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It’s hard to imagine having a wonderful afternoon outdoors in the middle of covid19, but that’s exactly how we spent last Sunday at Samsara’s Nature Park in Rock Road, Penal.

Such light-hearted time is what many of us will need as the stress of staying in close quarters begins to wear on individuals and families used to going to mosque and church, or cooking by a river, or crowding Maracas on a Sunday. For us, the afternoon was so beautiful that cross-country adventure, as we were so used to, seemed to call.

When you enter, you first encounter a White Crested Black Polish chicken, with an outrageous crest of feathers like a humongous pouf of hair. You then meet a friendly and intelligent-looking monkey with soft fingers, we figured from home-made banana hand cream.

The open-air shed also houses dogs, blue, yellow and green parakeets, hungry pigs and geese, a quenk, rabbit and squirrel. Together, they are a noisy orchestra of exuberant life, and I imagine that as Samara expands so too will the space for this little animal dormitory.

Next are the blue and gold, and red and blue, macaws. I’ve never encountered so many in one place, several flying freely in a way that I’ve only seen in Nariva Swamp. They will take ochros or seeds from your hand, and are chattering incessantly, like opinionated villagers commenting on everyone who stops to comment on them.

An agouti or two is running about below, eating with their fingers like my nine-year-old at breakfast, and an albino peacock struts nearby. The majority of macaws and parrots are in large cages, but it’s the ones swooping low over your head as they fly across the park that are really magnificent.

Another cage holds various birds, from peacocks to parrots to ducks, each with personality. The cage is clearly a soap opera. We watched one small, serene-looking duck with a pink beak determinedly seek out others to peck, drawing cross squawks and flutters from chickens to parrots. Maybe it was boredom, maybe it was temperament, but we will be returning just to be amused by its shenanigans.

On the way back, we talked about our favourite parts of the visit. I loved holding the body of the boa constrictor, and feeling its vertebrae move under its smooth skin. Trinidad’s snakes are gorgeous, usually not dangerous and much misunderstood so it’s an important moment to change children’s fear of them.

Ziya enjoyed the horse rides on retired racehorses being sheltered at Samsara. On evenings, the horses roam free into the forest, returning on their own. Zi has an idea that you have to bow to a horse before stroking it, and every time she bowed, so did the horse, clearly looking for whatever on the ground she was drawing its attention to. She thought the horse was bowing back and, because of the fleeting magic of childhood, we didn’t tell her otherwise.

I also enjoyed petting the soft baby donkeys. I’ve always wanted a donkey. I think they have personality, and my family affirmed I was welcome to take one home and put it to sleep in the same corner of the house with the hippogriff I also want.

As Samara expands, we hope they can provide some swathes of green space, shaded by bamboo, where families can spread a blanket and picnic, distant enough from each other to relax outside of our four walls. It doesn’t only have to be about concrete seating and spots to cook. Covid19 has increased public need just to be outside with sky, trees and fresh air, and safely breathe.

Samara cares for a heart-warming array of animals, the majority of them rescues. Before covid19, the park was able to financially maintain their expenses, but since the pandemic, they have had to appeal to the public for donations and support. The animals seem so settled, the owners and staff are so friendly, the entrance fee is affordable, and the small surprisingly fast-swimming turtles are so fun to watch, it’s easy family joy. You can call 347-6734, 3800791 and 725-8225 to visit or donate, or visit Samsara’s Facebook page. No appointment necessary, just arrive in time before 5 pm close.

Now that we are in this second phase of quarantine, we’ve focused on how our family maintains steady mental health and continues to make happy memories. It’s a stressful time for children too, so find ways to remind them of laughter and magic. Bundle into a car and go.