February 24/10

We really wanted to visit Tobago but the weather wasn't suited to sail there with our boat. So we decided to take a ferry across and make a 2 day holiday sleeping on a bed that didn't move!

A maxi taxi trip to Port of Spain, then a 2 1/2 hr ferry ride and we disembarked at Scarborough in Tobago. Tobago, the smaller island of Trinidad & Tobago, lies about 35 km North-East of the island of Trinidad. Sailing to Tobago from Trinidad can be a challenging upwind, against the current, run. So the $16 round trip journey provided a nice break from the boat.

Tobago has been voted the world's top eco-tourism destination (2003). Fertile with continental diversity from the time when Tobago and Trinidad were joined to the South American mainland, it encompasses the oldest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere. The island's diversity includes 210 species of birds, 133 species of butterflies, 25 species of snake (none poisonous), 6 species of lizard, to name a few.

We stayed at Hummingbird near Store Bay, a clean family run guesthouse with swimming pool and meals available for $50/night. Along with a blind dog and audacious cat, the resident parrot was entertaining. It was about a 20 minute walk to the water through a safe non-descript neighborhood.

We rented a car for 2 days and drove pretty much every inch of the 40 km long and 12 km wide tropical paradise. Virtually the whole of the island is covered by abundant vegetation or agriculture. The locals, overwhelmingly of African origin, many with Indian features, enjoy a livelihood based on cocoa plantation farming and fishing. Tourism apparently plays a big role in their economy although we certainly didn't see many foreigners or facilities to accommodate them.

What we experienced were laid back, easy going stress free villages with friendly people waving to us as we drove by. Tobagp, characterized by a mountainous range that runs from the South-West to the North-East, the highest peak being 576 meters above sea level, offered splendid views of pretty bays and sandy beaches. We travelled the coastal route around the island, taking inland detours when we came across an interesting road.

Tobago has some lovely beaches, many completely deserted. The Caribbean side has the calmer white sand stretches, while the Atlantic side has surfing beaches, rocky with dark sand and rough waters.
Throughout the island are numerous waterfalls but, being the dry season, many were only a trickle. We did hike to Argyle Falls which took us through a coffee plantation and the rain forest.
 Although we didn't use a guide, we met Alison when we finished our hike and gave her a ride to the fish market and back. She was a flamboyant, colorful women and we enjoyed her company for the short duration of the drive. She gave us 100% pure cocoa balls from the plantation that you could drop in hot water to make cocoa.

Topographically, Tobago distinguishes itself strongly from its sibling island. The reason may be that Tobago separated itself from the main island during earlier geological eras, even as Trinidad was separating itself from the South America (by continental drift). As a result, there are many species of animals and birds found on Tobago that are not on Trinidad. In search of unique bird sightings we took to many back roads, always apprehensive about the rutted dirt roads and our low clearance rental car!

We did see many sightings, including the illusive Rufous Chachacarus (right), Tobago's national bird. Also, Horned Beaked Blackbirds, Motmots (left), Kingfishers and some others we couldn't identify.

  The Old Waterwheel  is a famous sight in Tobago.


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