I didn’t, but looking around I am not at all surprised.
We’re at Yerette, a hummingbird sanctuary of sorts in the lush Maracas Valley. The attraction is also the home of Theo and Gloria Ferguson, two Trinidad locals who wanted to share their unique location with the world. Theo is explaining the space to us, where visitors can view 13 of the 17 hummingbird species recorded in Trinidad and Tobago, some of which include Copper-rumped Hummingbird, White-cheated Emerald, Blue-chinned Sapphire, Ruby Topaz and Tufted Coquette.
One would think the operation was methodically planned and implemented; however, this paradise of hundreds to thousands of graceful hummingbirds was a beautiful accident. With a passion for photography, Theo set up some feeders of sugar water to attract the birds for him to capture on film. This combined with his lush garden full of nectar — which makes up 90% of the hummingbird diet — led to an abundance of hummingbirds and even butterflies coming to their yard. One day, while photographing the beautiful birds in the peaceful garden, surrounded by enormous silk cotton trees, cloud-capped mountains and El Tucuche, the second-highest peak in the country, Theo had an epiphany. This was something special they had to share with the world.
The word “Yerette” means hummingbird in the original Amerindian language. It is believed these mysterious birds, with their vibrant colors, flittering wings and aerial acrobatics, contain the souls of the local’s ancestors. You’ll even see the hummingbird on the national Coat of Arms, currency and passport, as the bird is an important symbol of the country.
At Yerette there is no question whether you’ll get to see them up close, as hundreds quickly fly to feed on the more than 20 feeders. Visitors can enjoy a cup of tea of complimentary light meal on the patio or garden or roam the well-manicured lawn trying to capture these quick birds on film. As soon as I get one still in the frame it flies away quickly, it’s iridescent feathers just a colorful smear in the sky. After about 20 minutes of feeling a mixture of awe and frustration at their speed, I decide to just sit on the ground very still, snapping shots one after the other without really looking. This is the only way to actually capture these majestic birds in action.
Yerette also gives visitors a chance to see the home of a local, as Theo and Gloria invite visitors in to browse their hummingbird photography and decoupage art gallery, as well as enjoy a light meal. Our lunch consists of calalloo soup, a well-seasoned broth containing peppers, coconut milk , dasheen, okra, pumpkin, salt and cilantro (shandonbenny), as well as a refreshing garden salad, plump bread rolls and a fresh juice selection of lemonade or sorrel, a local purple berry.
“Enjoying a delicious meal while watching hundreds of colorful hummingbirds is something everyone should experience,” I say to Theo, reveling in the majestic setting.
“You should have been here on Christmas!” he responds. “It was such a special day. We had 3,000 hummingbirds here. We call that a ‘hummingbird shower.'”
As I stand up, a hummingbird whizzes right by head, so fast I feel a breeze on my face. If I didn’t understand why Trinidad and Tobago is called the Land of the Hummingbirds, I certainly do now.
Yerette is located on Trinidad at 88 Valley View, Maracas Valley, St Joseph .Reservations are required for a visit, which you can make by calling 1-868-663-2623 (you can have your hotel call for you). The basic fee for a visit is $25 USD, which includes the ability to take in the live show of the hummingbird feeding and photograph them, hear some information on hummingbirds, peruse the indoor art gallery and gift shop, see an educational hummingbird film and enjoy a light meal (you may upgrade to a three-course meal for a fee). Yerette also puts on three organized tours per day, one in the morning, afternoon and evening. Contact them to enquire about bookings.
As Yerette is outside of Port of Spain and also difficult to find in a secluded location, you’ll want a local guide to get you there. We highly recommend Mr. Nick of Sensational Tours, whom you can email at [email protected]. In fact, no matter what your sightseeing needs are in Trinidad Mr. Nick will provide an unbelievable tour based on your wants and needs.
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