When Is the Best Time
To spot the oilbirds a guide is necessary to find the muddy trail to the Cumaca Cave. It depends on the water level if you can walk into the cave. The oilbirds are nocturnal, and at daytime, they rest in the cave.
Dry Season - Weather
Best months for Trinidad and the hike to the cave are January to May and September. Rain can always occur in Trinidad. The trail to the cave can be muddy even in the dry season but worth to do. During the rainy season, the water level of the Oropouche River can be too high for safe walking.
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Where and Tips
Cumaca Cave is located close to the Cumaca Village. It is a gravel, bumpy road and a 4x4 is necessary. It is advisable to get a guide for this trip. A permit for entering the cave is required. It is located on private land. The trail to the cave takes about 1 1/2 hours and is usually overgrown. A long pair of trousers are recommended. The last third of the trail is muddy and slippery.
Before you enter the cave, you see the river full of seeds from the fruits of oil palms. You need to walk through the Oropouche River to get into the cave. You definitely get wet, and the river had a strong flow when we entered. The cave is more than 200 meters deep and has three accessible chambers. However, don't walk too far inside! The water can rise rapidly. Two divers, Adam Richards, and Victor Abraham explored the cave in 1964 beyond the three chambers and were never seen again. The cave is also home to a cave-dwelling catfish and bats. The catfish is not used to light, if using a torch it will hide behind a rock. Inside the cave, a headlight and a powerful torch are necessary to spot the oilbirds. When you enter the cave, the oilbirds make a loud noise due to the disturbance. Avoid shining the light on them too much. The Cumaca Cave was even visited by Theodor Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States in 1911.
Quick Facts About Oilbirds
- The oilbird is the only nocturnal fruit-eating bird in the world.
- Nesting colonies in caves are found only in Trinidad and in northern South America.
- They navigate with echolocation like bats but are related to nightjars.
- The birds are also called "Guacharo", devil bird or "diablotin", and as soon as you enter the cave, you know why.
- The name origins from the chicks which become pretty fat before they can fly. They are often even larger than their parents. The oilbird chicks were captured and boiled by the natives and early settlers for their oil.
What to Bring
- It is advisable to have an extra pair of water shoes.
- Gloves to protect the hands from the poop of the birds.
- Protect your head as well.
- A torch and headlight to explore the cave.
- Additional clothes in the car at the trailhead.
- On the way back it is worth to make a stop for a short walk to the Turure Waterfall and steps in the Cumaca Valley. Bring a swimsuit and towel for a refreshing bath.
- An experienced guide is necessary for this trip. We did this adventurous tour and several more with Emile the best guide we ever had! More information and booking with Nature Trek TNT