Fun Things to See and Do in Trinidad

After visiting The Pitch Lake and The Sea Temple in Trinidad with our friends Mel and Caryn S/V Passages, we also shared a drive to the Northern Range and spent a day birdwatching near the Arima Valley.

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Asa Wright Nature Center and Lodge is a nature resort and scientific research station where we found ourselves surrounded by Yellowtails, Manakins and tiny hummingbirds of all colors coming to eat fresh fruits and to drink sugar water from the feeders. The place, 1, 500 acres of forested land, is so magnificent, we felt as if we were in the Garden of Eden.

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In the afternoon we managed to drive some more and arrive at the Caroni Swamp park in time for a guided tour of the large wetland of the Caroni river delta located on the west coast of Trinidad. Here tourists from around the world come to watch the Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad’s national bird.

Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad

Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad

The Scarlet Ibis resembles the American white ibis, but its remarkably brilliant scarlet coloration makes it unmistakable. It has protected status everywhere on the planet.

The motorboat we were in with a bunch of other tourists took us to a place where the birds come to sleep at night in the trees of a small island and we witnessed the most spectacular event: flocks of Scarlet Ibis flying in V-formations started to arrive just before sunset, and gradually the small green island in front of us became peppered with bright red birds, like rose blossoms.

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Another place we enjoyed visiting in Trinidad was the Bamboo Cathedral. Bamboo is an invasive species introduced on the island from Asia and it is now everywhere. Forests of bamboo.

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The locals use it for construction, for musical instruments, for carved souvenirs and for all sorts of things. For us driving around and walking surrounded by tall bamboo trees was another beautiful experience. And of course, Ivo had to prove he still had his monkey powers.

Ivo up in the Bamboo Cathedral

Ivo up in the Bamboo Cathedral

A few days later, we had the honor to visit a Christmas celebration with cruising and local friends in the Queen’s Park Oval– the largest cricket stadium ground in the West Indies, located in Port of Spain.

This stadium which the locals call “the Oval” has hosted more Test matches than any other ground in the Caribbean, including many World Series Cricket games in 1979 and matches of the 2007 Cricket World Cup. Considered by many players, journalists and critics as one of the most picturesque cricket venues, the ground had hosted many first class tours as early as the 1897.
Here we listened to live music performed by local musicians, among which a steelpan band. Traditionally, steelpans have been built from used oil barrels with hummers. The history of the steelpan music is fascinating.

Steelpan Band, Trinidad

Steelpan Band, Trinidad

After the French Revolution French planters immigrated to Trinidad bringing along their slaves from Martinique, Saint Vincent, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Dominica, establishing a local community and importing the tradition of Carnival with them. The slaves could not take part in Carnival, so they formed their own celebration called Canboulay. The makeshift musical instruments which they used were made from bamboo sticks, frying pans, dustbin lids, bottles and spoons, and oil drums made by 55-gallon used oil barrels, as the oil industry on the island was picking up speed. The tradition of the steelpans developed and grew.

In 1951 the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO), formed to attend the Festival of Britain, was the first steelband whose instruments were all made from oil drums.

But our favorite musical event in Trinidad remains the piano-evening we organized at the marina in TTSA, Chaguaramas.

Every Monday at around 6 p.m., the cruisers from the anchorage gather on the patio of the marina for a potluck BBQ bringing tasty homemade delights to share. We loved this tradition and participated every time while in Trinidad.

Getting the BBQ ready

Getting the BBQ ready

But one particular Monday we had Stamen playing the piano for us. Stamen is another Bulgarian full-time sailor and cruiser aboard S/V Gaia, together with his wife Durita from Norway. He is also a professional piano and organ player whom we met in Trinidad and hope to meet again someday, some place. Stamen installed his electrical piano near the long table and played for the cruisers, about a dozen of us, all evening and well into the night, starting with some classical pieces: Beethoven, Mozart and Bah, and then on to old evergreen songs like Hotel California, Let it Be, and even some Christmas carols. He can play any tune as long as someone sings the first couple of notes, and he did. We were all singing in between eating and drinking, and we didn’t want the night to end.

Stamen, S/V Gaia

Stamen, S/V Gaia

Other places we enjoyed visiting in Trinidad were the big shopping centers, the cinema and the Saturday Market in Port of Spain, where early in the morning farmers are selling all sorts of produce, fish and meat at very low prices.

"Feet" Port of Spain, Trinidad, Saturday Market

“Feet” Port of Spain, Trinidad, Saturday Market

We also loved the local food and tried the best roti in town as well as the best doubles. Actually, only I loved them, Ivo and Maya were not so enthusiastic, especially about the doubles, which look like puke served in a piece of paper and are very spicy.

Mira getting a double

Mira getting a double

Maya was also very happy in the anchorage in Trinidad where she found a new friend, James S/V Margy, and would spend every minute with him, studying side by side in the morning outside on the terrace of the TTSA marina, riding a bike and playing videogames the rest of the time.

Maya's school in Trinidad

Maya’s school in Trinidad

Maya and James

Maya and James

Before we left Trinidad for Tobago, we sailed to Chacachacare, a small island just 8 miles from Venezuela. Chacachacare is an abandoned uninhabited island, once a leper colony, covered in dry tropical vegetation: Manchineel trees, cacti and aloes.

The Doctor's House

The Doctor’s House

We dropped anchor near the long pier in front of a building that was once a sanatorium and we explore the shores. There are a few abandoned ruins of buildings on the island reclaimed by nature: the Leper Asylum, the doctor’s house, the nun’s quarters and other houses, and exploring them is both exiting and dangerous. They even had a road, sections of which still can be found in the forest.

Mira at the steps of one of the ruins in Chacachacare

Mira at the steps of one of the abandoned buildings in Chacachacare

The island was abandoned by the 1980s when the nuns left their quarters and when the last leper that was on the island died in 1984. The colony had been abandoned since.

Today, Chacachacare remains uninhabited except for staff maintaining the Lighthouse still functioning on the island and the Hindu Temple founded in 1945 which continues to be functional with religious activities.

Pier

Pier and leper asylum

In 1999, Donald Trump visited Chacachacare during the Miss Universe contest and thought of having a casino and hotel built on the island, which never happened.

After Chacachacare, we left Trinidad, an island we enjoyed visiting so much, and sailed northeast to Tobago.

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