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Treasures of Bush Bush Island


Anna Walcott-Hardy

February 16, 2021

It’s the howls, deep and low that seem to shake the ground and move the palms, in the midst of forest. The patches of rust are moving swiftly through the trees. But in reality,  the Red Howler monkeys aren’t that large, but they certainly are loud. Just one of the many hidden treasures of Bush Bush Island in the Nariva Swamp.

A true ecological gem, less popular and expansive than the Caroni Swamp, but just as stunning, Nariva Swamp is a freshwater marshland on the east coast of the island at the mouth of the Ortoire River. On your journey through the Manzanilla stretch, make sure that you have your windows down to truly enjoy the salty breeze from the Atlantic while you drive through a canopy of coconut palms. Once you get to Kernahan Village, it’s a short hike into the swamp, or in the rainy season there are kayak tours through a man-made waterway. Just make sure to apply your mosquito repellent before starting the journey.

The swamp is the largest on the island, over 32 square miles, with enormous diversity of species including 39 types of reptiles and 45 species of mammals.  The unique ecology of the protected Ramesar site, has made it popular with university researchers and nature- seekers alike, as well as film broadcasters at home and abroad, from National Geographic to the BBC, explained Steven Broadbridge of Caribbean Discovery Tours Limited. He has been leading tours to Bush Bush for many years and has accompanied film crews and university researchers to the island. Bush Bush actually has three peninsulas with select fishing camps along the way,  where many enjoy fishing for cascadou, but be mindful, legend has it that once eaten, you will stay in Trinidad for the rest of your days.

Bush Bush Sanctuary

Bush Bush is a sandy, forested, irregularly shaped island in the swamp, about two to three miles long. Biodiverse and lush, with Moriche, Bois Canot, Silk Cotton, Strangler Figs and Mahon trees, it’s also home to a variety of wildlife including the true to their name, Howlers, as well as super-charged grey Capuchin monkeys, who always seem to be on the hunt for pine nuts. There are also over 32 species of bats and 171 species of birds on the island, including spectacular coloured scarlet macaws, owls and five species of parrots. You can also see anteaters and porcupines, if you’re lucky, as well as the occasional deer and manicou (opossum).

Red Howler monkey. Photo: Christopher Anderson

The swamp is a haven for wildlife, with arresting silhouettes of Moriche palms and knotted mangroves. Unfortunately, in the 1950s the monkeys were severely affected by a Yellow Fever outbreak and lately illegal hunting has had a toll on the population, but the area remains extremely rich and diverse, not to mention incredibly beautiful. Truly a Bucket List contender!