Tobago Top Ten

Written by Darren Farfan, photographed by STephen Broadbridge and Peter Choy

Touchdown in Crown Point Airport, Tobago and I can already feel a worrisome weight come off my shoulders. As we taxi to a stop, I can feel the anticipation and excitement of an island adventure stirring deep in my soul. Cool Tobago air fills the cabin as sweet tradewinds greet smiling passengers at the plane door. The healing effect of Tobago’s vibe is instant, transforming heavy frustration and anxiety into healthy satisfaction and welcome happiness.

Tobago is a land of astonishing natural beauty, a richly diverse heritage and an exotic culture. There are ancient rainforests, rivers, waterfalls and glorious bays adorned with idyllic beaches and untouched reefs. The island’s history is laden with tales, both real and fictional, of naval battles, marauding pirates, their sunken ships and lost treasures. The Spanish, French, English and Dutch all fought bloody battles for a piece of Tobago’s natural bounty. Forts and other historical sites can be found all around the island, their remains opening a window into the past. It is widely believed that the epic story of Robinson Crusoe’s shipwreck and marooning on a mysterious tropical island was inspired by Tobago way back in 1719. Yet, even today, Tobago remains largely unknown and undiscovered. With all that there is to see and do, deciding on your day’s activities can be quite challenging. To help you make the most of your stay, here is a Top 10 guide of things to do while in Tobago.

Take a Glass-Bottom Boat to Buccoo

Located just offshore the south-west of the island, Buccoo Reef is Tobago’s largest and most diverse fringing reef. The best way to experience it is to take a glass-bottom boat from Pigeon Point, Buccoo or Store Bay. These boats with their ingenious glass bottoms are like peering into a big plasma screen; great for observing the reef from above the surface. Ask your guide for snorkelling equipment to experience the underwater world from below and make sure to take a dip in the Nylon Pool, a shallow oasis of sand that lies protected within the outer reef.

Get on Board

You can choose to go by wind or by motor; either way a boat adventure will blow you away. We set sail aboard the Island Girl, a comfortable charter catamaran operating out of Mt Irvine Bay. We spent an afternoon silently cruising along the coastline, enjoying the unique perspective of the island from the sea. Once in the secluded Cotton Bay, we slipped into the crystalline waters for some snorkelling. Down below, we discovered a habitat teeming with life: lobsters, a turtle and a vast array of multicoloured reef fish swirled in and out of the colourful coral communities. On the way back, we enjoyed sunset cocktails and tasty barbecue treats, a perfect end to a great day.

Road Trip

To get an overall appreciation of Tobago, take a drive around the island, preferably in an open-top jeep. This can take the better part of a day, depending on the number of stops you make. A simple itinerary is useful but not necessary as being spontaneous sometimes is the best route to true adventure. The coastal road winds all the way around the island but there is an option at Roxborough to cut through the oldest tropical forest reserve in the western world. Lush tropical landscapes, quiet fishing villages, half moon bays, natural springs and secluded beaches are all easily accessible, thanks to this ring road. There is so much to see and do that you may well find yourself coming back to explore your new discoveries in more intimate detail.

Chillax

My children taught me the term “chillax’’—a hybrid of chilling out and relaxing—long after I had mastered the art. Even the most adventurous of us need some downtime and in Tobago, this means getting prone on a beach mat or hammock with a good book and a cold drink. After a short nap, take a casual stroll along the beach, slip into the sea for a swim or float; the objective here is to empty your mind of thought, silence the inner voices and simply be. If you find this level of chillaxing difficult at first, don’t worry about it. Even on the go, the natural beauty and slow pace of Tobago life will leave you feeling refreshed, invigorated and inspired.

Have some sport

Tobago is fast becoming known as an action island and when it comes to sports, there is a wide variety of opportunities for recreational and competitive participation. Sailing, surfing, kayaking, diving, cycling and golf are just some of the sports available. The Tobago Sail Week hosted by Angostura is an annual event that attracts hundreds of boats from around the world. Other stand-out sporting events include the Rainbow Cup International Triathlon, the Tobago Cycling Classic, Tobago Pro Am golf championship and the ever popular Carib Great Race. The Tobago Game Fishing Tournament is also enjoying increasing patronage and with its tag-and-release format, emphasises the responsible enjoyment and preservation of the environment.

Walk into a Waterfall

All around Tobago, there are many waterfall options to choose from, each with its own features and special characteristics. Perhaps the most spectacular (and most popular) is the Argyle Falls in Roxborough. These falls are an easy 15-minute hike from the parking area and as you approach the falls, the thunderous sound and fragrant smell of crashing water will peak your senses. There are three distinct levels with a plunge pool at each level. The climb up to the upper levels can be challenging but it is definitely worth it to witness the crisp clean water gushing effortlessly through the air into the pools below. For a truly exhilarating experience, you can jump in and swim in the pools. But be aware of shallow, invisible boulders below the surface and do not get too close to the edge of the falls!

Bird Watching

Tobago is home to some 220 species of birds and not surprisingly attracts thousands of avid bird watchers to her shores. Good bird-watching areas include the Hillsborough Dam, Little Tobago island, the Grafton Wildlife Sanctuary, the Arnos Vale Adventure Farm and Nature Reserve and, of course, the forests of the Main Ridge. While you may not initially think of bird watching as the most exciting adventure, a tour of any of these areas with a knowledgeable guide is a great way to get out into nature and get some fresh air and exercise. You might just end up an avid avian fan!

Turtle watching

Starting in mid-March, large, mysterious leatherback sea turtles emerge from the ocean to dig nests and lay their eggs in the cool sands of Tobago’s beaches. About two months later, hatchlings will dig free of the nest to begin their own perilous journeys. To witness either stage of this timeless lifecycle is an experience that you will never forget. The effort and determination of these ancient mother creatures is awesome to behold. Unfortunately, because of poaching and coastal over development, the future of these turtles is uncertain. Organisations such as Save Our Sea Turtles and Environment Tobago are working diligently to protect these magnificent creatures to keep them coming to these shores. You can contact them to join a Turtle Patrol and be a part of this preservation effort.

Celebrate the Sunset

Wherever you find yourself at the end of the day, take some time to witness Tobago’s stunning sunsets. You will marvel at the easy progression of colours in the sky that follow the sun’s slow descent into the ocean horizon. Look closely and you may notice lines of pelicans in perfect formation flying purposefully to some secret destination. Linger as long as you like as sunsets are nature’s colourful celebration of the day and set the stage for the coming of night.

Get into the Culture and Heritage

Tobago’s calendar is filled with events and festivals that are celebrated by the whole community. During Harvest Festivals, visitors are welcome as villages take turns in sharing local dishes or “blue food’’ such as curry crab and dumplings, stew pork, fresh seafood and home-grown provision. In July, the past comes to life with the Tobago Heritage Festival where each village hosts events showcasing dance, drama, storytelling and music. During Easter, Buccoo village is transformed by the gallantry and intensity of goat and crab racing and an authentic Easter Bonnet Parade. After three successful years, the Plymouth Jazz festival has become a major event on Tobago’s calendar. With world-renowned performers such as Sting, Stevie Wonder,?Sir Elton John, Diana Ross, Rod Stewart, Rihanna and P Diddy gracing the stage, the Plymouth Recreation grounds have become a mecca for lovers, and lovers of live music. There are a number of “must-see’’ heritage sites, such as the Richmond Great House, the Cocoa Estate in Arnos Vale and Fort King George with its commanding view of ?the capital Scarborough•

Leave a Comment