Trinidad is vigilant about protecting its natural treasures, from the rainforest to the ancient reptiles that nest on Matura Beach. When I was invited on an eco tourism adventure trip to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago , or TT, as the locals call it, I had to get out the map to find it. Only seven miles from Venezuela, this twin island republic in the West Indies was once a part of South America and separated from the continent when the volcanic plates shifted thousands of years ago. Its unique ecological heritage and topographical diversity, which ranges from rainforests and waterfalls to mangrove swamps and tropical savannahs, is home to more than species of birds, species of butterflies, and 2, varieties of flowering shrubs and plants. Creative percussionists hammered out the ends of discarded oil drums to create the only acoustical musical instrument invented in the 20th century. While its plentiful resources of petroleum, natural gas and asphalt have made TT one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean, this is still a developing nation that only gained its independence from the British in The two caramel-colored dogs dozed under a nearby tree, while the old man with the leathery skin sat in the shade of his covered patio, resting from his labors of the morning. The government pays him for access to the rainforest trails, which begin and end on his property, and along with his small crop of mangos and a few chickens, he does very well by Trinidadian standards. Our two guides for this rainforest hike were both serious environmentalists with two different perspectives, one spiritual and the other scientific.
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