Caroni Swamp

Scarlet Ibis, Caroni Swamp, Trinidad

Located on 12,000 acres (4,860 ha) in northwestern Trinidad, this swamp is home to 190 species of birds, as well as reptiles, caiman, and many other marine life. The most famous inhabitant, however, is the scarlet ibis.


Caiman, Caroni Swamp

An important wetland for its ecological diversity and protection of endangered species, the Caroni Swamp was designated a Ramsar Site in 2005.


Red Mangrove Swamp, Caroni Swamp

Like many swamps, the Caroni Swamp has overcome a history of nearly getting filled in; and although the marshland is now protected, there are still problems with poaching, hunting, and pollution.


Caiman’s lucky day, returned to the swamp, Caroni

In anticipation of watching the nightly ritual of roosting scarlet ibis, we boarded an outboard motor boat close to dusk. Just before taking off, there was a commotion and our guide insisted we get back out of the boat.


We ran over to watch a park ranger releasing a female caiman. A resident had called it in, and the ranger had captured her and was about to release her into the swamp.


Roosting island for scarlet ibis, Caroni Swamp

After that excitement, we climbed back into the boat and cruised through the mangrove channels. Large swamp trees with extensive aerial root systems, mangroves live in salt water in tropical and sub-tropical regions all over the world.


As the sun began to set, our boat meandered through the channel, navigating around the roots. We saw tree boas coiled up in the overhead roots and branches, as well as wading birds and raptors.


Before our boat was in position, the ibis were already arriving. Overhead and all around us, there was a swirl of bright red ibis. During the day they feed in Venezuela, 11 miles away.


2016 Roter Ibis.JPG

Photo: J. Patrick Fischer, courtesy Wikipedia

Photo: Charles J. Sharp, courtesy Wikipedia






Scarlet ibis roosting, Caroni Swamp

Living in large colonies throughout South America and the Caribbean, the Eudocimus ruber is a wader, with a long, curved bill and flaming-red feathers. More info here. They are the national bird of Trinidad.


In spite of two other anchored boats filled with people watching the spectacle of the incoming ibis, we were all quiet.


There is something so profound, so sacred, about watching hundreds and hundreds of glowing red birds coming in for their evening rest.


Photo credit: Athena Alexander unless otherwise noted

Scarlet ibis, Caroni Swamp



94 thoughts on “Caroni Swamp

  1. How gorgeous to see the Scarlet Ibis come in for their evening roosts. Their color is amazing! The photos of them perched in the trees are beautiful but I know in person it is a sight to behold, so lucky you were able to witness these famously popular birds! Thanks for sharing, Jet!

  2. Wow! They are so red! It must have been amazing to be on that boat. And the pink-tinged sky adds to their magic. I loved reading – “We saw tree boas coiled up in the overhead roots and branches, as well as wading birds and raptors” – so cool to imagine! Thanks for sharing your adventure. 🙂

    • As a drawer of birds, Myriam, you can imagine the magnificent glow of this red ibis. And yes, the sun setting colors just added to the incredible palette. Lovely comment, thank you.

  3. That penultimate shot looks like somebody has been decorating a Christmas tree or something – very cool bird with very hot colours.

    Is the word “Ibis” like the word “sheep” – i.e. the same for singular and plural?

    • Hi Alastair — yes it did look like a whole forest filled with decorated Christmas trees. The plural for ibis is ibises. A delight to hear from you, as always. Have a lovely weekend!

  4. All that color! I take it the Scarlet Ibis is not known for its camouflage! How amazing to see them and I can see with the likes of the other residents of the swamp why they roost high in the trees. The photo of the ibis on the rocks I am shouting ” For goodness sake get to higher ground unless you want to be a bedtime snack!” Another amazing, jaw dropping post from the two of you. Wow!

    • So glad you enjoyed the scarlet ibis post in its entirety, Sue. There are two photos here that I used from Wikipedia, including the one of the ibis on the rocks. I am guessing that both of those are ibis in captivity, because the ibis are not usually approachable. And in the case of the Caroni Swamp, being protected, we were forced to anchor the boat nearly a mile away. I love the thought of you shouting at the ibis in the photo, makes me smile. You always make me smile, Sue — thank you. 🙂

  5. I can’t imagine how spectacular the view is. Seeing this many these gorgeous Scarlet Ibis flying… breathtaking!
    Thank you for the post, Jet!

    • Yes, it did take my breath away, Amy. I was happy Athena could get so many photos even from the distance, because it was such a spectacular sight. Thanks so much, my friend~~

  6. Wow… stunning! To see so many Scarlett ibises had to be quite the experience. I enjoyed an amazing visit to the TX Gulf Coast this year but the white ibises were elusive.

    • You are always delighting me with your birds in the TX Gulf Coast area, Ingrid; so I am delighted to share the scarlet ibis with you today. Thanks very much for stopping by.

    • It was a breathtaking experience, Belinda. It literally took the breath out of me, I just kept quietly gasping as they flew by. Thanks so much for your interest. 🙂

    • The photos were a real testament to Athena’s tenacity, because when the boat was anchored she quickly realized she had to adjust to the fact that we were very far away from the ibis and would not be getting closer (due to protection). Had to figure out how to capture this once-in-a-lifetime experience with extreme limitations. I know as a photographer you are aware of this kind of moment. She pulled it off. Thanks for your visit today, Timothy, it is appreciated.

  7. Another incredible post! Really magical – the place and the creatures. Ibis, caiman, swampland, adventure, conservation and beauty, this piece has it all…
    Thanks, Jet, enjoyed your writing and Athena’s photography, as always. Have a great weekend!

    • Your kind words are so very appreciated, pc. I am starting a new novel and have to be extremely attentive as I build the foundation. So I shifted to once-a-week posts for the time being, and have been enjoying the focus that this affords. I really appreciate your kind words and encouragement. Seeing friends today, so I am leaving “the mountain” for the day, but it will be fun. My best wishes for a weekend of relaxation and joy. It must be about time for your spring break, I wonder where you and Mrs. PC will be off to.

  8. I saw one in Florida but I did’t have my camera with me! Must have been one escapee from a private collection. I was walking with a relative in Tampa when he pointed at the bird flying by and he asked me if that bird was a flamingo…I saw it and it was a red ibis a.k.a scarlet ibis. Thanks for the interesting post Jet. 🙂

    • How very delightful that must’ve been to spot a scarlet ibis as you’re walking along. That decurved bill is so distinctive. To have more than one giant pink bird species flying above is the joy of Florida. Thanks so much, HJ — always a pleasure.

    • Your “gulp” made me chuckle, Lloyd. Athena, who took the photos, was more front and center with her camera than me. I stayed back ten more feet or so. The caiman was rather sluggish. I asked if she was sedated and they said no, that she was just stunned from the capture and transport. As soon as she touched the water and was back in her element, everything was okay again. Of course we were back in the same water, so there was another “gulp” moment. lol. Many thanks, my friend~~

  9. WOW. The huge flocks of SI were magnificent in the photos; I can only imagine the sight in person! The caimans were as fierce-looking as the birds were beautiful — the range of fauna (and flora!) in our world is breathtaking, yes?

    • It is a marvel when the natural landscapes of our earth get a chance to remain intact. Not only is it beautiful, but the eco-balance is a healthy benefit for all living creatures, including humans. Glad you enjoyed this trip to the Caroni Swamp, Nan.

  10. They are really beautiful pictures, thanks to Athena Alexander for the beautiful photos,the nature is really fantastic. I admire the Caroni Swam birds, amazing! Thank you Jet Eliot, you have an fantastic post.

    • Your visit and comment were a pleasure, PD. You always have wonderful photos on your blog, I am glad Athena could provide you with some beauties of the Caroni Swamp. Many thanks.

  11. It sounds like it was an amazing sight watching all the scarlet ibis return for the evening. I love the shots by Athena of the scarlet ibis roosting and the Caiman that looks like he enjoys having his photo taken. I have only seen the scarlet ibis at our local zoo and it was enjoyable to see the photos of them flying and read your words about how special it was to watch them at the Caroni Swamp.

    • I like that you have seen the scarlet ibis at your local zoo, ACI — and now, like you say, you can remember their wild cousins flying between the coast of Trinidad and Venezuela. You know, as a photographer, the beauties of dusk, waterways and birds never end. I’m happy to share the Caroni Swamp with you.

  12. This was such an amazing discovery. I had never heard of these birds. I loved the shot of them roosting the the trees. They looked like gorgeous Christmas decorations. What a truly amazing world we live in to have these gorgeous birds in it. I wonder why they don’t seem to get more mention. They are beyond spectacular.

    • What a joy it is to introduce you to the scarlet ibis, Gunta. You know the delight of an ibis, with their long, de-curved bill, and this scarlet color just added another impactful “WoW’ to the sight. Always a pleasure to hear from you, thank you.

      • There’s just something about that scarlet hue. I was enchanted when first spotting the vermillion flycatcher, too. Another bird I’d never previously heard of. They are such utterly amazing creatures.

  13. Thank you and Athena for these amazing shots of the Scarlett Ibis….To see them set agains the lush dark green of the forest is indeed an amazing sight, and to observe masses of them coming in at the same time – simply wondrous. Very glad the Caiman was released back into the swamp…..:) Thank you for another reminder of the wonderful of our world. Hope you are enjoying a lovely weekend…janet.

    • It is a supreme pleasure to share the Caroni Swamp and the scarlet ibis with you, Janet. I would imagine your Trinidadian friends have visited this site, it is popular with tourists as well as locals. We were glad, too, to see they had a catch-and-release program for the caiman (not every country does). Always a delight, Janet, to share the wonders of the world with you.

  14. This was our favorite Trinidad experience and the main reason we chose T&T for our trip. We missed the caiman though lucky you!

  15. The photos of the red ibis in flight are beautiful. It would obviously have been even more of a thrill and spectacle to see it live. It looks amazing.

    Obviously, no dangling of limbs into the water whilst enjoying the performance in the sky.

    • I enjoyed your comment, Draco. No, with sleeping boas coiled above us, and swimming caiman below us, we kept all our limbs in the boat. Oh, except once when we came upon a patch of water where there were floating red ibis feathers, probably molted feathers. We quickly snatched up a couple of those and smoothed and dried them. Always a delight when you visit, thank you.

  16. I think my heart would have skipped a beat after a glimpse of those gorgeous red Ibis. You must have thought you were in heaven with all of the interesting wildlife here, and I can only imagine the joy it brought you. Beautiful photographs.

  17. SPECTACULAR …. and nothing short of it!
    Thank you for letting me see through your eyes this painting by nature.
    I was in Trinidad. We rented a place in the countryside.
    Across the dirt street was an endless field of red Hibiscus & hummingbirds.

    • High compliments, Resa, thank you. I’m glad I could renew your memory of visiting Trinidad, red hibiscus and hummingbirds sounds dreamy. Happy to add the scarlet ibis scene for you. Many thanks, my friend~~

    • Athena, who takes the photos, has a marvelous lens. In a little boat without a tripod, she took her photographing seriously that day, knowing we would never see such a spectacle again. I am the lucky recipient, and now so are you. What a delight to share this beauty with you, David. My thanks for your visits. 🙂

  18. It’s like our neighborhood roosting tree of White Ibis — only in vibrant reds! What a great place to be. Trinidad’s on our short list of places to visit abroad. Will remember this for sure. 😀

    • The Caroni Swamp was so magical, Shannon; and if you ever do visit Trinidad, the Asa Wright Nature Centre should be top on your list, it was simply the best place for a birder to be.

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