Tobago is an untainted hidden jewel of the Caribbean. There is no hype to its proclamation of being the “Capital of Paradise: clean, green, safe and serene.” Believed to be the Robinson Crusoe island and often called “the Galapagos of the West Indies”, this 21-mile long and seven-mile wide cigar-shaped verdant place derived its name from the Carib word “tavaco”, a y-shaped device used by the natives to inhale smoke from the tobacco leaf.
A 20-minute flight away or a two-and-a-half hour ferry ride from its big and vibrant sister island, Trinidad, the logo of the Tobago tourism department indicates a crimson red sun melded to a yellow sun with a shuteye and a dreamy smile. The red sun is reflective of the high energy of Trinidad and the mellow sun is indicative of Tobago where you can de-stress, unwind and absorb the surrounding peace.
In contrast to Trinidad’s cosmopolitan mix, Tobago’s population is primarily African Caribbean, the descendants of the slaves and indentured laborers of colonial times. The folklore and fables of African roots still prevail in the communities and several rituals relate to honoring their ancestors.
Kariwak Village a quiet lodging place near Crown Point Airport, serves as a great introduction to the island. Hummingbirds flit by in close proximity and hover around the carved out coconuts that hang from the beams. The hippy ambiance of the hotel with its holistic health facilities enhanced the soothing calm of the locale known for its yoga retreats, tai chi, meditation practices, spas and massage treatments.
A Paradise for Migratory Birds
Being 10 miles off the coast of Venezuela, makes both Trinidad and Tobago an ideal stopover point for migratory birds or for birds in transit. Tobago is a birdwatcher’s haven with over 210 species of birds such as the mockingbirds, hummingbirds and woodpeckers. Since Tobago was also once attached to the mainland in ancient times, it has been gifted with a rich rainforest and biodiversity landscape. It has set world records in the area of ecotourism with the Main Ridge Rainforest being the world’s oldest protected rainforest in the Western Hemisphere.
The outflow of the Orinoco River, the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea has created a spectacular range of coral reefs and the magic of an underwater world teeming with iridescent marine life. Tobago is also the second largest nesting area for the endangered giant leatherback turtles that visit the shores to lay their eggs between March and June.
The History of Tobago
Going back in history, Tobago was originally inhabited by Amerindians. It was later coveted by the Spanish, British, Dutch and French who fought many battles to gain control of its fertile and lush island fringed with coral reefs. By the time Tobago finally ceded to the British in 1814, it had changed hands thirty-one times. The economy during the colonial days of the British from 1768 onwards was solely dependent on sugarcane plantations. Many African slaves were brought in to work in the fields of sugarcane, cotton and indigo. It was a period in time when the sea traffic to and fro made it a busy shore land.
Fort King George with its canons built by the British in 1777 still faces the waters and is a grim reminder of the multiple battles that took place on its soil. The compound also includes the Tobago Museum with displays of Amerindian artifacts, colonial relics and fossils from the distant past.
After the collapse of the sugar industry in 1877 Tobago was joined to Trinidad in 1888. Both Trinidad and Tobago became independent of England in 1962 and was officially named the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 1976.
An International Retreat Destination
Today Tobago is slowly emerging as an international holiday destination with its ring of South Atlantic coral reefs, beach, sun, sea and sand. Pigeon Point beach is especially popular among tourists. Snorkeling, scuba diving, water-skiing, game fishing, wind surfing, surf boarding, wind gliding, sailing and boating or just lolling under a colorful umbrella on the sands are some of the relaxing activities. With its abundance or nature and beach settings, it has also become an ideal location for weddings and honeymoons.
Recently plans are underway to expand accommodation facilities with the increasing growth especially in domestic tourism. While Trinidad focuses mainly on attracting the business traveler and investors and shaping itself into an international convention center, Tobago concentrates on soft tourism. For its small size it offers a compact and yet wide range of possibilities to match many interests and needs from water sports to trekking, hiking, bird-watching and retreat holidays.
The island still maintains its small community life of fishing villages and subsistence farmers. But the world of tourism is nudging the shores. Tourism is now one of the biggest industries reportedly accounting for 46 percent of the island’s GDP and a sizable number of the native population work in this industry.
Tobago’s main aim is to protect its unique ecological environs and so no high rise hotel has laid its foundation on this little island wrapped in its palm fringed peace.
Hotels in Tobago, Caribbean Inclusive Holidays
Afternoon tea, local drinks, soft and alcoholic, entertainment and a range of activities are all part of the package, while those who wish to set off and explore the island can order a packed lunch at no extra cost.
Hotels in Tobago are found all around the coast but the south west tip claims some of the most popular, such as Coco Reef, Rex Turtle Beach and Grand Courlan. All make the most of the stunning beaches on the Caribbean coast and are conveniently close to the airport, undisturbed since planes are few and approach from the sea.
Coco Reef Tobago, Beach Resort
Set between the lovely beaches of Store Bay and Pigeon Point, the luxury award winning Coco Reef claims ten acres of tropical gardens and its own stretch of white sands, Coconut Bay. Guests are greeted with bamboo palms and fountains in the lobby and eclectic Caribbean architecture and furnishings throughout. From superior and deluxe to royal suites, the 135 rooms on two floors have balconies or patios, most with sea views. The secluded Sunset Suite is ideal for honeymoon couples.
Coco Reef has two restaurants, the elegant Tamaras for international fare and the casual beachside Bacchanal for Caribbean cuisine, bamboo dancers and steel bands. Champagne and lounge bars, spa and beauty salon, boutiques, tennis courts and freshwater pool complete the picture.
Hotels in Tobago, Rex Turtle Beach
The three star Rex Turtle Beach has great potential and some excellent assets. It’s right on the beach, where turtles nest in the spring, low rise and well camouflaged among coconut palms. The landscaped pool has a swim up bar and whirlpool, also included are tennis and non motorised water sports, though guests should beware of strong waves near the shore.
All 125 rooms face the sea, with balcony or patio and floor to ceiling, wall to wall windows. Standard, spacious turtle rooms and family comfort rooms all have tea and coffee making facilities and amenities in keeping with the hotel rating.
The shop sells postcards and insect repellent, and there are two bars, a restaurant for Creole and international cuisine and Caribbean entertainment most evenings.
Caribbean Inclusive Holidays, Grand Courlan Tobago
Grand Courlan is an all inclusive adult only resort, a collection of pink buildings on a hillside overlooking Stone Haven beach. Rooms range from deluxe to suites with garden or sea views, some with secluded outdoor plunge pool. Two restaurants serve local and international fare, from buffet, table d’hôte or barbecue.
The Grand Courlan is the hotel of choice for fitness and relaxation. Squash, tennis and pool are complemented by a state of the arts fitness centre and there may be organised activities such as yoga and taichi. A personal trainer can be arranged on request.
Guests are entitled to a pre arranged daily spa treatment, more are available at extra charge. Rituals include peppermint bath, honey body polish, facials and aromatherapy.