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Due to their proximity to South America (they lie just a few miles off the coast of Venezuela) and the islands’ continental origins, Trinidad and Tobago are home to an extremely diverse range of plant and animal life. There are almost one hundred different mammals, some 400 birds and, at the last count, 617 butterflies, as well as over 2,200 species of flowering plants – so there’s plenty for wildlife enthusiasts to take in.
Your first port of call should be the Asa Wright Nature Centre on Trinidad, one of the first such centres to be established in the Caribbean and home to a staggering variety of birdlife. Set up to protect part of the Arima Valley, the Asa Wright centre is at least partly responsible for having kept this area so pristine and the reward for visitors is the chance to see squirrel cuckoos, toucans and parrots flying past the gallery, plus tufted coquettes and numerous other species of hummingbird feeding on the vervain by the reception area.
Over on Tobago more superlative birdwatching is on offer at the Cuffie River Nature Retreat where the secluded tropical rainforest is home to some 98 different species of birds including parrots, hummingbirds and owls. Stay in one of the upmarket guest rooms here and you may even find your new feathered friends will come visiting at your own private balcony.
If you’d like to make more than just a financial contribution by visiting, also on Trinidad you’ll find the Travel Foundation's turtle conservation project, which is working to prevent the decline of the leatherback turtle population, a species threatened with extinction.
Visitors can volunteer on the project at Matura beach, participating in the nightly data collection, monitoring the nesting beach and cleaning up the area. Hard work on this project can be combined with bird watching, hiking to visit the howler monkeys in the nearby forest and swimming in the river – so your hard work will be well rewarded.
Over on Tobago the Travel Foundation is also working on a marine conservation project, Tobago’s waters are home to some of the world’s most spectacular reef systems but in 2005 a mass-bleaching was caused by high sea temperatures and a record number of hurricanes in the Caribbean as a whole.
Volunteer to help care for the reef by joining this project and you’ll be given scuba gear and sent out on survey dives to collect vital information for the development of coastal habitat protection. Even novice divers can get involved as a week’s training is offered before the programme starts for those who need it.
If you don’t want to volunteer, simply stay at one of the islands’ responsibly operated hotels and you can relax in style knowing that you’ve made a contribution too. The Adventure Ecovillas resort is nestled among the tropical fauna and flora of a 12-acre nature reserve and organic farm just a moment away from one of the island’s gorgeous palm-fringed beaches. Furnished in Caribbean style, the villas have luxurious bedrooms, fully equipped kitchens and panoramic views of the nature reserve and the resort has recently been awarded the 2010 Green Leaf Award from the Environment Management Authority so you can be sure your stay is helping the environment too.
Overlooking the beautiful Bay of Castara on Tobago our Tobago beach accommodation, offers stunning views of both the Caribbean ocean and the lush green mountains of the island’s interior.
Set in lush tropical gardens complete with sun terraces, a sheltered pagoda and shady spots where you can relax under the mango trees, the retreat’s six high-quality apartments and lodges have been specially designed to allow for spacious outdoor living. In keeping with the retreat’s eco-aware philosophy, the stylish timber structures were planned to compliment to landscape – proving that development need not spoil these idyllic islands.
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