Asa Wright Nature Centre and Lodge

The high-pitched whir of an old electric fan grows louder and louder. Then, the roar of a convoy of trucks laboring up a hill fills the early-morning air. But it’s all a trick.

‘That’s the cicada,’ a guide explains.

The insect with transparent wings is a master of sound effects. By vibrating muscles in its tiny abdomen, it can sound like a sputtering engine or a siren.

‘Do this,’ the guide instructs, pushing his ears forward. Cup your ears and the cicada’s sounds are amplified magnificently.

Such secrets of the rainforest are revealed at the Asa Wright Nature Centre and Lodge, in Blanchisseusse, in the Arima Valley, in the Northern Range of Trinidad.

The Centre was established in 1967 to promote the conservation of the ecosystems and wildlife of the valley. Originally a cocoa and coffee estate, it encompasses 720 acres of rolling hillsides, waterfalls and streams. A birdwatcher’s paradise, it is home to 159 species. The Discovery Trail includes the lek or community of the golden manakin which dive bombs and moonwalks in an elaborate courtship dance. From the veranda of the 100-year-old house, visitors can spot the tufted coquette, a tiny hummingbird with a Carnival headdress; the iridescent teal honeycreeper; the white bearded bellbird, and so many more in glorious costumes. The Guacharo Trail leads to the cave of the oilbird, the world’s only nocturnal fruit-eating bird, whose young were once harvested for fuel for lamps. The oil bird is also called devil bird because of its mournful howling.

This is the place to play explorer or just escape. The rooms are spartan, shabby even, but you may not mind much, with the great outdoors awaiting. And Nature’s show never stops. On the night tour, under the light of a thousand stars, look for cute little tree frogs and hairy tarantula spiders, as big as the palm of your hand.

  • Pack insect repellent, long pants, rain ponchos, closed shoes with good tread. And a flashlight. Lighting on paths to some rooms is subtle’and inadequate when one has to get the key in the lock.
  • Meals (simple but tasty) are included in cost of stay. Afternoon tea is forgettable. Call ahead with dietary restrictions; beef and pork are served regularly. But Asa Wright grows and brews its own vigorous blend of coffee.
  • Organise transportation from airport before you get on the plane. Taxis are reluctant to navigate the bumpy road to the resort and will turn you down.
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