By Nadia Ali
Sun, sea and sand are the key ingredients to every Caribbean island, right? But unlike other islands Tobago is simply a beautiful island where you can view the blue of the sea, the white of the sand and the green coastline fringed with flora and foliage without the spoils of sprawling resorts and over populated seafronts.
As part of the twin island of Trinidad & Tobago located near the southern tip of Venezuela. Tobago is the smaller, elongated island comprising of just 41 by 14 kilometres of land with a population of about 54,000.
First discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1498 the islands ownership has changed hands from the original habitant of the Caribs to the Amerindians, the Europeans, the Dutch and finally the British who defeated the French and remained in power until 1962 when independence was declared. Historical relics can be seen across the island in the form of Forts which are perched on high picturesque hilltops. Fort King George is one such fort which was built in the 1760's. Today visitor's can enjoy the impressive view across this ideal vantage point, from the aerial views of the port in Scarborough to the rainforests lush green hillsides.
The rainforest in Tobago known as the Tobago Main Ridge Reserve is hailed as the oldest protected rainforest in the Western Hemisphere. It has the most diverse eco-system which covers one third of the island. IA drive past the capital city of Scarborough on the Claude Noel Highway takes visitors into areas where the lush tropical forest teems with splendour. Local tour guides are available to take you on a variety of informative trails and hikes.
Birding is one of the top trails requested as there is an exuberant bird-life. A must see for bird lover's is a 20-minute boat trip to Little Tobago a small island off the coast that is a recognized bird sanctuary. While on the boat trip the driver will stop to allow a quick swim amid the tropical fish, so have your swimwear ready. Once on land, a guide will take you through winding uphill hiking trails, so swap those flip flops for strap type footwear or sneakers. Look for the Peregrine Falcon, Red-billed Tropicbird and the Laughing Gull to name a few of the birds.
While trailing through Little Tobago you feel as though you are under a canopy of heat, so thankfully when you get back to the mainland you can visit one of the natural beauties of Tobago -- a waterfall. There are a few waterfalls from big ones to small ones to the best one of all, the Argyle Waterfalls. The three-tiered falls is located just before Roxborough and has a minimal admission price of about US$5 payable on site at the visitor's information area. Simply follow the marked trail which is easy enough to follow even where it goes through the river. Just listen for the thunderous roar of falling water to know how close you are. The same can be said for the Rainbow Waterfalls in Goldsborough; though the trail isn't as obvious the falls are still worth the shorter trek.
From the beauty of water above land to the beauty of the coral reef below the water a visit to the Buccoo Reef is definitely worth a visit. Smack dab in the middle of busy tourist hub of Crown Point is Store Bay the access point to the National Marine Park tour on the glass-bottomed boats. There is a charge for the tour and the operators accept US dollars or local currency, where a fluster of touts, bargain with the tourists over the price of the tour. You can generally haggle over the price particularly if there are quite a few of you. Ensure you take food and drinks, as you tend to get hungry and thirsty with all that swimming and sunbathing.
Once onboard, you can either opt to sit around the glass-bottom area or for the more adventurous you can ask to ride on the roof of the boat to catch the scenic view. The tour is in three parts the first takes you to see the Coral Gardens where numerous species of fish live including Parrot Fish, colourful Angel Fish dart among a variety of coral and be forewarned that stingrays also glide amidst the fish. The second part of the tour continues to Buccoo Reef where you get to snorkel in waist-deep water and for the final leg of the tour take a cool swim in the crystal clear Nylon Pool. The tour takes about 21/2 to 3-hours in the blazing Caribbean sun so try for an afternoon or even the last boat tour when the temperature is cooler.
For scuba divers no visit is complete without seeing the most famous underwater landmark. In the reef off Speyside is one of the largest brain corals in the world measuring some 16ft wide and 12ft high which has been growing undisturbed for centuries. It is located in the Kelleston Drain where over 300-species of coral can be found in a spectacular underwater realm.
As for beach fun, in my opinion every beach in Tobago has something memorable about it but one of the off the beaten track locations is Parlatuvier Beach. It's literally on the other side of the rainforest in a tucked away area. I should know we initially drove past it. The water is calm, fringed by flora and fauna and has a pier that allows you to view the tropical fish in the clear Caribbean ocean. It is definitely one of those hidden gems
The most popular beach is Pigeon Point, the number one choice of visitors. Located in the Crown Point area it is actually part of a private beach area where tourists/locals pay an entrance fee of US$3.00 per person for the day. However, that doesn't mean everything inside is for free, it just gains you access to a secluded area that has security guards without bothersome beach vendors.
The sand is almost a fine white powder and leads down to crystal clear water that is warm and inviting. The further you go out the more you appreciate the coast of Tobago in all its glory, with swaying palm trees and white, outstretched, deserted beaches. In the water if you feel a flutter like a butterfly at your feet more than likely it's just a tropical fish swimming by.
There is a bar to ensure you are hydrated and food huts offering local food as well as fast food menus. As you sit under your shady picnic hut steel-band players come around and play calypso music. At the northern tip of Pigeon Point is the water-sports area where you rent jet skis
Indulge in the enchantment of this tiny island dubbed as, "Crusoe's Island" that's Robinson Crusoe, who is said to have once roamed on its shores. Delight in a typically tropical Tobago vacation where the endless natural beauty of flora, fauna and unobscured views are mere minutes away.