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The range of birds and wildlife in Costa Rica was amazing

Thank you for arranging such a wonderful tour to Costa Rica. Everything about it was superb! The hotels/lodges were great, the itinerary was well thou..

Thank you for arranging such a wonderful tour to Costa Rica. Everything about it was superb! The hotels/lodges were great, the itinerary was well thought out, the group size was ideal, the locations chosen were fascinating and diverse and the range of birds and wildlife we were lucky enough to see was amazing.

After a delayed flight and shenanigans from a stag party on our BA flight from Gatwick we had to sit on the plane for 40 minutes in San Jose while armed security guards and police boarded the plane to arrest a dozen passengers.

It was a relief to eventually see Abelardo’s smiling face outside the airport and to reach the lovely Bouganvillea Hotel. Everything about this hotel (our accommodation at the start and end of our tour), was first class; the rooms, the food, the staff and the fantastic grounds.

On the following morning we set off for Selva Verde Lodge and had some lovely stops on the way.

All the lunch stops en route to other areas were excellent except for the final one but even there the toilets deserved 5 stars!

What a wonderful place to find wildlife! The grounds and surrounding areas were fascinating and there was so much to see and do. The rooms were lovely, the food was adequate and the optional trips out were great and even included in the price, which was a nice surprise! There was quite bad traffic noise in our rooms during the night as we were close to the road. Maybe rooms nearer to the river could be booked in future? However this didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this lovely lodge.

I have some mobility/balance problems and could not join in with the more strenuous activities and hikes on this trip but I was able to wander around the grounds of the lodges on my own and actually saw lots of birds, lizards, dragonflies, and mammals that the rest of the group did not see, so I still felt very lucky.

Our next, longish, journey took us to the mountainous regions and the Paraiso Quetzal Lodge. The setting for this lodge is very scenic and this was the place to see lots of humming birds. Most of us were upgraded to the luxury cabins which was nice, but for me it was a real struggle as they were such a long way from the main buildings down a very steep hill. Walking up, at altitude, for meals was hard work but I guess it made me fitter after a few days!

Luckily, I had read on Tripadvisor that it could be extremely cold here and this was certainly true! I had a warm, windproof coat, hat, scarf and gloves plus a hot water bottle but I was still cold! Despite the cold and the inadequate heating in the rooms, I loved my stay here! We saw Resplendent Quetzals, lots of humming birds and some more unusual birds that we didn’t see elsewhere. I found the staff and especially the food to be excellent at this lodge. It was a very special place to stay.

As we left the lodge to travel to our next accommodation we had an interesting stop at the second highest point in Costa Rica. We were lucky to see a beautiful Motmot on the long track leading to Macaw Lodge.

Macaw Lodge is a magical place in a beautiful setting .The grounds are stunning and it is a really peaceful, relaxing place with lovely views whichever way you turn! I loved wandering round the grounds here as there was so much to see and it was readily accessible. I did not feel much warmth from the staff here, which I felt in all the other lodges, but Abelardo explained to me later why this might have been the case. May I say how much I enjoyed the free filtered water, tea and coffee on tap throughout the day at all the lodges. The fresh fruit juices served at mealtimes were delicious. Unusually for me I hardly had any alcoholic beverages during my trip, as I enjoyed the fresh drinks so much!

On the way to our final lodge we visited Carara National Park. We had a lovely, unhurried long walk here and were lucky to see Scarlet Macaws and also White-faced Capuchin monkeys at very close quarters.

Our final stay was at La Ensenada Lodge, on the coast. As we were settling into our cabins we saw howler monkeys wandering freely on the path close by. Again, the grounds were beautiful and the view from my cabin was wonderful. The lodges you used for this tour really were great! There was a lot of easily accessible wildlife in and around the grounds and I thoroughly enjoyed my stay here despite falling heavily in the nearby cow field whilst searching for birds with the rest of the group (no lasting damage)! The food improved after an average offering on the first night and I found the staff to be friendly and helpful despite the fact that they spoke very little English. I really loved it here with howler monkeys, rabbits, owls, trogons, lizards, laughing falcons, roseate spoonbills, pelicans, herons, frigate-birds, kiskadees, greedy white-throated magpie jays and even a baby skunk to see close by.

The only slight criticisms I had concerned the showerhead in my bathroom and the free-standing fan; they were both filthy and unhygienic. Also, the final boat trip was supposed to last for 3 hours but it was quite disappointing and we were back after only 2 hours. However, everything else about this place was so lovely that these incidents didn’t spoil my stay.

Finally, we returned to the luxurious Hotel Bouganvillea for a lovely meal and a chance to reminisce about our great experiences.

Beryl White - March 2017

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If Tobago was the starter then Trinidad and the Asa Wright Centre was the main course

Trinidad and Tobago 20th Feb – 6th March 2017  We chose T&T on the recommendation of birding friends. We chose Motmot because we liked the ..

Trinidad and Tobago 20th Feb – 6th March 2017 

We chose T&T on the recommendation of birding friends. We chose Motmot because we liked the look of their website, their prices, and the swift and helpful response we got from them (Shona contacted me literally within 5 minutes of my placing an enquiry via Responsible Travel).

I explained that although I am a birder my wife, Linda, isn’t (although she describes herself as “a birder by osmosis”) so we wanted a mixture of good birding and relaxation. Shona quickly put together a suggested package which we then tweaked and finally agreed. All the arrangements from that point to arrival back at Gatwick at the end of our holiday went without a hitch. All our transfers happened on time and all our guides turned up at the appointed hour.

Our British Airways flight touched down in Tobago on time just a little before sunset. After the slow but friendly immigration formalities were completed we were greeted by Susan, Motmot Travel’s representative on Tobago and Lesley-Ann who drove us to Blue Waters Inn at Speyside in the North of the island 90 minutes away. Just time for a complimentary rum punch and a light meal before bed.

I’d recommend early nights because by 4.30 we were woken by Tropical Mockingbird delivering their strangely Thrush-like songs, closely followed by Chachalaca, easily the noisiest bird on the island. Our first day was spent relaxing, recovering from the flight and being entertained by a group of Ruddy Turnstone feeding around our sunbeds. A stroll around the grounds produced Red-crowned Woodpecker, Barred Antshrike, White-fringed Antwren and, on the feeder outside our room, Copper-rumped Hummingbird. Other species during our stay here included Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Pelican, Blue-Grey Tanager, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Northern Waterthrush, Trinidad Motmot, White-winged Swallow and of course the ubiquitous Banaquit.

Our eagerly awaited trip to Little Tobago was not disappointing. As well as the Red-billed Tropicbirds, Brown and Red-footed Boobies for which the island is well-known we saw, with the help of Troy our guide, Short-tailed Swift, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Broad-winged Hawk, Scaly-naped Pigeon and a marauding Peregrine along with several commoner species. Back on the boat (glass-bottomed) there was time for those who wanted to do a bit of snorkelling followed by a leisurely cruise over the reef spotting fish, sponges and corals along the way.

Undoubtedly the highlights of our stay on Tobago were our two trips out with Newton George. The first, leaving at 6.00, was a half day in the main Ridge rain forest where we kicked of with a roosting Common Potoo that Newton knew about (well he would wouldn’t he). Moving on to the rain forest proper and Newton was pointing out birds left, right and centre! Highlights were Red-legged Honeycreeper, White-tailed Sabrewing, Collared Trogon, Olivaceous and Cocoa Woodcreeper, Venezualan, Streaked and Fuscous Flycatchers, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, White-necked and Yellow-legged Thrush, a nesting Rufous-breasted Hermit, Blue-backed Manakin, Stripe-breasted Spinetail, Red-rumped Woodpecker and Rufous-breasted Wren.

After a day of rest and relaxation our second outing with Newton was a full day around the island. A different range of habitats, mainly coastal and wetland, demonstrated the variety of birds available in this small island. Snowy, Great and Cattle Egrets, Anhinga, Wattled Jacana, Green,Tri-coloured, Great Blue and Little Blue Herons, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Scrub Greenlet, Blue-black and Black-faced Grassquits, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are just a sample, along with Caiman and Cook’s Tree Boa (just to show that we looked at other things as well).

If Tobago was the starter then Trinidad and the Asa Wright Centre was the main course. There was always something to look at whether on the feeders or from our room or in the surrounding forest. Both Purple and Green Honeycreepers were abundant as were Violaceous Euphonia and White-lined Tanager with the occasional Silver-beaked Tanager added to the mix. Along with these came Palm Tanager, Turquoise Tanager, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Blue-headed and Orange-winged Parrots, Grey-fronted Dove, Bay-headed Tanager and, of course, the hummingbirds – Green Hermit, Black-throated Mango, White-necked Jacobin, Blue-chinned Sapphire, White-chested Emerald, Tufted Coquette and my personal favourite Long-billed Starthroat. Not content with distant ‘scope views of Bearded Bellbird from the verandah Linda and I took a morning walk down the Discovery Trail and were rewarded with stunning views of a singing male down to 20 metres. This same trail produced a lek of 8 White-bearded Manakin and good views of Squirrel Cuckoo, Golden-headed Manakin and Great Antshrike while back at the verandah a pair of Ferruginous Pygmy Owl put in an appearance.

Our afternoon trip to Caroni started with Masked Cardinal feeding on a banana provided by the security guard at the gate. Before boarding the boat Charon, our driver/guide, found us Black-crested Antshrike and Green-throated Mango. We had the luxury of a boat exclusively for Asa Wright clients, which meant 8 of us on a boat designed to seat 30. We got off to a rather damp start as the heavens opened just as we set off so we spent the first 10 miniutes of our trip sheltering under a large plastic sheet much to the chagrin of a couple of photographers in our group. However the rain soon abated and we were able to get views of the birds pointed out by Lester our guide. A roosting Tropical Screech Owl was first up followed by Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Bicoloured Conebill and several Spotted Sandpiper with a side order of Ruschenberger’s Tree Boa. The main attraction was, of course, the roost of Scarlet Ibis and we arrived at the roost site as the first of several thousand birds started to arrive. Nothing prepared us for the spectacle – the intensity of the scarlet against the green of the trees and the sheer numbers of birds as wave after wave came in mixed with Snowy and Great Egrets and Tri-coloured Herons. This being an Asa Wright trip we didn’t miss out on our rum punch as it was sent along in the boat with us, so this seemed a good point to crack open the bottle and celebrate.

A full day trip to the Nariva Swamp held the promise of some different species (and a picnic lunch at the beach) so we set off after breakfast with Charon braced for a long hot day. We started by exploring the outskirts of Arima where Charon soon located Red-breasted Blackbird and then in a small wet area by a golf course a selection of waders including Black-necked Stilt, Short-billed Dowitcher, Solitary Sandpiper and a group of small waders frustratingly too far away to identify. On to Nariva picking up Grey-breasted Martin, Turkey Vulture and Yellow-rumped Cacique along the way. After a comfort stop and picnic lunch at the beach we drove the melon fields and picked up Yellow-headed Caracara sitting on a chair (honest!), Crested Caracara, Savanna Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Pied Water Tyrant, Yellow-chinned Spinetail and our prize bird of the afternoon Pinnated Bittern. Finally on to Waller Field for the roost of Red-bellied Macaws; unfortunately only 3 birds flew over, possibly because there wasn’t much fruit left on the Moriche Palms. However this was more than compensated for by the appearance of the much scarcer Moriche Oriole. Once again Asa Wright had provided us with rum punch except that this time Linda and I had it all to ourselves!

Our final day at Asa Wright began in fine style with a walk to Dunston Cave to see the Oilbirds and on the way back we last few stragglers in the group were treated to good views of Black-faced Antthrush. The rest of the day was spent at leisure ending on the verandah with yet more rum punch and Short-tailed Nighthawk.

Our last 3 days in Trinidad were spent at the Anise Spa Resort in Sans Souci (a superb little hotel, immaculately run and with some of the friendliest staff I’ve ever seen in any hotel anywhere) ostensibly simply to chill out before our return to the UK. However we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Trinidad Piping Guan (or Pawi as the locals call it). It meant a 5.15 start on a rather showery morning but we had our first bird within 5 minutes of arriving at the Grande Riviere site and eventually had 8 in view at the same time. Other new birds included Lilac-tailed Parrotlet, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Black-tailed Tityra, Golden-fronted Greenlet and Southern Beardless Tyrannulet.

It was finally time to say farewell to the sunshine, the birds and the people who had made our stay here so memorable. Thanks to Motmot Travel all the bits of the jigsaw had fitted perfectly and even though our flight left Port of Spain half an hour late strong tailwinds meant that we arrived at Gatwick half an hour early. All that remained was the long drive back to Nottingham.

Peter Sadler - March 2017

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Asa Wright, Anise and Blue Waters - a good combination of birding and chill out

Trinidad and Tobago – bird trip report October 23rd – November 4th 2016 My wife and I visited Trinidad and Tobago in October 2016. This was partly..

Trinidad and Tobago – bird trip report
October 23rd – November 4th 2016

My wife and I visited Trinidad and Tobago in October 2016. This was partly birding and partly chill out. We stayed initially at the famous Asa Wright Lodge in the Arima Valley for 4 nights, before moving to Anise Resort and Spa Hotel at Sans Souci (3 nights) in the north-east of Trinidad for some relaxation. We then flew over to Tobago for a further 5 nights staying at Blue Waters Inn where we met my brother and sister-in-law and utilising the services of local expert guide Newton George. More on that later.
The whole trip was organised through Motmot travel based in the UK and they were excellent. Friendly, reassuring and very approachable and certainly put my wife’s mind at rest when planning a visit to somewhere new.

ASA WRIGHT Oct. 23rd – Oct. 27th 2016
We were met at Port of Spain airport in Trinidad by Sharon, our driver from Asa Wright who transferred us to our new home for the next few days. The journey is about one to one and a quarter hours and the climb up to Asa Wright is a bit windy. We arrived just before dark but in time for our complimentary rum punch on the veranda, lovely, very civilised and this happens every evening. It was too dark to see any birds.
The accommodation at Asa Wright is clean, comfortable, not luxurious, but better than my wife expected which is a good start. We had no air-con in the room, just a ceiling fan but this was fine for sleeping. Although we were in the rainy season, we had no rain in our time at Asa Wright and it was very hot and sweaty. The staff are all very friendly, the guides very good, they change daily so chances are you will meet several if you are there for a few days. The food is very good, buffet style, home-made and there is something very traditional about it – the bell rings for each of the meals, breakfast, lunch and evening dinner. There is also afternoon tea, when some savoury snacks and cakes are presented on the veranda. Coffee/hot water and cold water is available all the time and there are soft drinks and snacks available at any time on the veranda if you wish to purchase them. There is ample food. It is a very sociable affair. You join other guests and eat together and the atmosphere around the place is very pleasant. It was not very busy when we were there but the numbers on the veranda are boosted by day visitors but they don’t usually arrive until after the best dawn period. We loved our time at Asa Wright. It is very relaxing, relatively easy birding and plenty of things to see. Highly recommended.
Birding at Asa Wright is brilliant. The morning spectacle from the veranda (which doesn’t change much through the day to be fair) is amazing – there are birds everywhere. A whole range of Hummingbird species, Honeycreepers (Green and Purple), occasional Toucans etc.

I pick out some of the birds seen from the veranda below:
Zone-tailed Hawk – several seen from the veranda and around the trails
White Hawk – seen once from the veranda and higher up the valley behind the main house from one of the trails
Common Black Hawk – seen on a couple of occasions from the veranda
Double-toothed Kite – one perched distantly further down the valley, seen from the veranda
Black Hawk-Eagle – 2 soaring distantly down the valley with Black Vultures. Only seen on one day
Orange-winged Parrot – common from the veranda. Especially in the mornings, mostly flying over
Lilac-tailed Parrotlet – frustratingly had 3 of what must have been these flying over calling. UTVs!!
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl – 1 seen from veranda on one day. Mobbed by all the local birds
Hummingbirds: – Little Hermit, Green Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Long-billed Starthroat, Bluechinned Sapphire (the best!), Copper-rumped Hummingbird, White-chested Emerald and Tufted Coquette (no sign of a male!) – these were all present every day and easy to see. This was the wrong time for Ruby Topaz so we did not see one here. The views and photography opportunities for hummingbirds here are incredible. Very obliging.

Trogons – White-tailed, Violaceous were seen reasonably frequently from the veranda and trails
and one Collared was seen briefly in flight from the veranda on one day
Channel-billed Toucan – seen distantly a couple of times from the veranda and one morning a pair obliged by landing much closer allowing good views.
Band-tailed and Grey-rumped Swift – frequent
Forest Elaenia – seen on a couple of occasions in the “tremor” trees to the left of the veranda
Bearded Bellbird – male seen calling in bamboo, quite close to the veranda on one morning. The discovery trail is the best bet for these. Fantastic birds and one I really wanted to see
Blackpoll Warbler – one was present throughout our stay again in the Tremor trees from the veranda. Apparently scarce at Asa Wright
Purple Honeycreeper – not difficult to see and stunning!
Turquoise Tanager – was really pleased but saw these on a couple of occasions well from the veranda as well as on some other trails. Much much better bird than I expected them to be. Very smart
Silver-beaked Tanager – seen fairly frequently. Not too many stunning males though, only a few
Yellow Oriole – seen once from the veranda coming into feeders but only briefly
OILBIRDS – we did the Oilbird trip down to Dunstan Cave – it is well worth it. You get good views of the Oilbirds not for a huge amount of time, but the sounds that they make are truly weird. There were probably 15 birds that we could see Oilbird Trail – I only birded this once but it was good. Notable birds were Silvered Antbird, right near the Oilbird cave entrance, Olive-sided and Boat-billed Flycatcher, Great Antshrike and a bathing Bright-rumped Attila.

Discovery trail – this is a very productive trail and easy birding.

Bay-headed Tanager, White-bearded
and Golden-headed Manakins are common and easy to see on this trail and I also saw Whitenecked Thrush , Black-faced Antthrush on a couple of occasions near the Golden-headed Manakin.

Lek/Jacarunda trail (I also heard/saw them on the entrance road). I also came across male and female White-bellied Antbirds in the same area, on separate occasions. Both afforded good views.
Cocoa Woodcreeper I bumped into in several locations
Entrance road – again pretty good early morning birding although can be bereft of birds then suddenly you hit a group – classic Neotropical birding. This track produced Rufous-breasted Hermit, Streaked Flycatcher, White-shouldered Tanager, Tropical Parula, Northern Waterthrush, Whitenecked Thrush, Golden-crowned Warbler and Golden-fronted Greenlet.
The only excursion we did was to Yerette Hummingbird garden and Caroni Swamp. Yerette is about a 90 minute drive and is an amazing garden with huge numbers of hummingbirds present. We had all the species commonly seen at Asa Wright plus Rufous-breasted Hermit, Black-throated and Green-throated Mango, Brown Violet-ear and a fleeting view of a male Ruby Topaz that flashed in the sun the colours of the head/throat and tail, before departing. Excellent. We also got brilliant close views of a male Tufted Coquette here – superb. A most wanted bird. Heard but did not see Trinidad Euphonia here too.

Asa Wright had packed up a lunch for us and it was huge, hot and tasty – we thought we would get a sandwich. Not a bit of it. Chicken, rice, sweet and sour sauce, veg, salad….you name it we had it. Lovely. This is a wonderful relaxing garden that is also very suitable for non-birders, the sheer number of hummers is amazing. I felt a bit guilty but rather than stay and listen to the talk I asked if our driver could take me round the swamp/rice fields near Caroni ahead of our boat trip through the mangroves. He agreed and we made our apologies and left without having the whole show….but I wanted to see birds, not see other peoples pictures of them!
The water treatment works near the rice fields at Caroni produced 2 Pied Water Tyrant, American Golden Plover, Southern Lapwing but no Yellow-hooded Blackbirds and the ricefields themselves produced Osprey, Long-winged Harrier, Yellow-hooded Blackbirds (tricky to see in the long vegetation) and Common Waxbill. We then headed to the Mangrove to get ready for our trip out into the swamp for the Scarlet Ibis spectacle. We arrived early so our driver took us down the track to the information centre. On the way we saw White-winged Swallow, Saffron Finch, some stunning Scarlet Ibis, feeding in the Mangrove at close range and a real wanted bird, male and female Blackcrested Antshrike. The trip out on the boat in the mangroves started with a look around some of the side channels – I told the guide I was a birder and they look harder for birds for you. We saw Common Waxbill, Solitary and Common Sandpiper, several Scarlet Ibis, flying overhead and feeding in the mangroves, Tricoloured, Little Blue and Yellow-crowned Night Heron. A smart Straight-billed Woodcreeper and brief views of Masked (Red-capped) Cardinal. The guide also picked out a couple of Cooks Tree Boa and a rather splendid tiny Silky Anteater all curled up asleep in a ball – hardly bigger than a tennis ball. The actual event of the Ibis coming into roost is spectacular and there are hundreds along with Egrets and large numbers of Tricoloured Heron. It is definitely a worthwhile event.
Night walks – Back at Asa Wright most nights they do a night walk, down the main entrance road so easy going. These are fun and did produce some interesting sightings – Scorpions, Whip Scorpion, Firefly, Oppossum, Cooks Tree Boa and one other unidentified small snake. What we wanted to see though was Trinidad Chevroned Tarantula and we were not disappointed. On the first walk we saw a small one but on the second occasion we mentioned we wanted to see a big one and they took us down to the Clear pool – one sits on the building there – some 5 inches across and a larger one lives in the end of the handrail and can be coaxed out with a bit of grass being flicked across the end of the handrail. We also saw a foraging Oilbird down here. If you have a decent spotlight, take it. I found the snakes and Opossum with my torch which is excellent, a Led Lenser M7R. It is small, rechargeable and has a very powerful focused beam. Excellent for looking for nocturnal species.

Anise Spa Resort and Hotel – Oct. 27th – Oct. 30th 2016
This place is amazing. It is about two and a quarter hours from Asa Wright being in the far north-east of Trinidad. The welcome was amazing, nice and friendly, a cold towel and fruit punch. Turns out we were the only guests for that night. This place gets excellent reviews on Trip Advisor and it deserves them. This was a chill out part of the holiday….with some birding fitted in…obviously. It is relatively small (11 rooms), all very smart, different and very clean and comfortable. It has a lovely infinity swimming pool and you can get spa treatments if you book 24 hours ahead (my wife had a pedicure which she said was amazing). The staff are fantastic, cannot praise Donna and Margaret enough –they are excellent and the food is like fine dining. It fulfilled all of the wishes we had in being a relaxing chill out place. During our 3 nights here I did some birding from the pool terrace just looking up at the forested hills with bins and scope. It produced some nice birds over the few days. Greylined Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Common Black-Hawk, Yellow-headed Caracara, Pale-vented Pigeon, Yellow Oriole, Little Hermit, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Grey Kingbird, Short-tailed Swift. Over the sea Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans were common.
I cracked and did add an additional trip to see Trinidad Piping Guan. I asked at the hotel and they organised for Neville who works there to take me to Grand Riviere about 20 mins away to meet local guide Nicholas. I should have asked the price because it was expensive T&T$975 for a mornings birding but the birding was good. We saw several Trinidad Piping Guan, White Hawk, Grey-lined Hawk, Grey-headed Kite (2), Scaled Pigeon (unfortunately only in flight), Lineated Woodpecker, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Golden-fronted Greenlet. Tried to find some Lilac-tailed Parrotlets at the Turtle Information centre in Grand Riviere – they apparently are frequent in the tall trees there, although at no specific time of day. Worth a look though. The information centre has some tiny Leatherback Turtles and some Hawksbill Turtles. They allow them to grow a bit before releasing them.

Tobago, Blue Waters Inn Oct. 30th – Nov 4th 2016
On 30th October we transferred to Blue Waters Inn at Speyside in north-east Tobago where met my wife’s sister and her husband for our final 5 nights. It was great to see them. Blue Waters is literally right on the beach and is geared up for divers. The waters are full of Brain Corals, and we saw some sharks distantly a Hawksbill Turtle and some divers saw Lionfish and Eagle Rays.
The accommodation is roomy, air conditioned and clean. The food is excellent. We were on a meal plan which meant we got breakfast – all you can eat buffet and a cooked option and dinner – 3 course and very good food. The only thing that lets Blue Waters down is the attitude of the staff – they are a little terse, not entirely convincing that they are there to help and look after you. This was a minor issue and we had heard this before going so be prepared.
Looking out towards Little Tobago, Frigatebirds and Pelicans are common as are distant Brown Boobies and Red-billed Tropicbirds. Rufous-vented Chachalacas sit outside your room and wake you in the morning. Behind the hotel is a track that you can walk, just outside the entrance gates and over our stay this produced: Peregrine (3 birds present), Blue-crowned Motmot (seen on Trinidad but commoner here on Tobago), White-fringed Antwren, Fuscous Flycatcher, White-winged Becard, Black-faced Grassquit, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Scrub Greenlet, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher and numerous Barred Antshrike. We had organised through Motmot travel 3 trips – Little Tobago, a round island birding trip with Newton George and the main forest ridge/Gilpin Trace also with Newton. All of these trips are pretty easy going but the round island trip produced a lot of birds but not many really significant ones and was pretty hot but you do get to see the whole of Tobago – well the outside of it.
Little Tobago – a short boat ride from Blue Waters produced excellent views of Brown Booby, more distant views of Red-footed Booby, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Belted Kingfisher and unbelievable views of Red-billed Tropicbird, on the nest and flying around the island at close range.
A tip – take the afternoon trip as large numbers of Tropicbird gather around the island in the afternoon – so there would have been much more of a spectacle than our morning trip. Nevertheless it is an amazing trip. We also saw a Trap-door spiders nest/trap …but no spider and some large land Hermit crabs. We did some snorkelling on the way back too. Tropicbird is one of the reasons for going and they did not disappoint. We did not see White-tailed Nightjar which are often found on the path/roosting alongside it.
Round island trip with Newton George – Newton really knows his stuff and the island and this trip produced a lot of birds as you visit different wetland and woodland habitats. Notable sightings included loads of Herons and Egrets including Great Blue, Least Grebe, American Purple Gallinule, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral, White-rumped, Western and Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, Solitary Sandpiper, Royal Tern and Laughing Gull. Mangrove Cuckoo showed very well and we got excellent views of Common Potoo in the mangroves near Tobago Plantation not far from the airport on Tobago where we also saw some Spectacled Caiman. We also saw Giant Cowbird as we returned on the Caribbean side of the island. Lunch on this trip was at Pigeon Point which is the classic Caribbean beach that everyone will have in their mind – azure blue seas, white sand and palm trees. We did not find any Masked Duck and Newton commented that the pools need clearing out a bit as too overgrown. The only new bird I got on this trip was the Dowitcher so if you have travelled in Latin America and are not too worried about the trip list, this trip may not be necessary.
Main ridge/Gilpin Trace – this trip, again with Newton George was excellent and produced some good birds. Great Black Hawk, White-tailed Sabrewing – we saw them in the forest but got point blank views in Newton’s garden at the end of the day, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Olivaecous Woodcreeper, Collared Trogon, Stripe-breasted Spinetail (really tricky to see on the forest floor), Blue-backed Manakin (wow!), Rufous-breasted Wren (excellent views), Yellow-legged Thrush and Red-legged Honeycreeper – the only ones of the trip. We also saw a Horseshoe type bat and a Tent Bat in the forest.
White-tailed Nightjar was still missing for me and on the day around the island I mentioned this to Newton and he said he would be able to sort that. The same evening as our forest trip Newton picked me and Paul, my brother-in-law up and drove us just a couple of miles away from Blue Waters – it was amazing – we saw about 15 White-tailed Nightjar, sitting on the road, flying around in our torch beams etc – it was amazing. Occasionally Newton also bumps into Striped Owl when doing this evening trip. We weren’t that lucky but it was amazing. Really impressive. Newton charged T&T$100 each for this additional unplanned evening trip. Newton loved my torch so much, the next day, he came round to the hotel and bought it off me. I have just received my new one,
having ordered it immediately that Newton had left with mine!

So that was that. Excellent trip. Easy birding. My wife really enjoyed Asa Wright and especially Anise and Blue Water was a good combination of birding and chill out – the sea here is lovely and warm and very refreshing against the real heat. We only got rain on the mornings at Anise for an hour or so but it was a fair downpour so we were lucky there.

Paul Varney - Nov 2016

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A brilliant holiday in Costa Rica

Feedback on Costa Rica General Loved it. Great holiday, good itinerary which kept everybody happy. Very impressed with all arrangements & transfer..

Feedback on Costa Rica

General

Loved it. Great holiday, good itinerary which kept everybody happy. Very impressed with all arrangements & transfers & excellent time-keeping of CR team. We felt very safe & welcome wherever we went.

It rained an awful lot, and given that the Pacific coast is drier, I would suggest researching wildlife sites in south west, as this might be better for clients for a few days in the rainy season, than, say Tortuguero, (which is prone to rain I believe)

We had issues with credit cards not being accepted in several places & had to pay cash. This is some interface problem with the transactions, rather than an individual account issue. I would advise clients to have travellers cheques or extra cash or take their online banking access codes to do BACS transfers, in case they run out of cash.

Flight

4 hour delay on departure was unfortunate, BA kept us informed, but we were pretty ragged on arrival in CR. Airport clean & efficient.

Bougainvillea Hotel

Dark when we arrived, dark when we left, on real opinion.

Pacuare Lodge

The raft transfer is a brilliant way to get jetlag out of your system. Your itinerary could be more specific on the point that you are likely to get totally soaked on the transfer, not just occasional splashes. Luggage needs to fit in a waterproof bag with the dimensions of a dustbin bag, so holdalls are ideal. Luggage was kept dry throughout transfer. Two teenage sons thought the rafting was brilliant, and would have liked to use rafts to leave the hotel, rather than the 4×4 jeep.

Pacaure Lodge was fab. Toucans in the trees & howler monkeys on the opposite river bank, waking you most mornings with their calls. Jungle walk, bird watch & zip wire activities great. Very remote, very exclusive, restaurant food exceptional, bedrooms wonderful.

Pachira Lodge

After previous establishment, this was a disappointment as it felt like a package destination for big groups. We saw good wildlife, which kept us happy, but got very wet & the climate makes drying your gear difficult – thus I was wearing waterlogged trainers for three days. The green turtles were unfortunately two weeks late, which rather detracted from the place’s appeal. 2 days would have been enough here, rather than 3.

Arenal Kioro

Excellent transfer across CR with knowledgable driver with good English.

We adored Arenal Kioro. The bedrooms rank in my Top 3 Best Bedrooms ever, with your own Jacuzzi + minibar + view of volcano. The outdoor hot-tubs are lovely.

The hotel does know how to charge for extras & being a fair way out of town, we found that lunch & dinner was expensive…not that that stopped us from adding cocktails & spa visits to the bill, one is on holiday after all!

Excursion to Canio Negro brilliant, but a long drive, (so would have been better if it wasn’t the day after the long drive from Pachira)
Excursion to Cerro Chatto, a bit of a con, as the “emerald lake” that forms the destination is apparently seldom visible, in the wet season, as it is in the cloud. Not recommended for the unfit as the path is very steep with slippery tree roots to clamber over.
Excursion by horse to waterfall was fine. They also do ATV/quad bike safaris in Arenal, which I’d suggest might be better than the Cero Chatto climb.

Hidden Canopy

We just loved the lake transfer to this next destination, made it feel like real adventure. Hidden Canopy is a real gem. Jenny is an exceptional host, eager to de-stress her guests, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. Her bedrooms are unique & will stay in my memories. Humming birds & Coati at breakfast

Night safari excursion good, KumiKancha good (if wet) , Sky Tour was fine but a bit too Disney, Original Canopy zipwires recommended by Jen was awesome, much better & would recommend this to any adventurous soul.

Final

Transfer back to airport again went like clockwork. Airport modern & efficient.

All four of us had a brilliant holiday & left with very favourable impressions of the country & the efforts it is making to promote eco-tourism. The arrangements of MotMot & your agents in CR created a very interesting, varied trip, and all the trips & transfers & hotels ran like clockwork. We will be back!

Hugget Family, Essex, England – June 2016

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Certainly a good adventure!

Notes on Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago holiday Guyana We had a great time here. It was quite an adventure, particularly once we left Georgetown. We h..

Notes on Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago holiday

Guyana
We had a great time here. It was quite an adventure, particularly once we left Georgetown. We have included some quite detailed notes on this country which we hope you find useful.

Cara Lodge Hotel, Georgetown
We were impressed with this hotel. Good facilities, comfortable rooms, friendly staff and an interesting old building. We paid for two dinners at the hotel and found the choice good and the food fine.
A representative from Wilderness Explorers met us at the hotel the morning after we arrived, went through our holiday itinery, gave us advice and answered our questions. We were also given a contact telephone number to be used in case of any problems

Kaieteur Falls excursion
Very good. Trip was made to the falls in a Cessna 6 seater aircraft(approx 1hr 10mins each way), which in itself was quite exciting. Pilot gave us a good aerial view of the falls before landing. We then walked to three viewing points so we had impressive views of the falls. We saw both the golden frog and the Kaieteur Falls swifts as well as a number of other birds. Picnic lunch at the falls. The guide, Carlos, was good and informative.

Harpy Eagle Nest site
Visited after breakfast at Rock View Lodge and before arrival at Atta Rainforest Lodge.
A round trek of about 1hour 30 minutes. Unfortunately it rained before we arrived at the nest and whilst we were at the nest site. Our view therefore consisted of a large pile of branches high up in a very tall tree and an eagle with enough sense to keep its’ head down in the rain. Well you win some and you lose some.

Atta Rainforest Lodge
Simple but comfortable accommodation. Outside private shower(cold water) was a novelty.
I (Ron) found the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway slightly disappointing as it was smaller than I expected.
The following morning’s 2am alarm call by a Red Howler monkey will never be forgotten. We thought that he was in the bedroom.
On our second walk at the site, before breakfast, we did not return to the walkway but walked along the entrance road to the Lodge and along a section of the National Highway to Brazil, a two lane red gravel road with a traffic density of about 1 vehicle every 20 minutes. We had very good birding and we also saw a sloth.
Food at the Lodge was perfectly satisfactory and the staff were friendly.
Our guide – Delon – seemed very knowledgeable. He came to our rooms twice to collect us and show us birds visiting the site.

Rock View Lodge
The best accommodation of the three sites we visited.
During our trip from Atta to Rock View we had the good fortune to see, on the National Highway, 3 Bush Dogs dragging a still live Pacu across the road. We found out from the owner of Rock View that sightings of these dogs is extremely rare, much rarer than Jaguars.
After a good lunch we had our excursion to see the Cock of The Rock Birds. This was a 1 hour 30 minute walk to the viewing site through the rainforest. We were fortunate to see a number of birds and we also saw their cave nest site. They were truly amazing birds, with vivid colour and an almost unreal shape. We spent 1 hour at the site and our guide made sure that we got the maximum benefit from our visit. We also saw a group of spider monkeys before we arrived at the site.
On the start of the walk back a tropical downpour started, it lasted 1 hour, so we all got soaked!!
Good dinner, with the family, at Rock View and some rum punches, of your chosen strength, to help dry you out.
We cancelled our walk the following morning due to the weather, heavy rain.
After breakfast the weather cleared and we were shown round the site and we were also given a demonstration of the roasting of cashew nuts. This includes clouds of smoke and sheets of flame. Hot nuts did taste good.

Karanambu
Well we did manage to get to Karanambu by boat as there had been some rain in the past few days.
We travelled to Ginep Landings and then boarded our boat for a trip of about 2 hours 30 minutes.
Good birding all the way.
Accommodation was simple but comfortable.
After our lunch we had a little free time and then we were taken out for a short river crossing followed by a birding walk. We then rejoined the boat for more river cruising, before sunset on a lake accompanied by rum punch and biscuits. We saw a good selection of birds as well as monkeys and caiman.
The following day was action packed with three excursions.
We were out at 6am to hunt for Giant Anteaters and were fortunate to see one at close quarters. Travel was in a 4 x 4 truck.
We also had good early morning birding and saw a Black Collared Hawk with a rattlesnake. We also saw a crab eating racoon, which excited the guide and driver.
After breakfast we were off again, this time by boat and two excursions on foot. Saw the giant lily pads and a good selection of birds. We also saw, as we were returning, a family of 6 Giant River Otters swimming about.
After lunch we were allowed a brief rest. Katherine tried the hammock on the veranda and immediately fell out.
Our next excursion was by 4 x 4, birding, looking at the scenery and watching the sun go down, again accompanied by a rum punch and biscuit. On the way back, in the dark, we looked for Nightjars and Nighthawks. Our guide managed to catch 2 Nighthawks and bring them to us before releasing them.
This was a long day and the hottest day of the holiday with sunshine all day but we all enjoyed it.
The lodge had fitted in three excursions as there was insufficient time for an excursion the following morning. This was because there was a 2 hour 15 minute trip to Lethem to catch our flight back to Georgetown.
Our guide for all our Karanambu excursions – Ken – was excellent.
All meals at the lodge were perfectly satisfactory.

The following day we returned to Georgetown and were collected by our Wilderness Explorers driver. We had a slight detour before returning to our hotel as he wanted to show us some scarlet Ibis and blue herons on the main river bank. This was an unexpected bonus.
We were met at Cara Lodge by a W.E representative who was keen to know our thoughts on the holiday and what improvements could be made.
After lunch we had a trip to The Botanical Gardens for more birding. Again Carlos was our guide and we had a very successful and enjoyable afternoon.

Comments
The trip to Guyana was certainly a good adventure, particularly our time spent in the interior. Travel by 4x 4 can be a bit slow and bumpy as the road network outside any towns is basic. Even the National Highway to Brazil is a fancy dirt road.
We found all the staff and guides on the holiday friendly and helpful. The guides Delon, Carlos and Ken were particularly good. The driver in Georgetown, Zaman Bacchus, was also very good as he went out of his way to add extra value to our holiday. It was obvious that a lot of time had been spent ensuring that we got the maximum out of our time in Guyana. We were impressed by how well all the arrangements worked and we thought that the W.Explorers reps were very on the ball and keen to respond to our specific interests.
This holiday might not suit everyone. You have to have a reasonable fitness level and not mind bugs and there were a few, particularly at Karanambu after some rain. But what can beat lying under a mosquito net watching the bats flying around your bedroom or being woken at 2 am by a Red Howler monkey.
On all the trips, apart from the Kaieteur Falls, where one other passenger shared the plane, we were the only travellers. We are sure that this was an added bonus as the guides could give us their undivided attention.
We were all really pleased we went and we had an excellent time.

Blue Waters, Tobago
This was much more restful and a nice change of pace. Sue had two good diving days.
We all had a long half day with Newton George, who managed to find us some new birds.
Katherine and I also had a day trip with Edith Thomas, a guide who we had met at the Bird Fair on the Trinidad and Tobago stand in 2014. She gave us a sightseeing/history/culture tour around the island and it was an interesting change from bird watching.
As expected the accommodation/food/staff at Blues Waters were very good.

Asa Wright, Trinidad
It was a pleasure to revisit here again.
We had 2 and a half days out on trips with Dave Ramlal as our guide. He guided us last year and once again we found he was excellent and knowledgeable. There were only the 3 of us on each trip so we felt quite spoilt.
Food and accommodation were fine and the staff were very friendly.

Summary
To sum up we all felt that the holiday certainly lived up to and, in some cases, exceeded our expectations. The holiday was well organised and we were well looked after at all the places we stayed. We had so many new experiences and we shall be reliving them for some time to come. We felt that the holiday was excellent value for money.

Our only real gripe was with BA on the return journey who were unable to provide us with a choice of food for dinner as they had run out of choices. Pasta bows with red glue sauce – which appeared to be the veggie option – was not very good. Compared to last year they were very slow serving the food when all we wanted to do was eat quickly and try to sleep.

Thanks for arranging this holiday for us, you all did an excellent job.

Ron & Katherine Carey and sue Smith – May 2016

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St Lucia – 9 days birding & wildlife watching in St Lucia

7th to 14th December inclusive ~ The trip from start to finish turned out to be a seamless event. All connections and services melded well. The prof..

7th to 14th December inclusive ~

The trip from start to finish turned out to be a seamless event. All connections and services melded well. The professional guide and driver was tireless to show the full extent of the St Lucian birds. This he did well. ‘Vision’ also had tree identification skills that are another one of my interests. ‘Vision’ was also knowledgeable on the cultural aspects of the island and also a very good driver.

The choice of the ‘Fox Grove Inn’ on the east coast proved to be a boon between the busy times out in the field. The hotel hosts and their staff were very attentive and the quality of food of a very high standard. The attention to detail throughout my stay was at the personal level. I’m sure yourselves arranged it, having a 1st floor room with a balcony overlooking the Fox Grove Inn’s garden, the dry forest and Praslin Bay in the distance was a great touch. It was very good for relaxed birding after coming back from the field trips. Thank you for that. By using a scope from the comfort of the balcony one could locate some good bird species and needless to say, the view was great.

The whale watching was a little disappointing as the boat spent as much time collecting and then later landing clientele from neighbouring beaches as out in the open sea itself. We did however connect with a large school of dolphins. Probably the boats sharp-eyed ‘lookouts’ did not locate other cetaceans but longer out on the sea would have increased our chances. However, the overall experience was very worthwhile and wildlife is not a zoo. The use of a catamaran ensured the ride was as smooth as a small craft is capable of. They did approach the bat cave as had been arranged.

On the strength of this, I hired a skiff in the evening and approached the sea cliff fruit bat roost just as darkness fell. Literally thousands of bats emerged in what appeared to be like smoke. Judging by the different size of the bats emerging from the Soufriere coastal bat cave, there were at least three species. I’m sure that two of the species were fruit bats and were in great numbers and the other, with a c.1metre wing span, was probably a Giant bulldog bat (Fishing bat). I only saw three of the larger bat species emerge. Spectacular! But perhaps yourselves will know of a resident naturalist who specializes in bats to confirm my ID. Bat ID can be very difficult unlesss trapping is involved. The visual experience as dusk falls, is all over in 40 minutes. Locals on the shore said that ‘thousands’ emerge and I now believe that to be true. I’m sure that you are aware that fruit bats keep the rainforest regenerating and healthy with the rain of fruit pips and seeds! I would suspect a protocol with watching will be advised, that is no torches or lights as the roost may be spooked. Some official protection, if not already in place, would be a beneficial thing. The main exit was from the top of the cliff with a lesser amount exiting only several feet above the sea level. Only the three larger bats struck out across the bay whereas the other smaller bat species involved hugged the cliff top and cliff face flying directly inland as if shy of flying over water.

This little expedition was arranged via the ‘Mystique’ whale watching company that ensured the logistics were put in place. My driver, Victor Edwin (‘Victor’s Taxi Service’), who had taken me from Fox Grove to whale watching the day before was prompt, efficient and very helpful throughout.

The nine hour ‘Virgin’ flight was made comfortable by the high level of attention the passengers received from the ever helpful cabin crew.

Many thanks for tailoring the trip to my specific needs and ensuring the level of service achieved the gaols that were agreed. The ‘extra day’ at the Fox Grove’ was very much appreciated!

John Smart – Dec 2015

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Hiring a car mixed with organised guided trips was great.

Overall The holiday was just as exciting and interesting as we’d anticipated. Everyone we met was friendly. We enjoyed: hiking through the jungle an..

Overall

The holiday was just as exciting and interesting as we’d anticipated. Everyone we met was friendly. We enjoyed: hiking through the jungle and small farms on the Waitukubuli national trail; hot and cold waterfalls and pools to relax or swim in; the beach at Batibou; snorkelling at Scott’s Head; rum punch; jungle plants and animals – agouti, parrots, hummingbirds; fruit – mangoes dropping off the trees, carambolas, avocadoes, pineapples, guavas, passion fruit, coconut, and more mangoes; finding out about the island, its culture and politics from all the people we met – guides, hoteliers and locals; drinking coconut milk at a roadside stall or at the market in Roseau; choosing baskets that would fit in our cases at the Kalinago village. We felt hiring a car mixed with organised guided trips was a great advantage.

Pagua Bay

Lovely setting, friendly and welcoming hosts and staff who all felt part of the enterprise. We had lovely walks and trips suggested by the owners who helped as much as possible to make our stay fun = lending walking stick, guide book and tubes for river tubing, taking us to the start of a trail so we could make our own way back, finding a bandage for a sprained ankle. Food was good and the staff willing to explain what everything was and how it was cooked. Caribbean specialities with an American accent – ie the goat curry wasn’t full of bone and gristle and too spicy, but melt in the mouth and tasty! The tuna was fresh and absolutely delicious – often on the island we were told it’s frozen if you’re not on the coast.

Not sure what we’d have done if the weather hadn’t been lovely as there isn’t much undercover space. The room was dark, which was fine as we were out or it was hot, but it wouldn’t have been very enjoyable to be in on a rainy day. Without a car, you have to eat there as there’s nothing else close by.

Trips with Jenner 

Excellent. He was friendly and knew everyone and everywhere and everything about his island. He recognised our particular interests quickly and adapted the planned itinerary accordingly. Well worth including as you don’t discover and learn as much on your own – we wouldn’t have recognised a cinnamon tree and known to scratch a bit of the bark to taste, or picked mangoes and carambolas from a farmer’s orchard (a friend of Jenner’s).

Papillote

Lovely setting, wonderful gardens and hot pools beautifully explored with Marcel the site manager who knew all his plants and animals encyclopaedically. He also showed us to Trafalgar Falls just a short walk up the hill, and advised where to swim. Hot water flows through the property and fills the various pools. It is also used to heat the water in the rooms, as well as flush the toilet, so the hot water is variable and the toilet stained brown by the iron in the water – which doesn’t matter at all as you expect such things in such a challenging, interesting spot.

So it should be wonderful – but really the whole place is in need of updating, both in attitudes and buildings.

The room was cleaned properly every day – just not to a high standard. The towels were also very thin – but changed every day so it didn’t matter. Our terrace was nice with a wonderful view down the valley, and although the hydroelectric power plant a few metres away was noisy it was usually drowned out by wind / insect noise so wasn’t as annoying as it could’ve been.

I did see another room in the adjacent building – the Breadfruit Suite. This looked more up to date and was spacious and light.

Restaurant – open to the view which was lovely. Birds flying around. Again a bit dated. Food was very variable, perhaps depending on the chef.

Service – generally good and helpful. One quite important point, though : one night we’d decided to eat elsewhere and as we were by then the only guests at the hotel, they closed the whole hotel at 6pm. The gates were closed as was the main reception / restaurant building. There was no member of staff on duty for security or to help in any way, which is not what you expect of a hotel.

Trips – very good and well organised: whale watching (successful!), an entertaining day with Andrea snorkelling and eating fish on the beach, other short visits.

Beau Rive

Certainly the best of the three hotels in terms of comfort, style and position. The plantation style buildings suit the climate wonderfully, and its position up on the hill had amazing views down to the coast. Everything was well done (and the thick white cotton sheets and lovely soap a delight after Papillote!). There are plenty of areas to relax, from the covered veranda and bar to the library with sofas and shady terrace outside with a bench surrounded by pot plants and a dozing cat, so that even on a rainy day you’d be comfortable. Mark, the owner, is nice, attentive and keen to please: he adjusted a planned tour to suit us and was very helpful when our flight was changed.

However, he has his way of doing certain things, which could be an issue. You really have to eat there as there’s nowhere close. And while the food is generally excellent, the serving staff delightful, and the position of your table on the veranda unparalleled, a couple of points need a mention. Dinner is at 7 sharp, which is annoying if you’ve been out all day and would like to relax with a delicious house rum punch before dinner. There’s no choice for dinner, although Mark does say in the morning what he’s planning and you could ask for different. But on the chicken day you have to have the frozen imported battery farmed variety or not – and not just means some spinach with the other things. And on the vegetarian day, you have pasta. Perhaps I could’ve been a bit more definite in my requests, but I’m not used to no choice. To me, vegetarian means vegetables, not pasta. (To be fair, these food comments are specific to Marion who is very particular – Daniel was very happy with it!).

All our comments here are intended to be constructive, and hopefully you will find them helpful. We had a wonderful time in Dominica, thought the island and its people delightful and have been recommending our holiday to anyone who will listen!

Marion and Daniel - August 2015

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Marvellous time, enhanced by the lovely guides and hotel staff

knowledge of these diverse islands. From our arrival in Tobago and transfer to Blue Waters Inn to our last taxi drive to the airport in Trinidad from ..

knowledge of these diverse islands. From our arrival in Tobago and transfer to Blue Waters Inn to our last taxi drive to the airport in Trinidad from Asa Wright everything worked smoothly and nothing was too much trouble for anyone. Because we had arrived late on our first day we were left wondering for a while when Newton George would contact us to arrange our trips with him, but that was eventually sorted and we had one and a half great days with him, plus a visit to his garden with his wife to especially see hummingbirds, and notably a red-headed woodpecker and young feeding on banana.

We had two extra trips to the booked itinerary, the first was with our driver Andy to the Tobago Cocoa Estate who then took us on a tour including the Argyll Waterfall, and over to the east side of the island, all the while stopping to point out birds for us to see. He was very knowledgeable and entertaining and this was a lovely introduction to the sights and sounds of Tobago.

The next stage was a delightful two night stay at Grande Rivière. The property had a lovely rustic feel and although the choice of food seemed limited, whatever we chose was enjoyable, with special mention of the home made cheeses and yoghurt and not forgetting the very delicious bread. As for the turtles – the night views were, as you would expect in the darkness, limited, but still interesting. But in the morning to come across late leavers was a very special bonus. We were able to watch one turtle, as mesmerised as her, lay her eggs, cover them up and then return to the sea, all in daylight. We all felt very privileged. This was followed by our second unplanned trip of the holiday after Pierro had cajoled Nicholas into taking us out although he had an important meeting later in the morning. Nicholas was in danger of being late for this meeting as he seemed unable to stop finding birds!  One highlight here was to see, and hear, the Trinidad Piping Guan and, shortly after, the Guan being seen off by a pair of Plumbeous Kites. We felt that this bird watching sortie was so special we would suggest it would be worth including it in your itinerary for Grande Rivière for those staying two nights. We were certainly pleased to have been able to take advantage of it. Sue has said “Looking back I did think it would have been nice to have a third night here. The accommodation and setting were so spectacular we could have perhaps taken a ride along the coast to Matelot and had a little longer to enjoy this very relaxing experience. This is certainly not a criticism, just an observation”.

Our last five nights were in the Asa Wright Nature Centre. Again, our transfer was effortless and we arrived in time for lunch then shortly afterwards had our first guided walk, down the Chaconia Trail. Our guide, Brandon, was quite excited as we saw white-bearded Manakins which a group earlier had not seen. Time here seemed more relaxed as our trips were well spaced out and we enjoyed being able to sit on the verandah watching birds on the feeders and tables, or wandering in the grounds. Hearing the Bearded Bellbirds was, to say the least, unusual and as well as seeing one far away through the telescope from the verandah, we had a good view of them close at hand too, at the viewing point in the grounds.

Included trips at Asa Wright were to the Oil Birds, a fascinating species which Natalie showed us, then the Coroni Swamp and the Nariva Swamp. We were guided by Dave Ramlal to the Swamps for half a day and a full day, respectively. Dave did us proud and we had good sightings of lots of wonderful birds, too many to mention individually apart from the Yellow Hooded Blackbird which Gill had requested, and after Dave’s call a whole flock appeared close by, as if by magic. We loved following a small group of Little Blue Heron in the boat while they flew along the mangrove channel in front of us, including one young white one starting to moult, so showing slight blue in its feathers.  The Scarlet Ibis were spectacular, of course, although in reduced numbers as many were breeding, but as my husband is red/green colour blind, the effect for him when they landed in their roosts was rather an anticlimax!

It is difficult when one has had such a good experience to know when to stop, but suffice it to say we all had a marvelous time, enhanced by all the lovely guides and hotel staff we met, the travelling companions who were on the same holiday as us (Dick and Gill Knight) and the varied tasty local food at each property.

Although you will gather we were delighted with the whole holiday, Sue has felt strongly enough to mention the following:  “It is perhaps worth drawing your attention to comments we heard whilst at Blue Waters. We were warned that we should enjoy the ‘luxury’ of that hotel because that would be the last we would see (or words to that effect). The suggestion seemed to be that Grande Rivière and Asa Wright would be disappointing in terms of the accommodation and cuisine on offer. We would totally refute this.  Neither could be called luxurious but were certainly in keeping with our expectations, meeting our needs perfectly. Anyone expecting luxury had surely chosen the wrong trip”.

With Best wishes and many thanks

Ron and Katherine Carey and Sue Smith – April/May 2015

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Dominica was our favourite, then Antigua/Barbuda

The holiday was fabulous. Dominica  Dominica is truly beautiful. We absolutely loved Rosalie Bay Hotel, it was lovely and the location and gardens st..

The holiday was fabulous.

Dominica 

Dominica is truly beautiful. We absolutely loved Rosalie Bay Hotel, it was lovely and the location and gardens stunning.  It was so peaceful and probably the first hotel where we have stayed and not heard a sound from other guests at night.  No slamming doors or shouting.  The rooms are spread out and are so spacious – we were in fact put in an ocean front suite which was huge. Maybe because I had requested an upstairs junior suite after seeing the new pictures on their website which showed the junior suites on 2 levels.  They had a conference for one day and all the upstairs suites were taken so we had the most beautiful room.  Although the location is isolated and it takes an hour to get to the other side of the island for the trips we had planned, it was worth it to stay at Rosalie Bay.  The owners Beverley and Oscar chatted to all the guests and they asked us to accompany them to see some land they had bought.  They wanted to know if it would be suitable to take birdwatchers on a trip to see the parrots without going to the other side of the island.  However, when we got there it was totally overgrown and impassable.  They had not been there for 6 months.  We told them it could be suitable if the track was cleared and there was a couple of seats at the top of the hill.  We did see quite a few parrots going over.  We did have a hiccup with the whale watching trip, but they emailed you and it was sorted out.  We had a good day but unfortunately didn’t see anything.  We very much enjoyed the trip to Syndicate Forest with Dr. Birdy but we didn’t get anything to eat from 6 am until 4 pm because the hotel didn’t tell us to organise some lunch to take with us or stop on the way.  However, we survived, but didn’t see the most elusive parrot.  Dr. Birdy is great.  We went on a couple of hikes, but they are mostly very tough.  Went to a restaurant by taxi run by a French couple which was next to the river and good value food.

Antigua

When we arrived at Non Such Bay they showed us to our apartment.  However, it was a ground floor and I told them that I had requested an upper floor as we hate to have anyone upstairs.  We understand that it was only a request but as we had booked more than a year in advance and the hotel was not full, we must have been the first people to book those few days.  They said we could move into the ground floor and move the next day.  I was very upset as I had researched the hotel over 2 years ago and didn’t want to mess about moving rooms.  The Manager said he did not get the request for an upper floor.  He said he would see what he could do and we waited around.  He gave us a 2 bed apartment on an upper floor and locked off 1 bedroom and bathroom.  This was fine as the apartment was huge.  However, it was very close to the reception and was not as peaceful as we would have liked as all the vehicles turned round on the gravel and skidded.  It was a beautiful place with a lovely view and amazing apartments as Vivianne will know.  Unfortunately the restaurant was so expensive and as it is isolated there is nowhere else to go.  We walked to the next hotel Harmony Hall but their restaurant was even more expensive.  We hired a car for a day which was easy as they delivered it to the hotel.  We had a look round English Bay and Nelsons Dockyard, etc. and had meal on the way home.  Non Such Bay is down an unmade road and even with the car we didn’t fancy going back out in the dark to find a restaurant.  There was a hiccup with the transfers and although we gave them the voucher which showed all accommodation and transfers included they added the airport transfers to our bill.  We did manage to sort it out.

Barbuda

Barbuda is charming and we would recommend it for a couple of days.  North Beach is 20/30 minutes by boat and once there, it is the only way to the other parts of the island.  This is not a problem as it is so peaceful there looking out over the white sand beach and clear sea.  The accommodation is fairly basic, similar to Asa Wright. There are 6 big windows with mosquito screens and the breeze blows through so it is cool at night.  Ruben the owner runs the place on his own and is rushing round cooking, etc.  There was one other honeymoon couple there and the 4 of us had great fun.  We made ourselves at home and helped ourselves to drinks and anyone who came helped serve breakfast or dinner.  There is a donkey which turns up for a snack and water.  Ruben took us to the Frigate Bird sanctuary and the pink shell beach and only charged us $50 for both of us for both trips.  The rooms were not cleaned but we made our own beds and swept our balcony, but we didn’t have to lock our doors day or night and it was so relaxing.  The food was all home cooked from scratch and fishermen called by in their boats to sell fish and lobsters.  Such a contrast to Non Such Bay but all in all more enjoyable.

We would love to go back to Dominica again and definitely stay at Rosalie Bay with maybe a couple of days on the other side of the island for trips.  We would probably prefer to stay on Antigua first for 2/3 nights to avoid the wait and second flight on the way out.  We stopped near Siboney Beach Hotel in Antigua and I had a quick look.  Much busier than Non Such Bay (and not so plush) but fine for a 2/3 nights before going to Dominica and is close to the airport.  We would also consider going back to Barbuda.  Dominica was our favourite, then Barbuda.  Antigua is probably like Barbados, more people, more English, hotels and resorts suitable for families and beach stays.  We did manage to organise a birding trip on Antigua which we enjoyed and another English couple joined us.  Saw more birds on all the islands than we expected. In Dominica and Barbuda as things were run by local people it was more a get away from England.

Sorry this a long email but wanted to let you know how we got on.

Thank you for organising this.

Carol and Jack Piper – May 2015

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Wonderful holiday to St Lucia, Dominica & Antigua

Many thanks for arranging a wonderful holiday. It has taken me nearly a week to catalogue all the bird photographs I took, some rare and unusual speci..

Many thanks for arranging a wonderful holiday. It has taken me nearly a week to catalogue all the bird photographs I took, some rare and unusual species too.

Fox Grove Inn, St Lucia (6 days)

A lovely quiet secluded escape. Food was excellent and the management very kind and flexible. No hesitation or problems with an early breakfast bag when touring.

Accommodation, perfect.

There was plenty to see and walks to places of interest and birding habitats within easy reach such as Mamiku Gardens.

The tours arranged from Fox Grove were excellent with a good guide.

Papillote Wilderness Retreat, Dominica  (6 days)

An exhausting days travel having to go through Immigration and Security at St Lucia and Dominica and even when in transit at Antigua.

On arrival I was very pleasantly surprised, a real wilderness retreat. Everything about the place was a wonder to behold, even the rain didn’t spoil my enthusiasm. A place I fell in love with and would go back again at the drop of a hat.

The garden tour was magical , by a guide who was very knowledgeable pointing out  all the plants/ trees and their uses. Plenty of birds to see too with the guide showing which plants attract which species. Lots of warm  mineral springs and plunge pools to relax in.

The Food was excellent and the Lady of the house remarkable for her generosity, inviting me to sit at her table for evening meals and a good chat.

Accommodation was perfect with a balcony to sit out and watch the birds . Tap water wasn’t potable . I found out to my dismay that the water is supplied from one of the many mineral springs, cold at first becoming warm to hot. Full of iron, white clothes became yellow. No problem though it washed out at home with a bit of bleach.

Tours from Papillote were excellent. Whale watching, Indian River, Trafalgar Loop walk and Syndicate National Park tour. Although I never saw the Indigenous parrots until I had a walk round the Botanical Gardens in Roseau, a short taxi ride away, it was all well worth it. The Trafalgar Falls and local Sulphur springs  were also well worth seeing.

Siboney Beach Resort, Antigua (6 days)

A very pleasant relaxing stay in Dickenson Bay with a Beach restaurant (coconut grove) next door where the sunsets and green flash on cloudless evenings could be watched with a rum punch. The excellent  food could be eaten in or taken back to the apartment which was spacious with all mod cons. and balcony.

At the back of the resort was a large shallow lagoon. About a 3 -4 mile stroll round the lagoon (Mckinnons pond ) and scrub woods offered lots of opportunities for bird watching, in fact I took more photographs of different species there than St Lucia and Dominica combined, so I did the walk 3 times.

The Montserrat day trip was a bit of a disappointment with only  3 hours to play with before having to return. Being the middle of the day most of the birds had found a bit of shade somewhere so birdwatching was a struggle. The only thing I can say about the guide was that he knew where HE was going.

The Barbuda Day Trip and visit to the Magnificent Frigate Bird Sanctuary was excellent and I would recommend anyone visiting Barbuda to go and see them. 17 miles of beautiful uninhabited beach and turquoise sea.

Bay Gardens Inn, St Lucia

My last 3 days so I can’t really complain.. The room, staff, food, everything about the place was excellent. Just not to my taste though. A mile walk to the beach and it was crowded with mainly American tourists off an anchored Cruise ship. Excursions from Bay gardens were extortionate. Very good sights and historical landmarks but within 100 yards of a beach it was full of tourists queuing up to purchase beach loungers, while only a few miles down the road were empty desolate beautiful beaches. Not my cup of tea. Fox Grove Inn would have suited me again.

Once again many thanks for everything you arranged for me. I have recommended with great praise your details and excellent service to a few of my friends and fellow birders.

 

Ged Stonehous - April 2015

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Peace and tranquility and wonderful service

We had a wonderful holiday with all the ground arrangements going like clockwork, a fine tribute to MotMot organisation! A few comments for your revie..

We had a wonderful holiday with all the ground arrangements going like clockwork, a fine tribute to MotMot organisation!

A few comments for your review on the various locations and activities:

1) ASA WRIGHT

A 4* location for seeing birds, amazing guides, friendly staff, rooms acceptable and food plentiful and wholesome.

However for photography the layout of the veranda being well above the feeders was not ideal; whilst the small space at the lower level, beside the feeders, made this also not an ideal location.

It would be preferable if more locations could be set up (as the space to the West of the lodge) for photography. We discussed this with the chief guide and he agreed!

So we would love to go back one day to see what has been achieved.

The day trip (a long day at 11 hours!) to Nariva Swamp was excellent in the morning at the ARIPO Centre but the afternoon was poor for photography..we saw very little.

The day trip (another long day at 12 hours) to Waterloo and Caroni Swamp was poor in the morning..we saw very little but the afternoon was fabulous. For us, whilst recognising ARIPO and Caroni are on opposite sides of the island we could have done both these in one day….and used the time for a full Day visit to Yerette (see below)

2) CUFFIE RIVER

Another 4-5* location for the excellent hospitality from Regina and Earl, wonderful food and beautiful room (sad about the mosquitos which fly through the open windows in large numbers…a mosquito net over the bed would have been a welcome addition!). Desmond was an excellent guide who showed us many bird species, both in our day trip around the island and also on the trip to Little Tobago.  We were delighted you recommended Cuffie River (many birds on site with feeders) rather the Blue Waters Inn…a masterful decision!

3) FERRY TRIPS TRINIDAD/TOBAGO/TRINIDAD.

These worked well in spite of all our luggage. There was always help at hand. The longer crossing time of 3 1/2 hours due to the engine breakdown was not a problem!

4) VISIT TO YERETTE

A fabulous location and experience…BUT this perhaps was the only false start we encountered in our trip. We had been led to believe from the MotMot itinerary that we would have all day (or at least from the time the ferry arrived back at Trinidad until we had to leave for check in for the evening St Lucia flight..say 10.30 am to 4 pm at Yerette. However on arrival at the ferry terminal the driver said we could not go to Yerette until 11.30 and he had to kill an hour’s time. Since he was probably the slowest driver in Trinidad we experienced this was not too hard..he drove at 40 kph on the 80 kph Highway and indeed found it hard to find Yerette too as he had only been there once before. We had a wonderful 3 hours there …but at 2.30 pm Theo was expecting us to leave as that was the sole session that had been booked for us (11.30 to 2.30). We “outstayed” our welcome until 3.15 pm when the driver said we had to leave for the airport…we arrived at 3.45 pm for the 6.45 pm flight, surely too early! Next time we would love to have a full day at Yerette, even 2 full days as the hummingbirds were wonderful and the layout for photography was superb. Theo was obviously keen to show off his expertise and photographs, but with the lovely lunch provided by Gloria there was not enough time left for us to do photography ourselves and and make use of this superb location.

5) LADERA

A  truly 5* location for accommodation, food and service. The staff are amazing and recognised us with big hugs from our stay 15 months ago like old lost friends.This must be one of the best resorts in the Caribbean…a great spot even if the price is high. We were upgraded from the booked Gros Piton Suite to a Rainbow Suite…very special!

Altogether a wonderful holiday and we would love to go back again one day to stay at ASA Wright (with hopefully improved photography facilities), 2 full days at Yerette, and also back to our favourite Caribbean Paradise Ladera. If time allowed we would also love to go back to Cuffie for the peace and tranquility and the wonderful service.

Richard and Anne Hobbs – March 2015

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A fantastic time in Trinidad and Tobago

Jackie and I had a fantastic time in Trinidad and Tobago – all the arrangements made by MotMot worked perfectly (we were beginning to wonder if we w..

Jackie and I had a fantastic time in Trinidad and Tobago – all the arrangements made by MotMot worked perfectly (we were beginning to wonder if we were actually somewhere other than the Caribbean!)
Asa Wright Centre – we loved this place and its quiet location & had a lovely room. There were no big groups present during our stay and all the other guests/staff were very helpful and friendly throughout. The only (slight) downside was that it was a bit TOO quiet at times eg: no sign of any other guests or staff at 8.30pm. Shame if you felt like an evening drink.
The trips to see the oilbirds and to the Yerette hummingbird place were really good. Caroni Swamp was also very good but coincided with a local “special offer” that made it very busy. We were also a little disappointed that we had to be so far away from the roosting scarlet ibis. Whilst we fully understand why, I think we were led to believe that we would be close enough to get some nice photos which wasn’t the case. Others commented on this aspect as well and some said they would have brought their telescopes if they had realised. Despite this, the spectacle was something we shall not forget! Not quite so keen on the trip to Nariva Swamp – seemed like a very long drive when there is so much to see more locally?
Mt Plaisir – superb. Even got to see a turtle laying during the middle of the day.
Toucan Inn, Tobago – our original booking had been for 7 nights at Blue Waters Inn but we were very pleased that this had not been possible as it resulted in spending 4 nights at Toucan Inn at the opposite end of the island. Again, all the staff and other guests were extremely friendly and we enjoyed our time here immensely. Garden room and Bonkers restaurant very good. We visited Pigeon Point and took a glass bottomed boat tour over Buccoo reef (snorkelling OK but nothing special in my opinion). Pigeon point beach and nearby park and facilities excellent especially earlier in the morning. Ava Julien from Destination Tobago Ltd looked after us extremely well and organised various outings for us including a trip to some lovely gardens near Plymouth to see more hummingbirds and some close ups of the motmot! Lovely to spend some time just ambling around the locality.
Blue Waters Inn – great location and great cocktails! However, there were jellyfish in the sea straight off the beach. Although their stings were only mildly painful, it was enough to make you think twice about swimming. Little Tobago trip and birding with Newton George both fantastic – he was very patient with us as we are beginners at birdwatching. Prince is also a great guide and taxi driver, taking us round the island to multiple locations!
We would definitely consider using MotMot travel in the future and would not hesitate to recommend them to our friends.

Lesley Nolan 18/05/14

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Dominica – the people could not have been friendlier

We had a fantastic time thank you. Nisbet Plantation in Nevis lived up to all expectations and we had a lovely wedding. The weather nearly did not p..

We had a fantastic time thank you. Nisbet Plantation in Nevis lived up to all expectations and we had a lovely wedding. The weather nearly did not play ball, as the morning had heavy rain and winds. The sun came out in time for the wedding, although the wind was still strong. We were spoilt by staff and they really made an effort to welcome you personally (at every meal/point of meeting) We arrived with 2 other couples and were greeted by the Manager and all 3 couples were given their own check in assistant so there was no waiting time after a long journey.
Dominica – the people could not have been friendlier from the moment we picked up the hire car (the lady from the next car hire desk was driving our way so she said to follow her and she showed us where our accommodation was) till we left. The 4 x 4 that we had was a rickety thing, but it did get us round the island!
Calibishie Cove – the property was fantastic and the view from the room was spectacular. Breakfast was good – what we had was fresh and local. We ate at 2 restaurants whilst in Calibishie – Rainbows – lovely food and great setting and Carols café – hard to find but worth it – felt more local and food was cheaper than Rainbows and just as good, though less choice. Setting again was great.
Cocoa Cottages – again lovely accommodation and despite my initial reservations about the communal eating (you may remember my query!) it made the time there and we ate at the B&B every night. We met lots of different people of all nationalities and the food served was lovely – very tasty and plentiful. Iris was our main host at dinner and shared her experiences and Liz and Richard hosted the last night we were there and they were great, nothing was too much trouble (including making sure we had fresh coffee at 4am before we drove to the airport!) The only thing I would have changed is possibly relocating to a B&B nearer the airport for our last night as the early start was rather tiring!
Our room at the Siboney Beach resort in Antigua was lovely, but as we had been spoilt in all previous locations, it could not match the others for their views. My husband was over the moon though as there was a TV with no end of sports channels. The whole place was much busier than we had been used to, (though not busy by their standards we were told) but we had the beautiful beach to look at that is typical Caribbean. My only concern was the lack of sunshades as I burn very easily even after over 2 weeks. The restaurant served good food but we did miss the abundance of local fresh juice that we got used to in Dominica.
All in all we really enjoyed the holiday and thank you for helping us put it together.

Jacqui and Tim Gears 27/04/14

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Such a friendly, warm people. I want to go back!

Thank you for organising such a totally happy and unforgettable holiday.   I will recommend you to anyone and everyone. My main general memory is of..

Thank you for organising such a totally happy and unforgettable holiday.   I will recommend you to anyone and everyone.
My main general memory is of such a friendly, warm people.   I want to go back!
There now follows a random and incoherent range of comments… To make sure I caught the plane on 6 March I stayed overnight actually in the Gatwick South terminal, at Yotel.   Any criticisms are instantly over-ruled by the sheer relief of being able to walk directly to the monorail link to the North terminal rather early in the morning.
Asa Wright:   was full, but not exclusively, of people with great birding knowledge who were more than happy to talk to more ignorant people like Lin and me.   The rum punch was excellent and the food was pretty good and very generous.  The office didn’t appear to be totally well-organised.   It was closed when I arrived (and obviously Lin too) and we didn’t get our trip to the oil-birds.   This is only run twice a week and we missed the Friday visit because we hadn’t been told about it and were taking rather a long time to get going that morning.   But we don’t feel in the slightest bit aggrieved.
Anise:   what can we possibly say…   Absolutely exceptional.   If only more places were run with the same attention.   Glorious people.   Everywhere immaculate, without being in the least intimidating.   Such food!   The only criticism I can dredge up is that the wardrobe hangers were up a bit high.
Pax:   I felt this to be a sad place, with the forest threatening to take over the house and rather too many plastic water bottles thrown into the verges of the drive up.  But Saturday night was fun, with students from Illinois on a turtle count and a panman, organised by their professor, to entertain us all:   we also met Rachel Manley (from Jamaica) who cottoned on to us as she was alone.   The ibis trip was magical.   And meeting Andrew from Banwari was exciting, and enjoyable.  He taught us a lot and showed us everything we wanted.   I felt such a pang when he found the hospital where I was born.   And walking on the pitch lake.   He said he would teach us Trini and we tried to do him a calypso (to the tune of Yellow Bird) to entertain him when we were stuck in a jam on the way to Maracas.   He was really great.
Kapok:   Very well situated and comfortable, with a useful laundry.   Another magical trip – this time to the humming birds.    The tiniest hitch –   for some time, Kapok couldn’t get through to Banwari to confirm the time of my pick up for the airport.
Thank you, everyone involved, for a perfect holiday.   It has taken a while to feel I’m home again.

Sally Evemy 02/04/14

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ST LUCIA HOLIDAY 29 JAN TO 8 FEB 2013

Thank you very much for our Saint Lucia holiday! We really enjoyed it, and the Villa beach and Fond Doux were excellent. All our transfers and flights..

Thank you very much for our Saint Lucia holiday! We really enjoyed it, and the Villa beach and Fond Doux were excellent. All our transfers and flights were on time and great, as were the two birding trips.

We stayed at Villa Beach Cottages (self-catering) for 5 nights then Fond Doux Plantation for 5 nights.

VillaBeach.

Located about 2 miles north of Castries, on a fantastic beach, Choc bay.  Only a Sandals on the southern end, otherwise we had the beach to ourselves, apart from a few locals.  At the north end of the beach was a pool where the ChocRiver crosses the beach.  Here we had Osprey, Pied Kingfisher, Little Blue, and Green Herons, Spotted Sandpiper, Moorhen.  Along the beach Tropical Kingbirds, Common Ground Dove, Antillean Crested Hummingbirds, and the ubiquitous Zenaida Doves and Carib Grackles and Cattle Egrets were always flying to and fro.  On the last day here Caribbean Martins appeared, apparently almost the first arrivals of the year.

We had a trip to Pigeon island, which as well as being a great day out, produced all three hummingbirds, LA Bullfinches, fantastic views of the LA Saltator and LA Flycatcher, Frigate birds, Brown Booby, Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls.

An early morning trip to Millet Forest reserve in heavy and persistent rain finally produced 6 SL Parrots, as well as Grey Trembler, Mangrove Cuckoo, another LA Saltator, Caribbean Elaenia, Broad winged hawks, and a fly past peregrine.  There were also a pair of SL Black Finches, when seen they are so obviously different from the bullfinches, the leg colour being strikingly red!

An afternoon trip led by Adams Toussaint to the east side of the island produced some fantastic birds, including SL Warbler, Southern House Wren (SL ssp, likely to become a full species), White-breasted Thrasher ( I missed the Scaly-Breasted Thrasher!), SL Peewee, American Kestrels as well as more elaenias, Cuckoos, hummers etc.  Although this is Nightjar territory we were a month early to hear them.  The birding was along a very rough track, and shouldn’t be attempted without a guide and 4WD transport!  Unfortunately there are plans to build a golfcourse resort in the area, just north of Grande Anse Beach.  The latter is the main nesting ground for leatherback turtles, as well as the last area in which the White Breasted Thrasher occurs.  However the SL government is quite switched on and this proposal is being opposed.  There is however, evidence of clearance for bananas in some areas.

Fond Doux.

This is in the south west, close to the Pitons and Soufriere town.  It is a working Cocoa plantation with 10 bungalow/chalet units spread over the plantation.  Visitors are welcome to wander the grounds, and there is a trail which leads to a viewpoint above SugarBay, which lies between the Pitons.  Bullfinches were very tame, and a little bit of a nuisance at breakfast! and all three hummers could be seen anywhere, but especially near reception, and from our balcony.  Having seen Mangrove Cuckoo in Tobago, and told how difficult they were to see, they called constantly and one frequented a tree a few yards from our balcony.  Broad winged Hawks were common, and previously seen species were bananaquit, elaniea, peewee, kingbird, Zenaida Dove and House Wren.  The most productive part of the estate seemed to be the vegetable garden, where I found Brown Trembler and Pearly-eyed Thrasher.  The Scaly-breasted eluded me until the last full day when I went to a newly opened trail (Tet Paul) where I finally managed to find 3!  The Fond Doux trail was great in the late afternoon, about a hour there produced good views of Scaly-Throated and White crowned pigeon

Soufriere harbour produced frigate bird and Laughing Gull, and a Little Egret. We also visited the Botanic gardens (really good for gardeners and botanists) and the Sulphur Springs, billed as a drive in volcano.  Very interesting but we skipped the mudbath (black mud stinking of hydrogen sulphide!)

Apart from the Nightjar, the only species we really regretted not seeing was the Oriole (supposedly present at Fond Doux).  The species list was a modest 42, but there were 21 lifers, including single island endemics, as well as restricted range birds.

I used for identification the Collins Field Guide Birds of the West Indies by Norman Arlott (2010.) However, there is an error in the book.  Adelaide’s Warbler is stated as occurring on SL, but actually the bird is now the St Lucia Warbler, an SL endemic.  Sempers Warbler has not been seen since 1961, and although there are obviously parts of the island which are inaccessible, it is considered extinct.  Without a reliable guide, finding some of the endemics would be impossible.  A knowledge of the calls of species would be a major advantage, and the ability to “pish” essential!  I did manage to call in a couple of thrashers and the elaenia, but no where as good as Adams Toussaint!

All the arrangements were first class, transfers from and to the airport, and between locations were excellent, the drivers showing us sight from viewpoints on the way.

The northwest is very developed, and we found Rodney bay was not to our liking, but we had a brief visit to the north east (Cotton bay area) which we liked, although it is a little out of the way.  Roads once away from the main east/west coast highways were not brilliant, and tracks of these usually very poor.  Despite this a hire car would have been useful at times, for instance to explore the east coast and mangrove swamps. Beware the numerous speed bumps, always near schools and industrial sites.  Choc bay has one restaurant next to Villa beach, and a supermarket with cashpoint about 10mins walk along the busy Castries/Rodney bay road. This was perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Choc bay, outweighed by the beach and accommodation.

Lyndon and Dianne Hatfield 18/02/13

LA= Lesser Antillean

SL=Saint Lucia

Lyndon and Dianne Hatfield - February 2013

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Jamaica Nature & Birding Tour Report

Jamaica-Island of endemics, rum, coffee and Bob Marley. We had long considered a trip to Jamaica as we like the Caribbean and it has 28 endemic birds ..

Jamaica-Island of endemics, rum, coffee and Bob Marley.

We had long considered a trip to Jamaica as we like the Caribbean and it has 28 endemic birds of its own but had never taken the plunge due to Jamaica’s poor reputation for violence and crime. However, after a long conversation with Shireen of the Mockingbird Hotel at the 2007 British Bird Fair we made the decision to go. We booked a 10 night break through Motmot Tours in the UK which gave us an itinerary designed to see all the endemics but also including other more “touristy” things such as a tour of Kingston and rafting on the Rio Grande. All in the entire itinerary gave something for myself as a birder and something for my wife, Janet, who is not a birder. The itinerary worked well and we saw all the endemics and had a great time as well. Our fears of Jamaica proved totally unfounded and everyone that we met was friendly and helpful, the scenery was superb and we felt Jamaica as a holiday destination out-performed St.Lucia and Cuba that we had visited recently and was at least on a par with The Seychelles. We stayed only in small hotels and guesthouses and visited only the Eastern part of the island. The food everywhere we stayed was excellent as was all the accommodation.

Our first accommodation was at Lime Tree Farm in the Blue Mountains, about two hours from Kingston Airport. The farm has three guest cottages and is reached up a long track passable by 4WD only. The accommodation is simple but very nice and our cottage offered stunning views through the mountains to the sea. The farm is run by Charlie Foote and his wife Susie and his friend Roger. All cooking is done by Susie and is excellent. Roger and/or Charlie will take birders out to such places as Hardware Gap, Abbey Green and Cinchona Gardens where many of the islands endemics can be found, a good number can be found without even leaving the farm.

After Lime Tree Farm we stayed one night in Kingston at the Mona Visitors Lodge of the University. The accommodation here is excellent and it is easy to get a taxi into Kingston for an evening meal.

Our third stop was Greencastle Estate, just west of Annotto Bay where we stayed in the magnificent Estate House on a working farm that had cattle, organic coconut oil production and orchid growing. The farm is vast and 101 species have been recorded on the property to date. All meals are provided and were of excellent quality, the rooms were superb and the views across the estate from the house were magnificent. The farm also has a number of ponds so that various water birds can be seen and has resident Barn Owl, Jamaican Owl and Northern Potoo. They also offer a tour of the estate for visitors and it is well worth taking. Angie, the business manager was particularly helpful in looking for the owls (see later).

Our last port of call was the Mockingbird Hill Hotel just east of Port Antonio. This environmentally friendly hotel has everything you could want and is set in superb grounds. Rooms give great views out over Port Antonio to the sea. From here it is easy to visit Ecclesdown Road which has many endemic bird species and the hotel can arrange many other activities such as rafting on the Rio Grande.

We can recommend all of theses places, so if you are thinking of visiting Jamaica, book them! You won’t regret it!

Itinerary-

1 February BA flight from Gatwick to Kingston, arriving early in Kingston at 1705. It then took 90 minutes to negotiate immigration-but at least they were friendly, if slow! We were then collected by a driver who drove us to Mavis Bank in the Blue Mountains where Roger from Lime Tree Farm with his 4WD, which took us up the rough track to Lime Tree Farm, met us. Susie had done her homework on my gluten free diet and we had a superb meal before retiring to bed.

2 February I was awake at dawn and set off to explore the farm and the entrance track. The first birds to be found were Prairie Warblers and Northern Mockingbirds and then the first endemic-White-chinned Thrush, showed itself. There were Black-faced and Yellow-faced Grassquit’s in abundance and a Jamaican Oriole showed well by the side of the track whilst Red-tailed Hawk wheeled overhead. Two Orangequit’s posed in a tree by the dining room. Roger drove us to the Cinchona Botanical Gardens for what was not planned as birding day but nonetheless it proved an excellent site. The gardens were very well maintained and no other visitors were present so whilst the gardener showed Janet around I looked for the birds! On the entrance track were an Arrow-headed Warbler and Jamaican Euphonia whilst the gardens themselves had many Red-billed Streamertail’s and Vervain Hummingbirds. Rufous-throated Solitaires called all around but didn’t show themselves but White-chinned and White-eyed Thrushes did show well as did Jamaican Spindalis, Orangequit, Jamaican Oriole, Jamaican Vireo and Greater Antillean Bullfinch. Bananaquit’s and Black-throated Blue Warbler’s were common.

3 February I was up early, after a night of reggae music drifting up the valley until 4.00 a.m. to go to Abbey Green with Charlie. We were scheduled to meet our bird guide, Ryan Love, in Mavis Bank at 5.30 a.m. but managed to miss him so set off by ourselves towards Abbey Green. At our first roadside stop I found a pair of Jamaican Elaenia’s showing in the tree tops and then Ryan arrived, we had expected him to be on a motorbike and he was in a 4WD, which had fooled us in Mavis Bank. Still, no harm done, so we set off up some horrendous tracks through coffee farms on the back way to Abbey Green. We found Ring-tailed Pigeon, Olive-throated (Jamaican) Parakeet, many Red-billed Streamertails and Vervain Hummingbirds, at least six Jamaican Todies, Jamaican Woodpecker, another Jamaican Elaenia, Rufous-throated Solitaire, White-chinned and White-eyed Thrushes, Ovenbird, Myrtle Warbler, many Orangequit’s and Jamaican Oriole’s. We then called in at Jah B’s place to have what must be the best cup of coffee in the world-freshly ground in a wooden pestle and mortar in front of you! On the way back Charlie stopped at a spot on Lime Tree Farm where he had seen Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo in the past and we spent an enjoyable hour finding Jamaican Pewee, Jamaican Spindalis, a pair of Jamaican Woodpecker’s, two Jamaican Euphonias, Jamaican Vireo, White-crowned Pigeon, Common Ground Dove, Antillean Palm Swift and White-collared Swift. Another of Susie’s delicious meals was washed down with wine and rum and we retired to bed early ready for an early start the next morning.

4 February We were up at 4.30 and had loaded Roger’s 4WD by five and set off to meet Ryan at Hardware Gap at 6.30. We met Ryan without any problems this time and he suggested that we first head for an area where there was one of the few streetlights in the area as this attracted insectivorous birds. This proved correct as we saw Rufous-tailed and Sad Flycatchers, Blue Mountain Vireo and the only Jamaican Becard of the trip in this area. A Swainson’s Warbler inhabited a densely vegetated garden and an Osprey soared overhead. Loggerhead Kingbird, American Redstart, Jamaican Spindalis, Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Woodpecker, Red-billed Streamertail, Vervain Hummingbird, Orangequit and Arrow-headed Warbler were all seen but try as we might we could not find Jamaican Blackbird. Again after much searching, we found a stunning male Yellow-shouldered Grassquit and during a futile quest to see a Crested Quail-dove (we heard it fly away) we found a Greater Antillean Elaenia.

The Gap Caf� was closed so we drove down through Newcastle, stopping to watch the Jamaican Army drilling on the parade ground (that you actually drive across) to the plush Strawberry Hill Hotel for a coffee before going on to Kingston.

We checked in to our surprisingly smart accommodation in the university and then strolled through the extensive grounds. In the evening we got a taxi into Kingston and had a superb meal at Norma’s in Devon House.

5 February I was to be met at 6.00 a.m. and taken to the nearby Hope Gardens for early morning birding, and after a bit of confusion, I found my driver, Marcus, who had set out from Port Antonio at 2.30 a.m. to meet me. We strolled around Hope Gardens until 8.00 a.m. seeing many Yellow-billed Parrots and one Black-billed Parrot, along with Prairie Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Palm Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Palm Warbler. Green Heron, Little Blue Heron and Common Moorhen frequented the pond. I was told that the parrots are all birds confiscated from poachers and released into the park so it’s up to you how you count them.

At 10 we were met by our guide for the day Juliet, and embarked on a tour of Kingston for the day before finishing with a late lunch at Devon House after visiting the Bob Marley Museum and numerous other interesting sites. Marcus (how he was still awake I don’t know) then drove us North through the mountains to Greencastle Estate, west of Annotto Bay. After some confusion, as the only sign to Greencastle led us to the estate office, not the house, we arrived at our superb accommodation and were greeted by Angie, the business manager. Outside our room was a hummingbird feeder and on it was a Jamaican Mango! After a great meal we retired to our room feeling like true “lords of the manor” in this superb old house.

6 February I was awoken by a Caribbean Dove calling outside our room but unfortunately it flew off in the poor light of dawn as I went outside, frustrating my efforts to see it. As dawn broke I walked down the main entrance track from the house seeing Ruddy Quail Dove, White-crowned Pigeon, Jamaican Woodpecker, Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Vireo, Mangrove Cuckoo, Sad and Stolid Flycatchers and Greater Antillean Bullfinches before finding a Caribbean Dove calling from a shaded branch next to the trail. I headed back for breakfast and later Janet and I walked down to the seashore finding a magnificent pair of Chestnut-bellied Cuckoos on the way. There were two ponds behind the shore with numerous Killdeer and one Wilson’s Snipe present. A Magnificent Frigatebird flew overhead and a flock of eight Cave Swallows swirled around. Back at the house Jamaican Mangos and Red-billed Streamertails flitted around the flowering plants. We walked the trails of the estate for the rest of the day hardly seeing another person. In the evening Angie picked us up and we set off on an Owl and Potoo hunt. After a few failures a Jamaican Owl flew in front of our vehicle and we were able to watch it perched in a large tree at our leisure before it flew off into the night. Another bird called from nearby. We drove to an area where Angie regularly sees Northern Potoo but unfortunately they didn’t want to show themselves although we did hear one but couldn’t locate it. Two Barn Owls were seen, one of them perched on a roadside fence a few metres away from us.

7 February Ryan, our bird guide, came to meet me early in the morning and we toured the estate in his 4WD, getting to places that I hadn’t managed on foot. A large pond held numerous Moorhens, single Brown Pelican and Belted Kingfisher, Least Grebes and a family of Pied-billed Grebes. Janet was taken on a tour of the estate and shown how they produced their organic Coconut Oil whilst I wandered around with Ryan. Late morning our taxi arrived and we set off on the long journey to Port Antonio. The whole journey took twice as long as it should have because of the horrendous road works on the coast road-just like home, if not worse! We arrived at Mockingbird Hill in the early afternoon and had a leisurely lunch on the terrace watching Black-billed Streamertails and Jamaican Mangos feeding in a flowering tree by the pool.

8 February It was an early rise for me again whilst Janet opted for the lie in and to catch up with me later. Ryan took me to Ecclesdown Road where there is still some untouched forest in the John Crow Mountains. The first bird we found was a Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo and then it started to rain heavily and thunder. We sheltered in the car until it eventually abated but the best time of the morning had been missed so birding proved hard work. A flock of nine Black-billed Parrots was tracked down feeding by the road and close by were eight Jamaican Crows making their absurd gurgling sounds. Jamaican Tody, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo and Rufous-tailed Flycatcher were seen but the main quarry, the rare Jamaican Blackbird remained elusive Our taxi set off back to the hotel to pick up Janet for our trip to Reich waterfalls and Ryan and I continued our quest for the Blackbird. Eventually, just as the car returned with Janet, Ryan heard a Blackbird and we eventually tracked down two feeding quietly in bromeliads by the road-it had taken five hours but at last I had seen one! We had a leisurely visit to Reich Falls and then drove back via the coast road past beautiful white-sand beaches empty other than for a few Royal Terns or Magnificent Frigatebirds patrolling them.

9 February We set off after breakfast to go down the Rio Grande on a bamboo raft but just as we were about to cast off the heavens opened so we ran for cover until the rain stopped. We were then punted down the river for two hours passing Tricoloured Herons, Little Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Green Herons, Belted Kingfishers and Greater Yellowlegs at close range. It was a really relaxing experience but the sight of a Coot swimming in front of us snapped me out of my torpor-“follow that Coot” I said to our boatman and as we got nearer I could see that it was a Caribbean Coot-a scarce species not often seen at this end of the island. After disembarking we had lunch at a small restaurant run by a local fisherman before his son took us out in their boat to an island where Errol Flynn used to have a casino. The island was very overgrown but hidden in the undergrowth was a boat named “Errol Flynn”-his wife, who is in her 90’s apparently still lives nearby.

10 February Of the 28 endemics I had seen 27 so Ryan and I set off early back to Ecclesdown Road to try and pin down the 28th. . At our first stop we heard our quarry and set off up the road to track it down only for our driver to frantically call us back and point into a roadside bush. Sitting quietly in the shade was a Crested Quail-Dove, I got my bins on it and it immediately flew and disappeared. Apparently while we had been walking up the road it was walking around the car! We spent the rest of the morning on the Mockingbird terrace watching hummingbirds as the sound of gospel music drifted up from the village below before spending the afternoon on nearby San San Beach sipping rum punches.

11 February The morning was spent around the hotel seeing Chestnut-Bellied Cuckoo, White-eyed Thrush and a flock of Yellow-billed Parrots before embarking on the tortuous 3+ hours journey to the airport. I think that this road, where there is some of it left after the hurricanes, has the world’s supply of potholes! Next morning saw us arrive at Gatwick to be greeted by a police sniffer dog-welcome home!

I hope that this has given a flavour of how wonderful Jamaica is.

Gordon & Janet Ellis, 1-11 February 2008

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Dominica Trip Report

Holiday feedback from Karen and Pete Antigua 3 nights Dominica 11 nights Jan 14th – Jan 28th 2008 We had a fantastic time. The thought and planning ..

Holiday feedback from Karen and Pete
Antigua 3 nights Dominica 11 nights
Jan 14th – Jan 28th 2008

We had a fantastic time. The thought and planning that Mot-Mot Travel put into arranging our holiday was excellent and was a very personal service, with consideration for ensuring the travelling and transfer times worked out for the best and the hotels were matched to what we wanted to do. The hotels were all really good and all the transfers and travel arrangements were spot on.

The 3 night stop-over in Antigua was just right for us to re-charge our batteries from the flight over and allow us to switch off from work and into holiday mode. After some relaxation we were ready for the diving, hiking and touring we planned to do in Dominica.

We found Dominica to be a very unique and special island. We haven’t been anywhere else like it. It is extremely beautiful and unspoilt with the mountains, waterfalls and lush green vegetation; this is matched by the pristine underwater reefs and colourful marine life. We felt the whole island oozed character and this included all the friendly islanders that we met. We didn’t just visit the island, we came away having “experienced” it and we were left wanting more !

Splitting the stay into 5 nights in Roseau and 6 nights in Calibishie worked really well and we’re glad we did this, rather than stay in one place. This allowed us to experience the differences between the town and quieter village and meant the various sites of interest both on land and underwater were more easily accessible in each location.

We would definitely go back and would recommend it to anyone wanting to experience a very unspoilt unique place. I certainly found myself thinking about it on my return much more than any other holiday.

DOMINICA
Hotels
Fort Young Hotel, Roseau. One of the nicest hotels we have stayed at. It has a very relaxed and comfortable feel to it. The room had a view (masked slightly by the newer building in front of us) over the ocean; its location meant we could see the hills leading to Scotts Head and the open ocean and cruise ship dock. Huge comfortable bed. Good air conditioning. Nice roomy bathroom with shower and separate WC. No visible mosquitoes ! Staff friendly. Good facilities (2 pools, massage, gym, Jacuzzi). Infinity pool on sunset terrace very nice. Great views of the sunsets.
Location very central. Easy to walk round the town and to the Botanic Gardens. Easier access to some of the sites (such as Boiling Lake, Trafalgar falls) compared with Calibishie. Transport to all sites easy to arrange with a tour office at the hotel and tour offices just next door close to the cruise ship dock. Gets very busy when the cruise ship passengers arrive between 8 and 9 am but this didn’t affect us at all.

Calibishie Lodges, Calibishie. Very friendly and personal (6 lodges). Run by Chris and Linda who came over from Belgium three years ago. A very family feel where you could chat to the other guests over dinner. Chris and Linda extremely helpful and friendly and also interesting to talk to. Nothing was too much trouble for them. They told us how to get to the local beaches and trails and helped us when we lost our flight tickets using their free international dialling over the Internet to call Mot-mot travel.
We had an upstairs room which we would recommend for the views of the mountains and the Atlantic Ocean from the balcony. The rooms had a living area with settee, table and TV. A kitchen area with a hob, coffee maker and sink. A separate bathroom and a separate bedroom. The bathroom had a bath and shower with water heated by solar power. The bed had a mosquito net which we used although they didn’t seem to be too much of a problem.
Beautiful location. Fantastic walks from the hotel to the beaches and coastline or up the ridge to fantastic views of the mountains. The village very picturesque with colourful houses along the street and very friendly villagers. The beach is lovely with the views of the bay and rocks but isn’t a swimming beach. Quiet and peaceful. The mains electricity supply can be troublesome and went off twice while we were there but the lodges have a generator that kicks in afar a couple of minutes and each room had an emergency light to cover the 2 minutes.
A hire car is a definite if you’re diving, so that you don’t have to rely on Caribbean time to get you to the boat and so that you are not restricted on getting back for a certain time. If you don’t want to drive Chris and Linda would arrange transport or excursions for you. Around half the guests when we stayed had hired a car. Breakfast started at 07:30 which was too late for our diving days so Chris provided us with some sandwiches and fruit.

Eating
Roseau
Unusually for us we didn’t venture out much for dinner for one reason or another – something I regret a little. All the meals we had were good – mainly chicken and fish. Kubuli is the locally brewed beer. Wine not cheap as it’s all imported but it that didn’t stop us !.
Waterfront Restaurant at Fort Young is extremely good. We ate there twice. The buffet breakfast there was also very good. It was great having breakfast while we watched the cruise ships dock.
We managed to miss out on dinner one night as we had a drink with some fellow Boiling Lake hikers (Germans) and by the time we’d finished the restaurant had closed as it was their employee of the year award. The notice wasn’t that good (we didn’t see any) on early closure ! As we couldn’t walk very far (too stiff after the walk) we had room service that night ! We also went to the BBQ buffet that the hotel put on and the happy hour/grill evening that the locals come to (basic with the food served in a polystyrene take out !) but nice cheap pina coladas.
Had a Creole lunch at the Cornerhouse Cafe in Roseau while we watched the mad traffic and rain come down ! Recommend this.

Calibishie
On our wanderings we thought the restaurants in Calibishie didn’t look open but it was possible that they were just very quiet. Apparently Kokonuts (Kokos) is supposed to be good especially for a drink on the beach.
We ate at the Bamboo Restaurant (at the lodges) every evening apart from one. Every evening they had a specials menu, soup, chicken or fish main course and a fruit based dessert. These were good and we also ate off the menu.
Dinner at Randy’s Restaurant in Wesley recommended to us by one of the other divers. Food cooked and served by Randy – the fish was excellent. Very quiet with only 1 other couple but we all ended up chatting and talking to each other and Randy who was very friendly.

Lunches in Portsmouth.
Purple Turtle (on the beach). A good Creole fish and wicked cherry punches – a couple of those and you’re not much good for anything else ! Pete stuck to the Kubuli.
Big Papa’s on the beach front (watched the local fisherman prepare and offload 2 yellow fin tuna).
Tomato Cafe – American style food with a million choices for the dressing, cheese topping etc,,,, !!). Signed photos of the Pirates of the Caribbean stars.

Touring/Sight-seeing.
Roseau – great wandering around the town. Everyone says hello. The fish and food market colourful. Some very old (and in some cases decrepit) buildings full of character and history. Botanic Gardens and view from hill over Roseau worth a visit. Very crowded (totally mad) when the cruise ship passengers are unloading between 8 and 9am.

Trafalgar falls – 2 beautiful waterfalls and a small warm pool.

Boiling Lake – Very strenuous 12 mile hike which took us 7 hours. This goes up and over Mont Nicholl (3500 feet) twice. The track was very muddy and slippery. In some places the steps or rocks are so high your knees are somewhere up by your ear as you pull yourself up using tree roots. You cross rivers two or three times. However definitely worth it – Desolation Valley is spectacular with steam and boiling mud and sulphur pools. Boiling lake really does boil. Steam and cloud wafted in and out obscuring views every now and then. Very atmospheric. Guide – Peter Green, Bushman tours was excellent. Pointed out plants, flowers and birds and gave us lots of information on the rocks, natural history etc. Made us Tarzan swing from liana and paint our faces with volcanic mud ! Looked after me very well when I tripped a couple of times – well prepared with antiseptic and bruise cream !!

The swim up Titou Gorge to see the waterfall at the end of the hike was very refreshing and very beautiful.

Whale-watching. We booked this through the Dive centre at Fort Young who use the Dive Dominica boats. They are equipped with hydrophones to listen out for the whales. They go on Sundays and Wednesdays. We were sceptical that we would actually see any but after going almost the length of the island we spotted the spouts of a mother sperm whale and calf . Then we saw a group of 4 very close to before they dived. Finally we saw 2 huge bull whales. The captain told us they do shallow dives when you see their backs and they will be back up in a few minutes and deep dives when they are gone for at least an hour – these are the dives that you see the tail flukes on. Very enjoyable trip complete with a couple of rum punches and fantastic views of the island including a trip to Champagne (the bubbles escaping from the volcanic rocks on the sea bed) and the captain pointing out points of interest along the way back to Roseau, This included the cliff tops that the Pirates of the Caribbean film stars fought on !

Carib Territory. Used our spare day between diving to drive ourselves around the Territory. Linda advised us not to stop where there weren’t any houses so we didn’t (apart from the Horseback ridge viewpoint). Very scenic coast. Lots of stalls selling the beautifully crafted traditionally made baskets. Visited the Carib village Kalinago Barana Aut-, with Fatima as our tour guide. Interesting and good views over the coastline and small waterfall. A specially made tourist attraction which gives a good background to the history and culture of the Carib (Kalinago) Indians and the island and opportunities to buy souvenirs. The territory is not noticeably different from the rest of the island apart from the basket stalls and the South American look of the people.

Visited the painted church at Salybia which also has an altar made of a canoe. L’escalier tete a chien. – A volcanic rock staircase that juts out into the sea like a serpent. We drove past this and had to turn back as we missed the not very obvious sign. Linda again advised us to take a guide which was easy to do as a man popped up and told us he would take us there. Short walk down to the cliff with views over the coast. We took some photos but didn’t go down the steps as the sea was too rough crashing over the rocks. (The guide was very amorous kissing my arm as we looked at the scenery, asking me if I was married and then asking me if I wanted to live with him !. The only time I felt uncomfortable with the locals!!).

Drove down to Castle Bruce for a look at the bay and then up to the Emerald Pool. Apart from another couple who left before us we had it to ourselves. (Can be crowded with cruise ship passengers earlier in the day). Beautiful waterfall and nice circular trail. Took a “refreshing” dip in the pool. Drove back through the forest.

Indian River – Lovely trip up Indian River with the guide rowing you up there and telling you about the river and wildlife. Very peaceful as we were the only ones on the river (we went about 4pm). The roots into the river of the Bwa Mang tree are fascinating. We saw crabs scuttling into their holes along the river bank, white egrets and some big fish in the river. The boat stops at a small pontoon where there is a jungle bar set in the forest. The whole trip lasts about an hour depending on how long you spend in the bar !

Cabrits National Park. This is the site of the 18th century Fort Shirley which is being restored and sits on 2 ancient volcanoes. There are also nature trails in woods, we took one to climb the West Cabrits hill which had views over Price Rupert Bay. We saw a hermit crab and a small grove snake.

Beaches
We stopped at Batibou Bay on our last afternoon of diving which is a beautiful beach. Very hard to find and the track needs a 4×4 car to get down to it. Calibishie Lodges organise a beach barbeque here on request.

On our last full day we walked to see the Red rocks behind Calibishie Lodges which look like a different planet and certainly a different island. There were good views over to Guadeloupe. We then went on to Point Baptiste beach. The water is deep enough to swim on the left of the bay near the rock. We had it to ourselves most of the time until a couple of families joined us later on. We found a coconut rolling down the beach which we had for lunch ! The clouds and rain rolled in about the time we were going to leave anyway and we got absolutely soaked walking back! A nice restful day. The last half day before our flight we walked up along the ridge to get the fantastic views of the mountains.

Diving
Superb, easy diving. We saw marine life that we have not seen before and very beautiful and colourful coral and sponges. Water temperature around 27oC and visibility very good most of the time. We would definitely recommend the diving here.

Diving from Fort Young uses “Dive Dominica” the company that pioneered diving off the island. Well organised with 5 boats. The boat picks you up at the pier by Fort Young at 08:30 and then calls in at the Dive Dominica HQ in Castle Comfort. You are back between 1 – 1:30pm washing out your gear and hanging it up to dry by the Dive Centre.
The first day was relatively un-crowded on the boat but the next couple of days had some cruise ship passengers on it so there were at least 20 of us. However the dive guides were good. There were 2 of them, one at the front and one at the rear which allowed us all to space out. They were good at pointing out the special marine life and made sure all in the group saw them. The coral and sponges are beautiful around Scots Head and Soufriere. The reefs are actually on the sides of a huge volcanic crater or on volcanic pinnacles. We saw frogfish, stingrays, peacock flounder, seahorses (the sign language underwater for a sea horse is hilarious with the dive guide miming sitting on a racehorse – I had no idea what he was pointing out to start with !!), a baby drum fish, turtles and scorpion fish. The stingray encounter made Pete have a ‘Steve Irwin’ thought as it headed straight for him but he still managed to get a photo of it ! Didn’t encounter any currents and we soon got used to the dive guides talking about depths in feet and air pressures in psi.
Dive Sites :Scotts Head Drop Off, La Sorciere or Caribs leap, Scotts Head Point, L’abym, Danglben’s Pinnacles, Soufriere Pinnacles.
(We didn’t dive Champagne (which we thought we would be taken to) probably because it’s really a snorkelling site but we did see it from the Whale watching boat).

Cabrits Dive Centre in Portsmouth is run by a very bubbly English lady called Helen and her American husband, Pete. Instead of being the youngest on the boat (alongside the cruise ship passengers) we were the oldest with most of the other divers coming from the US Ross University Medical school !) Maximum numbers were around 10 with some of those still being trained and therefore diving separately to us with their instructor, so it was much less crowded. There were also a group of English doing some filming so we need to keep an eye out for us being on TV ! Meeting up time was 08:15 but the centre was very efficient and put our kit together for us every morning. A truck would then take us all down to the jetty 5 minutes away. The dive guides were also very good – our battered old dive kit amused them !!
The coral life wasn’t as spectacular compared to the south but still very pretty. There was one dive where the currents were too strong to dive the site that was planned so we drifted with the current and a fair part of this was over sand. We saw a flying gurnard, barrel jellyfish, a snake eel and eel gardens in the sand. We got really close to a turtle that was happily munching away on the coral and posing for our cameras. Also loads of scorpion fish and a seahorse. My favourite site was Toucari Caves where you could swim through the cave and see the lobsters and shrimp hidden away in the cracks. The bubbles you created then came out over the top of the rock – they called it their own Champagne site !
Based on our experience on the Saturday weekends may not be the best days to dive as they tend to take local trainees on the boat so the dive sites will be tailored for their level.
Dive Sites : Canon Site, Douglas Bay Point, Sharks’ Mouth, Toucari Caves, Rose Garden, Pole to pole (pier).

Driving
Takes some getting used to. Lots of bendy single track roads (some hairpin) and lots of potholes and bumps. Used the horn a lot round the corners.
Road between Calibishie and Portsmouth better than main road across the island.

Weather
Rained every day. Most days were relatively short buy heavy showers. Had a couple of days in Roseau where it was overcast all day and rained most of the day when there was no wind to blow it away.

Karen and Pete Jan 14th – Jan 28th 2008

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