Tobago is known as an international destination for viewing exotic birds and you can see some of the many species that inhabit or pass through here either by guided tour or simply by chance as you explore the countryside or beaches. Even just hanging on the porch at Jemmas I saw hummingbirds and Mot Mots and an interesting little blue bird that would stop by the outdoor shower for a drink. I saw a variety of shorebirds just walking the beaches.
I did NOT book a tour by a guide but there are some that come highly recommended by those that have more experience than I have and you can find those recommended guides through another web based information source about Tobago which I’ve provided here on these Tobago pages.
It is the geographic location and its immediacy to the South American continent that lends itself to the variety of birds seen here.
During my latest visit I made a little trek to the Adventure Farm and Nature Reserve located just outside of Plymouth in a small hamlet named Arnos Vale. Here you can see a variety of different birds if you’re lucky. The main reason that I visited here was to see for myself the HOARDS of hummingbirds that feed at a series of feeders set up to attract the little creatures. In addition to the hummingbird feeders you can walk a variety of trails that wind they’re way up and down hillsides into and out of some interesting and sort of manicured terrain. There are patches here and there of some amazingly beautiful “Bird of Paradise” flowers that area really quite exotic and this “natural” terrain is what attracts so many varieties of birds..
Just as you enter the main area of the complex, close to the main house, you’ll find a few chairs set up along the wall of the house about eight feet maybe from the feeders. I sat and watched until I had had enough but it was really quite something to see this little extravaganza. I’ve never seen so many at one time ever before and I think it’s a pretty unique experience.
If you’re mobility challenged you would likely have difficulty making your way around the grounds but I think you could get to the feeder chairs easily so hopefully you can enjoy this little spectacle as I was able to.
In spite of the selection of beaches you can find in Tobago to hang out on…there’s so many beautiful ones, my favorites are Grafton Beach lining the shores of Stonehaven Bay and Turtle Beach just a little further north on Grand Courland Bay. I suppose that I’ve always gravitated to these beaches because I enjoy the pounding surf and I’ve always stayed close by to them Further north from Plymouth some of the other popular and beautiful beaches that I’ve visited include Englishman’s Bay and the beaches at Castara.
Both Turtle and Grafton beaches are most easily accessed if you might be staying in Black Rock or close by to here. Both beaches have some good surf action for playing in the waves and both beaches are pretty close to amenities, meals, drinks, and even fresh water showers if you ask the right people nicely.
My latest trip down to Tobago I stayed mostly in the Black Rock area and easily walked to both of these little playgrounds. I spent plenty of time at both beaches, enjoying the slow pace I set for myself and most of the people that I crossed paths with.
Turtle Beach is a long sweeping stretch of sand rimming the ocean and runs between Black Rock and Plymouth, it’s not too difficult to walk its length in forty five minutes or so or longer if you take your time to enjoy the pounding surf and watch for birds. Take a break for a beverage at the Turtle Beach Hotel or just further north of the hotel you can stop at Black’s beach hut. He’ll sell you a beverage and let you lounge for a while. You can rent a beach lounger if you really need to rest and take time for a swim or three… he plays tunes to add to the “mood” of the Caribbean setting. It’s really kind of a ramshackle little joint that is made from tarps and driftwood but he’s a character and kind of fun to swap barbs with. He calls the place “Blacks, The Rasta Resort”. Ill say no more, it’s an experience I’ll leave it at that!!
Turtle Beach is the beach in Tobago that the Leatherback Turtle most commonly nests on, however it’s certainly not the only beach, this one is likely the most important one. Grafton is also a beach that is frequented by turtles during laying season but I’ve seen them mostly on Turtle Beach.
You can read more about the turtles further on in another section here. If you visit between March and May, chances are good that you’ll get to see these animals. Generally this is the nesting season for these ancient creatures; keep an eye out for hatchlings on these beaches as early as May and towards the end of June. Watch your step!!
If you time your walk correctly you can watch the fishermen set they’re nets just beside Blacks where the fisherman’s co-op is located. They’re usually at work getting the nets ready to set pretty early but by 9 AM I think you’d still see them. I sat and watched a few times the laborious work that it is, and later in the mid afternoon you’ll see a large crowd of people pulling the nets to shore. There’s a process involved to share the catch and prepare if for sale or consumption. I saw this same process happening on Grafton Beach but not as regularly as it seems to happen on Turtle Beach. If you really want to get involved, you can grab onto the rope and help them pull.
Grafton is a different scene all together, its closely associated with the Grafton Beach Resort however the number of people hanging out here hasn’t really changed that much from the small crowds that were here twenty years ago, soon after the resort opened. It’s really not that busy here at all. The main difference between Grafton and Turtle beaches is that Grafton is flat and Turtle Beach has a bowl like edge to the ocean and about a ten or twelve foot incline to the edge of the water, depending on the tides I guess.
The beachhead on Grafton isn’t as large as that of Turtle Beach but the surf is still just as fun. I access Grafton Beach by the stairs at the Bucaneer Beach bar and I always made time to chat with Karen and Janet if they were working that morning. These two women were pretty fun to deal with and they made me some special ice cream freezies, kind of a milkshake concoction that even had bitters added to it.
Grafton is much shorter also that Turtle Beach and there’s some outcroppings of rock that add to the scenic appeal of the place. There’s a roadway that runs close to the edge of the beach and some free parking along the roadway towards the north end.
If you’re spending some time in Tobago take a time out and enjoy Grafton or Turtle beaches. I hope you would enjoy them as much as I do when I visit.
During the time I spent on my recent visit to Tobago I was treated with some spectacular sunsets that in some ways reminded me of all of the glorious sunsets I experienced on Phu Quoc Island in southern Vietnam. I honestly never thought I’d see such beautiful sunsets as there.
Tobago though proved my thinking wrong and I had more than one opportunity to see some stunning finishes to the day.
It’s a GREAT way to chill out and wrap up another great day on the beach, relaxing and tranquil, as the golden or fiery red ball of the sun dropped below the horizon the sky would light up and the clouds would take on hues of orange, pink, red, and gold, often reflections of the color are seen in the sea.
The sunsets here apparently can be quite spectacular as you can see so as the light changes to signify the end of the day, grab yourself a place to sit comfortably, a chair, a log, or whatever you can find and wait for the show. It really doesn’t begin until the sun has sunk below the horizon, so be patient!
These photos were taken from a spot on Turtle Beach, adjacent to the hotel there.
I’ve ventured into Scarborough a few times in the past and this recent visit to Tobago I made no exception to this tradition. Scarborough is the capitol city of Tobago and is populated supposedly by about 17,000 people. First settled by Europeans during the mid sixteen hundreds, it’s been the site of battles many times and governed by various European countries.
Scarborough has grown over time up away from the relatively flat waterfront and has overtaken the surrounding hills.
Vehicle traffic was thick and when I visited, seemingly, the most congested area is along the main waterfront street, Carrington,. The corner where Carrington is intersected by Wilson about where the ferry terminal is seems to me the worst of the congestion.
It s a little bit chaotic in the “big city” and certainly its much hotter walking the paved streets of Scarborough than hanging on the beach. It’s not an overly large town but walking in it the heat of mid day is a little taxing, especially getting up the hill of Fort Street to see the remains of Fort King George and the museum found here…This is also the best place to catch a breeze and see some really pretty vistas of Rockley Bay that the fort’s location provides.
In most places it’s kind of busy generally but I found a little refuge in the Botanical Gardens for some peace and quiet. I found a shady spot under the trees that are found on the one side of James Memorial Park…and took a moment to read the names on the War Memorial found in the square there. Men from Tobago served and died during the First and Second World Wars and they are honored here, as they are all across Commonwealth countries.
I spent some time investigating the Market, and I was visiting on one of the busiest days, a Friday, and there were lots of people coming and going and lots of vendors selling fruits, vegetables, meat, clothing, and music vendors too. Loud music blared from speakers and there is definitely a party atmosphere going on here on a Friday. Fortunately there was more shade to be had in a small park along the water on Carrington Street, just beside the ferry terminal.
I had the opportunity to visit the SPCA that exists here in Scarborough. I had crossed paths with a new friend from Berlin that volunteered time and donated money to the local operation whenever she made the trip to Tobago. I visited with her as she was heading into town to “walk the dogs”.
When you’re visiting Tobago you really need to get yourself into Scarborough, even for a short time to look around. If for no other reasons go to see how life goes on here in the “big city” and take in the views that the Fort’s hilltop provides. It does offer some entertainment, there is a few things going on to keep you busy for a little while.
Some of the beaches of Tobago are renowned for the annual visits of these “living dinosaurs” and every spring season turtles return to these beaches to lay they’re eggs and renew its cycle of life.
The Leatherback turtle is on the World Wildlife’s List of Endangered species, in fact they categorize it as being “critically endangered” which according to they’re criteria means that this species “faces a HIGH risk of extinction in the wild” according to the WWF website.
The Leatherback turtle is the biggest marine turtle in the World and its thought that they have the most extended migratory paths of any marine species. Some have been tracked with the use of transmitter on paths that take them on cross ocean journeys in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
It’s a real thrill and a PRIVILEGE to be able to see this phenomenon first hand but sadly it’s an attraction that from what I witnessed needs to be more strictly policed and monitored. There are some efforts locally by a group of people called S.O.S. but in reality they have no real authority to control people and mostly rely on good co-operation by those that are curious. Possessing government authority to penalize breaches of some established guidelines would really give some bight to the existing laws that the government of Trinidad and Tobago have created for the protection of this species. I really can’t imagine the necessary funds be allocated for this expensive venture.
S.O.S. is a small group of people that volunteer they’re time to help try to conserve the Tobago based population of sea turtles and really they should be commended. They will walk beach patrols; try to establish a “safe” parameter for observation when a sighting occurs and they record details of the turtles as they are nesting. They’re web site doesn’t seem to be maintained and my efforts to contact them to offer some volunteer time previous to my visit were not acknowledged.
My favorite hotel that I’ve stayed at when I have visited Tobago offers a kind of notification service that will contact you when a turtle comes ashore. If you register with them at the front desk then when an event does occur you will be telephoned at your room to advise you and you can join the observers if you choose to.
I have done this a few times and over the years the crowds seem larger than when I first participated in the early Nineties likely because of the use of cell phone technology used to “spread the word”.
This past April I was a part of a small group quietly watching a turtle from a fair distance from the roadside on Grafton Beach when out of the darkness a small bus load of people arrived to “watch” the event. As you can imagine, or not, the quiet peaceful scene transformed into something I’d liken to a Gong Show and it didn’t take the small group that I was with to decide to leave.
You can book a guide to take you to these events although if you educate yourself before you arrive and stay close to where these events occur I ‘m not sure what you would gain from paying for a service like this??
If you are interested in a recommended guide Im sure there are many available from one source or another. You might give the web site below a look over…
Viewing these large creatures is a GREAT experience that’s both unique and exciting, a phenomenon that’s been in existence for eons. If you have the opportunity to visit Tobago when the nesting season is happening than I would certainly recommend that you go out of your way to investigate this event.
Goat Racing is a MUST see event to witness when you’re visiting Tobago. I had read about it a little but never really gave it much attention until I realized that I was going to be visiting Tobago during the annual Easter festivities when this annual exhibition occurs.
It was really a unique and exciting experience. I had NO IDEA that goats could run like this…LIKE THE WIND I tell you. Unless you’ve seen this you might not be able to imagine the speed that these little creatures can run at. The animals are tethered with a human runner and these guys and girls with they’re animals start the race behind a gated start line that’s very similar to a horse racing start gate
As the” GO” command is given they whiz down the barricaded track and an announcer gives the crowd a constant updating of the contestants place amongst the pack. It’s very similar to a horse race except that the people run alongside or just behind the animals instead of ON them.
There are two venues in Tobago where you can see this spectacle and the events are organized to happen on two consecutive days.
The MAJOR event is run at Buccoo Village on a hundred meter track and you can view them from the comfort of a brand new covered grandstand. This venue is the most highly attended of the two and goat racing itself is only a portion of the days events with live music and food also being a part of the days entertainment.
I attended the event at the smaller but still unique setting of Mount Pleasant where we watched a few races and checked out some of the food vendors and handicrafts. As our time passed here the crowds were growing and it was apparent that this venue is maybe smaller than Buccoo but still just as popular.
You really need to make the time for this if you’re visiting during the Easter period. To say its unique is an understatement and you’ll remember this forever I’m sure.
Im not videographer by any means but attached to this page is a couple of short videos of the racing.
In a nutshell, Tobago has the oldest rainforest reservation in the western hemisphere, since 1765 Tobagos big green trees and little furry animals have been protected from the evil doers known as humans, its also nice to see that us Brits can do somethings right whilst displacing indigenous populations and conquering foreign lands.....
So, go to the middle of the island, drive there, you'll probably get stopped on the road and asked if you want a guide, it is advisable as the guys are very knowledgable and very friendly, if you don't want a guid just say so and you won't be harassed.
As for me, well, when you live in the Guianas, rainforest aint what you need more of (spoilt I know!) so I can't really go into details about any of the tours... lo siento mucho.....
Head straight to Buccoo beach, where there are boats which goes every day morning and afternoon at a specific period. Mostly these boats are glass bottom boats, which facilitates viewing of corals at the Buccoo Reef. Most boat will provide you life jacket and snorkel equipment and allow you to snorkel for 30-45 minutes.
Else have your own boat and enjoy as much you like in snorkeling and swimming.
I found a beautiful round shaped (3-4feet wide) coral with the design looks like a Chinese alphabetical character (not exactly) completely covered over it. Lot of colorful fishes. Wow! I enjoyed it soooooo much!!
This is located in Scarborough next to the Scarborough hospital. This is the largest fort in Tobago and you can have a full view of Scarborough. Make it up there before it gets dark. We made there by 7:00pm and you bet!!!…there is no light even to move near the fort wall and not much lights are visible up there. There is a museum over there (offcourse it was closed)…open from Monday to Friday between 9am to 4:30pm.
Very nice quite beach, when we reached there around 5:00pm in the evening, the whole beach was deserted. The shop keepers were also packing their stuffs. The whole length of this beach will be about some 100-150 meters with the lot of trees on the shore.
Castara Bay is located up north on the west side of Tobago, between King Peter’s Bay (Diving spot) and Englishman’s Bay. If you travel from the south towards north then before reaching this beach, there is a beautiful view point…don’t miss that.
Most boats offer swimming in this Nylon Pool for 30-45 minutes along with the Buccoo Reef trip. Since the distance between these 2 will be around 150 meters. The name Nylon Pool is because of its color. The beauty of this pool is ….its nothing but a natural swimming pool in the middle of the sea with 2 to 4 feet height of water.
If you rent a boat…go there little earlier, if you want to be alone. After 11:00am all the boats which starts from Buccoo beach will be there with loads of tourists.
If you are in group and want to explore the sea, snorkel, swim and lime (Party), rent a boat for yourself. Head to Bucco Beach and you will find lot of fisherman ready to offer. Pick one of them or pre-arrange the before day and fix them up...mostly they will pick you from the Bucco beach or the beach which is nearer to your stay.
Just head to No Man's island which is very near to the Pigeon Point...where you can lime around and even make a BBQ and enjoy your swim. After that you can head towards for snorkeling and to the Nylon Pool
Fort James is located in Plymouth overlooking the Arnos Vale Bay. You can see a lovely sun set from this place. Not most people travel to this place, but on the way from Crown Point to this place you will cross lots of beaches and you can stop at every beach for a while and there is a lovely golf course near Grane Beach.
For details about Fort James...have a look into the another photo.
This is a view from the trail above Speyside Bay showing Goat Island and Little Tobago. There used to be a scuba camp in the bay run by an American, but no longer.