Monday, November 06, 2006

Caroni Swamp Tour

The Caroni Bird Sanctuary is a reserve within a mangrove swamp covering 40 square miles. Just before sunset flocks of glowing, fire engine red birds start appearing, first by the dozens and then by the hundreds. They roost on the mangrove islands and are joined by snowy white egrets and herons. Soon it looks like a Christmas tree with white and red ornaments.
The scarlet ibis is the national bird of Trinidad and despite being a protected species since 1962, its' numbers are decreasing. They get their brilliant red plumage from their diet of crab, shrimp and snails.
Jesse had arranged a guided tour of the swamp especially for a group of our friends. Fourteen of us traveled by maxi taxi and then by boat into the swamp. We had an excellent guide and happily Jesse joined us too. We brought "sundowners" and appetizers to enjoy as we watched the scarlet ibis return to roost.

The boat followed a winding course through the mangroves. There are four different kinds here - red, white, black and buttonwood. We saw two large snakes sleeping on branchs overhead. This one woke up with all the noise and looked at us quite intently. We looked back just as fascinated (but were careful not to get too close!)

The sight of the spectacular ibis, egrets and herons flocking as the sun set created the oohs and aahs usually reserved for fireworks shows among our group. As the darkness settled in we motored our way back through the narrow mangrove channels and our adventure was over all too soon.

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