The following is a Field Trip Report of the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club’s trip to Rio Seco Waterfall. The trip was on 28th July, 2013 and is written by Kris Sookdeo. It is an excerpt from the TTFNC’s quarterly bulletin, The Field Naturalist, Issue No. 3/2013.

The Rio Seco Waterfall is one of the better known
waterfalls in Trinidad and on Sunday July 28, 2013
fifteen members of the Club turned out for the
short field trip. The long drive to Salybia was relatively
uneventful but one thing I did notice was the
number of roadside stalls in Valencia which were
offering Fat Pork for sale – one of our native fruits
which appears to be slowly declining in popularity. 

On arrival at Salybia, the convoy of vehicles drove

up Salybia Matura Trace to the start of the trail. Unfortunately,
the trailhead was marred by several
bags of trash that had evidently been deposited
there, intact, by returning hikers but had now been
torn apart and scattered, perhaps by scavenging animals.
Also of note were several pairs of shoes, tied
together by the laces, which had been thrown into
the trees and now remained dangling in the
branches above us.

After a brief pre-trip meeting, we set off through
the forest. Along the way we noted several interesting
trees including genipa, Genipa americana and
mora, Mora excelsa – a particularly common species
in this area. In fact as we proceeded deeper into the
forest we found that the mora dominated large sections
of the trail. So large are some of these mora
trees that a few specimens along the well marked
trails had been cut down and the large stumps left
intact either as a curiosity or as large garbage receptacles.
The forest undergrowth was full of mora
seedlings of various ages. Indeed, the dominance of
mora is said to be partially attributed to this high
seedling density. Also, mora seedlings are known to
contain a toxin which might limit the damage that
seed predators can inflict. Dan Jaggernauth uprooted
a seedling about 45 centimeters tall and
showed the massive seed that helped sustain it. 

Pressing on, we eventually made it to the end of the
trail and we were greeted by the beautiful sight and
sounds of the Rio Seco Waterfall. While the fall did
not appear to be particularly high, roughly 4.5 meters
above the water surface, the plunge pool is in
fact quite deep and was estimated by Dan to be
around 7 meters feet. While we did not measure
the width of the pool itself, it looked to be about 9
meters wide. 

As such, there was ample space for Club members
to rest, snorkel, swim or look for fish and anything
else of interest. Indeed there were quite a few fish
to be seen but by far the most common species was
the mountain mullet, Agonostomus monticola. The
mountain mullet is unusual among the Mugilidae/
Mullet family in that it travels far inland away from
the coastal environments typical of the family. Indeed
they are a familiar sight at several waterfalls on
the island. They are omnivorous, eating a range of
plant and animal matter and we were able to easily
attract them by tossing in bits of bread or rice.

 In addition to the mullet, I noted several jumping
guabines, Anablepsoides hartii, a small goby-like fish
and a large brown crab (both of which went unidentified).
The pool and stream was also occupied by
several small prawns, Macrobrachium sp. I really regretted
not having brought a net with me so that we

could get a better look at all the aquatic life and I
resolved to keep that in mind for the next time the
Club visited such locations.

Dan in the meantime had decided to walk up the
short trail to the top of the fall and would later
casually report to us that there was a mapepire balsain,
Bothrops cf. asper on the trail (this of course
not being the kind of thing that worries our fearless
trip leader). 

After about 40 minutes a hiking group arrived and
the Club members gave way so that the newcomers
could enjoy the falls. In fact, as we made our way
back out we passed several other noisy groups on
their way to the soon-to-be-crowded falls – a good
reminder on the virtue of the Club having an early
start when visiting popular locations. Also making a
lot of commotion on the way out were several calling
bearded bellbirds, Procnias averano which, despite
careful searching, could not be located in trees
above. Another point of interest on the trail was
small metal sign that Dan had evidently installed several
years ago which read “DO NOT LITTER PREVENT
ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION DAN J.
31/DEC 97”. One final observation of note was a
lone ornate hawk-eagle, Spizaetus ornatus that I
heard and then saw circling high above the forest
canopy.

The rest of the walk out was uneventful and all
members made it back to their vehicles safely and
contented with what had been a lovely trip.

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