Unspoiled Tobago opens its heart to its visitors. While tourists from the UK and South America have long known Tobago's charm, Cruise on your luxury charter yacht to visit one of the most ecologically attractive islands in the Caribbean. Tobago is known for its coral reefs, sport fishing and calming waterfalls. The island actually features the oldest preserved rain forest in the Western hemisphere. There is even a bird sanctuary on the island.
The country consists of two islands: Trinidad and Tobago. Lying just north of the Orinoco River delta in Venezuela. Tobago, just NE of Trinidad, is the exposed top of a mountain ridge (maximum height 2,000 ft/610 m) that is densely forested with large reserves of hardwoods. The climate of both islands is warm and humid, and rainfall (from June to Dec.) is abundant, particularly where the trade winds sweep in over the eastern coasts. The population is about evenly divided between those of African and Asian Indian descent. English is the official language, but a French patois is widely spoken. The main religions are Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, and Anglicanism.
They are the most exciting, underexplored and un-contrived of the Caribbean islands, rich in indigenous culture. A cultural pacemaker best known as the home and heart of West Indian Carnival, the nation can also boast having the most diverse and absorbing society in the region.
Trinidad and Tobago is the birthplace of calypso and steel band and the Trinidad Carnival is an experience not to be missed. Locals describe it as the Greatest Show on Earth! and they're not far wrong. Hot on the heels of the world's largest, glitziest Rio Carnival, and the weirdest, most mind-blowing New Orleans Mardi Gras, the two-day Trinidad Carnival is by far the biggest carnival in the Caribbean and has become a national obsession involving the entire population. There are numerous associated events leading up to the actual Carnival.
Tobago has its own Carnival, but this is much smaller and more community-based affair than the main event in Port-of-Spain. It takes place in Scarborough and as the town becomes extremely crowded and is closed to road traffic, it is essential to get there very early if you want a good view. The two days of carnival (Monday and Tuesday) are not officially public holidays, but effectively treated as such with all banks and many shops and businesses closed for business.
Trinidad was visited by Christopher Columbus in 1498 but was not colonized because of the lack of precious metals. It was raided by the Dutch (1640) and the French (1677, 1690) and by British sailors. Britain captured it in 1797 and received formal title in 1802. Tobago had been settled by the English in 1616, but the settlers were driven out by the indigenous Caribs. The island was held by the Dutch and the French before being acquired by the British in 1803. The islands were joined politically in 1888.
Without the highly profitable sugar production, Britain had no further use for Tobago and in 1889 the island was made a ward of Trinidad. Without sugar, the islanders had to grow other crops, planting acres of limes, coconuts and cocoa and exporting their produce to Trinidad. In 1963, Hurricane Flora ravaged Tobago, destroying the villages and crops. A restructuring program followed and attempts were made to diversify the economy. The development of a tourist industry began.
In Tobago's capital, Scarborough, you can visit the local market Monday to Saturday mornings. Scarborough's stores have a limited range of merchandise, more to tempt the browser than the serious shopper.
Farro's, Wilson Road (no phone), across from the marketplace, offers the tastiest condiments on the island, packed into little straw baskets for you to carry back home. Sample the delectable lime marmalade, any of the hot sauces, the guava jelly, and most definitely the homemade tamarind chutney.
If you're seeking handicrafts, especially straw baskets, head for the Shaadijas Souvenir and Gift Shop, Port Mall, also in Scarborough. Cotton House Fashion Studio, Old Windward Road, in Bacolet, is the island's best choice for "hands-on" appreciation of the fine art of batik. In the Indonesian tradition, melted wax is brushed onto fabric, resisting dyes and creating unusual colors and designs. This outlet contains the largest collection of batik clothing and wall hangings on Tobago. Dying techniques are demonstrated to visitors, who can then try their skills.
The Art Gallery, Hibiscus Drive, Lowlands features the works of at least 10 artists. On permanent exhibit upstairs is a collection of island watercolors by Rachel Superville and her husband, Martin. Sculptures and a number of handicrafts are also sold here.
Restaurant prices are for a main course at dinner and do not include the customary 10% service charge.
The food on Trinidad and Tobago is a delight to the senses and has a distinctively creole touch, but you can also taste Asian, Indian, African, French, and Spanish influences, among others, often in a single meal. Indian-inspired food is a favorite: rotis (ample sandwiches of soft dough with a filling, similar to a burrito) are served as a fast food; a mélange of curried meat or fish and vegetables frequently makes an appearance as do vindaloos (spicy meat, vegetable, and seafood dishes).
Tobago Restaurant Selections
Despite the small size of the island, golfers will be delighted with the courses available on Tobago. Two championship 18-hole courses are currently in play, and a third 9-hole course planned.
Villas Caribe selected Tobago Golf Courses Tobago is the proud possessor of an 18-hole, 6,800-yard course at Mount Irvine. Called the Tobago Golf Club at the Mount Irvine Estates (tel. 868/639-8871), it covers 60 breeze-swept hectares (148 acres) and was featured in the Wonderful World of Golf TV series. Even beginners agree the course is friendly to duffers.
Tobago Plantations Golf and Country Club, Hampden Road, Lowlands (tel. 868/631-0875), lies on a 303-hectare (748-acre) estate that was previously a sugar-cane plantation. Some holes on this on this par-72, 7,000-yard course follow the coastline. Greens fees, including golf cart, are US$85 for 18 holes, US$60 for 9 holes.
The Tobago coast features deep seas running up onto the continental shelf with clear warm water and abundant feedstock – ideal conditions for good game fishing. The main offshore fishing season lasts from October to June and during this time anglers will do battle with some of the world's most exiting game fish, including blue marlin, white marlin, swordfish, wahoo, tuna, barracuda, mahi-mahi (the local name for dolphin-fish) and shark. It is a fascinating sight to see large game fish that have migrated south for the winter chasing the vast schools of small flying fish so prolific in the warm Caribbean waters. During the peak season around November, wahoo are so plentiful that anglers will be kept busy from dawn until dusk. Typical catches range between 30 and 65 pounds, but at least half-a-dozen 100-pound wahoo are caught each year.
Snorkelling and scuba diving are extremely popular; both are best in Tobago, where the water is clear and the coral reef spectacular. The best dive spots are Speyside, Charlotteville and around the Sister's Rocks. The unspoiled reefs off Tobago teem with a great variety of marine life. Divers can swim through rocky canyons 18 to 39m (59-128 ft.) deep, underwater photographers can shoot pictures they won't find anywhere else, and snorkelers can explore the celebrated Buccoo Reef (off Pigeon Point), which teems with gardens of coral and hundreds of fish in the waist-deep water. Even nonswimmers can wade knee-deep in the waters. Remember to protect your head and body from the sun and to guard your feet against the sharp coral. After snorkeling at the reef, go over to Nylon Pool, with its crystal-clear waters. Here in this white-sand-bottom spot, about 2km (1 1/4 mile) offshore, you can enjoy a dip in water only 1m (3 1/4-ft.) deep.
Whatever your level of experience, sailing and all other water-based activities can be fun and exhilarating in Tobago. The classic Caribbean ingredients of warm clear water, secluded bays and fantastic snorkeling, with predictable trade winds, make Tobago a great destination for those who yearn for the sea and like to get salty! During the second week of May each year, Tobago hosts The Angostura Yachting World Tobago Race Week. The event is normally based in the grounds of The Crown Point Beach Hotel overlooking Store Bay. You are guaranteed to have fun in the Regatta Village - day, afternoon and night. A great way want to experience the exhilaration of a sailing on your luxury charter sailing yacht. Or you can take your luxury charter motor for a tour along Tobago's beautiful green coastline.
Tobago is not the liveliest island after dark, but there's usually some form of nightlife to be found. Whatever you do the rest of the week, don't miss the huge impromptu party, affectionately dubbed "Sunday School," that gears up after midnight on all the street corners of Buccoo and breaks up around dawn. Pick your band, hang out for a while, then move on. In downtown Scarborough on weekend nights you can also find competing sound systems blaring at informal parties that welcome extra guests. In addition, "blockos" (spontaneous block parties) spring up all over the island; look for the hand-painted signs. Tobago also has harvest parties on Sunday throughout the year, when a particular village extends its hospitality and opens its doors to visitors.
Want to escape the stress of a big, white wedding? Like the idea of getting married on a near-deserted beach as the sun sets over the Caribbean Sea? Happy to have a relaxed but really romantic and wonderfully meaningful ceremony which will give you beautiful memories, for life? Hate the thought of a conveyor-belt wedding, the likes of which you've heard about? The villa owners are also able to give invaluable advice on wedding planners, florists, and caterers for a Tobagian wedding. In terms of setting, it is difficult to imagine a more beautiful place to hold a wedding event, as almost everywhere in Tobago offers stunning picture-perfect locations, beautiful sunsets, long sandy beaches, framed by trees and lapped by the warm Caribbean waters.
The best time to get married is late afternoon. It will be getting cooler, you'll have the beautiful sun set to witness (what could be more romantic?) and you can go straight into your wedding breakfast – there will be none of the time taken for all the photos as there is at British weddings.
On Tobago, you can still feel like Robinson Crusoe in a solitary sandy cove -- at least until Saturday, when the Trinidadians fly over for a weekend on the beach.
Tobago Beach Selections
Pigeon Point, on the northwestern shore, is the best-known bathing area, with a long coral beach. It's public, but to reach it you must enter a former coconut estate, which charges a fee of TT$10 (US$1.60). Set against a backdrop of royal palms, this beach is becoming increasingly commercial. Facilities include food kiosks, crafts shops, a diving concession, paddleboat rentals, changing rooms in thatched shelters, and picnic tables. Pigeon Point is also the jumping off point for snorkeling cruises to Buccoo Reef.