Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Estate

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Joanne Green
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Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Estate

Post by Joanne Green » Wed Dec 30, 2009 9:53 pm

Hi to all you regular visitors to Tobago-

Have any of you visited the Wildlife Estate? Does the owner still feed the birds at 4PM? Is it well sign-posted off of Grafton Rd?

Looking forward to your comments!

Joanne Green

Terry K

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Post by Terry K » Wed Dec 30, 2009 10:35 pm

Do you mean the Grafton Bird Sanctuary? If so, we were there early in the morning last week and it was very nice. There is a sign that is easy to see from the road so you won't miss it. They do have bird feeders out but can't say when they fill them. You may also be thinking about the Arnos Vale Hotel where they feed the birds at 4:00 and have tea. If you like birdwatching, you also could check out the Adventure Farm just down the road from the Arnos Vale Hotel. They have some trails to walk on as well as hummingbird feeders near the house and we saw 5 of the 6 species of hummingbirds very close. Have a great trip!

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Re: Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Estate

Post by PeterE » Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:57 am

Yes! We were there yesterday and managed to photograph a hummingbird sat on its nest about 25' up

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Re: Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Estate

Post by Martin Jay » Tue May 22, 2012 8:54 pm

Sad to report that this seems to now be defunct - there are lots of "No trespassing" signs posted all over the estate and the road up to it. The trails are overgrown and the boards showing the map of the trails removed and left on the floor.

I last visited in November 2010, and the old guy that feeds the birds had turned up without any feed, I can't remember why he said this was, but the place is sadly now run down.

Anyone know what happened?

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Re: Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Estate

Post by Steve Wooler » Wed May 23, 2012 9:05 am

Hello Martin

Welcome aboard! :)

That is indeed sad news. I haven't heard anything about it, but will try to contact the owners and see if I can glean any information.
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Re: Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Estate

Post by Gabriele » Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:57 pm

The Sanctuary Estate is not limited to the area where the feeding of the birds takes place.
There is a 'wider estate road' that reaches the top of the property, where it WAS possible to see the Buccoo reef from a distance. The Estate road would have (from there) continued descendeding and looping around to reconnect just above the set of antique ruins (passed the feeding place). There are several smaller estate roads or wider trails (3) departing from the left of the main estate road and one from the right. These paths were always clear and well maintained.
Since more than a year, the all upper property has become very bushy, and certainly not pleasant to cross not even for a person accustom to thick forrest.

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Re: Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Estate

Post by Steve Wooler » Mon Jun 18, 2012 4:26 pm

With apologies for the delay, I've now just received clarification on the situation at the Grafton Caledonia Bird Sanctuary.

No - the sanctuary has not closed. Due to administrative reasons and falling visitor numbers and donations, it has not been possible for the Trust that owns the sanctuary to maintain it to the standards they would like. However, I understand that the sanctuary remains open and the birds are regularly fed; it's just that some of the trails have not been cut back. No charge is made to visitors - but your donations will help to ensure that it remains a visitor attraction.
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Re: Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Estate

Post by Martin Jay » Mon Jun 25, 2012 8:39 pm

That's great to hear - but the multitude of no trespassing signs would put visitors off, I think..

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Re: Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Estate

Post by Steve Wooler » Wed Jun 27, 2012 11:00 am

Hi Martin

I really can't comment, because its a few years since I visited the estate and I don't recall any signs. However, I took this up with one of the owner, Jeremy McWilliam, and in his reply to me he says....
As far as I am aware there are no more 'No Trespassing' signs than before and this is the first time it has been raised as an issue.

Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Sanctuary is a privately owned estate that happens to be a Nature Reserve.
The owners ‘invite’ the public to share the surroundings of this privately owned property (no admission fee is charged).

The signs are there for a very good reason as the Law is different in Tobago than in England.

In England you cannot be prosecuted for trespassing but you can in Tobago so long as you have the relevant signs.
The sanctuary is plagued by poachers who kill iguana etc and will set fire to the bush to smoke them out. This is the reason why we have had very serious fires in the past that have come very close to Grafton House, Santuary Villas and Stonehaven and destroyed vast area of wildlife habitat. There was one house that did get burnt down right on the edge of the Estate. Without the signs the Police will not assist.
So, I agree that such signs are not exactly welcoming, but given the above, one has to sympathise. :)
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Re: Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Estate

Post by MikeK » Sat Nov 22, 2014 1:51 pm

I've been coming to Tobago for 7 years and am sad to see the decline in the Grafton reserve. The Cocoa House has become almost completely overgrown in the viewing area and the trails are looking very sad. OK, it's the wet season right now but we couldn't see much evidence of the work that was claimed to have been carried out in the dry season. After visiting the site with 2 local guys willing to put in some voluntary hours to clear it up, I called Caribbean Estates with the offer to help.

I was told that there is regular maintenance(!!!) and that the Cocoa House had been cleared just a few weeks ago. I know that plants grow quickly here, but there's at least 2 year's growth of bougainvillea and other shrubs to be dealt with, so I have to say that I believe the evidence of my eyes rather than what I was told. I note that Caribbean Estates, a real estate agency and developer, has the administration of the sanctuary - is this what Mrs Alefounder intended?

It seems that the future of the reserve is in the hands of the tourists who donate when they come, but given the inaccessibility and lack of maintenance, the place has deteriorated and tour guides no longer bring visitors to the site. Will someone in authority in Tobago take over the running of the place and restore it to the beautiful, fascinating, educational resource that it once was?

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Re: Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Estate

Post by Steve Wooler » Mon Dec 01, 2014 12:41 pm

Hello Mike

Welcome aboard! :)

I passed a copy of your post to the owners of Grafton House and the Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Estate. They have asked me to post the following response on their behalf.
Grafton Caledonia Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary is a privately owned Estate, which happens to invite visitors. No fees are charged and donations even in the good years never amounted to more than a couple of thousand TT (£200) which does not even cover the cost of insurance.

The trails were re-cleared a couple of months ago and we pay for regular maintenance and bird feed. We also pay someone to feed the birds and sweep the floors in the Copra House.

The intention of creating the Sanctuary was to provide a haven for wildlife, which is what it is. Bird watching is a bonus and ironically, by creating the trails for nature lovers, the local poachers have easier access. The cleared trails did not exist in Eleanor Alefounder’s day.

The Copra House was renovated to offer a place for visitors to buy a refreshment and watch the birds and generate extra income. Someone with considerable experience in the hospitality trade did have a go but it was not sustainable. This and the trails were far beyond Eleanor's wishes.

Tour guides did turn up, charge their clients a fortune and contributed little or nothing to the upkeep of the trails, the building and the road, which got into disrepair and had to be refurbished at considerable cost to ourselves. On top of the road repairs, we have replaced the lavatories and renewed the handrails and a whole lot else.

It would appear that by inviting visitors to a privately owned estate, we are making a rod for our own backs and invite criticism. We try to do our best and are a small family with limited resources and have absolutely no obligation to carry out what we do.

All funding is private, we get no help from anyone (other than the meagre donations) and resources are scarce especially since the demise of CLICO.
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