Ruschenberger’s Tree Boa and Silky Anteater, too), then moor up at a quiet spot in the mangroves to let the sunset show begin. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of Scarlet Ibis cloud the sky as they fly in to an island to roost. Tonight’s experience is one you won’t soon forget, often rated among the world’s top birding spectacles.
Sun. Nov. 27: Aripo Savannah | El Suzanne Rainforest Lodge | Mt. Plaisir at Grand Riviere
Today is an early start as we bird the lower elevations and we need to time this with bird activity. Pick up your bagged breakfast early or take it with you in the van. Be sure to double-check departure times with your guide.
A remnant of a once major lowland habitat, the seasonally wet Aripo Savannah is surrounded by sugar cane fields. Today we explore the tropical birds unique to this habitat, as well as the distinctive flora that has adapted to the savannah’s harsh conditions—alternating from wet to dry.
We then embark on a short drive to the hospitable El Suzanne Rainforest Lodge. Enjoy a locally sourced lunch and search out more key birds. Nestled in the Tamana Rainforest and bounded by the Cumuto River (a tributary of the Caroni), this hidden gem features forest birding alongside a large, comfortable terrace and dining area.
From here we depart for Grand Riviere, making scenic stops on the rugged coastline. Endemic Trinidad Piping Guans, known locally as Pawi, lure us to this side of the island. In Grande Riviere, we uncover this critically endangered bird’s final stronghold. Experts estimate there may be fewer than 300 left on Earth.
For part of the year Grande Riviere’s beaches are home to the world’s densest congregation of nesting Leatherback Sea Turtles. On some nights, hundreds of these gigantic turtles populate the beach. Most nest between April and July, however they are also likely to be seen from March through August, and occasionally they are spotted at other times of the year.
As we arrive, walk out to the beach, relax, and then gather to enjoy gourmet local cuisine while dining alfresco at the eccentric and relaxing Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel. Our rooms overlook the beach, so you enjoy a perfect view of nesting turtles if there in the right season. Leave your balcony door open at night and drift off to sleep as waves crash on the beach below.
Mon. Nov. 28: Morning in search of Piping Guan | Flight to Tobago | Cuffie River Nature Retreat
Once hunted to near extinction, the Trinidad Piping Guan (locally knowns as Pawi), has been the focus of considerable local conservation efforts. The bird has responded well, slowly increasing in numbers and visibility. This morning we will scrutinize the wild nutmeg trees that are their preferred feeding habitat.
The birding is excellent in Grande Riviere and the morning may reveal 60 or more species. Much of the birding is done from a wide forested track, where you can easily enjoy superb viewing areas. Having hopefully found the Pawi, we will continue driving down a steeply wooded slope into riverine forest where we continue birding until mid-morning.
Return to Mt. Plaisir in time to pick up your luggage and depart for the two-hour plus drive to Piarco Airport and your flight to Tobago. Lunch is in route. Check in at the airport is quick, and so is the25-minute afternoon flight!
Once you land in Tobago, local expert birding guide Jason Radix, greets you in his air-conditioned bus. Welcome to the distinctly Caribbean and laid-back Tobago. You make a few stops for birding, so keep your sunscreen, hat, and binoculars at hand. We then travel through vibrantly colored hillside villages to the Cuffie River Nature Retreat. Once you arrive, enjoy the late afternoon to stroll the grounds, take a dip in the pool, or just relax.
Cuffie River Nature Retreat is a small inn; please ask the staff for any needs, such as tea, beer, or wine, a pool towel, etc. Dinner is announced daily, usually at 7:30 PM. Food is local and specially prepared, so relax and enjoy this wonderful dining experience! Perhaps you’ll see and hear a Common Potoo right outside the dining area as you linger over dessert.
Tues. Nov. 29: Cuffie River Trails & Adventure Farm / Wetland Birding
In keeping with Tobago’s laid-back vibe, today is easy-going. In the morning we explore a nature trail close to the lodge, walking from the entry with the lodge’s expert guide, Desmond Wright. While we never move faster than a birder’s pace, the trail is up and down small hills, so a walking stick may be handy.
Return to the lodge for a delicious lunch and brief rest before traveling off site to Adventure Farm, a delight for birders and the culinary-inclined. The farm is a mix of varietal fruit trees rimmed by natural forest. Enjoy a winding trail through the property spending time at fruit and hummingbird feeders. Tropical Mockingbirds provide a serenade. This location is a favorite for photographers.
Keep your binoculars handy as we may have time for some wetland birding stops. Walk around well-placed ponds that attract ducks, wading birds, and possible Spectacled Caiman. We always add several species as we explore.
Be sure to be at a good viewpoint for sunset, as hordes of parrots, parrotlets, and noisy chachalacas fly here to roost—quite a spectacle! After dark, check the driveway’s streetlight for night birds.
Wed. Nov. 30: Gilpin Trace on Tobago’s Main Ridge Preserve | Little Tobago Island from the Blue Waters Inn
We have an early breakfast and head out for our drive high into the mountains in the historic Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve, the world’s oldest legally protected forest. Scientific American once said that “the protection of Tobago’s Forest was the first act in the modern environmental movement.”
Tobago’s montane forests are home to 210 species of birds. On a trail into the forested interior, we look for several elusive species, including White-tailed Sabrewing, a large hummingbird once thought to be extinct. Sabrewings were rediscovered after hurricanes caused extensive forest damage in the 1960s.
We also seek out Blue-backed Manakin, Yellow-legged Thrush and other Tobago specialties, including Red-crowned Woodpecker and White-fringed Antwren. After a satisfying walk, we then travel through vibrantly colored hillside villages to the dock at Blue Waters Inn, where we board a glass-bottom boat for a pleasant cruise to Little Tobago Island. The island, one of the country’s most significant wildlife sanctuaries, offers incredible views of plentiful and rare seabirds, both from the boat and by walking a trail up to a lookout point on the island, where Tropical Dry Forest occurs.
Leaving the island (if sea conditions are right), the captain will take time to look for colorful fish and possible Hawksbill Sea Turtles as we pass a former coral garden off Goat Island. The Atlantic side of the island has experienced extensive coral bleaching and while still excellent for divers, snorkeling is not what it once was.
After a long but fulfilling day, we head back to our delightful digs and another delicious meal at Cuffie River Nature Retreat. Tonight is our farewell dinner and we share highlights, favorite birds, and other memories.
Thurs. Dec. 1: Departures
After a filling breakfast, bid farewell to Tobago. We will arrange drivers for you to connect to the flight you schedule. International flights MUST be out today AFTER 10 AM. – you need to leave time for the inter-island flight back to Port of Spain. BOOK the flight from TOBAGO to coordinate with your outbound International as soon as possible, the first flight out is typically 7 AM and they usually run about every hour. If you see an early am flight you want, you can enjoy the day at our nature lodge, go back to an airport hotel (additional cost) in Port of Spain and fly out the next day. Regardless of when you go, you need time in Port of Spain to collect luggage and check in with your international carrier.
Your departure time will be confirmed the night before with the Front Desk to arrange your return transfer. Late check-out may be available for you for an additional fee, to be arranged with the Front Desk at the time of your visit. Luggage can be stored if you plan activities ahead of later flights.
Leatherback Turtle by Howard Topoff
Blue-headed Parrot, Hugh Simmons Photography
Brown Booby, Hugh Simmons Photography
Frank Little Tobago, Hugh Simmons
Group in Trinidad, Hugh Simmons
Trinidad Group, Hugh Simmons
Masked Cardinal, Hugh Simmons Photography
Ruby Topaz, Hugh Simmons Photography
Scarlet Ibis by Noel Snyder
Black-throated Mango, Glenn Chambliss
Purple Honeycreeper, Peg Abbott
Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Mike Boyce
Cost of the Journey
The cost of the journey, $4990 DBL / $5785 SGL from Port of Spain, Trinidad, is based on double occupancy and includes: airport transfers, accommodations for 10 nights, meals as noted in the itinerary, professional guide services, local guides, local park and reserve entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses. It does not include items of a personal nature such as: laundry, telephone, drinks from the bar, or gratuities.
Lester Nanan comes from a family of environmentalists, and his late father Winston Nanan was a key figure in the protection of the Caroni Swamp and Trinidad’s national bird, the Scarlet Ibis. Lester started birding as early as 17 years old, assisting his father in documenting species in the Caroni swamp and then later, the wider Trinidad and Tobago. An explorer, adventurer, a naturalist and conservationist, he has been sharing his knowledge with guests of Naturalist Journeys and sister company Caligo Ventures for decades. His present mission is to ensure that Caroni Swamp is declared an ‘environmentally sensitive area’ so that every species that enters the swamp is protected. Lester works with conservation organizations, protected area managers, government agencies, the tourism board, tour operators and guides throughout the country to develop sustainable tourism opportunities while at the same time working to build the demand for bird watching, photography and natural tourism.
Other trips with Lester Nanan
Ultimate Trinidad & Tobago TourDecember 1 - 11, 2022
- Ultimate Trinidad & Tobago Tour
Jason is a well-known and well-respected naturalist guide in Trinidad & Tobago. He began his career at the world-renowned Asa Wright Nature Centre at the young age of 12. His now-30 year career has allowed him to host some of the world’s premier environmentalist and celebrity birding authorities, along with the countless bird and nature enthusiasts from around the world. Jason is proud of his homeland of Trinidad & Tobago, and eager to show off the rich dense biodiversity which exists throughout both islands. His passion for and knowledge of the islands' flora and fauna and history and culture is evident in every tour, with clients leaving fully informed about the country’s natural history.
His delivery makes each of his tours an enjoyable experience for the most avid birding to the beginner nature-lover.
Other trips with Jason Radix
Ultimate Trinidad & Tobago TourDecember 1 - 11, 2022
- Ultimate Trinidad & Tobago Tour
Photo credits: Banners: Scarlet Ibis, Hugh Simmons Photography; Blue-chinned Sapphire, Sandy Sorkin; Blue-gray Tanager, Glenn Chambliss; Little Tobago, Hugh Simmons Photography; Bearded Bellbird, Glenn Chambliss; Boatbill Heron, Tom Dove; Common Potoo, Mike Boyce; Green Honeycreeper, Sandy Sorkin; American Flamingo, Hugh Simmons Photography; Blue Waters Inn, Hugh Simmons, Group Trinidad, Hugh Simmons; Trinidad Motmot, Mike Boyce; Trinidad Piping Guan, Mike Boyce; White-tailed Sabrewing, Dave Ramlal; Leatherback Turtle, Howard Topoff; Smooth-billed Ani, Peg Abbott; Mt. Plaisir, Janet Metzger; Cuffie River, Bud Ferguson; Lineated Woodpecker, Dave Ramlal; Ruby Topaz, Dave Ramlal; White-necked Jacobin, Steve Wolfe; BWI Franks boat, Lynn Tennefoss; Blue-backed Manakin; Doug Greenberg; Brown Pelican, Hugh Simmons; Scarlet Ibis, Hugh Simmons; Black-throated Mango, Faraaz Abdool; Blue-headed Parrot, Hugh Simmons Photography; Brown Booby, Hugh Simmons Photography; Frank Little Tobago, Hugh Simmons; Group in Trinidad, Hugh Simmons; Masked Cardinal, Hugh Simmons Photography; Ruby Topaz, Hugh Simmons Photography; Scarlet Ibis, Noel Snyder; Black-throated Mango, Glenn Chambliss; Purple Honeycreeper, Peg Abbott; Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Mike Boyce.