Trinidad and Tobago - Nature and Scientific Wonders

If you're not visiting Trinidad and Tobago for Carnival, you're here for the country's stunning natural beauty. Trinidad's beaches offer everything from complete solitude to lively recreation areas. On the north side, the beaches of Macqueripe Bay surround the small, calm cove that is often a playground for dolphins; the picturesque Maracas Beach, outside of Port of Spain, is a popular destination complete with changing facilities and snack booths; Las Cuevas Bay is another favorite and has a calmer surf than Maracas Bay; and visitors should also check out the north coast's Blanchisseuse Bay, L'Anse Martin, Damien Bay and Yarra. The northeast coast is home to Salybia Beach with its rim of coconut trees, the secluded Balandra Bay and the swimmer-friendly Sally/Saline Bay. Visitors to Trinidad's east coast will find Manzanilla, a favorite of sun-bathers, and Mayaro, which is the island's longest beach, spanning nine miles. To the south sits Quinam Beach with its low waves, the windsurfer paradise of Los Iros and the beautiful Cedros peninsula, which is also one of Trinidad's best spots to view Venezuela.

Visitors to Trinidad's northeast coast between May and September can observe the evening spectacle as five species of turtles come ashore to nest; the leatherback, loggerhead, hawksbill, green and olive ridley turtles all use this coast for nesting, although the leatherbacks are easiest to spot as they weigh up to 2,000 pounds.

Quite an oddity sits in La Brea in South Trinidad—the world's largest asphalt lake. Pitch Lake, while perhaps not the most beautiful of nature's creations, is certainly an intriguing one. The 100-acre lake is believed to be 250 feet deep in the center and contains some 10 million tons of pitch. As the lake replenishes itself and turns over, artifacts both peculiar and historically significant such as a mastodon tooth, fossil remains of the giant sloth, and Amerindian artifacts have been uncovered. Mineral pools on the lake are purported to have healing properties because of their high sulphur content.

If that doesn't satiate your desire for the unusual, Trinidad is also home to a number of mud volcanoes. These volcanoes erupt when natural gases—generally methane— and sediment build up and they spew mud instead of the hot lava associated with typical volcanoes. The mud volcano at Piparo erupted in 1997 causing some destruction, and has since become an attraction, but Trinidad's best known mud volcano is the Devil's Woodyard in Princes Town. Early inhabitants of this area thought that sounds and eruptions from the volcano were evidence of the Devil's presence, thus giving the volcano its name.

Tobago is a diver's paradise and those that dip into the area's waters will find some 300 coral species—including staghorn, fire coral, black coral and giant tube sponges—as well as reefs, undersea gardens, and rock pillars.

Snorkelers will also find much to observe at Buccoo Reef Marine Park where landlubbers can take in the sights from glass-bottomed boats. The shallow and warm Nylon Pool, located in Buccoo Bay, is ideal for swimming and its waters are said to have rejuvenating powers—some say swimming there will make you look five years younger.

Conservation groups ask that visitors take care not to harm the reefs when diving or snorkeling and recommend, among other suggestions, not walking on reefs, diving with registered operators and taking care that fins do not bump the coral, which can be damaging.

The beaches of Tobago can often be enjoyed in blissful solitude. Englishman's Bay on the edge of the rain forest offers visitors white sand and deep, clear water. Mount Irvine is an excellent choice for snorkelers with its large parrot fish, coral and lobster. The Castara is a favorite of locals, while the turquoise waters and grass roof huts of Pigeon Point make it the island's most recognized beach.

Tobago is also home to spectacular waterfalls including the three-tiered Argyle Falls near Speyside, which is Tobago highest, the Highland Waterfall at Moriah and Rainbow Falls near Goldsborough Bay.

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