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In the mist of the sea there is a horned island with deep green harbours. a place of light with luminous valleysunder thunderous clouds . Her mountainstinkle with springs among moss-beardedforests . a volcano, stinking with sulphur,has made it a healing place.' So DerekWalcott (1990) - poet, playwright andNobel laureate - sums up the stunningtopography and ecology of St. Lucia. First inhabited by Arawak Indians, theisland was later conquered by the fierceCaribs who, in turn, were deposed by theBritish in 1667. Rule over the island thenalternated between the French and theBritish until its independence in 1979.Today, of course, St. Lucia is well known as 'the Honeymoon Isle', and is noted forthe beauty of its scenery. However, it alsosupports a surprising variety of endemicflora and fauna, having long been isolatedfrom the other islands of the Lesser Antilles,and the islanders' pride in its naturalresources is evident in the country'songoing protection and conservationefforts. Ours is a single-centre holiday, based atthe Anste Chastanet Hotel situated close toPetit Piton - one of St. Lucia's two extinctvolcanoes which tower 800 metres from thesea. Consequently this is one of the mostrelaxing and flexible of Naturetrek holidays. ideal for the enthusiastic birder ornaturalist whose partner might be moreinterested in the luxuries offered by ourresort, the nearby beach or the culturalexcursions laid on. With the opportunity tocomplete each day with a glorious sunsetand a traditional rum punch, this isdefinitely one of the more civilised ofbirdwatching and wildlife tours! The hotel is close to some of the mostspectacular scenery and habitats on theisland, and we will enjoy these on our dailyexcursions as we search for the island'swildlife, in particular its four species ofendemic bird, plus its 14 Lesser Antilleanendemics. The first of these are likely to beseen from our breakfast table, for LesserAntillean Bullfinch, Antillean CrestedHummingbird and Purple-throated Carib alllive in the hotel grounds.The twin peaks of Les Pitons are St. Lucia'smost famous landmark and, during ourstay, we will take a leisurely day walk to thetop of Gros Piton, which providesbreathtaking views of the coast and ocean with the island of St. Vincent visibleto the south. We will also head into the hills of the Edmond National Rainforest,which covers 19,000 acres of lushmountains and valleys. It is home to treeferns, bromeliads and many orchids. Thebirdlife here is very special and many of theendemic species may be found includingthe St. Lucia Parrot, St. Lucia Oriole and St.Lucia Blackfinch. Later, a walk along theEnbas Saut Falls Trail is a remote, wild andunbelievably scenic experience, with acombination of rainforest, cloudforest andelfin woodland for habitat and anotheropportunity to find the St. Lucia Parrot, as well as Antillean Euphonia and Lesser Antillean Flycatcher. The Sulphur Springs is probably the world's only drive-in volcano, affordingclose views of bubbling mud pools andsteaming vents. The vents release greatquantities of sulphuric gases, giving thearea its unique odour. Some of the groupmay be tempted to test the efficacious, and allegedly rejuvenating, properties of this volcanic mud before washing awaythe residue under a refreshing waterfall! A trip to the tiny Maria Islands, just off thesouth-eastern coast of St. Lucia, is veryworthwhile. They are home to two endemicsnakes: the St. Lucia Racer, one of theworld's rarest snakes with a population ofless than a hundred; and the St. LuciaWhiptail, of which there are less than athousand individuals. The breeding birds onthe island include Sooty Tern, BrownNoddy, frigatebirds and tropicbirds.Snorkelling from the beach will reveal manyCaribbean fish and the possibility ofencountering a Hawksbill Turtle gracefullyswimming in the warm waters. Back on themainland, we will appreciate St. Lucia'seast coast, ravaged by the fury of theAtlantic and thereby boasting a spectacularcoastline of sculptured rocks andsedimentary cliffs, stacks and arches. Herewe find a windswept vegetation that islargely xerophytic, with a very high speciesdensity, and the world's smallest snake,Leptotyphlops bilineata.Having explored the interior of the island, we now take to the sea for an excitingconclusion to the holiday. Whale-watchinghas become an increasingly popular activityand the species regularly seen offshoreinclude Sperm, Humpback and PilotWhales, and both Spinner and SpottedDolphins. As we cruise along thepicturesque Caribbean coastline the sceneryalone will provide a splendid finale to ourstay on this most delightful of islands. St. LuciaA relaxing 9-day holiday to this beautiful Caribbean island to enjoy its birds, marine mammals and other natural history.Friday 4th January - Saturday 12th January Cost: £3,295Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationPRASLINBAYSAVANNESBAYHEWANNORAAIRPORTMARIAISLANDSNATIONALRAINFORESTCASTRIESSOUFRIÈREPETIT PITONGROS PITONST. LUCIAOutline itineraryDay 1Fly St. Lucia for aweek's stay at a resorthotel.Day 2Anste Chastanet.Day 3Les Pitons.Day 4Sulphur Springs andAnse Chastanet.Day 5Maria Islands andSavannes Bay.Day 6Edmond State Forest.Day 7Whale-watching.Day 8Depart St. Lucia.Day 9Arrive London.AccommodationAn award-winning hotel with privatefacilities. FoodAll included in the price.GradingGrade A/B. Leisurely day walks (allof them optional), but often in fairlysteep and mountainous terrain.FocusBirds, whales and other naturalhistory of the island.LeaderMartin Kenefick.Single room supplement£890.Web quick search: LCA01195'Les PitonsSt. Lucia ParrotHumpback Whale

The friendly Caribbean island ofTrinidad is only 16 kilometres from thecoast of Venezuela and offers anideal introduction to the colourful avifaunaof South America. Its close proximity to themainland is reflected in a remarkablydiverse bird list featuring representativesfrom most Neotropical families but lackingthe proliferation of species that can seemoverwhelming elsewhere on the continent.March and April are good times to visit theisland, marking the peak of nesting activitybut before the onset of summer rains. Wewill stay for eight nights at the supremelycomfortable Asa Wright Nature Centrewhere the excellence of the service andfacilities is matched by the quality andease of the birdwatching. This relaxed andeasy paced holiday concludes with a visitto neighbouring Tobago which offers acontrasting mix of rainforest, seabirds andunderwater life around a pristine coral reef.Visitors to the Asa Wright Centre, whetherhuman or avian, are always well fed!Hungry birdwatchers are served deliciousmeals in the gracious old plantationbuilding which is now the headquarters ofthe centre and are soon introduced to theafternoon ritual of tea on the verandahfollowed by iced rum punch at sunset.Sugar solution feeders are replenished atdawn for the various hummingbirds,honeycreepers and Bananaquits and birdtables heaped with fruit to attract a steadystream of forest birds within range ofbinoculars and cameras. The ratherpleasant pastime of birdwatching from theverandah can produce 30 species in asmany minutes; White-necked Jacobins andother hummingbirds hover within an arm'slength as Chestnut Woodpeckers,tanagers, thrushes and many other birdsattack the fruit. This constantly changingscene ensures that the spectators on theverandah always have something to watch;but not all the visitors are birds ... TrinidadSquirrels, Agoutis and giant Tegu Lizardsalso emerge to share the spoils! Neitherwill the more energetic members of our party be disappointed, for a network oftrails facilitates access to the forestedgrounds of the centre where less confidinginhabitants await our discovery. As weexplore these trails, trogons, BeardedBellbirds, Channel-billed Toucans andmanakins are among the resident birdsthat can be seen with relative ease, but wewill need patience to glimpse the moreskulking ant-thrushes and spinetails in theundergrowth. One of the highlights of ourstay will be a visit to the world's mostaccessible Oilbird colony and here we canobserve these strange birds from themouth of their cave, a privilege onlygranted to Asa Wright guests.During our stay we will also travel byminibus to visit different areas of theisland, each change of habitat bringing afresh selection of new birds. NarivaSwamp on the Atlantic coast, the centralsavannah, and the northern Caribbeancoast will each occupy a full day and as asplendid finale we will spend the lastafternoon in Trinidad witnessing the arrivalof Scarlet Ibises at their roost in the heartof Caroni Swamp, the incoming birdsgradually turning the mangroves afluorescent red as they take their places inthe trees. There could hardly be a moreappropriate way to end a week enrichedby daily encounters with colourful andexotic birds. A 20-minute flight will take us to theneighbouring island of Tobago for the lastfour days of our holiday. This is a beautifulisland, still largely unspoilt by tourism, andthe Rain Forest Reserve which extendsalong the central spine of the island is richin birds, plants and insects. We will stay atthe Blue Waters Inn, tucked into a privatecove just outside the village of Speysideon the north coast of Tobago. Theswimming is excellent here, and a coralreef in the bay invites closer inspection forthose interested in snorkelling. We gain alittle insight to this colourful underwaterworld from a glass-bottomed boat during amorning excursion to Little Tobago Islandwhere many seabirds nest. Red-billedTropicbirds obligingly fly within metres ofphotographers, Brown and Red-footedBoobies nest on the cliffs below a vantagepoint, and all three species run thegauntlet of the Magnificent Frigatebirdsthat maintain a constant and menacingpresence. Later we will pay several visitsto the extensive Tobago Rain ForestReserve, the oldest in the Caribbean, andshould see most of the typical inhabitantsincluding Great Black Hawk, Red-leggedHoneycreeper, White-tailed Sabrewing andBlue-backed Manakin. This short visit toTobago ideally complements the earlierweek on Trinidad and the combination ofislands provides an unbeatable Caribbeanexperience enriched by an abundance ofnatural history treasures. Trinidad & Tobago A 14-day birdwatching and natural history holiday to Trinidad and Tobago, including an 8-night stay at the renowned Asa Wright Nature Centre.Saturday 23rd March - Friday 5th April Cost: £3,795Saturday 13th April - Friday 26th April Cost: £3,795Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Trinidad and transferto Asa Wright Centre.Day 2/8Asa Wright Centre.Excursions toBlanchisseuse, NarivaSwamp, Wallerfield,Arena Forest, OilbirdCave and CaroniSwamp.Day 9Fly Tobago.Day 10/12Tobago.Day 13Depart Tobago.Day 14Arrive London.AccommodationAsa Wright Centre in Trinidad andcomfortable tourist hotel in Tobago,both with private facilities.Food All included in the price.Grading A. Easy birdwatching walks.Focus Birds and natural history.Leader Paul Dukes or Peter Dunn, pluslocal guides.Single room supplement£850.Web quick search: TTO01196Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryLITTLE TOBAGOISLANDROXBOROUGHSPEYSIDERAIN FORESTGRAFTONBUCCOO MARSHCROWNPOINTPORT OF SPAINCARONI SWAMPARIMAARENAFORESTNARIVASWAMPBLANCHISSEUSEASA WRIGHTNATURECENTREATLANTIC OCEANGULF OFPARIACARIBBEAN SEATOBAGOTRINIDADBlanchisseuseHeliconia bihaiWhite-necked Jacobin