Caroni Swamp

By Leah Pyne

As a plant and tree lover, going to Caroni Swamp was one of the activities I was very excited for. In my head, it was going to be lush and green and full of tangled roots reaching up out of the water. I was not disappointed.

We arrived at the swamp a little late due to heavy traffic through Port of Spain, but the people running the boat tours were able to call the last boat back for us since it had just left and there had been enough room left to accommodate our group. I was grinning from ear to ear as we sat in the boat and entered the channel.

Our guide pointed out the three different kinds of mangroves as we entered the swamp: red, white and black. White had broader leaves than black and red had roots that hung down rather than grew out of the water like the black and white mangroves. As we went along we spotted a snake chilling in a tree. And a little further on we encountered two more, a male and a female, told apart by their size. We also encountered a few blue herons and some scarlet ibises roosting in the trees. They stood out like gems in the green of the leaves. I loved looking into the mangroves and seeing the tangle of roots with the sun shining through the leaves making everything dappled in light.

Caroni swamp is the second biggest mangrove wetland in Trinidad and Tobago and is an important habitat for the scarlet ibis which come to roost in a particular set of trees every night. It was these birds we had really come to see. They came in flocks of bright red flashes and speckled the trees like berries on a bush. Their color was so vibrant it didn’t seem real to me, especially in such large quantities.

We were looking at their trees across a large lagoon so they were far enough away so that they seemed more like spots of color than birds. But with the help of binoculars they were quite easy to pick out of their deep green background. Our guide told us that the juveniles didn’t get their color for a year or two and you could tell them apart from the adults because they were a blue grey color. Knowing this, it was interesting to see that the juveniles came in separate flocks from the adults although they all roosted all together.

As we left the swamp the sky turned orange and yellow in a beautiful sunset. A wonderful way to end our last day in Trinidad.