Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the two major islands of Trinidad and Tobago. The island lies 11 km (6.8 mi) off the northeastern coast of Venezuela and sits on the continental shelf of South America. Though geographically part of the South American continent, from a socio-economic standpoint it is often referred to as the southernmost island in the Caribbean.
Yet, technically being part of South America gives Trinidad a rich biodiversity. There are about 100 species of mammals including the Guyanan red howler monkey, the collared peccary, the red brocket deer, the ocelot and about 70 species of bats. There are over 400 species of birds including the endemic Trinidad piping-guan. Reptiles are well represented, with about 92 recorded species including the largest species of snake in the world, the green anaconda, the spectacled caiman, and one of the largest lizards in the Americas, the green iguana.
The largest of turtles (the leatherback turtle) nests on Trinidad’s eastern and northern beaches. There are 37 recorded frog species, including the tiny El Tucuche golden tree frog, and the more widespread huge cane toad. About 43 species of freshwater fishes are known from Trinidad, including the well known guppy. It is estimated that there are at least 80,000 arthropods, and at least 600 species of butterflies.
Trinidad will not disappoint you, and is not to be missed in your Caribbean adventures!
One of the most exciting populations on Trinidad is that of the Oilbird, birds that live in colonies in caves. They are the only nocturnal flying fruit-eating birds in the world, using echolocation to navigate through the dark forests, much like bats. Oilbirds occur throughout several countries in South America, but the colony in Trinidad could easily be the most accessible. Luckily, the Asa Wright Nature Centre, who owns the land where the colony occurs, is controlling access and limiting disturbance to these birds.
Trinidad is also home to one of the best birding spectacles in the world, and it occurs every evening. Get yourself to Caroni Swamp in the afternoon to secure a spot on a rowboat that will take you deep into the 12,000-acre swamp and bird sanctuary to see thousands of Scarlet Ibises come in to roost for the evening. In a span of just 30 minutes, the trees go from green to red, as the birds crowd onto the branches and find a resting spot. What’s more, many of the boat operators are knowledgeable of the local birds and will point out what they see as you make your way to the Scarlet Ibis roosting area. Expect to see birds like the Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Black-crested Antshrike, and maybe even a Tropical Screech-owl!