Trip Type : Group Tour
10-Day, 2-Island Classic AWNC & Cuffie River Retreat with Leatherback Turtles tour

10-Day, 2-Island Classic AWNC & Cuffie River Retreat with Leatherback Turtles

Caligo Ventures
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Travel Style: You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level: Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
10 days
From: $ 2,250 $ 225 / day
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  • Travel with AWNC’s expert guides, who share robust knowledge and friendly, world-class guiding skills
  • Savor six nights at the classic AWNC; relish morning coffee and birding on the famous verandah
  • Gain exclusive access to enigmatic Oilbirds in the grotto of Dunston Cave, on the Centre’s grounds
  • Witness skies turned crimson with thousands of Scarlet Ibis coming in to roost in Caroni National Park
  • Special for Leatherback Turtle nesting season, visit Matura Beach at sunset to watch females come ashore to lay eggs, April through July ... by June there is also the incredible chance to witness hatchlings
  • Arrive to a frenzy at the lodge’s feeders, perfect for observation and photography
  • Enjoy creative tropical architecture; let the breeze be your ventilation in this peaceful mountain retreat
  • Marvel at dinner guests that may include — just outside — a White-tailed Nightjar or the Common Potoo
  • Visit Tobago’s historic Main Forest Ridge Preserve and Little Tobago Island

Short Description

Explore Trinidad and Tobago, the best introduction to tropical birding on the planet, with our 10-Day, 2-Island Classic Tour. Based out of Trinidad’s world-renowned Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC) and Tobago’s Cuffie River Nature Retreat, you’ll discover a fascinating cross-section of brilliant birds from the Caribbean and South America.

Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Trip Type Group Tour
See all the highlights and popular spots on a classic tour.
Itinerary Focus Classic Highlights
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value - 3 star
Flights & Transport Only ground transport
Start City Piarco
End City Port of Spain
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Day 1: Arrive & Explore at the Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC)

Welcome to Trinidad! Upon arrival at Piarco International Airport, you are met by an AWNC guide who drives you from the bustling metropolis to the quiet seclusion of the Centre, about an hour’s trip up into the Northern Range. Lush forests of the Arima Valley offer  untamed vistas and provide the perfect place to learn about Trinidad’s abundant birds and natural heritage. Step out onto the Centre’s wide verandah to marvel at the almost tame hummingbirds, tanagers, honeycreepers, oropendolas, Bananaquits, and other birds that frequent the feeders. The views of the valley (and the birds) are breathtaking. Beyond the verandah, an extensive trail system beckons. If you arrive early, the entrance road is an easy walk, where, under a lush canopy, Trinidad Motmot, Yellow-olive and Yellow-breasted Flycatchers and a host of other species can be found. Centre naturalists are on hand to help identify species.

Tea Time is at 4:00 PM, followed by Rum Punch at 6:00 PM and then dinner. Meet your fellow guests

and enjoy the surrounding nature.

Birding & Wildlife Highlights

Commonly Found at the Feeders: White-chested Emerald; White-necked Jacobin; Blue-chinned Sapphire; Rufous-breasted and Little Hermits; Copper-rumped Hummingbird; Crested Oropendola; Bluegray, Palm, White-lined, Silver-beaked, and Turquoise Tanagers; Barred Antshrike; Tufted Coquette; both Purple and Green Honeycreepers; and Violaceous Euphonia. Spot from the Verandah: Double-toothed Kite; Scaled Pigeon; Black-tailed Tityra; Common Black, Graylined, White and Zone-tailed Hawks; Channel-billed Toucan; Bearded Bellbird; Piratic and Boat-billed Flycatchers, Squirrel Cuckoo; Tropical Pewee; Tropical Kingbird; Golden Tegu Lizard; and Red-rumped Agouti

Day 2: Introductory Walk into AWNC’s Forests / Leatherback Turtle Watching at Matura Beach

This morning begins with 6:00 AM coffee and tea served on the verandah. A Centre naturalist is on duty to help you spy as many as 40 life birds before breakfast! After breakfast, enjoy an introductory walk on the Centre’s Discovery Trail, learning more about the forest and discovering additional species. Many enjoy the challenge of spotting the Bearded Bellbird, as their distinctive “bonk!” echoes throughout the forest. Near a known bellbird lek in the trees are two species of manakins also attending their leks closer to the ground. The group leaves the Centre in the mid-afternoon for an optional night of turtle watching at Matura Beach along the Atlantic Coast. The Leatherback Turtles emerge from the water at night, often just after sunset, and select a spot above the high-water mark to nest. The process takes about 90 minutes; experienced guides describe the nesting process, the threats faced by the turtles and the work that they do to protect the turtles. The eggs take about 60 days to hatch, so during the latter part of the season, you may be lucky enough to witness the hatchlings as they scurry to sea. Before going out to the beach, a picnic dinner is served under a small pavilion where there are restroom facilities.

Morning Birding Highlights: Trinidad Motmot; both Cocoa and Spectacled Thrushes; Gray-fronted Dove; White-bearded and Golden-headed Manakins; Green-backed and Guianan Trogons; Channel-billed Toucan; Chestnut Woodpecker; Rufous-browed Peppershrike; both Turquoise and Bay-headed Tanagers; Green Hermit; Tufted Coquette; Black-throated Mango; Forest Elaenia; Ochre-bellied Flycatcher; Yellow Oriole; White-necked Thrush; Rufous-breasted Wren; White-flanked Antwren; Longbilled Gnatwren; and Bearded Bellbird.

Day 3 Birding Trinidad’s Northern Range

Today’s scenic, day-long excursion takes us high into the Northern Range on the Blanchisseuse Road. You make frequent birding stops and then enjoy a local lunch and cacao demonstration in picturesque Brasso Seco (with groups of less than four, you have a picnic lunch). You then continue through the mountains to the village of Morne la Croix for afternoon tea and cakes (yum!) as you enjoy watching parrots head in to roost. Today also offers the opportunity to examine the strange world of leaf-cutter and army ants, as well as the chance to photograph butterflies, orchids and other tropical flora.

Birding Highlights: Swallow-tailed Kite; Common Black Hawk; Bat Falcon; Collared Trogon; Ornate HawkEagle; Channel-billed Toucan; Trinidad Piping Guan; Short-tailed Hawk; both Streaked and Euler’s Flycatchers; Rufous-tailed Jacamar; Blue-headed Parrot; Lilac-tailed Parrotlet; Orange-winged Parrot; Collared Trogon; Golden-olive; Red-rumped and Chestnut Woodpeckers; Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl; Stripe-breasted Spinetail; both Cocoa and Plain-Brown Woodcreepers; Dusky-capped, Slaty-capped Flycatchers; Rufous-breasted Wrens; Long-billed Gnatwren; Golden-fronted Greenlet; both Speckled and Hepatic Tanagers; Yellow-rumped Cacique

Day 4: Nariva Swamp / Atlantic Coast / Monkeys at Bush Bush Wildlife Sanctuary

This morning you depart for the lowlands of the Aripo Agricultural Station where the open countryside and semi-wild pastures offer new bird species. Once you thoroughly explore the Station, you drive to the Atlantic Coast for a picnic lunch and possible seabird sightings on the beach at Manzanilla. “Coconut Alley” leads you through beachside habitats before you enter Nariva Swamp. Here, the Nariva River reaches the sea; freshwater environments of herbaceous swamp and mangrove swamp forest make for spectacular birding. Time permitting, you end today’s excursion in search of two species of large macaws, as well as Red Howler and White-faced Capuchin Monkeys at Bush Bush Wildlife Sanctuary. This is a very full day with many stops and discovery of species found nowhere else on the island. For some, today may be too long. If so, we invite you to join Centre naturalists on walks close to home and enjoy a day to relax and let the birds come to you on AWNC’s famous verandah. Please let the Front Desk know if you choose to opt out of the Nariva outing.

Birding Highlights at the Aprio Ag Station: Great Kiskadee; Tropical Kingbird; Carib Grackle; Short-tailed Swift; Cocoi Heron; Savannah Hawk; Gray-headed Kite; Yellow-headed Caracara; Wattled Jacana; Southern Lapwing; Green-rumped Parrotlet; Fork-tailed Palm-Swift; White-winged Swallow; Whiteheaded Marsh-Tyrant; Pied Water-Tyrant; Yellow-chinned Spinetail; Red-breasted Meadowlark; Grassland Yellow-Finch; and Ruddy-breasted Seedeater Gazing out to Sea: Magnificent Frigatebird; Brown Pelican; Leach’s Petrel (rare) South Towards Nariva: Common Black-Hawk; Yellow-headed and Crested Caracaras; Savannah Hawk; Pearl Kite; Gray-lined Hawk; Plumbeous Kite; Green and American Pygmy Kingfishers; Black-crested Antshrike; Silvered Antbird; Brown-crested Flycatcher; Pinnated Bittern; Black-bellied Whistling-Duck; Purple Gallinule; Yellow-hooded Blackbird; White-tailed Goldenthroat; Long-winged Harrier; Yellowcrowned Parrot; and Red-bellied, Blue and Yellow Macaws

Day 5: Aripo Savannah & Arena Forest / Evening Program

Today is an early start, with breakfast served at 6:30 AM in the dining room. Be sure to double-check times with your guide. A remnant of a once major lowland habitat, the seasonally-wet Aripo Savannah is surrounded by sugar cane fields. Today you explore the tropical birds unique to this habitat, as well as the distinctive flora that has adapted to the savannah’s harsh conditions — alternating from wet to dry. You then embark on a short drive to the Evergreen Seasonal Forest habitat of the Arena Forest. Here you enjoy lunch and search out more key birds. Your return mid-afternoon so you have time to enjoy Tea Time on the verandah and great bird viewing until sunset. Each evening, Centre naturalists provide optional evening talks, or perhaps a walk to find insects, reptiles, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, and even sleeping birds!

Birding Highlights: Plumbeous Kite; Gray-headed Kite; Shiny Cowbird; Giant Cowbird; Yellow-rumped Cacique; Blue-black Grassquit; Grassland Yellow-Finch; Moriche Oriole (extremely rare); Fork-tailed Palm-Swift; Sulphury Flycatcher; Savannah Hawk; both Striped and Little Cuckoos; Ruby Topaz Hummingbird; White-tailed Goldenthroat; Green-rumped Parrotlet; both Crimson-crested and Lineated Woodpeckers; White-throated Spadebill; Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant.

Day 6: The Scarlet Ibis of Caroni National Park

Enjoy your morning at the Asa Wright Nature Centre. With 200 acres of grounds, you’ll be able to round out your list and bask in the serenity of the forest.

After lunch, you depart for Caroni Swamp, birding along the way, then arrive to a dock at Caroni National Park. There is a Visitor Center and restrooms here, and the mangroves are good to check for new species. From here you bird by boat (watch for Ruschenberger’s Tree Boa and Silky Anteater, too), then moor up at a quiet spot in the mangroves to let the sunset show begin. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of Scarlet Ibis cloud the sky as they come in to roost. Tonight’s experience is one you won’t soon forget.

Birding Highlights on the Caroni Outing: Long-winged Harrier; Yellow-hooded Blackbird; Bicolored Conebill; Masked (Red-capped) Cardinal; Straight-billed Woodcreeper; Green-throated Mango; Northern Waterthrush; Anhinga; Striated Heron; White-cheeked Pintail; Large-billed Tern; Pied Water-Tyrant; Black-crested Antshrike; Common Potoo; and Scarlet Ibis.

Day 7: Rare Oilbirds / Flight to Tobago / Cuffie River Nature Retreat

This morning you say goodbye to the wonderful staff of AWNC and embark on the journey to Tobago.

However, before you go to the airport, you have a chance to see the oilbirds. Enjoy coffee, tea, and breakfast on the verandah, followed by this morning’s walk. We start on a short, but steep, path to Dunston Cave, a riparian grotto at AWNC. You enjoy exclusive access to a breeding colony of Oilbirds — queer nocturnal, fruit-eating birds that congregate here at one of the world’s most accessible nesting caves. Since you are handling your luggage, today you can choose to buy lunch at the airport or carry a sack lunch from the Centre (ask the night before). For those who like to try local foods, we highly recommend doubles, the local favorite — ask your guide where to find them as you’re dropped off. You eat your lunch at the airport as you wait for your flight to Tobago. Generally, check in is quick and you have time.

Once you land in Tobago, your birding guide greets you in his air-conditioned bus. Welcome to the distinctly Caribbean and laid-back Tobago. You make a few stops for birding, so be prepared with closetoed shoes, sunscreen, hat, and binoculars. We then travel through vibrantly-colored hillside villages to the Cuffie River Nature Retreat. Once you arrive, enjoy the late-afternoon to stroll the grounds, take a dip in the pool, or just relax.

Cuffie River Nature Retreat is a small inn; please ask the staff for any needs, such as tea, beer, or wine, a pool towel, etc. Dinner is announced daily, usually at 7:30 PM. Food is local and specially prepared, so relax and enjoy this wonderful dining experience! Perhaps you’ll see and hear a Common Potoo right outside the dining area as you linger over dessert.

Bird Highlights on the Oilbird Excursion: Oilbird; Red-crowned Ant-Tanager; Black-faced Antthrush; White-bellied Antbird; and Gray-throated Leaftosser

Common Tobago Species en Route to Cuffie: White-cheeked Pintail; Short-tailed Swift; Trinidad Motmot; Yellow-crowned Night-Heron; Green Kingfisher; and Spectacled Caiman

Common at Cuffie’s Feeders: White-tailed Saberwing; Ruby Topaz Hummingbird; White-necked Jacobin; Bananaquit; Spectacled Thrush; Barred Antshrike; and sometimes at night, Common Potoo!

Day 8: Birding on Cuffie River Trails & a Free Afternoon

In keeping with Tobago’s laid-back vibe, today is easy-going. In the morning you explore a nature trail close to the lodge, walking from the entry with the lodge’s expert guide, Desmond. While you never move faster than a birder’s pace, the trail is up and down small hills, so a walking stick may be handy. Return to the lodge for a delicious lunch, then savor a free afternoon. Most prefer to simply enjoy birding and photography on the grounds and time at the refreshing pool. If you would like to go snorkeling and swimming at a nearby beach, or visiting cultural sites or shopping, your lodge host can arrange a taxi for you; please ask a day in advance if possible. Avid snorkelers can arrange a boatassisted trip to some of the island’s best reefs; you need the full day, which requires advanced notice. Be sure to be at a good viewpoint for sunset, as hordes of parrots, parrotlets, and noisy chachalacas fly in to roost — quite a spectacle! After dark, check the driveway’s street light for night birds.

Birding Highlights: Rufous-tailed Jacamar; White-tailed Sabrewing; Blue-backed Manakin; Yellow Legged Thrush; Rufous-vented Chachalaca; Ruby Topaz Hummingbird; Collared Trogon; Red-crowned Woodpecker; White-fringed Antwren; Orange-winged Parrot; Fuscous, Yellow-breasted and Venezuelan Flycatchers; Caribbean Martin; Scrub Greenlet; Common Potoo; and White-tailed Nightjar.

Day 9: Birding on Little Tobago Island / Tobago’s Main Forest Ridge Preserve

Today is a very full, but rewarding day! A short morning drive takes us across the Island to Speyside, where we board a glass-bottom boat for a pleasant jaunt to Little Tobago Island. The island, one of the country’s most significant wildlife sanctuaries, offers incredible views of plentiful and rare seabirds, both from the boat and by walking a trail up to cliffs and a lookout point on the island where Tropical Dry Forest occurs. This trail is not long but rather steep. Leaving the island (if sea conditions are right), the captain pauses to look for colorful fish and possible Hawksbill Sea Turtle as we pass a former coral garden off Goat Island. The Atlantic side of the island has experienced extensive coral bleaching and while still excellent for divers, snorkeling is not what it once was. Since we still have lunch (and some great birding) ahead, there is not time for snorkeling today. Try local food! Enjoy a delicious lunch at the Birder’s Restaurant, owned by the family of our boat company. Again, it is fresh and takes some time, so enjoy watching the water, or step out to browse the small shops of Speyside as you wait. After lunch, you drive to Tobago’s Main Forest Reserve to a trail at Gilpin Trace for a bit of birding before we return to Cuffie River. This is the world’s oldest legally protected forest, put aside in 1776. This hike can be muddy, so you may want to rent some rubber boots from locals at the trailhead. This is a narrow trail so be prepared to help each other with both footing and bird sightings. You then make your way back to Cuffie River for a final, relaxed evening.

Birding Highlights Around Little Tobago Island: Brown Noddy; Red-billed Tropicbird; both Red-footed and Brown Boobies; Sooty Tern; Chivi Vireo; Brown-crested Flycatcher; Pale-vented Pigeon; Roseate and Bridled Tern; and Scaly-naped Pigeon. If lucky, an Audubon’s Shearwater sitting in its burrow.

In Tobago’s Main Forest Reserve: Trindad Motmot; Collared Trogon; White-tailed Sabrewing; Bluebacked Manakin; Yellow-legged Thrush; Red-crowned Woodpecker; White-fringed Antwren; Plain Antvireo; White-throated Spadebill; Olivaceous Woodcreeper; Stripe-breasted Spinetail; Golden-olive Woodpecker; Rufous-breasted Hermit; and Rufous-breasted Wren.

Day 10: Return to Port of Spain & Departures

Today you return to Port of Spain in Trinidad to catch international flights. Your departure from Cuffie River is timed accordingly; your guide confirms this with you the day before. If you have a later flight, we arrange lunch and if possible, a late checkout (additional expense). There are flights back to Port of Spain almost every hour; we schedule the best one to match up with your departing flight. If your home-bound flight leaves before 10:00 AM, you must spend an additional night at an airport hotel before flying out the next day. Please discuss this with a travel planner.


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Price Per Day: $ 225 per day
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