With a great deal of patience we waited, floating on the Caroni Swamp. We had been told that the scarlet ibis are always punctual and that they never miss a day. After all, they only appear here once a day.
Little by little, we started hearing a flutter, and the first red dots appeared in the sky. For the next 20 minutes, the birds assembled themselves in a way that they covered the thick mangrove — so much that the red dominated the green of the trees. Even the intense heat seemed appeased and all I could hear was the breeze and the movement of wings.
These winged visitors, the elusive scarlet ibis, are the main attraction of boat tours in the Caroni Bird Sanctuary on the west coast of Trinidad, a few miles from the capital, Port of Spain. The ibis is the national bird of this Caribbean island and being able to see them is the perfect culmination to a journey through the lagoons, canals and mangroves of this swamp.
Many people weather the high temperatures, which characterize this island, to enjoy this natural spectacle. A wide raft carrying a group of them, many of them tourists, ventures on its way to the spot where 6,000 acres of mangroves and canals create a stage for alligators, owls, snakes, spiders and many other animals.
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The deep crimson of the scarlet ibis comes from the pigments of shrimp, crab and other crustaceans that it feeds on. Hundreds of birds gather on the marshes daily, making what seems to be a recap of the day, before nesting for the night.
The scarlet ibis is also common in the north region of Venezuela, eastern parts of Colombia and western Brazil.
Trinidad is very popular among nature lovers, which is not surprising because it’s home to more than 450 native bird species, 600 butterfly species and 700 orchid varieties.
Other attractions include Yerette, where guests can see wild hummingbirds; the Nariva Swamp, which is a favorite of bird watchers; and the Asa Wright Nature Centre (asawright.org), hidden in the tropical forest, which houses a wide range of animal and plant species.
▪ Information: www.gotrinidadandtobago.com