The Balance challenge was clear: how to spend as much time as possible seeing new birds while keeping a 5-year-old entertained? Reina is perfectly happy on nature walks and birding stops, but up to a point. Anyone with kids, or socially maladaptive non-birding partners, knows how unpleasant it is for everyone involved (or just nearby) when disinterest sets in. My hardest challenge was scheduling our trips with Reina's threshold in mind.
Change, of course, is inevitable, the best laid schemes and all that. Almost immediately we found our plans had to change: Asa Wright Nature Center, heralded as Nirvana on earth by every birder that sets foot on Trinidad, wasn't available as our primary lodging. The vast majority of trip reports and trip itineraries always stayed at AWNC, but when we found out kids under eight weren't welcome for overnight stays we had to regroup.
I couldn't think of any alternative mentioned in those reports. Images of settling for a Trinidadian Holiday Inn or Super8 in the bowels of Port of Spain, far from any birding site we'd want to visit, crossed my mind with pangs of nausea. This trip wasn't shaping up the way I expected.
I freely admit to quoting wisdom from wherever I find it, including old Monty Python skits. "Adapt, adopt, and improve" became my mantra as I searched for alternate accommodations, and a wonderful things started to happen. Maybe deviating from the standard T&T birding trips that every other birder experiences was a good thing.
Yes, I'm talking additional blog fodder! Clearly, the birds were going to be front and center, but now, instead of copying the same "rum punch on AWNC's verandah" theme as everyone else, I could offer potential T&T visitors insights to other options. I could compare my bird lists and experiences from locations I ferreted out to the standard package they signed on to. Perhaps I could score some free lodging or excursions in exchange for publicity!
That's my lemonade making attempt. Yes, I can offer a differing view to the standard AWNC package, but I didn't score anything free. (Note to self, work on the marketing power of this blog.)
So, here is an overview of the secondary itinerary we created. I will be writing in more detail about each stop, including informal reviews of the lodging, the birding; the whole roti (we didn't see enchiladas anywhere, but rotis are a reasonable substitute).
- Day 1: Arrive late, stay at Pax Guest House, Tunapuna, Trinidad
- Day 2: Bird Mt. St. Benedict, coasts and wetlands, and Caroni Swamp.
- Day 3: Bird savanna and grassland sites, stay at Laguna Mar, Blanchisseuse, Trinidad.
- Day 4: Bird in the forests of the Northern Range.
- Day 5: Fly to Tobago, stay Naturalist Beach Resort, Castara, Tobago.
- Day 6: Bird Tobago: Main Ridge Forest Reserve and Little Tobago Island.
- Day 7: Tobago birding in the morning, then fly to Trinidad, returning to Pax Guest House.
- Day 8: Early flight back to U.S.