The view on the drive up to the Asa Wright Nature Centre, was reward enough. On the winding road through the hills you are flanked by the lush green mountains of the Northern Range on one side and rich, fertile valleys on the other. The drive down the winding driveway leading to the centre revealed a few streams and tiny waterfalls just right for relaxing.
Seated on the verandah of the centre, I understood why so many people come from around the world to bird-watch here. Quite a few species would flutter up and pose on the many vines just beyond the verandah’s railing.
With birdwatching over and some hog plum juice to energise the body, I set off to join Elsa (our tour guide) for the first tour of the day. My companions on the tour included two young students from Holland who were doing some research here in Trinidad at the University of the West Indies, and a Mormon couple doing missionary work in Trinidad and Grenada. Since we were all first time visitors to the centre, our guide took us along one of the easier trails known as the Discovery trail. As she informed us, this trail was once the only road that led from Arima to Blanchisseuse many years ago.
From a small garden spouting every herb imaginable, to some unique birds like the “Poor-me-one” or “Common Potoo” the trail reflected a healthy sample of the fascinating flora and flora found in this country. Even the few ants nests we encountered were cause to stop and stare as their inhabitants were enormous. These nests were in fact home to a colony of leaf cutter ants, commonly known to us Trinis as “bachac.”
Ever wondered what these ants do with the pieces of leaves we often see them carrying away? As Elsa indicated they use the leaves of plants to grow a fungus. This fungus is the only food they eat. When they bring a variety of leaves into the colony they only put it in one area rather than spread it throughout the nest in case the leaf might be toxic. This way they avoid poisoning the entire colony. Aen’t they smart?
My time at the centre ended with a lovely lunch made more memorable by the people who sat at the table with me. I lunched with Peter O’Connor and a young married couple, Bradford and Giselle, who were celebrating their fourth wedding anniversary by spending the weekend at the centre. We all chatted about the treasure that is the Asa Wright Nature Centre and how many of us Trinis value so little, our local natural treasures.
Peter lives and works at the centre Monday to Friday as he is involved in the research projects here. He says that on the weekends he returns to “Babylon”. That’s how he refers to the city and urban areas.
Sadly, I too had to return to Babylon once my day at the centre was ended. But, what a day well spent! And a wonderful way to celebrate my 40th birthday.