Click/tap for our slideshow of Tobago birds
Two evenings before the allotted tour, I telephoned Newton to finalise details. Newton was excited. He had identified a bird not previously seen on Tobago and was keen to try and find it again. It would be a wonderful piece for our article.
Sadly, this was not to be. We had just returned, that very day, from a long an exhausting trip up the coast and across the Main Ridge rainforest to Charlotteville. This is a beautiful journey and a 'must' for every visitor. However, it is NOT a journey to be attempted in a Suzuki Carry with six passengers boasting a cumulative age of 380 years. In fact, it is not a journey to be attempted in a Suzuki Carry with ANY passengers.
The last thing we wanted was to put a dampener on Newton's obvious enthusiasm. Nobody knows Tobago's rain forest better than Newton. The forest is HIS preserve. But, the thought of making that long journey twice in three days was a more than we could contemplate.
There was another factor. We wanted to take Newton out of his comfort zone and see what he could do in territory that he was less familiar with. So, we gave him a simpler brief: show us the birdlife within a fifteen-minute drive of Tobago's major hotels, in the flatter more urban part of Tobago.
Newton was disappointed, but quickly rose to the challenge. Our impression that Newton might just be a rainforest guide was quickly disproved. It quickly became obvious that he had intimate knowledge of every part of Tobago and was as much at home in the flatlands around Crown Point as he was in the northern ranges.
Promptly at 7am, three members of our party jumped into Newton's car and headed down the coast towards the built-up areas. Now, I do not propose to offer a detailed review of our entire trip. Serious birders would probably consider it an insult and others would simply switch off. I can only say that we experienced a truly wonderful and enjoyable morning.
Newton proved to be a wonderful guide and companion. His commitment to conservation and the preservation of Tobago's wildlife are patently obvious. As much as I love and admire birds and natural history, I did have some concern that I would find a full morning on the subject a trifle boring. Not a chance! Newton made everything so interesting. It was impossible not to be captivated by his obvious enthusiasm.
It was very clear that Newton isn't simply a paid guide conducting tours for commercial gain. He lives and breathes Tobago's birdlife and natural history. This was aptly demonstrated in the way that he shared knowledge with anyone we met along the trails, including other tour guides.