The smaller of the two islands that form the nation of Trinidad and Tobago is an eco-heaven with lush rainforest, magical waterfalls and thousands of beautiful birds. And that’s not to mention the miles of undeveloped coastline, secret beaches and clear blue waters.
In The Rainforest
I’m walking through dense foliage in Tobago’s Main Ridge Forest Reserve. My guide points out silk trees, cocoa, fruit and rubber trees and the former sugar cane farm as we walk under a boulevard of bamboo arches shading us from the afternoon heat. The atmosphere is lush and alive with birdsong. Suddenly we chance upon the spectacular sight of Argyle waterfalls – a series of three-tiered falls that bring a magical quality to the rainforest. People are climbing up to cool off in the natural rock pools while others sit on rocks at the base and admire the view.
This is one of the many natural beauties waiting to be discovered in tiny Tobago. The island is only 26 miles by seven but is full of wonders. The Tobago Forest Reserve which forms the spine of the island is the oldest protected rainforest in the world and creates endless exciting opportunities for hiking, cycling or birdwatching. Trails range in difficulty from gentle terrain of the Gilpin Trail to the more arduous Pigeon Peak which marks the island’s highest point.
The rainforest occupies two-thirds of Tobago’s surface and is home to 16 mammal species. Snakes lizards and gecko lurk by the pathways. After the trail, we head along the often precipitous coast road stopping to admire the view over the many small bays with their secret coves and beaches.
Locals like to claim that Tobago is Robinson’s Crusoe’s desert island, and there are spots here which feel completely untouched. There is a variety of beaches ranging from secluded, deserted strips of sand such as Englishman’s Bay to lively Store Bay with the famous Miss Trims food shack selling curry crab and dumpling. From Store Bay, you can board glass-bottomed boats for a snorkelling trip to Buccoo Reef with its collection of coral and colourful fish. Here you find the waters of the Nylon Pool, which got its name when Princess Margaret visited on her honeymoon and remarked that the water was as clear as her nylon stockings.
Pigeon Point has a gentle shelf and tame currents for swimmers and a spacious beach making it popular with picnickers and families. Around the headland is Bon Accord Lagoon. Great for kiteboarding and windsurfing, here you can try your hand at a stand-up paddle and at night enjoy a bioluminescent experience where you can see tiny points of light on the waves.
The beaches on the Caribbean side are calm while the Atlantic side has fewer beaches and rougher sea
There are over 230 species of birds from pelicans which swoop impressively into the sea to motmots, tanagers, bananaquit and six different kinds of tiny hummingbirds. You can see many of them in the rainforest, but a trip to the Adventure Farm & Nature Reserve in Arnos Vale near Plymouth ensures you have an expert on hand to identify not just birds but butterflies and iguanas. Little Tobago has the largest brain coral in the world (it is 3 meters high and 5.3 across) as well as one of the Caribbean’s largest sea-bird colonies. The red-billed tropicbird is probably the most spectacular sighting. This most easterly point of Trinidad and Tobago can be visited as part of a glass-bottomed boat tour.
As well as hiking, mountain biking, diving and snorkelling other activities on offer here include horse-riding at Buccoo with the opportunity to swim your mount across the bay. There are two very good golf courses at Mount Irvine and Tobago Plantations Golf Club.
Trinidad and Tobago people or Trinbagonians as they’re called have their roots in India, China, Portugal and Syria as well as Africa, England, France and Spain. This unusual ethnic mix is no more evident than at carnival time in February when the islands jump with music and energy.
Carnival is a bigger, brasher affair on Trinidad, but Tobago can party as well in its own style. It also has its own quirky events such as annual Easter Goat and Crab racing at Buccoo.
Where To Stay
Luckily Tobago is still quite undeveloped with few large hotels. Crown Point is where you find the highest concentration of hotels such as the upmarket Coco Reef Resort & Spa, Mount Irvine Bay and Magdalena Grand Resort There are many smaller guesthouses around Bacolet Bay near Scarborough as well as villas and apartments around the island.
Tell me more about exploring Tobago
British Airways flies from London Gatwick to Tobago via Antigua
Virgin Atlantic flies from London Gatwick to Tobago via St Lucia
Currency: The Trinidad & Tobago dollar.
Language: English Capital: Scarborough Time: GMT -4
Best time to visit: Tobago has a good year-round climate with temperatures in the high 20s and 30s and is so close to the mainland of South America, it manages to avoid most of the Caribbean’s bad storms
Further information visit: Tobago Beyond