Paul Pugh, a long time friend, and I have been saying for years we need to sort out our lives so that we could have some time birding together - any time, any place. He and I used to be birding 'rivals' but our lives have taken over, and he, to a large extent, had left birds behind.
Anyway, we did get our acts together, big time.
A few alternative options for the timing of the holiday were mulled over and so we quickly resolved the 'When?' dilemma, and then we quickly moved on to the 'Where?' question.
Although we briefly touched on other global birding hotspot destinations, we quickly settled on Trinidad.
But where on Trinidad?
As birders we were well aware of long established one-stop shop destinations such as Asa Wright Nature Centre and the Pax Guest House. However, on enquiry we were immediately put off the former by what seemed to be excessive prices, (having been there on our trip this alone proved to be a very good decision).
We renewed our researches and almost immediately Paul found details of Hacienda Jacana, no doubt due to its deservedly high profile on Trip Advisor. He quickly convinced me that we need look no further, and we duly contacted Hacienda Jacana about our plans.
This though was just the beginning of things.
By e-mail we entered into a long very happy dialogue with the manager, Helen Quesnel, sorting out the details of our holiday break. I could have said the minutiae, because in a way that was what it was, but on a holiday the 'small' details really matter. They can be the making of the trip.
Anyway, suffice to say nothing was too much for Helen. Changes of dates relative to our flights were readily accommodated. Arrangements for our two part day one overnight stay of Tobago were facilitated, (even though that was down to us to organise!), transfers to and from the airport were arranged, etc..
Best of all Helen volunteered the services of Dave Ramlal, a bird guide associated with Hacienda Jacana,
In many ways this was the making of the trip, as although we had an itinerary of birding destinations outlined, Dave effectively delivered it, and much, much more.
As a result of the decision we made to use Dave's services and the airport transfers we no longer needed to hire a car.
Therefore, eating out wasn't really an option, and nor was buying the basis for cooking meals ourselves.
As such, Helen offered a package of meals tailored around about our birding itinerary. We gladly accepted.
What a good decision this was. Besides keeping us stocked with breakfast goodies, fruit, (oh, and beer!), Helen provided us with fantastic meals, (sometimes lunches, sometimes evening meals, all depending on our itinerary).
I say Helen; she and Jesse arranged and delivered them, but it was Helen's mother-in-law who so obviously lovingly prepared them. Although we passed on our thanks we never got to thank her for this in person, which I regret. The meals were wonderfully. Perfectly 'weighted' for our activities, (Helen even referred to the meals as, for example, a 'heavy' lunch), wonderfully cooked, and delightfully aimed at giving us a good introduction to local cuisine, (I am a huge believer in 'when in Rome' so this suited me perfectly).
So as I say, nothing was too much trouble; our itinerary continued to be fluid to our benefit, (e.g., making a last minute decision to change our plans by driving overnight to Grande Riviere and then sleeping in Dave's mini-bus rather than getting up to leave at 03:00 as had been intended, so that we saw nest-excavating and egg-laying Leatherback Turtles as well as the intended Trinidad Piping Guan).
As I said in the guest book, Helen was the consummate hostess.
I could go on and on with more detail about our whole wonderful experience as a result of selecting to stay at Hacienda Jacana, opting to use the services of Dave Ramlal and deciding to take up the option of having our meals there.
Suffice to say Helen was really lovely to deal with; everything was done with a smile - we made Helen laugh and she made us laugh!
I have so far said very little about Hacienda Jacana itself. Basically, it proved to be the absolutely perfect for us. Besides all of the above, the place was perfect in terms of providing extremely comfortable accommodation within fantastic grounds full of the wildlife we had come to Trinidad to see.
Trip Advisor reviews say more about the accommodation itself so I won't major on this. Also, I will just say that the setting allowed us the, (frequently taken), option of 24/7 wildlife watching, featuring not just the birds we had come to see, but also all sorts of other wildlife too numerous to detail.
In summary, I would thoroughly recommend a stay a Hacienda Jacana to anyone wanting a fantastic peaceful break, but especially so to anyone like us, who wants the ideal base for a birding holiday in Trinidad.
Indeed, I would strongly recommend exactly the same package we happened upon, taking in Asa Wright Nature Centre, Blanchisseuse Road, Caroni Swamp, Grande Riviere, Aripo Livestock Station, Nariva Swamp and Waller Field in just 5 days with Dave Ramlal, (plus our two day trip to Tobago with Newton George).
As a result, we managed some 210 - 220 bird species including a large number of the endemics and specialities and various of wildlife highlights. Even though we are experienced birders we would have really struggled to see anything like that without the services of Dave and Newton - rainforest birding is obviously a hard art to get right from a standing start without any prior knowledge of the species involved!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Hacienda Jacana is a peaceful country haven. Slip into the serene setting of a private country paradise, discretely set in 22 acres on the edge of the tropical rain forest at the centre of Trinidad. Relax or BBQ poolside, walk the grounds, bird watch, read a book in a hammock under the trees,fish or canoe in the lake. Bedrooms are air conditioned and the cottages are outfitted to the highest degree of elegance. ... more less