When we think of Tobago, for some of us, our minds are immediately filled with images of the beautiful turquoise water and the pristine beaches on its west; Store Bay, Mt. Irvine and Pigeon Point. Others think of the mouth-watering crab and dumpling or a hike to the Argyle Falls, or just a weekend of relaxation. While these experiences are quite entertaining and sustaining, the island of Tobago offers a wide range of attractions such as its biodiversity and rich cultural heritage.
The History of Tobago
Tobago has always been hailed as a gem of the Caribbean as it is regarded as the inspiration for ‘Robinson Crusoe’ and ‘Treasure Island,’ because of its pristine nature. According to the myth, that beach where Crusoe had arrived, was Englishman’s Bay, widely regarded as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Throughout its history this island was considered as extremely valuable. It was changed thirty-one times between the Spanish, British, French and the Dutch.
The island still stands out from the rest of the region due to its incredible biodiversity. The Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve, is recorded as the oldest legally protected forest reserve geared specifically towards a conservation purpose. This was established in 1776 and covers an area of 3958 hectares (9780 acres) of tropical rainforest which is roughly two thirds the size of the island.
This can be considered a landmark in the history of conservation and preservation of the environment and has been hailed as the first act in the modern environmental movement.
The island is also blessed with a high density of birds which ranks it amongst the highest in the world. There are approximately 220 species that can be found throughout the island. This bird lover’s paradise boosts the ecotourism industry which compliments the beaches adorning its coastlines. The island boasts some spectacular marine life. The Kelleston Drain, located on the east of the island just off the coast of Speyside is home to the world’s largest brain coral. The coral colony measures a remarkable 3 metres (10 feet) in height and a width of 5.3 metres (16 feet).
Divers from around the world flock towards this fascinating site and are mesmerized by what lies beneath the dazzling waters.
The other side of the island boasts some equally if not more spectacular wonders as the world renowned Buccoo Reef can be found just off the coast of Pigeon Point. World famous French oceanographer and explorer Jacques Cousteau visited Tobago’s Buccoo Reef and rated it as the third most spectacular reef in the world. There lies Nylon Pool, a natural 1-metre-deep area with shallow white sands just beyond the reef. It was given its name in 1962 by Princess Margaret and has often been referred to as ‘the fountain of youth.’
Tobago’s Unique Culture
The culture of Tobago is blessed with a rich heritage. The famous limbo dance is rumoured to have originated on the island during wakes. In the 1960’s the fire limbo was done as a stage act and eventually spread around the world. The goat races in Buccoo during the Easter period is extremely popular throughout the region as part of its Heritage Festival. Crab races and other fun events were first introduced in 1925 and have continued to grow in popularity. The culture of Tobago is truly unique as it boasts events such as ‘Ole Time Wedding’ in Moriah, the folk tales and superstitions of Les Coteaux, traditional folk dances and song, in Roxborough and the water carnival in Charlottesville.
This medley of events brings the culture and heritage alive and contributes largely to the tourism of the country.
Another event filled with excitement, is the annual great race. With a period spanning over fifty years, the annual event is one of the longest running offshore powerboat races in the world. The race begins at Trinidad in the Gulf of Paria and follows a course along the north coast border of the island to finish off in Tobago. This event is complimented by a weekend filled with parties and fetes which makes for a truly memorable experience that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet.
A Unique Destination
The island of Tobago is quite unique since it provides such diverse attractions within a small area. It is easily accessible, as the People’s Partnership Government during the period 2010-2015 improved the efficiency of travel between the islands of Trinidad and Tobago with a properly managed ferry system. Despite being a brief twenty-minute flight away from Trinidad, it offers a completely different experience. Tobago will always be the pristine jewel of the Caribbean.