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Trinidad is a magical place to spend the holidays, and what could be a better base than the venerable Asa Wright Nature Centre and Lodge, a 200-acre wildlife sanctuary in Trinidad’s rainforested Northern Range. The Centre has a 50+ year legacy of research and conservation that continues today. After a two-year closure during the pandemic we are thrilled to return. The Centre is a place you can readily soak in the ambiance of lush montane forests over your morning coffee or afternoon rum punch or tea. And, while you’re there, why not add three nights on Tobago to feel inspired by classic Caribbean scenery, wonderful birding, and a chance to see seabirds nesting on Little Tobago island.
Our special Christmas tour is set at a relaxing pace to which you can add field trips if you wish. Without getting in a vehicle you can surround yourself in tropical wonder. Walk the Centre trails and watch a rainbow of birds from the famous verandah. Photographers delight in beautiful images of the varied and colorful species at close range including honeycreepers and hummingbirds. We include three of our most popular outings, of course watching Scarlet Ibis come in to roost in Caroni National Park—a show of red and green, perfect for the season. Walk to the Dunstan Oilbird Cave, and bird your way up the Blanchisseuse Road to Brasso Seco Village for lunch and to sample some scrumptious local chocolate. This is birding at its best, punctuated by special meals, camaraderie, and fun at a special time of year.
- Experience outstanding birding from cozy cottages used as our base for exploring the mountains, savannah, and mangroves of Central Trinidad
- Enjoy big vistas up in the mountains of Trinidad’s Northern Range
- Bird in varied habitats from savannah to mangroves, lowland forest to mountain terrain
- Dine in a local village known for making quality chocolates and great birding
- Discover intimate views and potential photos of birds at gardens in selected lunch stops, with brilliantly colored hummingbirds, honeycreepers, tanagers, toucans, and more
- Witness skies turned crimson with thousands of Scarlet Ibis coming in to roost in Caroni National Park as you glide through mangroves on a quiet boat ride
- Find the tiny Tufted Coquette and up to 14 other species of hummingbirds
- Add the three-night Tobago extension at the delightful Cuffie River Nature Retreat to explore the world's oldest protected forest, cruise in a glass-bottomed boat for seabirds and marine life, and see a different, more Caribbean suite of birds.
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Sat., Dec. 21: Arrival & Welcome to the Asa Wright Nature Centre
Our guides meet all flights arriving at Trinidad’s Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain. Expect a warm greeting at the Centre, where the colors of the birds rival decorations for the holiday, and hospitality is shared to make you feel welcome. Coffee and tea is served at 4:00 PM, Rum Punch at 6:00 PM, both accompanied by one of the most amazing bird shows of any eco-lodge in the world! Share dinner with other tour participants and guests staying at the Lodge in the Centre’s cozy dining room.
In the evening, we walk the Centre’s driveway though lush overhanging forest, listening to night sounds and with luck, the call of Tropical Screech Owl. If your flight arrives late in the evening, you may wish to come in the day before so as not to miss anything. Or, despite the late hour, come on up and get settled, knowing you will wake up to the birds!
Accommodations at the Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC) (D)
Sun., Dec. 22: Forty Species Before Breakfast | Birding the Northern Range from Blanchisseuse Road | Brasso Seco
Morning begins with the raucous noise of the Crested Oropendola and a host of other exotic sounds. A first-time visitor might see 20 – 30 life birds among the 40 or more species often seen before breakfast! Treasure the rainbow of color at arm’s length as honeycreepers and hummingbirds come in to feed.
Today’s scenic, day-long excursion takes us high into the Northern Range on the Blanchisseuse Road. We make frequent birding stops and then enjoy a local lunch and cacao demonstration in picturesque Brasso Seco. We then continue through the mountains to the village of Morne la Croix for afternoon tea and cakes (yum!) as we enjoy watching parrots head in to roost.
Today also offers the opportunity to examine the strange world of leaf-cutter and army ants, as well as the chance to photograph butterflies, orchids, and other tropical flora.
Accommodations at AWNC (B,L,D)
Mon., Dec. 23: Oilbirds | Exploring Centre Trails
After breakfast, we visit Dunstan Cave, one of Trinidad’s major colony sites for Oilbirds, a unique species in that it is a nocturnal, fruit-eating bird. This colony has been monitored for many years. Enjoy a chance to learn about their ecology and conservation. The trail to the cave is steep in some locations, so wear secure footwear especially in wet conditions. We take it at a birder’s pace and if you are not up to it, feel free to enjoy free time on the verandah or grounds at your leisure.
The Centre is situated in a typical valley of Trinidad’s Northern Range. These sites have been traditional centers of coffee, cocoa, and citrus plantations and many of these plants are still maintained at the Centre. Natural second-growth has taken over and festooned the abandoned plantation vegetation with vines and a host of epiphytes. The whole effect is one of being deep in a tropical rainforest.
The afternoon today is free to allow you to relax or enjoy the trails on an afternoon walk if you like. Choose one of several trails that traverse this rich and diverse wildlife sanctuary with a chance to see species as Guianan Trogon, Channel-billed Toucan, Chestnut Woodpecker, White-bearded Manakin, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, and Turquoise and Bay-headed Tanagers. Or, take a dip in the natural swimming hole on one of the trails decorated year-round by ferns and tropical plants of the wild.
Birds and people both gather in time for the 4:00 PM tea (and cakes). Birding from the verandah of the Asa Wright Nature Centre as the day winds down is one of the world’s most pleasant and exciting ornithological experiences. Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Tufted Coquette, Barred Antshrike, Green Honeycreeper, and Bare-eye Thrush are among the many species that are seen. Golden Tegu Lizard and Agouti are busy below the verandah. 6:00 PM rum punch is next on the list.
Accommodations at AWNC (B,L,D)
Tues., Dec. 24 : Caroni Marsh & the Spectacle of Scarlet Ibis
What better way to celebrate the holiday than the vivid show of rich magenta displayed on the wings of thousands of Scarlet Ibis coming in to roost! The Scarlet Ibis was recently portrayed on the cover of a book about the world’s most remarkable birds. This field trip has long been a highlight of Trinidad’s many wonders.
We board a small boat, reserved for our group, to explore a very specialized mangrove forest that contains several genera and species of mangroves, showing classic examples of plant adaptation in this unique brackish water community. We seek out some of its more specialized denizens — Neotropical Cormorant, Anhinga, Striated Heron, White-cheeked Pintail, Large-billed Tern, Pied Water-tyrant, Bicolored Conebill, and Red-capped Cardinal. Our day ends with the spectacular flight of Scarlet Ibis returning to their mangrove roosts at dusk, truly one of the world’s most dramatic natural moments.
We bring the rum punch along to celebrate, and as we return to the boat dock we search the mangrove-lined channels for the mysterious sounding Common Potoo. Return to the Centre for dinner a bit later this evening, still aglow from your fabulous sightings.
Accommodations at AWNC (B,L,D)
Wed., Dec. 25 : Christmas at Asa Wright Nature Centre
Trinidad is one of the most multi-cultural nations in the world, and one of their secrets to getting along is to jump in and celebrate ALL the holidays. There are lights on homes of Hindus, music and song in the streets, and on this day, family feasting. All of this and you can wake up to watch colorful birds, agoutis, and huge tegu lizards!
We spend the morning enjoying gifts from nature, watching and tallying up species that we see from the verandah. Lunch is often the big meal of the day and its sure to be wonderful!
In the afternoon, fueled by a delicious Christmas lunch, we walk leisurely out the driveway to the entrance, an excellent route for spotting birds in trees that arch overhead. More adventurous walkers may want to return via one of the forest loop trails.
Enjoy rum punch and relax in the late afternoon on the beautiful verandah as the birds come to you. Finding butterflies in December reminds you that you are in the tropics.
A special place to enjoy Christmas day with nature and none of the commercial hype!
Accommodations at AWNC (B,L,D)
Thurs., Dec. 26 : Full Day at the Centre | Optional Field Trip
Today is a perfect day to do what many long to do, spend a full uncharted day at the Centre! Photograph to your heart’s delight, walk with a naturalist to learn more about butterflies and tropical plants, log more tropical species from the verandah, sit quietly among a chorus of Bearded Bellbird on the Discovery Trail, and watch manakins dance on their leks. The Centre holds many treasures that take time to observe and today is the perfect time to do just that.
Optional: Full Day Nariva Swamp Excursion
This field trip is a chance to see more of the country and the special birds of Trinidad’s East Coast and the Nariva Swamp, the largest freshwater herbaceous swamp on the island. This field trip starts with a stop in the morning in the lowlands where may find White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Pied Water-Tyrant, Savanna Hawk, Bat Falcon, Red-breasted Blackbird, Southern Lapwing, and possibly a flock of Green-rumped Parrotlet.
The east side of Trinidad hosts an ecosystem very different from that of Caroni on the west side. Here, where the Nariva River reaches the sea, freshwater environments are comprised of herbaceous swamp and swamp forest, dotted with a few patches of mangroves such as the area around Bush Bush Creek. Along the edges are “palm islands,” where the tall Moriche Palm is common. Here too we see a unique mangrove community, made up primarily of the stilt-rooted rhizophora mangrove, which often reaches a height of 80 feet. Limpkin, American Pygmy and Green Kingfishers, Black-crested Antshrike, Green-throated Mango, and a mix of other species can be found.
We pass Manzanilla Beach with its swimming beaches and picnic pavilions, and south of here travel through long lines of coconut trees, often with Yellow-headed Caracara or possible Pearl Kite perched in them. A mangrove area nearby can prove fruitful for the more elusive species such as Silvered Antbird, Bicolored Conebill, and Least Bittern. An expansive open area with small ponds and flooded fields known as the Melon Patch hosts Wattled Jacana, and possible (rare) Pinnated Bittern.
We join our comrades back at the Centre for a final dinner together, recounting highlights of our journey
Accommodations at AWNC (B,L,D)
Fri., Dec. 27 : Departures or Stay on to Enjoy Tobago!
Depart at your leisure today, the Centre arranges airport transfers according to your flight time. If you have a late flight, enjoy the bonus of another day in birding paradise! (B)
Tobago Post-Tour Extension
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Tobago Birds & Wildlife Extension at Cuffie River Nature Retreat
Adding this post-tour extension to Tobago does more than prolong your island time: Tobago is home to a different (more Caribbean) suite of birds. Based at the delightful Cuffie River Nature Retreat, which has its own birdy trail system, we find furtive montane species at the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, the world’s oldest legally protected forest, take a short hop flight to Little Tobago, and cruise a seabird colony in a glass-bottomed boat — perfect for watching for turtles and other marine life. Add delightful local meals and poolside birding at our small ecolodge, and you won't want to miss the chance to add Tobago to your holiday week in Trinidad!
Fri., Dec. 27 : A Short Flight | Cuffie River Nature Retreat
Or, better yet treat yourself to time on Tobago. We take you to the airport for a short (25 minute) scenic flight and voila, you land by turquoise-colored reefs and you feel those lovely ocean breezes. Our excellent naturalist and birding guide Jason Radix has set time aside for you and looks forward to showing you this truly spectacular island.
Our lodging is at one of our favorite eco-lodges anywhere on the planet, the delightful Cuffie River Nature Retreat. The rooms are spacious and cooled by natural breezes. Lush vegetation surrounds the place and a raised deck swimming pool is the perfect spot to unwind. Decks invite watching birds as do the very active feeders replete with hummingbirds, notably the large and beautiful near-endemic White-tailed Sabrewing, a species once thought extinct. Other common feeder species include Ruby Topaz Hummingbird, White-necked Jacobin, Bananaquit, Spectacled Thrush, and Barred Antshrike. A lodge naturalist helps you explore the grounds.
Cuffie River Nature Retreat is a small inn with just 11 rooms. 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 we see and hear a Common Potoo right outside the dining area as you linger over dessert.
Accommodations at Cuffie River Nature Retreat (L,D)
Sat., Dec. 28 : Birding & Beauty on Tobago
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. Bird highlights today can include Rufous-tailed Jacamar, White-tailed Sabrewing, Blue-backed Manakin, Yellow-legged Thrush, Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Ruby Topaz Hummingbird, Collared Trogon, Red-crowned Woodpecker, White-fringed Antwren, Orange-winged Parrot, Fuscous, Yellow-breasted, and Venezuelan Flycatchers, Caribbean Martin, Scrub Greenlet, and White-tailed Nightjar.
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 Mockingbird 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 and wading birds like Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Green and Tricolored Herons, White-cheeked Pintail, Least Grebe, Southern Lapwing, and Eared Dove, 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.
Accommodations at Cuffie River Nature Retreat (B,L,D)
Sun., Dec. 29: Gilpin Trace on Tobago’s Main Ridge Preserve | Little Tobago Island Boat Trip & Seabird Colony
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.” In 2022, UNESCO named much of Northeast Tobago part of a new Man and the Biosphere Reserve.
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. We have chances for this near-endemic on our Main Ridge Forest Reserve trip, and even better chances at the feeders and flowers of our lodge, Cuffie River Nature Retreat.
We also seek out Blue-backed Manakin, Yellow-legged Thrush, and other Tobago specialties, including Red-crowned Woodpecker and White-fringed Antwren, as well as Trinidad Motmot, Collared Trogon, Yellow-legged Thrush, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Plain Antvireo, White-throated Spadebill, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Stripe-breasted Spinetail, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Rufous-breasted Hermit, and Rufous-breasted Wren.
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. Highlights include Brown Noddy, Red-billed Tropicbird, Red-footed and Brown Boobies, Sooty Tern, Chivi Vireo, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Pale-vented Pigeon, Roseate and Bridled Terns, Scaly-naped Pigeon, and Audubon’s Shearwater sitting in its burrow (if we’re lucky).
Leaving the island (if sea conditions are right), the captain takes time to look for colorful fish and possible Hawksbill Sea Turtle as we pass a former coral garden off Goat Island. The Atlantic side of the island has experienced extensive coral bleaching and while it’s 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 favorite moments of the journey.
Accommodations at Cuffie River Nature Retreat (B,L,D)
Mon., Dec. 30: Departures
After a filling breakfast, bid farewell to Tobago. We arrange drivers for you to connect to the flight you schedule. International flights MUST be booked out today AFTER 10:00 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 7:00 AM and they usually run about every hour. If you see an early morning International flight that 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. The 10:00 AM rule is firm.
Your departure time is 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. (B)
Cost of the Journey
The cost of this journey is $TBD per person, from Port of Spain, departing Tobago Crown Point. Tour cost is based on double occupancy and includes all accommodations; meals as specified in the itinerary, group airport transfers, professional guide services, local park and other area entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses. The cost of the Tobago extension is $TBD. The deposit for this tour is $750 per person.
Cost does not include transportation to and from Trinidad or from Tobago (extension only), or items of a personal nature like laundry, telephone charges, porterage, maid gratuities, or beverages from the bar.
Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.
Please plan to arrive into Port of Spain’s Piarco International Airport (POS) at your convenience on December 21 and please plan to depart at leisure on December 27. If you opt for the Tobago extension, we book your flight TO TOBAGO so that the group stays together; YOU need to book your flight home FROM TOBAGO. You may depart on a flight from Tobago to Port of Spain at your leisure on December 30. There is typically a 7:00 AM flight with subsequent flights every hour. You need to book your international flight from Port of Spain after 10:00 AM on December 30. The 10:00 AM rule is firm.
If you are planning on the taking the extension, most likely you will book a round trip ticket to POS, and then add a Caribbean Airlines segment from TAB to POS to meet up with it. Make sure to leave time to pick up your luggage from Tobago, then recheck it with your international carrier – best if you have two hours minimum for this as the only airline Caribbean Airlines will transfer luggage to is Caribbean Airlines. As the first flight leaves Tobago around 7:00 AM, we have the 10:00 AM rule in place for that reason. If you are on the late flights out, you can enjoy additional time to relax or bird on Tobago – our hotel can store luggage and provide meals for that time (additional cost for meals). Please check with us that the tour is confirmed before booking flights.
Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.
Trinidad & Tobago
- June 2011
- December 2014
- February 2015
- March 2015
- March 2017 (Trinidad Only)
- January 2018
- December 2018
- January 2020
- March 2020
- December 2022
- March 2023
- April 2023
- June 2023
Dave is a naturalist with interests in birds, migration, ecosystems and natural disturbances, plants, and gardening. He holds a PhD from the University of New Mexico. Dave worked for The Nature Conservancy for 25+ years as Director of its Migratory Bird Program. He has researched in Latin American and the Caribbean. An avid birder, Dave enjoys teaching about natural habitats and local cultures. He has published papers in scientific and popular journals.
Other trips with Dave Mehlman
Colombia: Birds & Nature in the Coffee RegionJanuary 22 - February 2, 2024, w/Cali extension
Colombia: Santa Marta & the Atlantic CoastMarch 18 - 27, 2024
Texas' Big Bend FULL - Check out our April 27 - May 5, 2024 departure!April 18 - 26, 2024
Texas' Big Bend Birding & Wildlife TourApril 27 - May 5, 2024
Birding Canyon Country Zion, Bryce Canyon & Grand Canyon National ParksMay 18 - 26, 2024
Scottish Highlands & IslandsJune 7 - 19, 2024
Panama: Three Great LodgesJuly 6 - 18, 2024
Michigan’s Isle Royale & Keweenaw PeninsulaAugust 20 - 28, 2024
Birding Canyon Country Zion, Bryce Canyon & Grand Canyon National ParksSeptember 17 - 25, 2024
Brazil’s Pantanal: Jaguars! And More…October 7 - 17, 2024, w/Atlantic Forest extension
Belize: Three Great LodgesComing November 2024
New Mexico Nature & CultureComing December 2024
- Colombia: Birds & Nature in the Coffee Region
Essential Information +
This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!
Ahead of your Tour
- Make sure your passport will be valid at least six months after the date of your scheduled return to the U.S. No Visas are required for U.S. citizens for stays of this duration. If you are from another country, please contact the Embassy of Trinidad & Tobago website for guidelines.
- Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Trinidad and Tobago and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “Health and Inoculations” section below.
- Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is strongly recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
- Plan your international flight reservations to arrive into Piarco International Airport (POS) and depart from A. N. R. Robinson International Airport (TAB). Send a copy of your itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office please.
- Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
Arrival into Port of Spain (POS), Trinidad
Please note. If you are delayed in travel, please FIRST call the number of our Trinidad operator. As a backup, contact our office or the Naturalist Journeys staff cell (both numbers are on your emergency contact list).
The Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain is welcoming, and it should not be difficult to pass through immigration, collect your luggage and pass-through customs before exiting to the public areas. There is a duty-free section of stores, and several booths to exchange money. ATM’s are present but out in the main airport area. You exit to a large hall with a “great room” atmosphere. There are food stores here if you are hungry.
We will coordinate your pick-ups close to your arrival, and once we have all travelers completed travel information. Please make sure we have both your ARRIVAL and DEPARTURE information, so they can plan this. It is imperative that we have your correct TRAVEL information; we appreciate if you email us a copy of your flight reservation.
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Main Tour Departures from Port of Spain (POS), Trinidad
Please plan to depart Port of Spain’s Piarco International Airport (POS) at your leisure. You need to be at the airport about three hours ahead of your scheduled flight on this return.
Extension Departures from Crown Point (TAB), Tobago
If you opt for the Tobago extension, we book your flight TO TOBAGO so that the group stays together.
YOU need to book your flight home FROM TOBAGO. You may depart on a flight from Tobago to Port of Spain at your leisure.
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Passports, Visas & Documents
You must have a passport that is in good condition and is valid for six months AFTER your scheduled return to the U.S. You should have at least one blank page per stamp. The blank pages need to say “Visas” at the top. Pages marked “Amendments and Endorsements” will not be accepted. If you are from another country, please contact the Trinidad/Tobago embassy website for guidelines. Information for U.S. citizens can be found at:
It is recommended to check for changes 60-90 days before your tour departs but, at the time of writing, a tourist visa is not required of US citizens for stays of this length. You will need proof of a return ticket. The necessary documents will be distributed by your airline while in flight or provided for you upon arrival. We advise that you bring your eContact list of hotels for use at immigration as well.
As a precaution for lost or misplaced documents you carry on your person during travel, we highly recommend you keep hard and digital backup copies on your phone (either photo or PDF scan), as well as a hard copy left with your emergency contact at home. The recommended important documents to copy include, but are not limited to; your passport ID page, travel visa, the front and back of your credit card(s), the airline barcode on your luggage. This will greatly expedite getting new ones if necessary – we hope everyone will always keep travel documents close so that losing them will not be an issue.
General Health & Inoculations Information - Be Prepared!
We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of medical emergency. Do bring any prescription medications with you and its best if you have a copy of the prescription in case of loss. A supply of standard over the counter medications for common ailments is recommended.
Anti-malarial drugs are not required for any area that you visit. There are occasional reports of Dengue Fever in lower elevation areas, for which there is no vaccine. Dengue fever, Zika, and other diseases are contacted by mosquito bites so be sure to use mosquito repellant containing DEET or Picaridin. Travelers can reduce their risk of disease by protecting themselves from mosquito bites in lower elevation areas by using protective clothing.
Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to and consult with your doctor about vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel, at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip. You may also contact the CDC by phone (800) CDC-INFO.
We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and medications for common ailments, as well as an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. You should bring an adequate supply of any prescription drugs you use, and in addition, a list of generic names of your medicine as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while in abroad. When traveling with medication, it is a good idea to pack any drugs you take regularly in your carry-on luggage. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers. It is also a good idea to carry with you an up-to-date record of known allergies or chronic medical problems so that emergency treatment, if necessary, can be carried out without endangering your health.
Weather & Climate
The climate of Trinidad and Tobago is tropical, hot all year round, with little seasonal variation. The maximum temperatures hover between 88?F and 91? year-round in the lowlands, with cooler temperatures found in the mountains. September and October are the warmest months, and January and February the least hot with temperatures dropping at times into the 70’s if large, regional storms are present. Luckily, the northeast trade winds blow all year round, tempering the heat.
Annoyances & Hazards
Mosquitoes can occur in the forests; therefore, a supply of insect repellent containing DEET is essential. At grassland or farm locations you may encounter chiggers, if so, spray your shoes with repellent, and tuck your pants into your socks, this helps a lot. When back, be sure to shower and air out your clothing. Chiggers are a part of lowland and mid-elevation habitats throughout Central and South America. Your guide should have a good read on if it has been wet enough that they are active. There can also be poisonous snakes and insects, though encountering them is rare. Do listen carefully to any advice given by your local guide. And remember the sun is strong and be prepared with proper protection.
Food & Drinks
Menus at lodges and restaurants are varied, sustainably based on the wonderful local ingredients available, and delightfully prepared in a sanitary environment. As with any case when traveling we urge you to consider what your body is used to before you eat something. Trust your common sense when consuming food and beverages. This is the best way to avoid any unwanted problems. Ask for referrals from your hotel or a guidebook such as Frommers.
Bottled water will be available for field trips and drinking water is provided for you to refill a bottle. One of the many ways we strive to do our part for the environment is by trying to reduce our consumption of plastics; we appreciate if you can bring reusable water bottles.
Packing, Clothing & Laundry
Dress is very informal and laundry services are available for a fee at our lodges. While some people will change for dinner, it is usually just to a drier or cleaner version of what they wore during the day. Again, the climate is warm to hot, so you will be comfortable in lightweight clothing.
Please, pack light. We are serious about this – we move around a lot; you just do not need much to cope with tropical life! Please do not bring anything more than you must. Lay out your hopeful things to take and then do a serious paring down please! And please do not pack any essential medications, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!
TRAVEL TIP: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field, have one day’s clothing change, and a change of underwear!
The official currency in Trinidad & Tobago is the Trinidad and Tobago dollar. We advise you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as cash, an ATM card, and a credit card. For the current exchange rate, please refer to an online converter tool like www.xe.com or your bank. U.S. dollars in good condition (no rips or tears) are taken as a form of payment but shopping for smaller handicrafts may necessitate using local currency.
When using the ATM to withdrawal cash, keep in mind it might only accept cards from local banks or not allow cash advances on credit cards. Many U.S. banks charge a fee of $1 - $5 each time you use a foreign ATM. Others may charge you a percentage of the amount you withdraw. Check with your bank before departure. You must become familiar with how to use your ATM card and PIN number ahead of the journey.
We suggest you have more than one card available, if possible. You may want to bring more than one brand of card (VISA and Mastercard are commonly accepted; American Express is less common). You can use credit cards at lodges to pay your bar and gift tabs. Not every shop will accept every card. Some smaller shops and restaurants, or taxis require cash, so it is always a good idea to ask before making a purchase. Also, we recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling abroad to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges. If you have a choice of cards, bring one with no foreign exchange fees.
Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted. They can be difficult to exchange. We do not advise you use them.
Tipping is optional and completely at your discretion. If you would like to show our appreciation to your guides, lodge and hotel staff or anyone associated with this tour, it is entirely appropriate. Know that they appreciate anything you care to give and of course you can do more if you wish! Lodges normally have a box for tips that the staff share, and hotels you would just tip the maids as you do at home. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services.
Here is a standard suggestion for tipping on birding trips:
- Birding tour guide: US $10.00 - $15.00 per day per guest
Note: If there is more than one guide, this can be split among them, so that is a total, per person, per day
- Tour driver if different from guide: US $5.00 - $7.00 per person/day
- Lodge staff: US $6.00 - $10.00 per day per guest
- Transfer (airport shuttle) driver: US $2.00 - $3.00 per person
- Hotel & international airport bellmen: US $1.00 per suitcase
You may wish to bring small gifts for local people that you meet and enjoy (this is totally optional!). T-shirts, school supplies like pens and small notebooks, inexpensive watches and baseball caps are always popular. Your guides can pass along school supplies to a local school if you bring them. They also love any nature books/coloring books.
Cell Phones & Internet Service
If you plan on using your cell phone on this trip, please check with your wireless provider to see if your
phone and service will work in your destination country. Ask for “international roaming” to be turned on on your phone. Or you can buy a local SIM card at the airport and insert this in your mobile phone (just make certain your phone can accept one). Renting an international phone may also be an option.
If your phone can connect to Wi-Fi, you may be able to make voice and video calls free of charge. Please contact your cell phone provider for further details. Another option if you have access to Wi-Fi, is to use smartphone apps like Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber to send text messages, and make voice calls, or video calls. Many smartphones, tablets, or laptops come with one of these apps pre-installed or you can download for free. If bringing a laptop or tablet, get a good dustcover to protect it at all times.
Make sure if you do NOT want to use your cell phone that you turn off your cellular data. You could incur huge charges if you are not on Wi-Fi. Putting your phone in airplane mode if you mainly use it for photos will save the battery as well.
Your hotels and most local restaurants provide Wi-Fi at least in their common areas. Although it is generally a reliable service, it can be affected by adverse weather conditions due to the remote location.
The standard in Trinidad & Tobago is the same as in the United States and Canada: 110 volts AC (60 cycles). Plugs are set up in the same style. However, three-pronged outlets can be scarce and existing three-prong outlets may feature even-sized flat blade plugs, so it's helpful to bring along adapters for both two- and three-prong outlets. More information can be found at www.power-plugs-sockets.com.
Trinidad and Tobago are on Atlantic Standard Time, with no daylight savings time. Check www.timeanddate.com before leaving home for your conversion.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys or telephone at our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!
Pace & Protocols +
Pace of the Tour & What to Expect
You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.
Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.
The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.
We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.
Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role
Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.
Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.
As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.
Photo Release & Sharing
We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.
By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.
You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global Rescue, World Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.
Packing List +
Please pack light!
Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid hard-sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle. It is our hope that you can pack in one checked suitcase that does not exceed 45 pounds. This is the tropics, you do not need that much!
Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a day pack for field trips, so this is an ideal carry-on. Please reconfirm your airline’s baggage weight and size restrictions about a week or so before departure.
Trinidad and Tobago has “perfect weather” — warm with tropical breezes, though it may feel hot by US standards. Average temperatures are in the 80s-90°F in the lowlands, and perhaps 10°F cooler near the coast and at higher elevations. Winter storm events to the north may drive temperatures into lows of 70°F, and night temperatures can dip to the 50°Fs. Trinidad and Tobago’s rainy season is usually from June to December. At any time of year, we can encounter heavy rainstorms that last for several hours, but most rains are for shorter duration and intermittent, they also cool everything down so are often welcomed. Wildlife often stays active (they are used to it!) so we stay out too. Bring an umbrella – you can continue to use your binoculars and enjoy an outing regardless.
Dress is comfortable and informal throughout the trip. Dressing in layers is the best way to be comfortable. Lightweight long sleeve shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing as they are more protective from sun and vegetation. Choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty or muddy and things that are comfortable and easy.
Note on clothing colors and insect repellent: We recommend muted colors of tan, brown, khaki, grey or green, as they are spotted less easily than white or bright colors. Camouflage clothing is illegal to wear or possess in many tropical birding destinations. Such clothing may be confiscated, and, at worst, you may be subject to arrest. Best not to bring those patterns!
It is possible to purchase field clothing permeated with insect repellent such as the Craghoppers Insect Shield collection. Another approach is to purchase Permethrin spray to treat your field clothing and socks before your departure.
Clothing & Gear
- Lightweight long pants (2-3 pair)
- Shorts (optional)
- Lightweight long sleeve shirts (2-3)
- T-shirts or equivalent (1 per day – remember you may be buying some there anyway!)
- Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes or a skirt, sundress, etc.)
- Personal underclothing and pajamas
- Socks – lightweight and easy to wash and dry (long enough to tuck your pants into)
- Comfortable walking shoes (such as tennis shoes)
- Lightweight hiking boots. Please note that forest trails will be on uneven terrain and may be muddy – good tread and support are essential
- Sandals for evenings, travel days, and to wear on boats (optional, Teva style are great)
- Lightweight jacket; fleece fabric is ideal
- Lightweight raincoat or poncho
- Bathing suit
- Hat with broad brim
- Bandana (gel bandanas work well to keep you cool)
- Field vest (optional), a great source is Big Pockets
Equipment & Miscellaneous
- E-ticket verification
- Passport, and a photocopy kept elsewhere
- Money pouch or equivalent to carry your money and passport with you at all times
- Camera and extra batteries/battery chargers, memory cards, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual (optional-an online version can be downloaded to your phone)
- Umbrella – compact and not brightly colored (a great option for occasional rain as you can keep using your binoculars)
- Small daypack or fanny pack for carrying your field gear
- Walking stick – we find many travelers appreciate a walking stick on trails; recommend collapsible models that will fit in your suitcase (optional)
- Small flashlight with fresh batteries. Please note that if you like to read at night, lighting in other countries is often poor in the rooms and you may want to bring a book light, headlamp or flashlight for this purpose.
- April to July: Red light or plastic covering for your light, for seeing turtles on the beach at night
- Alarm clock, or use your cell phone
- Sunscreen/lip balm with SPF
- Sunglasses with neck strap
- Insect repellent (something containing DEET; for chiggers, sulphur powder if available)
- Toilet articles
- Spotting scope and tripod (optional)
- Tablet or laptop for personal use and/or transferring photos, USB cord and charger (optional)
- Chargers for cameras and/or phones
- Electrical converter and adapter plugs
- Water bottle (or plan to refill one purchased on location)
- Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
- Field guides (optional)
- Sink plug (often not available, a flat universal one is easiest to use)
- Washcloth (may not always be available)
- Earplugs (if hotel noise or roommates snoring may bother you; these are optional
- Laundry soap if you plan to hand wash articles of clothing
- Rechargeable power bank (optional)
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!
Medical & First Aid
- Personal medications
- Personal first aid kit and medications for general ailments (Imodium or Lomotil, antihistamine cream or tablets, eye drops, etc.)
- Motion sickness preventatives, if likely to be needed on bus, van drives, etc.
- Copy of eyeglass prescription, copy of medical prescriptions, and any medical alerts
- Insurance information
- Vaccination records
- Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
- Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
- Antibacterial hand gel, small vial
Suggested Reading List +
There are many titles of interest for Trinidad & Tobago; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.
Merlin App – Trinidad and Tobago Pack. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Before departing the U.S., download the app for free, then from within the app, download the “pack” for Trinidad and Tobago.
Wildlife & Nature
History & Culture
There is a good selection of books available for sale at visitors’ centers, and your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.
Useful Links +
Overview of Ecuador
Quito - Capital of Ecuador
Free, printable maps of Ecuador
Hacienda San Agustin del Callo
Nature, Wildlife & Biology
Ecuador Birding Overview
Ecuador Bird Checklist
Guango Lodge Hummingbird Garden
Birds and Mammals of Imbabura
Conservation, Parks & Reserves
Cotopaxi National Park
Antisana National Park
Geology & Geography
Geology of Ecuador
Geography of Ecuador
History & Culture
History of Ecuador
Culture of Ecuador
Cuisine of Ecuador
Arts of Ecuador
Speaking Spanish in Ecuador
Helpful Travel Websites
Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO)
National Passport Information Center
U.S. Department of State International Travel Information - Ecuador
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Ecuador
Canada Travel Advice and Advisories - Ecuador
Travel Health Pro (UK) - Ecuador
Foreign Exchange Rates
Electricity and Plugs - Ecuador
Date, Time, and Holidays - Ecuador
Photo credits: Banners: Channel-billed Toucan by Steve Wolfe; Long-billed Startthroat by Hugh Simmons Photography; Scarlet Peacock by Peg Abbott; Bananaquit Feeding Frenzy by Hugh Simmons Photography; Bearded Bellbird by Bob Rodrigues; Clear-winged Butterfly by Ray Mendez; Birding at Breakfast by Sandy Sorkin; Blue-chinned Sapphire by Steve Wolfe Bananaquit Breakfast, Sandy Sorkin (SS); Barred Antshrike, Kim Wright; Tropical Screech-Owl, MB; Birding from the Verandah, Peg Abbott (PA); Lopinot Valley, Mukesh Ramdass; Cacao Beans, Lynn Tennefoss; Exploring the Centre’s Trails, Caligo Ventures Stock (CVS); White-bearded Manakin, Dave Ramdass; Birding at Bellbird Lek, DL; Bearded Bellbird, Bob Rodrigues; Tufted Coquette, RW; Oilbirds, Buck Snelson (BS); Green Honeycreeper, SS; Scarlet Ibis, DL; Red-capped Cardinal, CVS; Butterfly Orchid, BS; Red Howler Monkeys, HT; Yellow-rumped Cacique, Mike Boyce (MB); White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, SS; Ruby-spotted Swallowtail, CVS; Blue-and-yellow Macaw, PA; Barred Antshrike, Doug Greenberg; AWNC, Mike Boyce; Bananaquit, Doug Greenberg; Bearded Bellbird, Doug Greenberg; Crested Oropendula, Doug Greenberg; Navigating the swamp, Doug Greenberg; Oilbird, Doug Greenberg; Green Honeycreeper, Doug Greenberg.