Formed in 1967, Asa Wright Nature Center (AWNC) is the oldest nature center in the West Indies. Located at an elevation of 1,200 feet and seven miles north of the town of Arima, AWNC is a world-class natural history destination for students of tropical ecology. It is also the most popular retreat for birdwatchers on the island.
Trinidad is small in size, covering only 50 square miles. However, the island’s proximity to Venezuela and varied topography provide habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna. Species lists for Trinidad are impressive. Checklists include 97 native mammals, over 430 bird species, 55 reptiles, 25 amphibians, 617 butterflies, and more than 2,200 species of flowering plants. No other area in the West Indies, and few areas of comparable size in tropical America, can match this spectacular species diversity.
A trip to Trinidad should include a stay at AWNC. Here, you can sit on the veranda sipping coffee or tea while watching a kaleidoscope of tropical birds feed in the trees. Fruits of the tremor tree are an obvious favorite of tanagers, honeycreepers, bananaquits, and others. A quick walk down the Discovery Trail brings you to leks of white-bearded and golden-headed manakins and to territories of the vociferous bearded bellbird.
If you stay three or more nights at AWNC, you’re able to visit the resident oilbird colony in Dunston Cave. The oilbird is a rare nocturnal fruit-eating bird, which uses echolocation to navigate and forage in the forests at night. Apart from these peculiar characteristics, this species also has very specific nesting requirements, as it breeds and roosts primarily in caves. The AWNC oilbird colony, which currently stands at 131 birds, is one of the most secure oilbird colonies on the island and an important conservation initiative of the center.
AWNC provides its visitors a wonderful introduction to tropical ecology while serving as a successful model in ecotourism and conservation.