Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Seven wonders of Trinidad & Tobago - A Must See.

Trinidad & Tobago has long been revered as one of the Caribbean’s best kept secrets. With exotic tropical landscape and its multi-dimensional cultural element, the dual island nation provides travelers with something more than just sun, sand and sea. The destination offers visitors a myriad of off-the-beaten path activities and extraordinary sites that are unique to the island. Among the most interesting are the following seven wonders: The Pitch Lake ­ This natural phenomenon, situated in the village of La Brea in southwest Trinidad, has fascinated explorers, scientists and locals since its discovery by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595. About 250 feet deep at its center, it is estimated to have reserves in excess of 6 million tons, from which approximately 180 tons of pitch are mined daily. On a good day, the output can reach 240 tons. Far from being water, the “lake” is 40 percent pitch, 30 percent water and 30 percent colloidal clay. The only liquid source is the self-replenishing center, known as “The Mother of the Lake.” A gift of nature and a national treasure, The Pitch Lake provides the entire country, and many of the neighboring islands with pitch for building roads. Hanuman Murti ­ Standing a towering 85-feet tall, the red and pink-coloured statue of the Hindu deity, epitome of wisdom, righteousness and strength, is said to be the largest such statue outside of India. Located in Carapichaima, in central Trinidad, the Hanuman Murti is a “must-see” religious site. The Hanuman Murti stands on the grounds of the Dattatreya Yoga Center and Mandir and attracts devotees offering gifts and performing the ritual of pradakshina, or walking clockwise in a holy temple while uttering the sacred Hanuman mantra. The Hanuman Murti took two years to construct and was consecrated in 2003. The Magnificent Seven ­ These extravagant structures were originally built as family homes by wealthy Trinidadian men to symbolize their success and elevation in society. All but one of these lavish creations was built in 1904. The buildings are situated on lots located directly across from the Queens Park Savannah. One of the most impressive is Queens College. Designed by Daniel Hahn, former alum of the institution, the structure is described as being of German Renaissance style. Next door to the Queen’s College is the far more modest Hayes Court. Serving as the residence for the Anglican Archbishop, the building also has the distinction of being the only structure built in 1910. Adjacent to Hayes Court is the French Renaissance inspired Mille Fleur. The building was abandoned for several years and has since been acquired by the government with plans to restore it to its former splendour. White Hall is viewed as an impressive three-story structure that shimmers and glows in the sunlight. The building is currently being used as the Prime Minister’s office. One of the most popular of all these fabulous creations is the Stollmeyer’s Castle. Enjoyed by many for its fairytale style design, the building is described as completely bizarre based on its mix of French, German and Scottish influences. Originally known as the Ambard’s House, Rumoor’s whimsical domed roofs, arched windows and iron-gate posts are reminiscent of an elaborate gingerbread house. The final member of this remarkable collection is the residence of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Port of Spain. Main Ridge Rainforest Reserve ­ Located in Tobago, the reserve is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. It was established in 1765 as a means to preserve the watershed of the island. The forest offers great biodiversity including many species of birds, mammals, frogs and non-poisonous snakes. Local tour operators offer rainforest excursions into the reserve primarily along the Gilpin Trace trail. Nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers walk into relatively undisturbed forest and feast on the flora and fauna. The reserve has consecutively won the award for World’s Leading Ecotourism Destination by the World Travel Awards from 2003 to 2007. Buccoo Reef/Nylon Pool ­ Buccoo Reef is the largest coral reef in Tobago and was designated as a marine park in 1973. The popular dive site contains a reef system of five flats separated by deep channels. A spectrum of colour is offered by the coral gardens and the marine life supported by the reef. A major feature is the Nylon Pool, a veritable tranquil paradise in the ocean. It was given the name by Princess Margaret after her visit there in 1962, who thought the water was as clear as her nylon stockings. This unique feature of the reef complex allows swimmers to enjoy their own private swimming pool. Depths are no greater than 7-10 feet at high tides. Local folklore promises that a swim in the waters of the Nylon Pool will make you look five years younger. The Caroni Swamp ­ Considered to be Trinidad’s largest mangrove wetland, the Caroni Swamp is situated just south of the capital Port of Spain on the island’s western shore. Spanning approximately 20 square miles, it is home to over 200 avian species, the most famous resident being the Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad’s national bird. During the day the birds are said to feed 11 miles away in Venezuela and then return to the island at dusk to roost. In so doing converting the mangroves from a sea of green to scarlet red ­ a spectacle that has become a “must see” for tourists visiting the island. The swamp is a maze of channels and although the Scarlet Ibis is the feature attraction, there is a vast number of wildlife that inhabit the mangroves including fiddler crabs, oysters, four-eyed fish, tree boa and spectacled caiman. Queen’s Park Savannah ­ This extensive open area located just north of Trinidad’s city center, is “the world’s largest roundabout”. Occupying approximately 260 acres of land, the Savannah is over 180 years old, making it the oldest recreation ground in the West Indies. It was originally part of the Paradise Estate owned by the Peschier family. In 1817, then Governor Sir Ralph Woodford acquired the property and converted it into a city park keeping a portion of land in the centre as a burial ground for the members of the Peschier family. The Savannah, considered the heartbeat of Port of Spain, plays host to larger musical events and is the epicenter for the annual Carnival festivities. As the city’s largest green space, locals can be seen jogging, cycling and walking their dogs at any hour of day or night. On the weekends and after 4 p.m. during the work week, the Savannah comes alive with football and cricket games, jogging, and couples and families talking strolls or having picnics. It is home to coconut vendors whose trucks that line the street on the western side. Other vendors sell roasted corn, oysters, pholourie and sno-cones. Trinidad & Tobago is located in the southeastern region of the Caribbean. With their careful approach to tourism, the dual island nation offers one of the last absolutely unspoiled Caribbean destinations. Trinidad, the ‘cultural capital of the Caribbean,’ is home to the world famous Carnival, the birth of the steel pan drum and Emmy Award Winning designer, for his work on the Opening Ceremony of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, Peter Minshall. Tobago, sister island to Trinidad, is the quintessential Caribbean island with secluded beaches, quaint villages, award winning eco-attractions and private villas.

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