Tobago – Best kept secret of the Caribbean
We visited Tobago in March/2013, following a very hard winter in the UK, with some of the lowest temperatures on record. We left our son James in charge of the house and strict instructions to use his time wisely and revise for his impending A Level exams.
As our plane landed in Tobago, following a 9 hours flight from London, we stepped out of the plane to a warm sunshine and a landscape that looked lush and bright.
From the airport we went to pick up our hired car, a Jeep, 4 wheel drive, that proved to be the right choice for us. Driving was easy as being a former colony they drive on the same side of the road as we do in the UK (and petrol is ridiculously cheap too!)
We made our way to our hotel, the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort, set in a 750-acre private estate, its grounds were beautifully landscaped with a golf course and lovely lakes (lurking in some of the lakes Cayman watched as we drove passed).
Brian made the most of those lakes and early in the mornings and late in the evenings he went fishing there (since fishing for Brian was one of the attractions of coming to Tobago), he brought his own fishing equipment.
The hotel was decorated in a colonial style and every room had a balcony with sea views, it faced the Atlantic (rather than the Caribbean) and there was always a little more breeze than on the other side of the Island (Caribbean side). It had a long stretch of beach and we enjoyed many walks there in the morning or later on in the evening.
On our first day at Tobago, we got up very early to see the sun rise from our balcony, the air was warm and we felt at that very moment that it was going to be a great week.
After a fantastic breakfast overlooking the sea, we decided to spend the day at Pigeon Point, powdery white sand, turquoise calm water, and a great place for swimming. It is Tobago’s most visited beach. The beach is open from 8 am to 5:30 pm and you have to pay a fee of TT$18 (about 3 USD) to enjoy the facilities (which are very good). You will also get charged if you want to use the sunbeds but again not very expensive, about 3USD each for the day).
The wooden pier topped with a thatch-roofed hut is the post card of Tobago and most photographed spot.
From the pier you can take a glass-bottom boat to snorkel at lovely coral reefs and visit the Nylon Poole (we did a boat trip on our 4th day in Tobago and enjoyed it very much, even met a Brazilian on our boat). We snorkelled and managed to see parrot fish and a big stingray and some of the coral. Sadly some of the coral reef has died as a result of pollution, removal of coral as souvenirs and boats carelessly anchoring among the corals.
The Nylon Poole is like a sandbank smack in the middle of the sea. It is said to be named by Princess Margaret, during her stay at Tobago in the 1950’s. It felt bizarre to be able to stand up in the middle of the sea and have water only coming up to your waist.
On our third day there we decided to explore further afield and Brian as the driver and me as the navigator we managed to go up to the North of the Island… and although very difficult to get lost, since there is really just one main road, I did managed to get us lost (that’s how bad my navigating skills are).
The roads are very winding and very narrow in places, which made for a very interesting journey and some very hairy moments. Some of the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, but also scary, with sheer drops at the side of steep hills.
We drove up the Northside Road and then down a steep hill into Castara, a picturesque little fishing village, with great white sand beach and a laid back vibe.
See below view of Castara from the top of the hill and as we arrived at this lovely fishing village.
Although there are some guest houses there, Castara’s remote location has kept it very low key, saved from the big resort hotels. We stayed there for most of the day, hired some deck chairs and went for few dips in lovely and warm water. Brian tried his luck with his fishing rod.
Brian also helped the local fishermen in the pulling of a seine net, which was great, but left him with very sore hands. He realised half way through pulling that his soft office hands were in shreds but he was too embarrassed to wimp out!
We had our lunch at the local restaurant (a very humble shack with great sea views), which offered inexpensive local cuisine, there was no menu, you would just be asked by the waitress, what would you like with the choice being fish ( freshly caught on the day), chicken, or goat with vegetables, chips and freshly baked flat bread (rotis). We had our meal right by the water, chicken roaming free around us. Bliss.
From Castara we drove to Englishman’s bay, See below photo from the top of the hill as we approached it.
Englishman’s Bay is possibly my favourite beach, lovely sand and the most crystal clear turquoise water. Surrounded by lush vegetation and almost undeveloped with only a small shop and café, with no other facilities there. The bay felt very remote and we felt like castaways in a deserted beach.
We decided to leave before nightfall and drove trough the Forest Reserve (the Forest is the oldest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere). I regret that we did not have enough time to explore this Forest and it will a good excuse to come back to Tobago.
We were driving along when we saw a boy in the middle of the road signalling for us to stop. He asked us for a lift to Roxborough. His grandmother also come over and talked to us and asked if we would mind to give the boy a lift.
We were surprised, but obliged and could not believe that he was only 8 years old and yet was happy to hitch hike a lift for 30 minutes across the forest with total strangers. Something that would never happen in England.
We loved our one week stay in Tobago, we explored the Island, ate great Caribbean food, befriended some lovely local’s and travellers like us, Brian enjoyed his early morning fishing trips (while I was still fast asleep in my comfy bed), we snorkelled in the Caribbean sea, we sunbathed, watched some lovely sunrises and sunsets, drank wine and pinacoladas and felt so relaxed that we were very sad to leave.
Tobago is rich in natural beauty, deserted lush green beaches and yet still very low key and underdeveloped compared to other Caribbean Islands. There are very few all inclusive resorts and no high rise hotels. I do hope that Tobago will continue to be the best kept secret of the Caribbean.
I would be keen to go back there and explore the places we were not able to see during our short one week stay and I know Brian would love to try more fishing out there.
Next time we will definitely hire a car again (it is cheap and convenient), and we will explore further to the North of the Island, including the Forest Reserve and waterfalls. We will do more snorkelling, fishing and perhaps some scuba diving (again something we wanted to do, but lacked time).
So Tobago is definitely high on our list of places to go back to, it really was fantastic.