It’s 3 pm on Carnival Monday in Port of Spain, Trinidad. An unrelenting sun beats down on the shimmering blacktop which is littered with glitter, scraps of brightly colored feathers and the occasional exhausted masquerader. For the spectator, thousands of sun-splashed, sweat-slicked bodies, supple and slim, bountiful and beautiful, have danced past and ears buzz with the rhythm of prancing feet. With one day to go before the dazzling culmination of what has come to be known as “the greatest show on Earth” it’s time to depart the city and experience Trinidad and Tobago’s wilder side.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival celebrations are well known throughout the Caribbean, and among the region’s diaspora, but while the Parade of Bands, calypso and steel pan has remained at the forefront of visitor encounters, the islands’ wilder delights have remained somewhat of an enigma.
Islanders in the know leave the parched city and towns to find another type of Carnival, one that’s hidden in plain view and decidedly delightful. Adrenaline junkies by the thousands, while enjoying the visual and sensory delights of the Parade of the Bands, have used Carnival as a vehicle to also explore the islands adventure offerings.
In one of Trinidad’s premiere party and nightlife destinations, the Macqueripe Bay Zip-Line at Chaguaramas National Park is a new addition to the country’s adventure portfolio, boasting an exhilarating zip-line ride through verdant forest canopy with sea views from 100 feet high.
Just outside of Port of Spain, the nation’s loud and bustling capital city, is a venue that plays host to a spectacle that has set alight the desires of even the most disdainful eye. Hidden behind a dense embracing canopy of long slender mangrove limbs is the Caroni Bird Sanctuary. Home to monkeys, snakes and a variety of avian life, it is also the big stage where, in a pre-dusk show, thousands of Scarlet Ibis fill the dusky sky with vibrant crimson plumage in a spectacular display of color that has inspired many Carnival bandleaders.
This show can only be accessed by boat, but for the adventurous, kayaks are also the ticket to front row views of the swamp and its many inhabitants.
In Tobago, water babies rule as Carnival celebrations take to the waves. The annual Tobago Carnival Regatta, “A Festival of Wind” at Pigeon Point Beach, offers four days of partying and water sports against the iconic seascape of white sand, frothy surf and towering coconut palms.
Landlubbers can skip the seaside and move inland on an adrenaline packed Off-Road Jeep Safari along secluded dirt roads, through rivers, across old plantations and into the rainforest. Tobago also happens to be one of the Caribbean’s best destinations for mountain biking and it is the perfect way to explore the island’s scenic interior. Horseback tours start in the tiny village of Canaan and winds through the bushes and coconut palms. This 75 minute adventure atop thoroughbred horses also includes visits to several beaches, an estate and a mangrove swamp. Another activity growing in popularity as “must do” while on the island of Tobago is the stand-up paddle board tours. Among the options on offer are daytime explorations of one of two mangrove lagoons on the island, as well as a stunning nocturnal bioluminescence tour to rival the excitement of any Carnival show.
The revelry of mas and music may come to an end on Carnival Tuesday, but Trinidad and Tobago’s wild side can be enjoyed throughout year.
JUMP UP & JUMP IN
Unable to visit Trinidad and Tobago for Carnival 2014? You can still have a Carnival experience outside of the season. From December preparations for the festival begins with parties, the opening of calypso tents and launch of major competitions, including Panorama. Year round the pan yards, home of the steel bands, welcome visitors and celebrations of Borough Day in the various districts include a Carnival component. For a Carnival of wildlife, Trinidad and Tobago’s lush rainforest and other natural habitats are teeming with wildlife and rare species, including the world’s smallest Hummingbird and leatherback turtles during the nesting season.
And with the destination being one of the most affordable in the Caribbean, organized adventure tours and activities start at US$20 and during the Carnival season entrance fees for most shows and competitions range between US$7 and US$250.
For more insights and information on planning your own adventure in Trinidad and Tobago visit www.gotrinidadandtobago.com or www.visittobago.gov.tt