THE STORY OF YERETTE
Yerette, Home of the Hummingbird, is one of the leading visitor attractions in the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is located in the lush Maracas Valley, nestled in the Northern Range of the island of Trinidad. Yerette is a hummingbird attraction and provides an opportunity for visitors to experience the magic of the world’s smallest birds up close and personal. Visitors experience hummingbirds in their hundreds and often in their thousands throughout the year. Up to fourteen of the eighteen species of hummingbirds found in Trinidad and Tobago come to Yerette, most of which can be seen during a typical visit.
The genesis of Yerette started with a desire to spend more quiet time with myself in a natural setting. I am not one to walk aimlessly and so the camera came along with me. I started with the photography of flowers but in quick time I was attracted to birds which I found a personal challenge since they are evasive and do not ever pose for a photograph. I quickly upgraded my camera equipment from a “point and shoot” to a DSLR with a 300mm telephoto lens. With this equipment I was introduced to the thrill of the “chi moment” – the emotional high that came from the capturing of a great photo of these constantly moving and often evasive creatures.
My camera became my constant companion as I traversed the hills, valleys and plains of Trinidad and Tobago. It was like discovering a whole new world of beauty to which I was blind throughout most of my life.
In time, I found my 300mm lens too limiting and I upgraded to a 400mm prime lens. With this new equipment I found photography to be even more fulfilling and it moved from being an activity of interest to a passion. I spent long hours observing and photographing birds at the Asa Wright Nature Centre, the Wild Fowl Trust, La Vega Estate, the Trincity Ponds, the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, Mt. St. Benedict, Aripo Livestock Farm, the Orange Valley and Waterloo areas of central coastal Trinidad, among others.
Somewhere during my engagement with the birds, hummingbirds began to attract my special attention; perhaps because they are the smallest, the fastest, and the most difficult birds to photograph; perhaps it was the intense beauty of these little creatures; perhaps it was about the mysticism that is associated with these birds; or it may be all of these combined. The end result was that I became hooked on hummingbirds and passionately sought to capture the spirit of these creatures as I experienced them. Six years later I am still hooked.
The photography of these birds led me to feed them so as to create greater opportunities for me to get better photographs. So I researched the feeding of hummingbirds and got started with a couple of feeders to which I added more as time progressed. Amazingly, the birds came in much larger numbers than I expected and one day I turned to my wife, Gloria, and asked her the question “Why don’t we share this with others?” She looked surprised at my question and scanned me from head to toe with eyes that said “Are you crazy?” She did not answer the question then and that question remained unanswered for two days. Eventually she came to me with this comment “You see that idea that you threw out a couple of days ago – perhaps we can do something with it”. So we got chatting and out of that conversation I discovered that she had two concerns. Her first concern was how do you convert private living space to public space and the second concern, I discovered, was about our security. In other words her question was “Would opening up our home to the public compromise our security?” I found both concerns were reasonable so we opened up a conversation to try to find solutions. We discussed and debated these issues quite intensely for a few days and eventually came up with a three-part formula for opening Yerette. The formula is that (1) we would have visitors on an appointment basis only, (2) we would not engage in any advertisement, in other words the product must be strong enough to advertise itself by word of mouth, and (3) we would not have any directional signs to Yerette as we saw such signs as an invitation to the general public to come in at any time, and that would require permanent security at our gate. We thought that this would destroy the character of our home and the quality of our personal lives. So with that agreement between us we then sought the opinion of those who are more familiar with nature tourism such as the Asa Wright Nature Centre. We got very positive feedback from all those we consulted and so Yerette, the Home of the Hummingbird, was born. Yerette is an Amerindian word that means hummingbird. We dubbed it “The Home of the Hummingbird” because my wife and I see ourselves as sharing our home with the hummingbirds.