Marvelous Manzanilla Beach, Trinidad
...seaside picnics, beachcombing, camping,
birdwatching and barefoot hikes
Before you stands Manzanilla Beach, and the captivating Cocal - mile after mile of coconut plantations. A reminder of the days when labor intensive sugar cane was replaced by coconuts. You have arrived; your 1½ hour journey from Port-of-
Spain is at an end. As your Trini guide might say...
Manzanilla Beach, while not everyone's idea of the typical Caribbean beach, is ideal for exploration, picnics, camping, bird watching, and long barefoot strolls. It's a beachcomber's paradise.
This is where the salt-leaden Trade Winds, known locally as sea blast, touch land for the first time in 1,800 miles, carrying with them memories of far away Africa. Here, the lyrically trunks of coconut trees twist upwards to over 30 feet, erupting from lush emerald beds of grass and cocoa lilies.
Further along, where the road draws closer to the beach, we stop, park and unpack our lunch.
Eventually, camped on a beach-chair in the shade under the coconut trees, without a care in the world, we devour our curry crab and dumplings - sweet Trinidad food in all it's complexity.
In an instant, our seaside picnic has become a gastronomical adventure set in storybook surroundings - a got-to-repeat event. Isn't it nice, we reflect, as we lick our fingers, to go native every once in a while.
Manzanilla Beach Beckons
After lunch, the beach beckons and we step out into the sunlight. There seems to be no end to this ribbon of sand, framed on one side by the sea, and on the other, by an uncountable wall of coconut trees. To the left, and right, Manzanilla beach stretches out of view, misted by salt spray in the distance.
Mudskippers join us on our stroll, those strange, prehistoric looking fish. When marooned on the beach by the retreating wavelets, our four-eyed friends waddle back towards the sea and the promise of deeper water. It's as if they are playing a game of cat and mouse with the surf, in their effort to grab another mouthful of microbial ooze from the wet sand of Manzanilla Beach. Only fish that walk can make this incredible journey, skirting the razors edge between land and sea.
At our feet, as we walk along the beach, are the coins of Neptune's treasure chest. The number of bleached sand dollars strewn along the shore is amazing. We feel like Indiana Jones walking on the bones of the dead in some ancient tomb - except of course, we're in brilliant sunshine.
If like us, you are beachcombing on Manzanilla in February or March, you'll also come across the costumed sails of Portuguese Man-o-war that have been stranded by the tide.
Be warned, these brilliantly-colored, embroidered pillows are accompanied by menacing necklaces of deadly beauty. Portuguese Man-o-war are a paradox, beauty and beast in one bejeweled package. You don't want to be stung by one of these floating jellyfish-like creatures when you are in the surf.
While not usually life threatening, the sting, I've been told, feels like a third degree burn, and, depending on your encounter and whether or not you suffer from Asama, can require medical assistance. See our Beach Vacation Safety Tips for more information.
Seaside Bird Watching
Ahead of us, just beyone a group of shore birds, we see several Black Turkey Vultures, known in Trinidad as Corbeaux (pronounced Co-bow). They are jumping around like Halloween crows on steroids, squabbling over the last mouthfuls of a fish washed up on Manzanilla Beach by the last high tide.
With all their morbid looks, these grim reapers of Trinidad and Tobago's avian population are great natural recyclers. As we approach, the cluster of Corbeaux's takes to the skies.
You'll see these characters all over the island, high in the heavens, circling on thermals in search of their next meal.
As we walk along this deserted ribbon of sand, we feel like newly shipwrecked Robinson Crusoes', or the first Trinidadians - native Caribs and Arawaks. And as the must have done in response to the very first human feet that trod here... Ghost Crabs take flight at our approach.
Manzanilla Beach, while not always the most ideal beach in Trinidad and Tobago for swimming, makes a stunning beach for picnics, camping, beachcombing and barefoot hikes. It's a great Trinidad and Tobago beach for bird watching where shore birds roam undisturbed; where Sea Pens, Chip-chip shells, Donkey Eyes, sea glass and other beach treasures litter the sand; and where the only footprints you'll usually see will be your own.
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