Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC) is a not-for-profit Trust established in 1967 with the mission to “protect part of the Arima Valley in a natural state and to create a conservation and study area for the protection of wildlife and for the enjoyment of all.”
The Trust operates a visitor centre and nature lodge on Spring Hill Estate and is the guardian of approximately 1300 acres of forested land in the Northern Range along the Arima and Aripo valleys. The Arima Valley has a rich history as the location of ecological studies by several researchers including the famed American scientist and explorer, William Beebe. In 1934 Beebe made headlines when, with Otis Barton, he set a record 3,028-feet deep sea dive in a bathysphere off the coast of Bermuda.
In Trinidad Beebe operated the Tropical Research Station of the New York Zoological Society which is located about four miles away from Spring Hill. His early studies on the wildlife in the Arima Valley attracted some of the Centre’s first guests. Today, that station, now called the William Beebe Tropical Research Station, is owned by Asa Wright Nature Centre and provides accommodation for independent researchers.
The main house at AWNC was constructed over 100 years ago by Charles William Meyer who built it with hardwood grown on the estate. The Centre is named in honour of Asa Gudmundsdottir Wright, an Icelander who migrated to Trinidad in the 1940s with her British husband, Henry Newcome Wright. The couple spent their retirement years amid Spring Hill Estate’s fields of cocoa, coffee and citrus with its clean, fresh air. They chose Trinidad because Newcome, a veteran of World War 1 who had suffered exposure to poison gas, had found that his health improved during an earlier visit to Spring Hill. On 5th November, 1967, the Wrights’ retirement home was unveiled as the Asa Wright Nature Centre on the initiative of a group of naturalists headed by American bird artist Don Eckelberry. They were friends of the ailing Asa Wright who had rallied to save the property following the death of Henry Wright.
Since then, the Trust has assumed the responsibility for conserving AWNC’s forested acreage while conducting education and eco-tourism programmes designed to preserve the flora and fauna of Trinidad and Tobago. The entire operation is managed by AWNC’s 21-member volunteer Board of Management.
The Nature Centre’s land is legally protected and will be retained under forest cover in perpetuity for the conservation and preservation of the natural life that it supports and for the enjoyment of all future generations. Logging, hunting, squatting and quarrying are strictly forbidden to ensure that the land remains a safe habitat for wildlife.
Spring Hill is home to over 170 species of birds including 14 species of hummingbirds which live in harmony with various mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and other animals here.
The Nature Centre’s Naturalist Guides lead interpretive tours for every age groups and its conservation staff conduct interactive environmental educational sessions for primary schools in the Arima Valley and secondary schools and universities throughout the country. They also work with volunteers from foreign universities and provide guide-training for employees and members of the surrounding community.
AWNC also facilitates and partners in research and is recognised for its research on bats using bat mist netting, for data collection from bat acoustic recorders and for GPS-monitoring of oilbirds in Dunston Cave. Bird-watchers who monitor AWNC’s birds add to its growing account of photos on eBird.org while the reserve’s other animals can be recorded on Asa Wright Nature Centre Biodiversity, at iNaturalist.org.
For over 50 years, local and international visitors have been enjoying AWNC’s nature trails, its natural pool, cool rooms and garden-to-table meals at its ‘Bird Nest’ restaurant. Visitor accommodation is maintained at 27 rooms to minimize overuse of the environment and avoid overcrowding to ensure that visitors comfortably enjoy AWNC’s natural wonders.