Explore the Oldest Protected Forest in the Hemisphere
If you haven’t been to the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, the chance to discover the wonders of the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve should add it to your Caribbean travel list.
Covering two-thirds of the island, the Reserve dates back to 1776 – the same year as American Independence!
The historic ordinance protecting the tropical rainforest recognized some of the earliest science showing the relationship between abundant trees and the rainfall that contributed to the fertility of the land. It is considered a conservation landmark, with Scientific American noting, “the protection of Tobago's forest was the first act in the modern environmental movement'.
Legacy of Conservation
Today, the 10,000 acres of prolific tropical rainforest is a dream for naturalists, outdoors enthusiasts and especially bird watchers. It’s home to dozens of species of mammals, (non-poisonous) reptiles and amphibians, including the ocellated gecko, not found anywhere else in the world.
More than 200 types of birds live in the reserve and you can see many of the colorful winged residents of the rainforest. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the White-tailed Sabrewing Hummingbird. It’s one of the world’s rarest hummingbirds and unique to the island of Tobago. Thought at one time to be extinct after a hurricane tore through the region, the species has been recovering since its rediscovery in the 1970’s.
There are a number of marked trails through the lush and tranquil Reserve. The oldest and most prestigious trail is the Gilpin Trace. Cutting through the heart of the forest, it’s generally flat and accessible to birders, nature lovers and hikers of many levels of fitness. An experienced guide will help you make the most of the sights and sounds of this naturalists’ nirvana.
For more intrepid explorers, turn your sights on the island’s highest point – Pigeon Peak – at the eastern end of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve. In a half-day hike, you can traverse the challenging, overgrown and mostly unmarked trail. The main route follows an old plantation road that cuts along the hillside. Just before a gully, a steep trail leads up into open rainforest towards the summit.
Off The Beaten Track
Surprisingly for a nature reserve that’s been voted “World’s Leading Eco-Tourism destination” multiple times, the Main Ridge Forest Reserve still flies under the radar. So it’s the perfect place for an off-the-beaten-track tropical nature holiday.
Images Courtesy Tobago Tourism; Photo credit: Alexa Fernado
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