One of Trinidad’s most significant wildlife areas, the Nariva Swamp covers fifteen square kilometres behind the coconut estates along the coast south of Manzanilla. The area is made up of agricultural land (rice and watermelons are the main crops), as well as reed-fringed marshes and, between the Mayaro–Manzanilla Road and the swamp itself, mangrove thickets. Deep in the southwestern corner lies the 16 square kilometres of Bush Bush Wildlife Sanctuary (often referred to as an island but actually a peninsula standing around 3m higher than the surrounding land), bordered by palmiste and moriche palms and covered in hardwood forest and silk cotton trees, and designated a protected sanctuary in 1968. A unique freshwater ecosystem, Nariva harbours large concentrations of rare wildlife, with some 58 species of mammals (including the impossibly endearing manatee, or sea-cow), 37 species of reptiles and 171 species of birds (including the yellow-capped Amazon parrots, and blue-gold and red-bellied macaws). It’s also home to 92 species of mosquito, so remember to bring your insect repellent.
Nariva is hard to explore in any real depth independently, but if you’re just passing by, it’s worth taking a stroll along the signposted Kernaham Trace, which swings in from the Manzanilla–Mayaro Road to Kernaham Village, a widely dispersed collection of picturesque board houses, mostly on stilts, that are home to a friendly, overwhelmingly Indian community of farmers and fishermen. It’s a beautiful scene, with the flatlands opening up huge expanses of open sky. Kernaham has a bar which occasionally serves food, as well as a building for worship that accommodates the community’s Hindus, Muslims and Christians; it’s marked with a moon and stars design on the outside, and a peek through the wall reveals icons (in picture form) of all three religions, illustrating Trinidad’s strong tradition of cultural and religious acceptance.