The Nariva Swamp is the largest freshwater wetland in Trinidad and Tobago (over 60 sq. Km). Designated a Wetland of International Importance, the swamp is home to 58 different species of mammals including the West Indian Manatee and Red Howler monkeys.
Not too far from the rumble and tumble of waves at Manzanilla beach is the Nariva Swamp, accessible by kayak or dinghy in the wet season or on foot in the dry season. This internationally protected forest reserve is Trinidad’s largest mangrove freshwater wetland, located behind lush coconut groves. Within the swamp, there is the Bush Bush Wildlife Sanctuary, home to more than 200 species of birds and animals. Here, red howler monkeys are often seen swinging between the hardwood and huge silk cotton trees which also serve as the nesting place for colourful parrots, the red-bellied macaw and an array of beautiful butterflies. Don’t be fooled though, because among these beautiful creatures live some that are quite scary if you interfere with them!There are tree-climbing porcupines, anacondas, caimans (alligators), anteaters, the endangered ocelot and the peaceful manatee – a sea cow indigenous to Trinidad. The reserve spans about 24 square miles of wetland, marshes and swamp. Along the northern border, a small portion has been reclaimed for rice cultivation but for the most part it is wild wasteland. The swamp is also home to the tallest fig tree on the island, the only one of its kind and recently ‘discovered’. In an earlier time, this tropical giant would no doubt have been felled for its small fortune in timber, but today its place is assured until nature decides its fate. To visit the Nariva Swamp and Bush Bush Wildlife Sanctuary, you need to visit the Forestry Department at St Joseph to collect a pass, and there you can also get information on hiking and boat tours.
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