Tobago stole my heart seven years ago
by Sarah Kate Gallivan
Tobago stole my heart seven years ago, and will forever feel like my second home. Imagine stepping back 50 years in time, when community spirit was strong, children spent the whole day playing outside and making toys out of sticks, music was flowing from every household and the smell of home cooked meals wafted through the air. This is what you will experience every day on this beautiful island. The people are always happy and friendly, greeting you with a ‘good-day’ as you pass in the streets, and the locals are willing to go out of their way to assist you – whether that be guiding you to your destination, informing you about a secret spot or cooking you a local BBQ. Here you will definitely feel well taken care of!
There is so much to do on this small island, from exploring the natural beauty, relaxing on breath-taking (and sometimes deserted) beaches to partying outside at ‘Sunday School’ (Not the Sunday school you are thinking of!)
Above: Argyle Waterfall
Above: Land crabs in the Main Ridge Forest
You can drive around the island in a day, but if you want to take a more leisurely pace, book a night in one of the villages, as I have many times before, usually opting for Castara. The ‘highway’ takes you from the capital of Scarborough, along the Atlantic coast – passing through quaint villages with awesome views of the sea – up to Roxborough where I would recommend everyone stop and enjoy Argyle Waterfall, which is located approximately 15 minutes walk through the edge of the rainforest and where you are greeted by the three-tiered cascade. You can swim at each level, however, if you’re unsteady of foot, I would advise against attempting the steep climb – where some parts have guide ropes and others don’t – also, it can be difficult to do in the heat of the day!
Interested in native the wildlife? Cut across the Main Ridge Rainforest – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a variety of birds and land crabs. You can also take in the incredible view at the lookout point.
Above: Fisherman in Castara
Above: How low can you go in a limbo competition? The winnner gets a bottle of rum!
Once on the Caribbean side, you will be spoilt for choice of white sandy beaches. At this end of the island there are few people on the beaches, and you may be lucky enough to have it all to yourself. Parlatuvier, Bloody Bay and Englishmans’ Bay beaches are the first three you will pass.
However, my favourite beach on the whole island is a little further on, in Castara, a small fishing village where I have a lot of friends, so spend a lot of my time there. It’s great to watch the fishermen pulling the nets onto the beach and if you are feeling particularly strong, they will let you help too! If you overnight in Castara, the best nights would be either a Wednesday or Thursday. On Wednesday a group of local men perform African drumming at Little Bay in the boat house. You can have dinner here; but arrive early, as seats tend to fill up quickly! After the drumming has finished, they hold a limbo contest, usually men versus women – where the winner gets a bottle of rum. The Wednesday vibes are casual and fun and I make a point never miss it when I’m on the island.
Above: Pigeon Point Heritage Park, Tobago, a stones throw from the world famous Nylon Pool
A trip to Tobago wouldn’t be complete without visiting Pigeon Point Heritage Park and beach. There is an small entry fee which goes towards the upkeep of the area. Pigeon Point is exactly how you imagine a typical Caribbean beach to look. There are several shops and bars located in the heritage park, as well as water sports – I highly recommend visiting Alex at Waterholics – you can also get boat trips to take you to Nylon Pool (named by Princess Margaret in 1962 as it reminded her of nylon stockings). This is a raised coral sand bank out in the ocean, where at low tide it can be as shallow as your knees – there is an old wives tale that if you exfoliate with the coral sand, you can look up to 10 years younger!
Another attraction I recommend visiting is Crusoe Cave, which is the actual location that Daniel Defoe shipwrecked Robinson Crusoe in 1719. Other things you shouldn’t miss are football, cricket, goat-racing and boat racing events are just a few of many held throughout the year, where the atmosphere is always electric! Plus it’s another excuse to have a party!
Above: Emeli Sande in concert in Tobago
The two biggest events on the island are obviously carnival, around February time and the Jazz festival over Easter. Carnival is the busiest time n the island, if you plan on going at this time of year, get booked up as early as possible and make sure to book in with a J’ouvert Band, this is a pre-carnival party parading up and down the streets, starting around 3am throwing mud and paint whilst dancing behind huge music trucks and finishing off around midday, by having a bath in the sea. Soooooo much fun!
Jazz events are held all over the island from Speyside in the north down to Crown Point in the south of the island over the course of Easter week. There is even a Reggae night in Plymouth. Pigeon Point holds the last night and this is where I saw Emeli Sandé. Over the last few years, other acts have included Trey Songz and John Legend.
I hope that everyone who visits Tobago can explore every inch of this beautiful island, mingle with the locals and have it steal your heart, just like it stole mine.
It truly is a unique and magical place!