Tobago holidays provide what is the quintessential essence of the Caribbean – warm, bright, laid back and stunningly beautiful. Like all the 28 island nations that make up the Caribbean, Tobago is totally unique in many ways, and is a pleasant complement to its more developed neighbour and big sister island, Trinidad.
Tobago became part of the British Empire in 1814 and, together with Trinidad, became a crown colony. It only became an independent commonwealth nation in 1962 and finally became a republic in 1976. As a result of its long association with Britain, you will find it has a colonial legacy. The official language is English, and the capital is named after Scarborough, Yorkshire. The island is divided into parishes, each named after saints, and one of the main landmarks is Fort King George. The most famous beach on Tobago is known as Englishman’s Bay and Plymouth and Speyside are popular resorts, so Brits are sure to feel quite at home here!
Visitors to Tobago typically arrive at the island’s airport in the south of the island, or arrive for the day on the fast ferry from Trinidad’s Port of Spain. I was a little put off when my first impression of the island was the touristy and somewhat exploited area around the airport, but fortunately, I quickly discovered “the real Tobago” just down the road. Away from the obvious tourist spots, the island is quieter and less starchy than its alter ego, Trinidad. For most visitors, it represents a cameo of how life used to be, and perhaps how most of us wish it still was, hence its popularity as a tropical escape!
Tobago offers beaches, swimming and snorkeling with turtles, and some of the best scuba diving in the Caribbean. The white sandy beaches are all lapped by bright blue, crystal-clear Caribbean waters and are lined with the obligatory leaning palm tree or two. If it reminds you of the story of Robinson Crusoe, you would be absolutely spot on. The island was the setting and inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s classic story of a castaway, written almost 300 years ago.
Typically mountainous, reflecting its volcanic origins, Tobago’s interior is covered in rainforest, part of which is in the protected Main Ridge Forest Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Protected by an ordinance laid out in 1776, which was way ahead of its time, the reserve not only protects the rainforest and its dependents, but also attracts rainfall, guards against soil erosion, acts as a carbon sink and is considered the first ever act of conservation. It is now the world’s leading eco-tourism destination, according to World Travel Awards, which is as good a reason as any to visit this gorgeous destination.
The island is in the extreme southeast of the Caribbean and within 100 miles of the coast of Venezuela. It is considered to be outside the hurricane belt, but nobody told that to Hurricane Flora when it hit the island in 1963, or Hurricane Ivan in 2004! Generally however, there is little to disturb the harmony of this colourful paradise. Luxury yachts and catamarans rock gently offshore in most of the sheltered bays and after dark, most visitors congregate for Creole cuisine island-style at one of the laid-back restaurants that are never far from the waterfront.
Gillian Birch (@TravelGirlFL on Twitter) is a British freelance travel writer and published author. She has traveled the world with her husband, a Master Mariner, and uses her personal journals and memories to write in detail about her many experiences worldwide.