headermask image

sugar cane arrows

‘Id Mubarak!

Masjid an Nabi

It’s ‘Id ul Fitr once again, the Muslim celebration that comes after the month of fasting, Ramadhan. I haven’t posted in a while but what else is new ūüėČ Rest assured that there are cookings and plannings going on in the household, particularly as this year I am in la casa familial in Trinidad. Even got here a couple days before so I could be part of the planning with Lilandra and Mom.

So what’s on the menu?

Eid ul Fitr menu - Lamb Biriyani

  • Mutton biriyani for dinner this evening as ‘Id technically begins from the setting of the sun on the last day of fasting.
  • Baked lamb
  • Super cheesey 3-cheese scalloped potatoes
  • Caramelised onion and mushroom tart (on phyllo)
  • Za’atar
  • flat bread
  • Hummus
  • Saheena (the kind that is dasheen bhaji leaves rolled up around ground dhal)
  • Samosas
  • Gulab jamoon
  • And of course….sawine!
  • I hope everyone enjoys Eid, and of course the 49th anniversary of Trinidad and Tobago’s independence! Fortunate T&T with 2 holidays to celebrate Eid ul Fitr this year :-)

    Asa Wright Nature Centre

    Hummingbird on tree I started these posts about Trinidad and Tobago back in January, and although I haven’t continued since February, there are still a few more places to visit from my must-see list for Trinidad and Tobago! Asa Wright Nature Centre is in the Northern Range in Trinidad, in the North-East-ish area of the island (it’s not all the way to Toco, which is the North-East peninsula, but just above the Borough of Arima). It’s a nature reserve in the mountains, originally comprising an old cocoa and coffee estate, which has been somewhat expanded over the years, so the reserve now comprises 1500 acres in the Arima and Aripo Valleys.

    The Centre has a main house, restaurant, overnight accommodation and picnic areas for day visits. You call ahead to book a tour and guided hike through the forest trails, with the knowledgeable guides showing you the flora and fauna – we saw squirrels, bell birds, white bearded manakins, purple honeycreepers, corn birds, LOTS of hummingbirds, large lizards, and some semi-tame agouti! The main trail (Discovery Trail) they take all visitors on is fairly easy – going gently downhill (so unfortunately, the route back to the house is uphill, but gentle…). There are many other trails, but I think you have to arrange a special tour in advance for these…also if you are in a large group, school tour etc. But if you are really into eco-tourism and hiking through nature, I think you might want to look into a longer, more expansive hike/trail, so give them a call (or email) to find out what’s possible.

    the view of the reserve

    I think I first went to Asa Wright as part of a UWI Biological Society visit in my first year on campus, where we did go beyond the main trail and passed over some streams and near a waterfall. That certainly is not on the usual path – although there are a couple waterfall rock pools within easy access which visitors are allowed to use.¬†The Centre is a hotspot for birdwatching in particular, and the main house has the greatest verandah set up to see the birds…many species…not to mention the view of the mountains and valley!

    Swooping inThere are bird feeders strategically located around the verandah, and the hummingbird feeders are hung right around. The day we visited in December, there were 2 humingbirds in particular who had both set their sights on one particular feeder, notwithstanding the 5 or 6 other feeders around and the fact that there were no other hummingbirds around. So for the duration of our visit, we were treated to these 2, alternately commandeering the desired feeder, while the other waited on a nearby tree, and then swooping in fast to scare off the one at the feeder. Over and over and over. It did give me lots of chances to get some action shots of these super-fast birds though, plus the entertainment factor!

    Asa Wright has facilities for overnight stays, in the main house, or in cottages on the grounds. In fact if you want to see the oil bird habitat, you have to be staying at least 3 nights, since it’s an night trek, and they try to limit the number of disturbances for these birds. The restaurant is on premises, but if you are just a day-visitor you need to order a meal in advance. Otherwise you are limited to ordering food from the verandah bar (mostly sandwiches, but not bad at all). They serve coffee which they grow on the grounds (remember, a former coffee estate!) and make use of the fertile lands to have a kitchen garden for their restaurant use.

    Asa Wright - Variety of BirdsAs with any service, things are dependent on the people involved. My previous visits have all encountered super friendly and informative persons at Asa Wright. It was always a bit of a hassle to make arrangements in the days before cellphones and email as you had to call a number in Arima (no phones up the mountains) and wait for confirmations etc. These days it’s much easier although you still have to call or email the day before to book the tour/trail. They do normal tours at 10.30 am and at 1.30 pm, which is included in the visitor’s entrance fee.

    The day we were heading up there, we were early, until we hit unexpected and awful traffic in Maloney. Snail crawling through Arima. We called ahead to let them know we were running late but were trying to make it on time. The call kept dropping (which is why we weren’t able to reserve lunch) but at some point they told us, well the guide will wait for 10 minutes and then leave with the tour and we might have to be taken to catch up. Ok…no problem. I used my best skills to drive up the mountain and we got there JUST on time. Paid etc, went to find the guide and realised…it was just us for this tour. Only us…the guide would have been setting off on the trail all by herself? Small blip though, and the lady serving us our sandwiches afterwards was super nice. Even though we didn’t get our coffee.

    After our relatively short hike, we came back and limed on the verandah for a couple hours at least. I do know we were still there when people came for their 1.30 tour. It’s just so very relaxing to sit on that verandah and look out at the beautiful Northern Range mountains. One day, I think I must stay overnight to fully take advantage of that place.

    We had to leave eventually, since we had reservations for Tea at Mount St Benedict! All the way down this mountain above Arima and up the mountain above St Augustine :-) More on that in the next post… (although you can see Chookooloonks posted about her visit there recently).

    Slideshow of my Flickr set on Asa Wright

    For more of my touring the homeland, you can see these posts –

    Tastes of Belize

    Salbutes- BelizeI am here up late, watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (on Food Network) where Guy Fieri is visiting a Belizean establishment in Chicago. I’ve been to Belize quite a few times but I can’t say I have sampled the whole range of cuisines. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, so while there are clear similarities in some of the foods to the rest of the West Indies, grounded in the history of the people, from Africa, and the tropical foods and provisions available, there are some influences that set Belize apart from its Eastern Caribbean neighbours (far neighbours, I admit).

    Belize has many foods that would be at home in Mexico for example – in Belize City you can find so many little establishments selling corn tortilla and taco like foods, tamales, as staples in Belizean street food.

    Garnaches - Belize

    The photo at the top is of saltbutes which are fried corn rounds that puff up when fried, topped with meats, beans, salsa, cheese. The weight of the toppings sink into the middle. This one was veggie Рjust refried beans, veggies and salsa. Very good.

    On the right, we have Garnaches, which¬†are crispy fried flat corn circles, with toppings – like refried beans, salsa, onions and cheese. Of course you can get these with meat… They’re like round corn tortilla chips and may look light, but with the toppings they can quite fill you up!

    These are the foods which are common to Central America. But the episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives I was looking at, was actually about a Garifuna establishment – the Garifuna nation comprises the descendants¬†of Carib peoples of the Lesser Antilles and of Africans who had escaped from slavery – the British moved these people across the Caribbean to Central America. And so the food seems to be a combination of African influences (like the mashed plantains) and Amerindian, with the intensive use of cassava. But don’t rely on me for information – this is still a much-to-be-discovered area for me.

    You can look at Wikipedia of course, or this blog on my blogroll, Rice and Beans, by a Belizean who’s actually writing post-graduate dissertations on food and culture! This was an interesting article highlighting foods and activities in Belize.

    And of course Belize is famous for its Marie Sharp pepper sauces and condiments!

    As a non-food note, I’ve always found that elements of the Guyanese accent are similar to (some) Belizeans – maybe it’s more in the approach to pronouncing words, or the particular drawl or rhythm…I’ve always put it down to Guyana, like Belize, being the only English-speaking country amid the latin nations. Accents, like food, interest me :-) It’s a occupational-hazard….

    How do you like your Hops?

    So, how do you like your hops? And no, this has nothing to do with beer…you do remember whose blog you’re visiting right? I know I haven’t posted in ages (despite the flurry of activity in January) but still, this is me, Chennette, the island-hopping Muslim, from Trinidad and Tobago!

    In case you don’t remember my post from about three years ago, Hops is a type of bread in Trinidad and Tobago. It’s a fluffy on the inside, shattering-crust on the outside, ubiquitous roll that is a staple of Trini bakeries. A few weeks ago I came across a Tumblr post from Trini Like Salt, expressing his love for Hops and therefore French Bread. And it has had me thinking since then of the ways I eat hops. The classic childhood memory is of course picking up hot hops from the bakery on evenings (the parents always got an extra half-quart*) and pulling them from the brown paper bag, devouring the fluffy insides (shattering the thin crispy crust all over our school uniforms), and then savouring the yumminess of the crust. Ohhhh….

    I have yet to master a wholewheat hops that shatters in quite the same way but I am getting there. I use Mom’s recipe, posted here by Lilandra. I know some people are probably purists who don’t like anything but white hops, but you know what, to each her own. I love the extra nutty taste of whole wheat.

    Crix has been marketed as the Vital Supplies of T&T but hops bread could be also be given that nickname! I scoured my files and found some examples (from left to right) –

    • Hops and melted butter
    • Hops and cheese – good old new zealand cheddar
    • Hops and sardines (with pepper sauce, bandhania, onions etc) and cucumber
    • some fanciness – Hops and Eggplant Parmigiania!
    Hops Bread - Fluffy insides Whole Wheat Hops and Cheese
    Hops and Sardines Eggplant parmigiania and Trini Hops Bread

    Some other Trini faves –

    • Bread and channa (hops filled with curried channa, like a non-fried doubles alternative)
    • Bread and chowmein – yup, chowmein (noodles and veggies) in bread is a popular schoolyard lunch I remember when my younger brother started school – but personally I never took to it

    So, how do you like your Hops? Links to photos are welcome!

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    * Hops bread is sold by the quart, which used to be 12, then 10…

    Sweets from Curaçao

    Originally published on 30 July 2009. Updated Р28 April 2011 to add some new recipe links, where found. For additional information on Curaçao cuisine visit the following pages (found through googling)

    Almost 2 years ago, I wrote about my visit to Cura√ßao, the lovely island in the Caribbean Sea that is part of the Netherlands Antilles. Back when I would post about my travels more regularly. Or just post more regularly…

    Anyway, one of the things that had really interested me from my visit was the plate of traditional sweets I received, as it was a reminder that even if names were different, and languages, the people and food of the Caribbean do share so much!

    Curaçao - Traditional Sweets 2

    Of course, back then, I really didn’t know for sure the names of what I had eaten! But thanks to Flickr, and a helpful comment* from a Cura√ßao flickrite, I can now inform my readers. Starting from the pastry at the front left and moving clockwise –

    • T√®rt (cupe cake), a small crusty bottom filled with prunes. (recipe in papiamentu)
    • Kokada (the dark brown one), grated coconut in brown sugar glaze (this is the one that tasted like tulum) (the original link seems to not exist anymore, I searched and found this one (not in English).
    • Tentalaria (the white one), ground cashews in a sugar cream (the one that reminded me somewhat of peyra) – try this link (not in English).
    • Panseiku (peanuts chunks), praline of toasted peanuts, in a brown-sugar brittle (we all have nutcakes!)
    • Ko’i Lechi (bar) meaning literally milk thing, caramel bar (fudge!, the Trini kind, hard and sugary)

    Another view of the plate.

    Hope you enjoyed the revisit to¬†Cura√ßao…or at least the sweets of¬†Cura√ßao!

    —————–

    * yes, yes, this comment was from a year ago, but it’s about time I blogged it! And make my goal of 2 posts in July.

    Tastes Like Home – Book Signing

    A little over two years ago, I’d announced that Cynthia Nelson, Caribbean food writer, photographer and fellow foodblogger had completed her book Tastes Like Home. While the book didn’t make it to stores back then, it was released recently, published by Ian Randle publishers and is now available for purchase online and in stores in the Caribbean. In fact, Cynthia has been making the rounds, in her homeland of Guyana, Barbados, and now Trinidad and Tobago, to officially launch Tastes Like Home and do book signings. Tastes Like Home: My Caribbean Cookbook will be launched in T&T on Friday 1 April 2011, and there will be a book signing at Nigel Khan bookstore in West Mall on Saturday.

    Tastes Like Home Book Signing

    Tastes Like Home - a book signing event on 2 April 2011 at Nigel Khan in West Mall

    I picked up a copy of this absolutely gorgeous book in Barbados last month – it is part memoir and part cookbook. Stories associated with the foods of her childhood, the Caribbean, with recipes and beautiful photos.If you haven’t seen Cynthia’s photos, or read some of these stories, head over to her blog of the same name and get a taste. The book might be larger or heavier than regular cookbooks, but that’s because it’s not just a cookbook. The quality of the paper and the layouts are perfect for a keepsake book on Caribbean cuisine. And after all, it’s where I found out important things, like how despite our many food similarities, Guyanese don’t have bake (roast) bake :-)

    Language Problems

    I’ve written before about the language difference and communication issues as a Trini living in Guyana, even though the two countries are so close and share alot of common history. That was a difference of fast food lingo, but today I tried to give instructions over the phone, to essentially make bake. And I don’t know if the Guyanese know about bake. I mean here, bake bake* of course, as opposed to fry bake (which my grandmother used to call “fry roti” since it was essentially fried sada roti), or even tawah-bake (a rarer creature and not the same as sada roti).

    But to start from the beginning.

    loaves of fresh bread

    Due to my schedule, I have some weekly help at home and I very recently worked out an arrangement where she’d make some bread for me from time to time. The bread you buy here is sooo sweet and soft and I can only manage to bake bread on weekends. And lately, I’ve been on the road and in the air on weekends. Knowing that I do cook, and having seen my mother at work in the kitchen, my helper knows that we care about the food we make and eat, and that we don’t necessarily make things the way she would. So she made to sure to find out how much salt, sugar etc I wanted in the bread and the first time was pretty good.

    However, today I get a call from home. She’s mixed the flour with a bit of shortening, the sesame seeds I left on the counter, whole wheat flour etc and then realised there was no yeast…I’d forgotten to stock up. (Another reason I can’t always manage to bake on my limited free time…) No problem though – I have baking powder. So I tell her, ok use some more shortening, add some milk, and mix it somewhat “soft”. The problem came when I started to explain how to bake it. Because I wanted to turn it into bake. Bake bake. But she didn’t quite get it. I tried explaining that it shouldn’t be rolled up like a bread loaf, but flatter. Not rounded, but flat, like a flat bread. And then while I was trying to describe bake over the phone, I realised I’d never seen a bake in Guyana. Fried bakes sure – they make those here, often a bit softer and sweeter than my taste, but it’s here. But not a bake like coconut bake (or for that matter saltfish bake, as my mother will probably comment).

    In the end I asked her to knead it and put it in the fridge. While I was waiting for it to bake this evening, I continued reading through the impressive and gorgeous piece of work that is Cynthia Nelson‘s book, Tastes Like Home. And it confirmed my suspicions – there is no bake bake in Guyana. Ahhhh.Of course, I could probably have done a better job of explaining, but there are some things you never think you’d need to explain. Plus, I was in the middle of explaining legal stuff and writing opinions and apparently I couldn’t switch gears into food talk.

    I think I shall demonstrate coconut bake and hops in some direct cultural ambassadoring. Plus, I’ll get to eat them :-)

    —————

    * I could call it “roast bake” but I never grew up with that term, plus “bake bake” is so much more fun!

    Visiting Trinidad and Tobago – links

    Trinidad and Tobago banner, Edinburgh 2008

    Since I am still posting on some of my recent visits to lovely destinations in Trinidad, I thought I’d share some helpful links if you’re planning a trip to T&T, or better yet touring the country you live in!

    The Official Travel and Tourism site – marketing T&T as “the True Caribbean” is not actually a bad place to start if you’re looking for registered tour companies, accommodation, background on the people, food, culture and events. I don’t think the Government is maintaining visitTNT.com anymore, but the ¬†Visit Tobago site is still up and running.

    Discover Trinidad and Tobago -“the definitive guide to the islands” ¬†– is an annual publication highlighting the country and its attractions. (The same publishers as Caribbean Beat, the magazine for Caribbean Airlines, which has been featured on this blog a few times). But the website for Discover is also an excellent updated resource for visiting the twin islands. They’ve got informative and descriptive posts for example, on the¬†Top 10 Things to do and see in Trinidad, Top 10 Things to do and see in Tobago, as well as an 8-part (so far) visit to different parts of Trinidad and a similar but shorter series for Tobago (smaller island, that’s all). You can visit the companion blog by MEP Publishers where their contributors have reported on the usual suspects in T&T tourism as well as the not-so-usual but very interesting, like the water taxi ride!

    Amazing Trinidad Vacations (who you may recall interviewed me about a year-and-a-half ago) also has some good information and photos, along with a few interviews of famous Trinis like David Rudder, Kees Dieffenthaller (of Kes the Band)…and uhm me? :-)

    Outlish Magazine is a relatively new online magazine by Trinis for Trinis, founded by Karel McIntosh, as a “weekly, online, lifestyle magazine that celebrates individuality, passion, and innovation.” It’s published every Monday and the contributors and articles just get better. One recent issue proposed a¬†Trini Bucket List: 10 To-Dos for Trinbagonians which while identifying places to go like Toco, Icacos and Down de Islands, also includes essential experiences like a Hindu wedding, or sitting in Parliament.

    So, if you haven’t been to T&T, or you live here but think you have nothing to do, browse any of the above links and get busy. There are only so many days to enjoy life and see the beauty of our world. If you know any other great online places to get information, go ahead and comment – I think I’ll keep this post updated, and perhaps turn it into a permanent page for T&T travel eventually.

    Just let me get on to posting about the rest of my Trinidad touring…

    Gran Couva – Cocoa and La Vega

    Termites on a Tree Gran Couva is internationally known for one thing (at least) – Trinitario cocoa. Gran Couva is part of the Montserrat hills in the Central Range of Trinidad, where the combination of the trinitario cacao, the weather, the soil (the things the French collectively call “terroir“) converge to make some of the finest cocoa in the world. Valrhona, the French chocolate manufacturers, make a single estate ¬†chocolate bar from cocoa sourced from Gran Couva, named “Gran Couva” of course! The “chocolate de domaine” is not just from a single estate, but a single harvest year!

    I had the good fortune when I was in Brussels a couple months ago to happen across a Valrhona store. It was actually on my last night there, and it was cold and raining and I was holding a cup of Godiva thick hot chocolate and bags, just waiting to get back to the hotel. And I peered out through the hood of my coat, through the rain and saw it. I’d never had the opportunity to find this elusive Trinidadian fine-flavoured cocoa from these fancy European dealers – we don’t actually get them back in T&T. And there it was in the window – a bar of Gran Couva 2010. Yay!

    I went in and immediately sought out the single estate bars and asked for 5 bars (I figured the family members might want some too). She poked around, went into the window and emerged with 2. That’s all they had. She was unfortunately so busy trying to figure out if I was Arab, Indian or Pakistani, that she kept ignoring my telling her that I was from the Gran Couva place. So no, I didn’t want Venezuelan chocolate, not this time. As I was cashing though,my eyes alit on a “Cara√Įbe” bar, of which there were lots more, and I packed up quite a few of those. The Cara√Įbe bar, is still trinitario cocoa beans (T&T developed these particular fine-flavoured, pest resistant beans some time ago) but made from cocoa sourced from different islands of the Caribbean (including Trinidad), so I am assuming at least from Grenada and Tobago. I like the words on the Cara√Įbe (which Valrhona calls “Balanced and Velvety”) –

    Valrhona Chocolate from the Caribbean“Dans les √ģles et sur la c√īte de la mer des cara√Įbes, les hommes ont cultiv√© depuis des g√©n√©rations les cacaoyers Trinitario sur de riches sols de limon argileux surnomm√©s “terre √† chocolat”. L’assemblage de ces cacaos donne √† Cara√Įbe un nez exceptionnel prolong√©, √† la d√©gustation, de doux ar√īmes de fruits secs.”

    “For generations, cacao trees have been grown in the shade of banana trees in the Caribbean, on rich clay loam soils often referred to as “chocolate lands”. A unique blend of Trinitario beans gives Cara√Įbe its exceptionally long nose and sweet aromas of dried fruits.”

    The grand words for the Gran Couva bar?

    “Nous sommes dans les cara√Įbes entre Venezuela et Grenade. Le soleil de Trinidad se l√®ve sur Gran Couva. Les hommes de la plantation ouvrent √† la machette les cabosses et en extraient les pr√©cieuses f√®ves de cacao. Le premier “chocolat de Domaine” est n√©.

    The Trinidad sun rises over Gran Couva. Harvesters from the plantation open cocoa pods with a machete and remove the precious cocoa beans. The first “Chocolate de Domaine” has just arrived.”

    Ah, chocolate :-) It was lovely!

    Of course, Gran Couva is not just a site for cocoa. Although you should try to visit a cocoa estate (it’s still on my list, so let’s say it’s something we ALL have to do for 2011!). The Central Range is a beautiful place to drive through. It’s not all rolling hills of (abandoned) sugar cane fields down here – although I find those just as beautiful. As you venture away from the coast, the hills grow higher and the cocoa trees start appearing along the sides of the road. In addition to some teak (much of the centre of the island were teak plantations – tall broad-leafed trees which provide excellent shade and strong furniture). If you’re used to the rugged lushness of the Northern Range, driving into Gran Couva and beyond will be a little different in parts, but it’s well worth a drive.

    La Vega HutsAnd if you want a day out in the Central Range, you could consider stopping into La Vega Estate, which is a big nursery and recreation park, with man-made ponds/lakes and gardens for picnics and whatnot. All in sight of some of that lovely Central Range scenery.

    I have no affiliation with La Vega, mind you. It was just part of the recent whirlwind tour I took my friends on last month. It was a beautiful sunny day, to enjoy the scenery, the butterfly garden (small and we passed it twice before realising…), the bamboo grove, rivers and meditation garden. And it’s open 7 days a week.

    More photos from La Vega in Gran Couva (and in my Flickr set)-

    La Vega - Nurseries Pachystachy La Vega - Butterfly

    Caroni Bird Sanctuary, Trinidad

    Caroni Swamp Waterway The Caroni Bird Sanctuary is an official wildlife reserve in Trinidad and Tobago and is part of what is more commonly called the Caroni Swamp. The swamp is a relatively large wetland in the west of the island of Trinidad, roughly between Port of Spain and Chaguanas. There may be some who might believe that Caroni is “South” Trinidad, but if you look at the map, it’s in the Northern half of the island. Those of us from south of the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway* tend to regard Caroni as Central Trinidad – even though much of it is decidedly North. But enough of my pet-peeve regarding Trini geography. The Caroni Swamp is essentially the wetland formed where the Caroni River meets the Gulf of Paria. Caroni River is the largest**¬†in Trinidad and is most famous for floods.

    The Green Tour BoatsThere is another Swamp in Trinidad, which is the Nariva Swamp on the East Coast of the island. That’s the place where it’s rumoured to still be home to manatees. Visitors to the Caroni Swamp sit on slow-moving boats with (hopefully) informative tour guides, through the mangrove-lined waterways, keeping an eye out for caimans, mudskippers, herons be they blue or white, boas, large iguanas, mangrove crabs and oysters and of course the star of the show, the Scarlet Ibis. The Scarlet Ibis is one of the national birds of T&T (more or less representing Trinidad, while the Cocrico represents Tobago). The Scarlet Ibis, the Cocrico and the Humming Bird are all represented on our Coat of Arms.

    From Wikipedia

    The Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber) is a species of ibis that inhabits tropical South America and also Trinidad and Tobago…Adults are 56‚Äď61¬†cm long and weigh 650g. They are completely scarlet, except for the black wing tips. They nest in trees, laying two to four eggs. Their diet is frogs, reptiles and crustaceans. A juvenile Scarlet Ibis is grey and white; as it grows the ingestion of red crabs in the tropical swamps gradually produces the characteristic scarlet plumage.¬†The life span of Scarlet Ibis is approximately 15 years in the wild and 20 years in captivity.

    Scarlet Ibises

    The Scarlet Ibises nest in the Caroni Swamp, and late evening is the best time to see them returning to roost, filling the mangrove clump of choice with red splashes of colour, rather like a humungous hibiscus bush. The White Ibises also roost there, in the same mangroves but they’re not the main draw.

    There are several private tour companies that can give you a boat tour of the Caroni Swamp – Nanan’s is usually recognised as the oldest, but there are others which you can find listed on the official T&T Tourism Site. I can only speak about Nanan’s. They have a website and email address, although I found that they only answered my emails after I called them…Cost per adult is US $10 or ¬†TT $60. Children 12 and under are¬†half price. ¬†Residents get a special discounted rate of TT $50. They seemed really friendly and they have many boats so they can almost always fit you in even last minute, and even if you turn up late (they use a smaller boat to ferry you up to the rest of the tour). However, their boat-drivers aren’t necessarily the best tour guides. Our guide had been trained, but it seemed clear he was reciting from a script. He had to be prompted to provide any other information, and in fact our first 20 minutes of the tour we didn’t hear from him at all, even when we stopped to see the caiman, the mudskippers or heron. It was odd.

    Fortunately I was with friends – the visitors from the US as well as a couple good friends I’ve known since I was 10 or 11 (not saying how long ago that was). Good company can trump strange service any time :-) Especially when we’re willing to provide our own commentary and information.

    Blue Heron Caiman eyeing the boat The Sun begins to set

    That being said, I love being on boats – it’s calming. And the gentle ride of a boat tour through a Swamp is particularly so. Throw in the fact that you get to see wildlife, get great views and a lovely sunset…what more could you want?

    Visit the Caroni Swamp virtually, through my Flickr set

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    * This is the highway that runs from Port of Spain in the West to the East of Trinidad.

    **¬†No comments from Guyanese required… ūüėČ