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Natural Attractions

 

 

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In addition to the built environment that provides places of interest in Trinidad, there are numerous natural attractions that are also places of interest. These natural attractions provide variety for any vacation in Trinidad. Some of these natural attractions include:
bulletCaves
bulletGasparee Caves
bulletCumaca Cave
bulletTamana Caves
bulletSoho Cave
bulletAripo Caves
bulletMud Volcanoes
bulletAripo Savannahs
bulletCunapo Growing Stone
bulletSan Fernando Hill
bulletLa Brea Pitch Lake
bullet Salt Lake on Chacachacare

Another type of natural attraction experienced in Trinidad is waterfalls and these can be found on our Waterfalls Page. The numerous rivers in Trinidad also give rise to other natural attractions and the Other Hikes Page provides information on some of these river systems.

 

Caverns

Caves occur in all types of rocks and topographic situations and are formed by many different erosion processes. Sea caves are created by wave action, while other caves are caused by piping in unconsolidated rocks. Lava tube caves are formed through volcanic activity. As Lava flows downhill and the surface cools and solidifies, the lava continues to flow under the crust, until the eruption ends. If the liquid lava inside the crust flows out, a hollow tube remains. The most common caves are created by ground waters that dissolve the common soluble rocks limestone, dolomite, gypsum, and salt. Limestone caves are the most abundant, longest, and deepest.  Limestone dissolves under the action of rainwater and groundwater charged with H2CO3 (carbonic acid) and naturally occurring organic acids. The dissolution process produces a distinctive landform known as karst, characterized by sinkholes, sinking streams, and underground drainage.

The Northern Range of Trinidad has extensive beds of limestone known as the Maraval formation that run through the the entire range from Diego Martin to Toco.  As a result there are numerous caverns and cave systems within the Northern Range. These caverns are often the destination for some hikes. One of the reasons for visiting the caves is to see the interesting geological formations of stalactites, stalagmites, columns and curtains found within.

Stalactites are formed by groundwater trickling through cracks in the roofs of such caverns and the water contains dissolved calcium bicarbonate. When a drop of water comes in contact with the air of the cavern, some of the calcium bicarbonate is transformed into calcium carbonate, which is precipitated out of the water solution and forms a ring of calcite on the roof of the cavern. By repetition of this process the length and thickness of the stalactite is increased. Stalactites grow down from the roofs of the caves and tend to be long and thin, with hollow cores. The water moves down the core and precipitates at the bottom, slowly extending the length while keeping the core open for more water to move down.

Stalagmites grow from the floor up and are commonly found beneath stalactites; they are formed from the evaporation of the same drip of water that forms the stalactite. As the water lands on the ground after falling from the stalactite further evaporation takes place leaving calcite on the ground which builds up with each drop. Stalagmites are thicker and shorter than stalactites and have no central hollow core.

Stalactites and Stalagmites are not necessarily paired; when they are, continual elongation of one or both may eventually join them into a column. Curtains of dripstone sometimes form when water drips from the ceiling of a cave along joint planes. The word stalagmite comes from the Greek word stalagma which means "drop" or "drip".

The Caura, Lopinot and Brasso Seco areas are noted for their caves and the hikes to these caves but they are not the only areas with caves that are hiking destinations. The Aripo Caves are a strenuous 3 hour (one way) hike to the largest accessible cave system in Trinidad.  The Oropouche Cavern (also known as the Cumaca Caves) is a popular hiking destination in Cumaca and has a colony of Oilbirds within it.  

The Tamana Caves are in the Central Range just south of Sangre Grande.  The highlight of any visit to the Tamana Caves is to view the exit of between 1 and 1.5 million bats of 11 species each evening between 5.30pm and 7pm. 

The most visited cave, due to its accessibility, are the Gasparee Caves on Gasparee Island.

Other cave systems in Trinidad are:

bulletScott’s Cave in the Upper Madamas
bulletLower Guanapo Cave
bulletLa Duez, Cumaca
bulletMahoe Blanc Grotto, Cumaca
bulletCaye L’Eglise, Matura
bulletLamira Cave, Lopinot
bulletMartin Gomez Cave, Lopinot
bulletJeville Cave, Lopinot

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Gasparee Caves

Gasparee Caves are a fascinating network of underground caves located on the island of Gaspar Grande, which is the closest island to Chagaramas Bay in north-west Trinidad. The island is composed of limestone and a combination of wave action, acidic rainfall and percolating ground-water  has dissolved the limestone to form sculptured caverns, caves and sinkholes. The entire subterranean system is about 90 feet deep and a 1/2 acre in size. Within the cave system are interesting geological formations such as stalactites, stalagmites, pillars, flow stones and fringed curtains. Some of the formations have been given names such as Pulpit Pipe Organ, Lovers and Dinosaur Head because of their shape. The largest and best known of the caves is called the Blue Grotto, which has a crystal clear pool that is 30 feet in diameter and reflects the light entering the cave.

Entry to the caves is only allowed with a registered tour company or with the permission of the Chagaramas Development Authority. From the boat landing at Point Baleine it is a 20 minute uphill walk to the entrance to the Blue Grotto and then a descent of approximately 100 steps into the cave.

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Cumaca Cave

 The Cumaca Cave has several names; called the Cumaca Cave because it is near the village of Cumaca in eastern Trinidad, it is also known as the Oropouche Cavern as the Oropouche River emerges from this cave and the  Guarcharo Cave as it is the home of the Guarcharo bird. The Cumaca Cave is actually a large cave system with three accessible chambers and other smaller side caves.

The Northern Range of Trinidad has extensive beds of limestone known as the Maraval formation that run through the the entire range from Diego Martin to Toco. The boring action of the Oropouche River channeling through this limestone has resulted in the creation of the Cumaca Cave. The later percolation of rainwater through the limestone has then resulted in the formation of stalactites and stalagmites within the cave. These geological formations are one of the attractions of the Cumaca Cave and so made it a place to visit.

The Oropouche Cavern is also the home of species of fish that have adapted to living in low light or darkness. The most notable of these fish is a river catfish that was originally thought to be blind with a variation that was eyeless. It is now known that the catfish is not blind but has a reduced eye size and unfortunately the eyeless variant has been greatly reduced in number possibly through interbreeding with the small eye variant. Persons visiting this cave system often do not see these fish because they shine their lights in the water looking for the fish. Having adapted to living in a low light environment, the presence of bright lights causes these fish to immediately hide under rocks.

The biggest attraction of the Cumaca Cave however is the Guacharo. Known as the Oilbird and the Devilbird and the Diablotin (little devil), in the past the young chicks were captured and then boiled to obtain the oil that was stored in the fat in their bodies. Fortunately we have recognised the destructive nature of this practice and now these birds are protected and recognized as a visitor attraction. The Oilbirds are the only nocturnal fruit eating birds in the world. They forage at night, navigating by echolocation in the same way as bats, but with a high-pitched clicking sound audible to humans. The Cumaca Cave has the largest congregation of Oilbirds in Trinidad and when you enter the cave their clicks and squawks can be very loud and any light shone on them agitates them (so it should be avoided). The Devilbirds are such an attraction that from as early as 1911, these caverns have been visited to see these oilbirds, with Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States of America, hiking to this cave in 1911.

Visiting the Cave requires carrying a flashlight or headlight because of the low light level in the caverns. Anyone visiting the Cumaca Cave also has to be prepared to get wet when they enter the cave as one enters the river to gain access to the first cavern and has to go through the water to get to the third cavern. Being in the cave is not the only possibility of getting wet or muddy as the hike to the cave can be muddy also. These caves are on private land and so permission must be obtained from the owners (Mr. Gary Aboud) in order to visit the caves. It may be possible for small groups to obtain permission from the estate manager on the site. There are two routes to this cave, one of which is a strenuous and adventurous 3 hour hike that is almost entirely uphill crossing rivers and streams. The other route is a fairly easy level 3 hike that has mainly downhill portions (on the way to the cave) and takes just over two hours. Parts of this trail are usually over grown, so light long pants are recommended. Hiking boots or trail shoes are also recommended as the trail can get quite muddy and slippery. Rubber kitchen gloves are recommended to be worn in the caves to keep bird and bat poop off hands and it is advisable to carry hand sanitizers for use after the cave so any food can be handled safely.

The Oropouche Cavern is the star natural attraction in the Cumaca area but it is not the only interesting place in Cumaca as there are river liming locations and the Turure Water Cascades.

 

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Tamana Caves

The state of Texas in the United States of America has turned bat watching into a tourist attraction and is reported to have in one cave the largest colony of bats in the world. The city of Austin Texas has bat watching as one of its international attractions and claims that it brings 100,000 visitors each year to the city and generates US $8 million. Trinidad also has a bat watching experience and ours is reported to be the second largest in the region with one and a half million bats roosting in the Tamana Cave. Unlike in the US where the bats are primarily resident in the late spring and summer months, at Tamana you can witness the spectacle all year.

Tamana is the highest mountain in the Central Range of Trinidad with an altitude of 313 meters (1,026 feet). The name Tamana is derived from the name of an Amerindian Tribe, the Tamanaco, who originally lived in that area. Millions of years ago this area was a coral reef and geological activity pushed it up to form the present mountain. As a result of the limestone, water action has led to the formation of the caves. In fact at Tamana there are two larger caves, the Main Cave and the Dry Cave, with the two being interconnected and then two smaller caves that branch off.

In this cavern complex with the 4 caves the main cave has a wide 30 foot entrance and the other caves are smaller as you progress inwards. Entering the main cave requires navigating a steep, root-cluttered slope down to the floor. Within the cave are whip scorpions, geckos, six species of frogs, several species of snake and the main inhabitant, bats which hang in thousands from the cathedral ceiling.

The highlight of any visit to the Tamana Cave is to see these one and a half million bats exit the cave in search of food. With the large number living in the cave, this spectacle can last for several hours.

Trinidad is home to 67 bat species and 11 of those species roost permanently in the cave while a 12th species occasionally roosts in the cave. There are frugiverous (fruit-eating) bats, insectivorous (insect eating) bats, nectar feeding bats and the greater spare-nosed bat (the largest bat in the New World) . There are also Vampire bats that feed on the blood of animals.

To reach the cave involves a trek, halfway up the mountain through the forest and in the dry season this can take about 35 to 45 minutes. In the rainy season the trail can be muddy and so the hike would take longer. For those who want to enter the cave before the exit of the bags it is recommended that gloves, a long sleeved shirt, long pants and boots be worn. This clothing is recommended because with over a million bats living in one space there is bat guano everywhere and you would want to avoid the guano coming in contact with your skin. Other recommended items for a visit to Tamana Cave are a change of clothing and footwear, a torch- light or head-lamp for seeing your way on the trip back from the Cave at night, insect repellent, hand sanitizer and extra water to wash hands and camera.

A visit to this cave system can also be combined with a walk to the summit for the spectacular view.

 

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Soho Cave

The upper Aripo Valley, between the peaks of El Cerro del Aripo and Chagramal, contains the largest known cave systems in Trinidad. These include the Aripo #1 (or Main) Cave, the linked Aripo #2 and #3 Caves and Soho Cave. The Soho Cave was discovered in February 1990 as a result of some individuals attempting in 1989 to go to the Aripo Cave and making an incorrect turn on the trail thus not finding the Aripo Cave. On a subsequent hike in 1990 led by Paul L Comeau to discover where this new trail would lead, the Soho Cave was discovered. The name "Soho" that was given to the Cave means announcing discovery of unexpected event.

The Soho Cave has as part of its attractions, stalactites and stalagmites which are formed by the action of ground water acting on the limestone. There are large and heavily corroded stalactites and a massive stalagmite at the cave entrance.

Another of the natural attractions at Soho Cave is an oildbird colony and they can be seen on the walls of the cave. These Oilbirds are the only nocturnal fruit eating birds in the world. They forage at night, navigating by echolocation in the same way as bats, but with a high-pitched clicking sound audible to humans. Their diet consists of fruit pulp from palm trees that they transport back to the cave.

The following description of the trail to Soho Cave is provided by the Island Hikers Club.

The exploration to Soho Cave starts at the end of the Aripo Road, where there is a large christophene plantation. The journey will take at least 1 ˝ -2 hours, and the trail passes through intricate forest with some over-growth. The trek starts with a short ascend and after a twenty minutes walk the trail comes to a cross section. A visible path on the right leads to the Soho Cave while the straight route continues onward to the Aripo Cave.  The terrain is mostly hilly, with valleys and streams to cross, and two–thirds on the trip a noticeable landmark, is a large silk cotton tree.  On both sides of the pathway, there are limestone outcrops and coming from the sink holes is the strong scent of bat guano. Situated from the main path in a nearby gully is another small cave called Carikkers Cave. The trail descends sharply from the ridge to the entrance of the Soho Cave.

It is strongly recommended that a guide be hired for any hike to the Soho Cave as there are several trails that branch off from the trail to Soho Cave and so it is easy to get lost. In addition, in the vicinity of the cave, there are deep sinkholes and caution should be exercised going off the path

 

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Aripo Caves

The Aripo Cave is as the name suggests in the Aripo valley. There are actually 3 Aripo Caves with Cave #1, also called the Main Cave being the most visited of the three. The Aripo Main cave is the longest accessible cave in Trinidad and Tobago, with a length of 862 meters and a depth of 160 meters. The topography of the Aripo area is composed of limestone and the Aripo cave has been created by the action of the water eating the limestone. It has also resulted in the cave having interesting stalactite and stalagmite formations. According to Paul Shaw in a A Register of the Caves of Trinidad and Tobago, the cave “is structured on a series of levels, chambers and tunnels, created by water flow under conditions of falling base level, thus the upper cave system is largely dry, even during heavy rains. Access to the upper part is by scrambling down a boulder slope to a stream bed, but access beyond is limited by vertical drops of 9.2 and 15.2 m. A crawl way, Low Ceiling, has to be negotiated to reach the furthest section, comprising a waterfall, pool and terminal pot". While the entrance of the cave can be explored with a flashlight but penetrating deeper requires proper caving equipment.

Apart from the pure joy of hiking through forest and viewing the limestone formations at the cave, another reason for visiting the Aripo Cave is to see the Oilbirds, also known as the Guacharo, the Devilbird and the Diablotin (little devil). These birds make a tremendous racket when they are disturbed by the entrance of people to their home. The Oilbirds nest within the cave and together with the bats that also roost there create rich deposits of guano that can make exploration slippery.

The following description of the trail to Aripo Cave is provided by the Island Hikers Club. "The hike to Aripo Cave starts at the end of the road, situated about a mile past the village where a large christophene plantation is located .The uphill trek can be describe as moderately challenging and will take two hours through intricate forest. The terrain is hilly with a few valleys and streams to cross and the vegetation consist of montane and seasonal forest. The descent to the cave is surrounded by huge boulders and at the corridor visitors are greeted to the noisy sound of the oilbirds. The return journey is mainly downhill and will take about an hour and fifteen minutes".

 

As with exploring all cave systems in Trinidad, it is strongly recommended that a knowledgeable guide be hired for any visit to these caves as there are numerous trails and a wrong turn can cause one to become hopelessly lost.

 

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Mud Volcanoes

Trinidad is one of the countries that has a preponderance of mud volcanoes and they form another of the natural attractions of the country. The term is usually given to areas where there is an extrusion of watery mud or clay, accompanied by or sometimes forced by methane gas. Occasionally these volcanoes extrude material with violent force, throwing rocks hundreds of feet into the air. Commonly the activity of a mud volcano is simply a mild surface upwelling of muddy and usually saline water accompanied by gas bubbles.

These volcanoes are sometimes known locally as "bouffe" (french for swelling), "morne" or "yard." The original Amerindian inhabitants of Trinidad called these areas guaico, meaning "mud-stream". When the mud is of the dry type, a conical or volcano shape is usually formed. Wet mud tends to result in depressions.

Some of the mud volcanoes in Trinidad are found at

bulletPiparo
bulletDigity
bulletL' Eau Michel
bulletDevil's Woodyard
bulletLagon Bouffe
bulletPalo Seco
bulletMorne Diablo
bulletAnglais Point
bulletErin
bulletChatam
bulletColumbia Estate, Fullarton Cedros
bulletGalfa, Cedros
bulletTabaquite
bulletCascadoux Trace, Manzanilla
bulletPoint Radix offshore Volcano
bulletMarac Mud Volcanoes

The Piparo mud volcano (known by some as Morne Roche) is located in South Trinidad, just east of Marabella. It reaches an elevation of 365 feet (150 feet in relation to the surrounding land) and covers some 425 acres. This mud volcanoes usually sits dormant, but occasionally spews mud hundreds of feet into the air. The largest recorded eruption occurred in February 1997. To get to Piparo, take the Guaracara Road from Marabella heading east and turn onto the Piparo Road.

 

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Digity Volcano courtesy the Geological Society of Trinidad and Tobago

The Digity mud volcano has the classical cone shape that is commonly associated with volcanoes. It is approximately 20 feet high with mud and gas being ejected very infrequently (22/2/2003). It appears also that the amount of mud being ejected is directly related to the amount of rainfall, since in the dry season little or no activity is present.

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The Digity mud volcano sits atop a small hill on the outskirts of a little village surrounded by agricultural fields on three sides and a river on the other side. It is visible from the roadway and is approximately 7 minutes walk from the road along a former train track (the iron rails are gone but the cross ties are still visible). There are several routes to get to this volcano with one of the easiest routes being along the San Fernando Siparia Erin Road. At Debe village you turn onto Lalbeharry Trace (the Police Post is at the intersection) and drive for 1.8 kilometers. You then reach a four-way intersection with a cell tower on the left and you turn right on to the road opposite the cell tower. You drive for 2.8 kilometers and will reach the small village with the volcano. It is also possible to reach this volcano using Clarke Road in Penal but this route has numerous turns onto other roads.

 

L' Eau Michel (pronounced Lamoshell) Mud Volcano is located in Penal South Trinidad. To be more precise it is found by going to Penal and then travelling along the Penal Rock Road to Bunsee Trace.  You can drive by car to the end of Bunsee Trace and then the hiking begins. The hike to the volcano is approximately one hour (fitter hikers can make the journey in 40 minutes).  The terrain is composed of rolling hills and the trail is an agricultural dirt road. The trail goes through sugar cane fields and teak forest.

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The volcano is of the wet type with the mud rising  in the form of bubbles that then flow down the sides of the cone, trailing away from the center in every direction. The outpourings from this volcano cover a large area. Visit the photo gallery to see more pictures of the volcano and surrounding areas, enter the search term "lamoshell". A short distance from the main cone is a smaller mud volcano.

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During the rainy season the main cone occupies a larger area. The best time for visiting the volcano however may be during the dry season as there is no mud to contend with on the trail. A dry season visit however means dealing with the sun which can be merciless. There are no shaded areas along the trail during the dry season as the teak forest loses all its leaves. Any hiker on this trail should wear a wide brimmed hat and carry plenty of water (at least three bottles).

After visiting the L' Eau Michel volcano, one may want to visit Lamoshell beach.

 

 

Devil's Woodyard is probably the best known of Trinidad's mud volcanoes. Although most individuals say "the Devil's Woodyard Mud Volcano" this is really a mud volcano field with several vents scattered across the area.

 

Devil's Woodyard contains an active subsurface layer combined with methane gas that forces soft mud to the surface through various cracks in the ground. As you walk to the center of the area the various vents become noticeable. The underground forces emit, through surface cracks, warm, bubbling mud that forms into cones as it cools. For most of the time the cones in this area simply sputter with small spurts of salt mud. As you look around you can see the various active cones plus other cones that are no longer active and at times you can even see cracks where the mud looks like a small pool with sporadic bubbles and has not yet formed a cone. The Devil's Woodyard is a very peaceful area with the mud simply giving a slight hiss and pop sound. It has in the past however erupted violently with the first recorded eruption being in 1852.

 

The area surrounding the mud volcano vents has been enhanced with several picnic benches positioned around the area. There is a large grassy area suitable for children to run and play. A small cricket field with a small pavilion has also been erected and there is a paved car parking area. These enhancements are due to the generosity of several corporate sponsors.

There are several versions of how the area received the name Devil's Woodyard. In one version it is said that the site got its name after its first eruption in 1852 which shook the entire village, felled tall trees and frightened villagers. The Amerindians, at the time being superstitious, believed that the devil had come out of the earth and felled the woods. In another version it is said that the name Devil's Woodyard arose because early European settlers in Trinidad believed that the sound of the mud bubbling below the surface was the sound of the devil stockpiling wood. It is more likely that the persons who believed this area was the work of the devil were the disbanded black slave soldiers who were shipped from America to Trinidad after the war of 1812, as this area is in the midst of the geographic region settled by them and known as the Company Villages and the Woodyard lies between New Grant (the home of the First Company) and Sixth Company.

Some Hindus consider the Woodyard a sacred spot and worship there. To reach Devil's Woodyard go to Princes Town in South Trinidad and then continue on the Naparima Mayaro Road to Indian Walk area, turning off onto the Hindustan Road before New Grant and follow the signs.

 

Lagon Bouffe is one of Trinidad’s largest mud volcanoes being approximately 100 metres wide, covering an area of approximately 2 hectares. The vents that allow the escape of the mud are at the bottom of what was originally a large lake of water. The mudflows have now displaced the water and due to the low clay content have spread over the area, creating a large lake of liquid mud. The Lagon Bouffe therefore differs from other mud volcanoes that, due to their higher clay content, have cones. Individuals should not attempt to walk across or into the mud lake as the mud is extremely soft and so there is the danger of being swallowed by the mud.

The Lagon Bouffe mud volcano is located in the Trinity Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and Reserve. This sanctuary is one of Trinidad's oldest reserves having been classified a nature reserve in 1934. It covers 16,000 acres and is located in Southeast Trinidad, west of Guyaguyare. This sanctuary is home to a variety of wildlife including ocelot, capuchin monkeys, red howler monkeys, deer, manicou (opossums), lappe, matte (tegu lizard - see Photo Gallery), agouti, quenk (collared peccary), tatoo (armadillo), bellbirds, parrots, toucans and pigeons. It has several rivers, streams and waterfalls. The route to the Reserve is the Mayaro-Guyaguyare Road to the end of the road and then turn onto Edwards Trace. An alternate route is the Rio Claro-Guyaguyare Road and then turn onto Cats Hill Road and then onto the Trace into the Reserve. The Reserve is a restricted area and to gain entry permission must be obtained from Petrotrin. Call Petrotrin at 649-5539 before 4 pm from Monday to Friday, or 649-5500/5501 on public holidays.

 

At Anglais Point the outflow from the mud volcano descends over 700 feet to the beach to form a mud "glacier", with gullies and ridges created by the erosion of rain water. The Anglais Point mud volcano is sometimes referred to as the Beach Camp mud volcano. This volcano is on the South-eastern coastline, in the village of Palo Seco in South Trinidad. You turn onto the Beach Camp Road and drive to the Petrotrin gate and park your vehicle. From the gate there is a footpath to the beach and the mud outflow is on the western section of the beach.

 

The Erin Mud Volcanoes are part of a chain of mud volcanoes that run from Cedros to Morne Diablo. Among the Erin Group is the volcano with the largest cone of Trinidad's volcanoes. The directions for finding this volcano are taken from the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalist Club Trail Guide. You go along the Siparia-Erin Road past Santa Flora and Palo Seco until you come to Lorensotte South Trace, which is immediately after the 35 kilometer marker. You turn south onto Lorensotte South Trace and proceed to the end of the road. The initial section of the road has asphalt but then becomes a dirt road and in the rainy season it may be necessary to park at the end of the asphalt section. At the end of the road there is a footpath through the forest that runs in a south south west direction. This footpath leads to the volcano, merging with a dry shallow watercourse and then veering out of the watercourse just before a gully. The footpath climbs uphill to the volcano cone with a total distance of approximately 250 meters from the end of the road. For the truly adventurous, this volcano provides the opportunity to take a mud bath.

The Columbia_Mud_Volcano can more aptly be called the Columbia Mud Volcano Fields as it is not one single volcano but a series of volcanoes spread out over a large area of several acres. Found in the Cedros peninsula, between the villages of Fullarton and Icacos, these volcano fields present an almost lunar landscape. There are multiple cones, with all being active, constantly emitting hot water and soft clay with a "pop" sound. The mud from these volcanoes has spread out over a large area covering everything in its path. There are two volcano fields separated by a three minute walk. One of the noticeable features in this area, is how nature adapts. In between the two volcano fields, mangrove plants have begun to grow on this plateau.

These mud volcanoes are approximately one mile inside a coconut plantation on a slight hill. From the base of the hill to the volcanoes is approximately 10 minutes walk along a shaded track. It is best to visit these volcanoes in the dry season as during the rainy season the land in the coconut plantation is often under water.

Each year, Hindu devotees come to these volcanoes in April to perform a puja (ceremonial worship). The devotions are usually conducted at the first field. They pray to the Hindu goddess, Mother Durga, and give offerings of fruits, rice and flowers. These prayers are intended to placate the spirits so that they do not cause destruction with a major eruption.

Although these volcanoes seem easy to find if you get directions from villagers, they are in the midst of a large coconut plantation. Once inside the plantation everything seems the same with no visible landmarks and if you take a wrong turn it is easy to get lost. It is best to get someone who is familiar with the volcanoes to accompany. A good person to use for finding the volcano is Clang Sanarthan in the village of Fullarton.

The Galfa Mud Volcano is in the Green Hill area of Cedros and is said to be linked to the Columbia Mud Volcanoes as geologists have found several inactive craters running from Green Hill to Columbia estate. This mud volcano is very accessible as you can literally drive directly to it.

 Immediately as you enter Bonasse Village you turn left onto St Marie Road. Readers should note that there is a St Marie Road and a St Marie Street in Bonasse and the route to the volcano is on St Marie Road. The St Marie Road is paved but bumpy and one proceeds along this road for approximately two miles. Along the road there are signs and flags marking the route to the volcano. Almost at the end of the road, within sight of the sea, there is a road on the left and one turns onto this road. After a distance of 0.3 kilometers you reach the site of the volcano.

This volcano looks like a circular pond and in the center you can see the upwelling driven by the underground gas. The area around the volcano has been fenced and a small mandir erected by the Hindu Festivals Society with a donation from Thirbhawon Seegobin. During the month of April every year, Hindu devotees gather at this volcano to hold a puja and pray to the goddess Durga that the volcano will not erupt, as she is perceived to be the power behind the work of creation, preservation and destruction of the world.

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The Cascadoux Trace, Manzanilla, mud volcano is extremely accessible and can easily be combined with a visit to Mayaro Beach or Manzanilla Beach plus bird watching in the Kernahan area. The volcano is of the classic conical shape with the mud vent at the top of the cone.

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Cascadoux Trace is along the Manzanilla/Mayaro Road. For those individuals visiting from north Trinidad, Cascadoux Trace is approximately 5 kilometers after the Nariva River mouth. For those individuals travelling from south Trinidad, Cascadoux Trace is approximately 4 kilometers after the Ortoire River mouth. On turning into Cascadoux Trace, you proceed approximately 1 kilometer along the road and shortly after crossing a bridge, the road begins to rise. At the top of the incline you can park at the side of the road and the volcano is approximately 3 minutes walk on the northern side of the road. The mud volcano is at the rear of some houses and so permission should be requested of the property owners to walk through their property.

 

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The Cascadoux Trace volcano has been linked to the mud volcano off the coast at Point Radix as it lies along the same fault line. The Point Radix mud volcano is visible from the land by going along Point Radix Road and then ascending the hill with the TSTT cellular tower. The Point Radix Road is navigable by car and parallels the Ortoire River as it empties into the sea.

Off shore mud volcanoes while not common in Trinidad are not unusual. The most well known of the off shore mud volcanoes is at Chatam in South Trinidad. The top of the volcano periodically rises above the water to form an offshore island but is eroded by the waves. The first recorded instance was in 1911, when an island emerged amid an explosion and flames, rising about 12 feet above sea level. In 1928, an island again emerged, accompanied by gas explosions, and disappeared within a few weeks. The largest version of the recurring island appeared in 1964, when a 10.5-acre land mass formed over several days, ultimately rising 25 feet above sea level. On May 11 2001 the volcano again created a new island about a mile and a half offshore, in the Columbus Channel. In November 2002 the island off Chatam reappeared but by March 2003 the mud volcano was almost totally eroded below sea level.

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Aripo Savannas Scientific Reserve

The Aripo Savannah is the largest remaining natural savannah in Trinidad and is an area of approximately 1,600 hectares. It is located in eastern Trinidad between Valencia and Sangre Grande. It is actually a cluster of savannahs enclosed by marsh forest. In it are found Savannah Serrette trees, melostome shrubs (Trianna, Monkey Bone, Bois lissette), tiny bladderworts while the borders are lined with Moriche Palms. It is a natural savannah determined mainly by soil type. The soil consists of an impervious clay pan of depths of 50 – 100 cm overlain by fine sand. The clay causes water to remain on the surface during the rainy season and run off is horizontal, leaching the soil of its nutrients. Most of the plants are therefore specially adapted to fixing their own nitrogen or are parasitic or insectivorous. Ground orchids are common. Tiny sundew, which is a carnivorous plant with leaves adapted for catching insects are found there. Several species of bladderworts that are aquatic plants with leaves adapted for catching insects and crustaceans are also found in this savannah. Overall more than 200 species of plant life are found in these savannas. In addition More than 250 species of birds have been seen here, and the Savannah Hawk and Fork-tailed Palm Swift are among common sightings. Also to be seen in the Aripo Savannah are the Red-Bellied Macaw and the Golden Throat Hummingbird.

This is a protected area and a permit is required for entry. Contact the Forestry Division at 868-645-1203 for permit details.

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Cunapo_Growing_Stone

The Cunapo Growing Stone is an interesting geological phenomenon that has many persons believing that over the years the stone has grown in size. This huge boulder is estimated to be sixty million years old and is easily found as it lies at the side of the main road. Going to the area from Sangre Grande one takes the Cunapo Southern Road and between the villages of Coal Mine and Plum Mitan at the 11 kilometer (6 3/4 mile) mark you encounter the Growing Stone. The drive to this geological formation is a pleasant family adventure as it takes you through small villages and pristine natural forest. Indeed the boulder lies within a forest reserve surrounded by pristine forest and at the side of the boulder the land falls away into a valley that contains a small stream. On the boulder there is a plaque that has been placed there by the Ministry of Agriculture and helps identify the stone from the other boulders that lie in the area.



 

This unique boulder is a "Gritty Sandstone Boulder" that was created from the sands that originally formed in this area millions of years ago when the area lay under the sea. The stone came out of the same formation that created the surrounding hills and the nearby Mount Harris and throughout the neighboring forest there are several of these huge stones, all millions of years old. These stones either came to the surface by being pushed up from below through fault activity or fell from the mountaintop.
 
As for the belief that the stone grows each year, well it does not actually grow. Instead the increase in height of the stone is due to the sinking of the sand around the boulder which automatically increases the height of the stone as the sand keeps on sinking

 

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San Fernando Hill

San Fernando Hill (officially known as Naparima Hill) is a 180 metre (600-foot) hill that rises majestically out of the Naparima Plains. The hill is a landmark in south Trinidad and the city of San Fernando has developed around its flanks. The Amerindians called the hill Anaparima which means "single hill", although some have put forward that it means "place without water". It is believed that the Amerindians used the hill as a place of worship, with members of the Warrahoon tribe (Guaraunos or Warao) travelling in canoes from the Orinoco delta in South America, landing at Icacos, Quinam, Erin and Moruga and travelling overland to San Fernando. They believed that the hill is the home of their supreme spirit and ancestor hero, inventor of the first canoe and his mother their divine ancestress. It is said that up to the 1920's the Guarahoons still travelled from South America to worship on San Fernando Hill and then went to Mount Tamana. According to the Angostura Historical Digest Vol VIII they created quite a stir in San Fernando in the 1920's as they passed naked through the town.

San Fernando Hill is a limestone outcrop of approximately 100 acres. A photograph taken from Palmiste Estate in 1895 shows that the hill was originally dome shaped with a flattened center. Unfortunately for over 200 years the gravel from the hill was quarried and used for road construction, resulting in the hill being reduced in size by approximately one third. Protests by citizens' groups led to a halt to quarrying and the Hill was included in the National Parks and Protected Areas plan of 1980.

San Fernando Hill is now a place for recreation and relaxation. A process of reforestation has been implemented so that natural tree cover is now found on many parts. There are covered areas for picnics and the holding of functions, plus barbecue pits for outdoor cooking.

 

 

Numerous benches are located on the hill so that you can enjoy the view, which is stupendous. Looking to the north and Northwest can be see the Point Lisas Industrial Estate and the coastline of the Gulf of Paria. The eastern and northeastern views show the Caroni and Naparima Plains plus the rolling hills of the Central Range. As you look to the southwest, the Pitch Lake at La Brea can be seen and in the distance the town of Point Fortin can be discerned.

 

 

At the top of the Hill is a visitor center. This is a two-storey building, on the ground floor, housing a large room used as an interpretive area displaying images from San Fernando’s history and culture; from religious pilgrimages of Amerindian tribes to the era of oil booms and industry. The second storey is an open, breezy gallery-like area that offers a perfect spot for admiring the view, or having small formal/informal social, cultural and/or religious events. The building also houses an office, bathroom facilities and a simple kitchenette.

In December 1988, a children's play park was opened just before the top of the hill. The park commemorated the life of Haji Shafik Rahaman, an outstanding member of the Muslim community and the Inter Religious Organisation.

 


It is possible to drive to the top of the Hill, however for those who like a more challenging route there are steps which leads from the bottom of the hill at Marryat Street to its summit. For the really adventurous there are several World War Two bunkers on the hill that are not readily accessible to the public. To get to the vehicle entrance to San Fernando Hill you proceed along Circular Road and turn at Soongs Great Wall Restaurant.

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La Brea Pitch Lake

In 1595 Sir Walter Raleigh while in search of gold visited Trinidad and found an outflow from the Pitch Lake which he used to caulk his ships. It is likely however that he was not the first to discover this natural wonder of the world as the existence of the Pitch Lake was certainly known by the Amerindians. The word pitch comes from the Amerindian word "piche". The Chaima Indians (Amerindians) believed that the lake was formed as punishment for their cooking and eating the hummingbirds that they believed held the spirits of their ancestors. In punishment a winged god opened the earth and swallowed the offending village in the pitch. It now known that the lake is the result of large quantities of asphaltic oil having seeped into a great quantity of mud with great pressures and gases. The lighter portion of this mixture evaporating over the course of centuries, leaving a thick viscous residue.

The Pitch Lake at La Brea in Trinidad is 55 miles (90 kilometers) & 90 minutes from Port of Spain. It is the largest in the world, being approximately 100 acres (40 hectares) and 250 feet (75 metres) deep at the centre. The two other known lakes are at Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela and at the La Brea Tar Pits at Los Angeles, California. The entire region derives its name from the lake which is a Spanish word  meaning tar. Trinidadians however have always referred to tar as "pitch". The "lake" has been mined and its fine asphalt exported since 1859. Some believe that the lake is inexhaustible as a hole dug one day is completely filled by the next day. Although most of the surface is firm there are soft areas and a person can sink completely below the surface. Visitors are free to bathe in the "fountain of youth" which are natural springs, reputed to have healing properties, appear at the center during the rainy season: their sulphuric water is supposed to be good for rheumatism, arthritis, mosquito bites, rashes and skin conditions.

At first sight it seems as though nothing can survive on the lake surface and yet herons are everywhere, along with hummingbirds, sandpipers and kingfishers.  There is a small museum at the site that houses Amerindian artifacts recovered from the lake along with the remains of prehistoric animals such as the mammoth. The site is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm and admission includes a guided tour of this natural attraction. It is recommended that you only use approved tour guides. The La Brea Pitch Lake Tour Guides Association, telephone number (868) 651-1232, operates from the La Brea Visitor Facility, which includes a cafeteria and a car park.

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Last modified: June 20, 2007

All photographs (unless otherwise stated) are the property of  Brian Ramsey. None of the photographs may be reproduced without the express written consent of  Outdoor Business Group Limited and Brian Ramsey.