Only eleven miles off the Venezuela coast, Trinidad is the last Caribbean island before you hit South America. It's bigger than the other members of the "Lesser Antilles", the chain of island nations stretching North all the way to Puerto Rico, but much smaller than the members of the Greater Antilles - Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and Puerto Rico. Still, with 1.3 million inhabitants and 4828 square kilometres of land area, it's got more variety of things to see and do than the other places which people typically think of when someone says "Caribbean island".
It might be close to South America, but you'd hardly know it except for place names like Port of Spain. Trinidad was seized by the British in 1797 and developed with sugar plantations. The Spanish and French had already brought in African slaves to work the fields and the British continued this until 1807 when they halted the slave trade. They then brought in workers from India, a practice which continued until the early 1900s. The people of Trinidad and Tobago are now divided roughly half and half between African and Indian, and the influence particularly of the English and the Indians is obvious in the variety of religious buildings. There are plenty of other signs of how the local culture has shaped the country since becoming independent in 1962.
Trinidad is not heavily touristed, certainly much less so than Tobago, and over half the nation's income is derived from the oil reserves concentrated in the South-West. The Point a Pierre oil refinery is located here, and there are a couple of natural oddities fairly close to hand - Pitch Lake, a 95 acre lake of tar which is the world's largest natural source of bitumen and asphalt, and The Devil's Woodyard, one of a number of "mud volcano" sites where geothermal activity has resulted in small mud mounds being thrown up. Unfortunately, with only 4 days in Trinidad, I didn't have enough time to visit the latter.
Trinidad hosts the Caribbean's largest Carnival celebrations. I didn't realize that Carnival started only a week or two after I was there, but I was able to see some of the Carnival preparations. Because the Trinidadians (or "Trinis" as they call themselves) invented the "steel pan", a musical instrument created from a 44 gallon steel drum, it plays a major role in the celebrations.
But the major reason I was interested in Trinidad was because of the variety of bird life. With over 400 species, Trinidad isn't even categorized with other Caribbean islands, instead it's considered to be part of South America. There are three particularly well known bird sanctuaries in Trinidad, the Asa Wright Nature Centre in the Northern hills, the Point a Pierre Wildfowl Trust right in the middle of the Point a Pierre oil refinery, and the Caroni Swamp Bird Sanctuary, which hosts a twice daily spectacle when huge numbers of the brilliantly colored Scarlet Ibis, the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago, fly to and from their feeding grounds in Venezuela. There are all sorts of other wildlife in Trinidad and Tobago, from 600 species of butterflies, to mammals like agouties and squirrels, snakes, lizards, frogs, crabs, spiders and dragonflies, as well as the occasional interesting tree or fungus!
It's no wonder that with so much to see and do I broke all previous personal records during my ten day stay, taking over 1400 photographs!