- January 15th, 2014.
These tales were handed down from one generation to another by word of mouth or through dance, song, drama and music. Superstition is also expressed through food, craft, traditional medicine and games. Many of these beliefs and folklore were used by Tobago's African ancestors to come to terms with the harsh reality of living in a new place under the yoke of slavery. Nearly every village has a performing or cultural arts group where these traditions are kept alive throughout the year. Speech bands are the keepers of Tobago's oral traditions, dancing and performing songs which focus on issues of political and social importance, often with a humorous or satirical twist. Every year Tobago's rich oral tradition is celebrated during the island's heritage festival in July.
There are coutless stories but these are some of the most popular.
Gang Gang Sara
The most famous of Tobago's legends, Gang Gang Sara was the African witch of Golden Lane. There are many versions of this tale. One of the most popular is that she arrived on Tobago in the last half of the eighteenth century, flying from Africa to Les Coteaux. She then journeyed to Golden Lane in search of her family who long ago had been transported there in slave ships. She lived to a great age and is remembered for her wisdom and kindness and becoming the loving wife of Tom. After Tom died she wished to return to her native Africa and climbed the great silk cotton tree at Runnemede to fly home. She fell to her death not knowing that she had lost the ability to fly as a result of having eaten salt.
Also known as Old Hags, the Soucouyant lives by day as an old woman at the end of a village. By night, she strips off her wrinkled skin, which she puts in a mortar, and turns into a ball of fire. She then goes out into the night, looking for a victim. She enters the home of her victim through cracks and crevices before sucking people's blood from their arms, legs and soft parts while they sleep. This leaves behind a black or blue mark on the skin. If the Soucouyant draws too much blood, it is thought the victims will either die or become a Soucouyant themselves, leaving her free to take their skin. These creatures practice witchcraft and are believed to have traded their victims' blood for evil powers with Bazil, the demon who lives in the silk cotton tree. To expose a Soucouyant, legend dictates that heaps of rice should be placed around the house or at the village crossroad. The Soucouyant will then be obliged to pick up every grain of rice, thus allowing her to be caught. She can be destroyed by placing coarse salt in the mortar which contains her skin, leaving her unable to put it back on.
La Diablesse: Known as a devil women, La Diablesse is a woman whose figure and dress make her appear to be beautiful. But she wears a large brimmed hat to hide her disfigured and ugly face. In other versions of the tale her face is beautiful. Her long dress hides her one cloven hoof. She often appears from behind trees and she casts spells on her unsuspecting male victims whom she leads into the forest with the promise of sexual favours. These men are never able to catch up with her, eventually finding themselves lost and bewildered. Confused and scared, the victim tries to find his way home, often meeting a grisly end. Other versions of the tale see her male victims waking up naked in a stinging nettle tree. Those who thought that they may have encountered La Diablesse often took their clothes off and turned them inside out before putting them on again. It is believed that this will protect you from her.
Interesting there is a male version of this folklore character. Jack O'Lantern entices susceptible women away from the safety of their surroundings to certain doom.
These are the spirits of children who have died before being baptized, and are fated to roam. In another version of the tale Duennes are unborn children. They practice their wide range of pranks on children often luring them into the forest and then abandoning them. They are sexless and are recognisable as their feet are turned backwards and they have no faces. On their heads they wear large mushroom-shaped straw hats. To prevent the Duennes from calling your children into the forest at dusk, never shout their names in open places, as the Duennes will remember their names and call them later and lure them away. This tale was used by parents to keep their children at home.
Mermen and Fairy Maids
Mermen are half man and half fish and are Tobago's version of mermaids. They live in the deepest parts of the ocean and are believed to be handsome men. They are often richly garbed and look similar to the kings or warriors of old. They were known to grant a wish, transform mediocrity into genius and confer wealth and power. Mermen mate with Fairy Maids, who are the maidens of rivers, secret mountain pools and waterwheels. They are also found in caves behind waterfalls or beneath certain bridges.
These mythical maids are known to find smooth skinned men attractive and will often pursue men onto land. They are unable to turn corners. Men who find themselves in a relationship with a Fairy Maid and wish to leave must make her an offering of two pairs of shoes. The first pair has to be burnt on the beach. The Fairy Maid will then come out of the water and ask if she is to be paid for past services. The man must answer, "nothing but this pair of shoes" and then throw the second pair into the water. Fairy Maids are described as beautiful with long, lush hair. One of their feet is in the shape of a deer's hoof. They are also known to steal a man's shadow which can drive him demented. To reclaim his shadow, the man must go to the river and address the water to plead for its return. He must then leave the water's edge and not look back.
Fisherman Brush and Sandy the Slave Revolutionary
These two men have become legends in Tobago. Sandy the Slave Revolutionary led the first major slave revolt in Tobago in 1770. Sandy, from all indications was a perfectly built African slave who despised the cruel slave system, where his people suffered all unimaginable forms of brutality. He organised a number of meetings with fellow slaves to plan the revolt before leading his fighters in launching an attack on the British at Fort James in Plymouth to capture arms and ammunition. He then moved his fighters to the great house on Mount Irvine's sugar planatation. The revolt spread to different parts of Tobago and forced the British authorities on the island to call in battleships from Grenada to quell the revolt. It is said that Sandy and some of his followers escaped to the Toco/Matelot area of Trinidad from what is now called Sandy Point at Crown Point. Less is known about Fisherman Brush. He is remembered for claiming to have gone to jail 99 times for stick fighting.
To find out more about Tobago's culture and heritage or to book your stay visit the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association's new website at www.tobagohoteltourism.com or phone (868) 639-9543. Download the new Tobago Travel Guide App to find out more about the island. It can be downloaded on the Apple App Store or Google Play or via the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association's website at www.tobagohoteltourism.com/travel-app/
- December 31st, 2013.
LIVE MUSIC IN TOBAGO
Music is one of the cornerstones of Tobago culture and wherever you are on the island you are guaranteed to see and hear some of the island's live entertainment. For such a small island there is a surprisingly wide variety of music, ranging from steel pan and calypso to soca and drumming. This reflects the influences of the the different nations which colonised Tobago over the centuries, as well as the African slave population which was forced here. The biggest music festival in Tobago is the annual Tobago Jazz Experience. Previous acts have included Rod Stewart, Whitney Houston, Elton John and Shakira. Headlining next year's event will be Grammy-award winning artist, John Legend, along with Brandy, Earth,Wind and Fire and Keyshia Cole. If you can't make this island-wide festival in April, then there are still plenty of chances to listen to live music throughout the rest of the year. Here are some suggestions.
Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort
Nearly every night of the week you will find live entertainment at the hotel. Every Wednesday the Les Coteaux Folk Performers put on a show by the hotel's pool along with solo pannist Pan Jumbie. Twice a week you can enjoy the soothing sounds of the piano at the Tavaco Lounge. The party really starts on Friday, with live performances from many of Tobago's bands at the Robinson Crusoe Pub. DJ Silva will take you into the early hours on Saturday night, playing the latest hits from the Trinidad and Tobago music scene, as well as some classic songs. Sunday is dedicated to jazz, with live performances during the evening by some of Tobago's hottest new jazz singers.
For a true taste of jazz in
Tobago head to Kariwak Village where its in-house band plays every Friday and Saturday night. The Kariwak Players have been entertaining locals and visitors alike for more than thirty years and are considered the top jazz band on the island. This seven piece jazz ensemble was originally set up by the late Newman Alexander, an esteemed musician who promoted jazz on Tobago. The group is now led by cultural activist and vocalist John Arnold, and performs not only jazz but ballads, reggae and calypso; everything from easy listening to party music.
Boat House Restaurant, Castara
Drumming evokes Tobago's
African heritage and every Wednesday night at the Boat House at Little Bay, Castara the sound of drumming mixes with the sound of the sea. Tobago has a strong drumming community. Performers at the Boat House use a range of drums, all African in origin. Sit back and relax to the sounds of the Aburukuwa, Carimbó, Sakara and Kpanlogo drums. These types of drums reflect where Tobago's African ancestors came from. There is also limbo and steel pan during the evening.
Coco Reef Resort
Set on its own beach,
Coco Reef has regular entertainment throughout the week. Enjoy the sounds of vocalist Laureston Special or pan soloist Pan Jumbie while sipping one of the resort's signature cocktails. A regular singer at the resort is Princess Adana, who's arresting blend of reggae-infused R&B and natural dance moves means you are guaranteed a fabulous evening. Princess Adana is a staple on radio and in dance clubs in the region, thanks to her soca hits "Out of Control" and "Uncertain." She also opened the 2007 Tobago Jazz Experience, which featured Elton John, Mary J. Blige and Al Green. You can also catch Fire Fusion at Coco Reef. This husband and wife duo has a wide repertoire of music including soca, calypso, dancehall and reggae. They are regulars at the Jazz Festival and have performed in St Vincent, Notting Hill in England, Toronto and St Lucia.
Every week the picturesque fishing village of Buccoo comes alive with the now legendary Sunday School. It is an intrinsic part of the fabric of Tobago, attracting both young and old. The evening has two distinct parts. Earlier, there are performances by the village's pan band, the Buccooneers Steel Orchestra. This award winning group fills the night air with the distinct sound of pan, which is so evocative the world over bringing memories of sunshine and holidays. From around 11pm the crowds swell and the latest soca and chutney soca hits are played by on-site DJs. Hendrix Original Sunday School is a popular venue, which will soon start showcasing local bands. This is the ultimate street party. You will certainly need stamina as the partying goes on until the sun rises.
To find out more about live entertainment in Tobago or to book your stay visit the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association's new website at www.tobagohoteltourism.com or phone (868) 639-9543. Download the new Tobago Travel Guide App to find out more about the island. It can be downloaded on the Apple App Store or Google Play or via the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association's website at www.tobagohoteltourism.com/travel-app/
- November 23rd, 2013.
Families are a large part of Tobagonian culture so when traveling with children around the island you'll find a warm and friendly welcome where ever you go. With its sandy beaches, sea, forts and rainforest, Tobago is the perfect place to spend some family time.
Family On The Beach
There's plenty of fun to be had on the water. The best beaches are on the Caribbean Sea side of the island, especially Pigeon Point and Store Bay which are generally calm. Both of them have buoyed off swimming areas and lifeguard cover. Glass bottom boat tours from Store Bay to Buccoo Reef are a good way to introduce children to Tobago's amazing underwater world. There are chances to spot many of the island's colourful reef fish, rays and turtles, either from the boat or by snorkeling in the calm waters close to the reef. For those wanting more adventure there is scuba diving. Member dive shops of the Association of Tobago Dive Operators offer courses for those aged eight and over. These are run by professional instructors who ensure that safety is the first priority. Children are limited by depth, and initial training is done in a pool before heading out to the ocean. Many of the shops also have equipment specifically designed for children. Kayaking or stand up paddle boarding is a great way to explore the coast. Stand Up Paddle Tobago offers lessons as well as tours of Petit Trou Lagoon, Bon Accord Lagoon, the coast from Pigeon Point Heritage Park to Store Bay and Bloody Bay, where you can swim in a private waterfall. After dark, try a bioluminescence night tour where the ocean lights up with the touch of a paddle - a truly magical experience. For an adrenaline packed adventure rent a jet ski and explore the bay. All children must be accompanied by an adult and make sure life jackets are provided and your holiday insurance covers this activity.
Kids On The Beach
Fishing offer families a fun way to spend time together and Tobago offers both off and on shore fishing. There are several charter companies on the island which can take you out on the ocean to try and catch game fish like blue marlin, wahoo or tarpon. Alternatively try bone fishing, shore fishing or rock fishing where there is the chance to catch snapper, grouper, jacks and even small tuna - ideal for the barbecue.
Tobago has a rich historic past having been captured more times than any other island in the Caribbean. Over the centuries its been fought over by the French, British, Dutch and the Courlanders and each of these nations have left their mark on the island. There are forts and cannons to explore where families can play their own version of Pirates of the Caribbean.
If you want to cool down head inland with the children and swim in the island's waterfalls. The falls at Parlatuvier and Castara are easily accessible. Argyle Waterfalls near Roxborough is popular with families and is surrounded by rainforest. The Botanic Gardens in Scarborough also offers the chance for shade and is a quiet oasis in the middle of Tobago's capital. It covers eighteen acres of former sugar estate and has lawn interspersed with flower beds and trees. There is a fish pond and an aviary, as well as a gazebo which offers fantastic views over the town and sea.
Horse Back Riding
Horse riding is a great way to explore nature and there are two stables in the south of the island which offer a range of experiences. Horses are often matched to the rider so it is suitable for all experience levels. A favourite ride for families is the swim and trail where after a hack to the beach, rider and horse enter the sea and swim along the bay.
Sport is popular amongst children here and Tobago has world class golf courses at Tobago Plantations and Mount Irvine. Mount Irvine offers lessons for children, where they can be taught the art of teeing off, the back swing and follow through. Tennis lessons are also available through the Crusoe Isle Lawn Tennis Club. Based at Shaw Park, the club provides tuition for children five years and up.
If your holiday coincides with the release of that big movie blockbuster then MovieTowne based at Lowlands Mall will keep the children happy. Many films here are released earlier than in Europe, giving you the chance to watch before your friends. Throughout the year Tobago hosts many festivals suitable for families. Highlights include goat and crab racing at Buccoo, the Blue Food Festival at Bloody Bay, the Tobago Flying Colours Kite Festival and the Tobago Heritage Festival, which features a month of plays, live music, dancing, heritage tours and the chance to sample some of the island's delicious food and drink.
Fun In The Pool
If you want to just relax by the hotel pool then many of the hotels have kid's clubs, allowing your children the chance to make new friends while you indulge in some peace and quiet while soaking up the Caribbean sunshine.
To find out more about these and many more exciting activities on Tobago or to book your stay visit the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association's new website at www.tobagohoteltourism.com or phone (868) 639 9543.
- October 2nd, 2013.
5 ROMANTIC ADVENTURES
With its beautiful sunsets, quiet, private beaches, verdant forests, tropical flora and aqua-blue water, nothing says romance like Tobago. It is the perfect Caribbean island for that enchanting and tranquil getaway, whether it be your honeymoon, anniversary or trip to mark a special occasion. For the ultimate amorous experience you can tie the knot in this tropical island paradise. There are professional wedding planners on the island who can help you prepare for your special day. The laid-back vibes of Tobago and the beauty of the island both above and below the water surely makes this one of the most romantic islands in the Caribbean. Here's a taste of some of the romantic adventures you can experience while here.Castara Waterfall: Just a short walk along the riverbank takes you to this enchanting waterfall on the outskirts of the picturesque fishing village of Castara. The natural, deep water pool at the bottom of the falls allows you to swim together in privacy. The water makes a refreshing alternative to the sea. You can completely relax here and lie back and float while looking above at the stunning rainforest canopy. It could even be that ideal spot for a proposal, guaranteeing you memories you'll treasure from your holiday in Tobago.
Just a short walk along the riverbank takes you to this enchanting waterfall on the outskirts of the picturesque fishing village of Castara. The natural, deep water pool at the bottom of the falls allows you to swim together in privacy. The water makes a refreshing alternative to the sea. You can completely relax here and lie back and float while looking above at the stunning rainforest canopy. It could even be that ideal spot for a proposal, guaranteeing you memories you'll treasure from your holiday in Tobago.
Take a romantic walk to the top of Flagstaff Hill for incredible panoramic views of Charlotteville, Booby Island, St Giles and Sisters Rocks. It is one of the highest points on the island and is surrounded by ocean on three sides. As you walk along, hand in hand look out for some of Tobago's colourful and incredible bird life and tropical flora. Once at the top the breeze will cool you down and you can sit back and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere and the sounds of nature, all under the shade of the gazebo at the top. Take a picnic with you so you can enjoy lunch on one of the most beautiful spots on the island.
Overlooking the turquoise blue Caribbean Sea, this is a popular spot for courting couples who come here to witness the stunning sunsets from the fort's gazebo. There you can sit together in the shade and enjoy the refreshing ocean breeze while watching the sun disappear on the horizon. The fort's manicured tropical gardens makes it the ideal spot to enjoy Tobago's wildlife. It all comes with a soundtrack of crashing waves from the beach at Black Rock, located just below the fort.
Tucked away within the larger Man O' War Bay at Charlotteville is Lover's Bay. With its naturally pink sand and aqua blue water, this is the perfect beach to call your own as it is only accessible by boat. You can rent kayaks or hire a boat from the village. Here, in complete privacy you can picnic under the shade of the palm trees and snorkel together on the nearby reef where you may have encounters with rays or turtles. Walk along the beach, daydream to the sound of the waves lapping against the warm sand and just enjoy each others company. You can also add your names to the dozens of others which have been written into the cliff as a testament to your love.
Spend an evening lying back on the trampolines of Island Girl sipping champagne as you watch the sunset. A cruise along the coast of Tobago is a fantastic way to see the island from the ocean. A pod of dolphins may even join you for part of the way, breaching beside the catamaran's two hulls. Once the sun sets you can look up at the enchanting night sky and star gaze as you sail along in the hands of professional crew. Just one of the many ways to end your perfect day on Tobago.
To find out more about these and many more exciting adventures on Tobago or to book your stay visit the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association's new website at www.tobagohoteltourism.com or phone (868) 639 9543.
- September 4th, 2013.
5 OCEAN ADVENTURES ON TOBAGO
Tobago is blessed with stunning natural beauty - golden sandy beaches, pristine reefs and an array of underwater wildlife. There are many opportunities to explore the island's coastline, swim and snorkel in quiet, isolated bays and catch the breeze for the ultimate ride on the waves. However you plan to enjoy the ocean, Tobago offers panoramic views and warm, aqua-blue waters, guaranteeing you an experience you wont forget.
Tobago is one of the finest diving locations in the Caribbean, with sloping gentle reefs, rock formations, shear walls, canyons and plankton rich waters. Crown Point, Charlotteville, Speyside and the western north coast offer the best diving spots. You can share your underwater adventure with turtles, an array of colourful fish, stingray and larger pelagics like nurse sharks and barracuda. The majority of the reefs are healthy, boasting more than three hundred species, including one of the biggest examples of brain coral in the region at Speyside. The range of diving on offer, from drift and wreck to reef and shore, means there is diving to suit beginners and those who are more experienced. Any one of the members of the Association of Tobago Dive Operators can help you make the most of diving on the island.
Discover Tobago from the deck of a boat and cruise the island's Caribbean coastline. Island Girl offers catamaran charters for day sails, sunset cruises and special occasions. You you can learn to hoist up sails or just laze away in the sunshine on deck. Tobago has many idyllic bays, some of which can only be reached by boat. Professional crew will transfer you to the catamaran for the start of your adventure. If you have your own yacht, then Store Bay and Charlotteville are the two main anchorages on the island. You can spend as little as two weeks although many stay for months, enjoying Tobago's warm hospitality and breathtaking scenery.
Tobago's nutrient rich waters means it's home to a huge range of fish species such as tarpon, sailfish, marlin, wahoo, kingfish and bonito. This makes it the perfect island for all types of fishing - offshore game fishing, reef or coastal fishing. The main game fishing season runs from November to April and there are several charter companies on the island which can take you out to do battle with some of the world's most exciting game fish. Earlier this year, a blue marlin weighing more than a thousand pounds was caught eight miles off Tobago's coast. If you prefer inshore fishing then there are opportunities for bone fishing, shore fishing and rock fishing. There is the chance to catch snapper, grouper, jacks and even small tuna - ideal for a barbecue on the beach as you watch the sunset.
Uncrowded and with great wind in season Tobago is a Kitesurfer's paradise. The best time to visit is from December to mid May, as the wind direction and consistency is much better during those months. The Pigeon Point is by far the most popular location where you can harness the power of the wind and speed along the waves. It is now considered to be one of the best places in the world to kitesurf. Radical Sports is the only kitesurfing shop on island with IKO certified instructors, who can take budding kite surfers through lessons on land before hitting the shallow, clear blue waters off of Pigeon Point. Your instructor will follow on a safety boat. For those who are more experienced, Lambeau on the wind-blown Atlantic coast provides the chance to catch the breeze and ride the waves.
With warm, blue water and plentiful waves, Tobago is a paradise for surfers. Mount Irvine is one of the most popular spots on the island, both with white, sandy beaches and almond trees for shade. Mount Irvine is rarely crowded during the week although it gets busier at the weekend. It is suitable for both long and short boarders as the waves here break right on an offshore reef on the north eastern side of the bay. If you are a beginner then lessons are available, as is equipment rental on the beach.
To find out more about these and many more exciting ocean adventures on Tobago or to book your holiday visit the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association's new website at www.tobagohoteltourism.com or phone (868) 639-9543.
- August 28th, 2013.
5 AUGUST ADVENTURES
From heritage and culinary to patriotic celebrations and thrill seeking spectator events, Tobago has something to offer everyone this August. The island provides you with the perfect chance to kick back and enjoy, whether its spending time with the family, relaxing on the beach or liming with your friends. Here is just a selection of what you can experience in Tobago this August.
Every August 1st, Tobago remembers its African roots with colourful, historic parades and displays to mark the liberation of Tobago slaves in 1838. The main focus is usually at Crown Point, with a freedom walk through the streets which ends with a cultural extravaganza at Pigeon Point Heritage Park. This features traditional costume, dancing, steel pan, African drumming, cultural artifacts and authentic African dishes. Trinidad and Tobago became the first country in the world to declare a national holiday to commemorate the abolition of slavery.
Popularly known as Eid, this Muslim festival celebrates the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. For Muslims, Eid is a joyful celebration of the achievement of enhanced piety. It is a day of forgiveness, moral victory and peace, of congregation, fellowship, brotherhood and unity. Families attend special prayers which are held in mosques or in large open areas followed by a khutba (public preaching). Then it is time for festivities and merriment, with many Muslims opening their doors to the whole community, renewing friendship and family ties. Houses are decorated and guests are provided with a delicious range of food, the most common of which is meethi sawine, a traditional sweet made with vermicelli. This year Eid is held on August 8th - the perfect time to experience the warm hospitality of Tobago.
The Great Drinks Festival
Sample the best of Tobago's drink at the Great Drinks Festival happening on August 23rd at Scarborough Esplanade. This is the third year the festival has been held and features exclusive tropical drinks that are indigenous to the island. Many are made using blends of local fruits, ground provisions and vegetables, as core ingredients in punches, juices and virgin or alcoholic drinks. The Esplanade facility in downtown Scarborough will be transformed into a drinks village and will include mixology, punch making and punch drinking competitions; educational displays on beer brewing; prizes for the most innovative drink and an evening concert.
Carib Great Race
Hundreds of people will be descending on Scarborough on the morning of August 24th to witness the adrenaline-fueled finish to the annual Carib Great Race. First held in 1969, this 84-mile speedboat race starts in Port of Spain, Trinidad and ends at Scarborough Esplanade, Tobago. Its a fierce, high-octane contest which tests the driver's skill, speed and concentration. Over the years the race has grown to become one of the most important power boating competitions in the region. Although the race is usually all over by 9am, the thrills still continue with the post-race lime - you'll need stamina but it's not to be missed!
A patriotic celebration held every August 31st to mark Trinidad and Tobago's independence from Britain in 1962. The day starts with a parade of the island's protective services through the capital, Scarborough before an extravaganza of performances in the evening which reflect Tobago's unique culture and heritage. This is usually a mix of traditional dance and song which speak of the island's national pride and includes performers from all over Tobago. The gathered crowd is then invited to start the countdown to the fireworks which fill the skies over Scarborough with colour. It will certainly get you oohing and aahing.
To find out more about these and many more exciting ocean adventures on Tobago or to book your holiday visit the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association's new website at www.tobagohoteltourism.com or phone (868) 639-9543.
- August 21st, 2013.
5 LAND ADVENTURES ON TOBAGO
Tobago is traditionally thought of for it's turquoise, calm sea and golden sandy beaches. But the island offers much more than this popular Caribbean image. Tobago's lush, green interior is not to be missed and is definitely worth exploring. Rainforest and woodland teeming with life, cliffs and mountain ridges, refreshing waterfalls and rivers as well as remnants of Tobago's history and culture are just waiting to be discovered. Many of these adventures offer the chance to see a part of Tobago many visitors miss.
Tobago's is one of the best destinations in the Caribbean for mountain biking, from breathtaking and challenging downhill trails and summit to sea level runs to easy routes along the coast. It is the perfect way to explore the interior, offering riders the chance to get "up, close and personal" with nature as well as evidence of Tobago's past. Local guides will expertly show you parts of the island which many visitors rarely see. Many of the trails have mysterious and intriguing names like "Gru-Gru Boeuf", "Wild Cow Trace", "Sky Loops" and "Chocolate Cake" - your guide will explain all!
Off-road Jeep Safari
An adrenaline packed adventure which takes you off the beaten track, rattling along secluded dirt roads, through rivers and across old plantations. It is a chance to see a Tobago often hidden from view. Most tours start from the Caribbean Sea coast before heading into the heart of the island and includes a visit to a sugar cane factory; opportunities to spot the snouts and bulging eyes of caimans; stunning coastal views and the chance to swim in the pool at the base of the little-visited Highland Waterfall. Friendly and professional guides point out the rainforest's flora and fauna and share their expert knowledge of the island. A truly memorable way to explore Tobago.
There is nothing quite as refreshing as taking a dip in one of Tobago's waterfalls. The steepness of the main part of the island means there are plenty to choose from. Some are just a short walk from the roadside like the falls at Parlatuvier and King's Bay. Others require a bit more stamina and a guide as they are deep in Tobago's rainforest. The most well-known waterfall on Tobago is at Argyle, where there are three falls to choose from. Guides will eagerly take you the easy walk to the first of the waterfalls but expect an energetic and challenging climb to the other two. You are rewarded though with deep pools at the top where you will be alone and away from the crowds, giving you the chance to float and daydream while taking in the stunning forest canopy overhead.
Pembroke Heritage Park
Situated on the site of an old plantation, the park is a cultural centre and is often used for celebrations during July's Tobago Heritage Festival. As well as a covered circular stage, the park also has a dirt oven and a mini cocoa house, where visitors can find out more about one of the crops for which Tobago is famous. On Fridays villagers use the park's dirt oven to cook bread and other baked goods, allowing you to sample mouthwatering delights baked in a traditional way.
Tobago has two world-class golf courses - Tobago Plantations and Mount Irvine - both beautifully woven into the landscape of old coconut plantations. There are some remnants of the plantation days, giving you the chance to glimpse Tobago's rich history while playing your 18 holes. Both courses attract plenty of wildlife. Tobago Plantations, on the wind-blown Atlantic coast has lakes, woodland thickets, beaches, mangroves and wild grass, allowing you to glimpse many examples of Tobago's stunning birdlife. You may even see a caiman as you take your shot. Mount Irvine offers stunning views of the Caribbean Sea. Magnificent frigates, terns and gulls glide overhead as you tee off.
To find out more about these and many more exciting ocean adventures on Tobago or to book your holiday visit the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association's new website at www.tobagohoteltourism.com or phone (868) 639-9543.
- August 14th, 2013.
5 HISTORIC ADVENTURES ON TOBAGO
Tobago has a rich historic past having been captured more times than any other island in the Caribbean. Over the centuries its been fought over by the French, British, Dutch and the Courlanders and each of these nations have left their mark on the island. In 1807 15,000 slaves were freed on Tobago following the Abolition of the Slave Trade and they too have also contributed to the rich cultural tapestry of Tobago. Prior to the discovery of Tobago by the Europeans, the island was home to three early Amerindian cultures including the Arawaks and the Caribs. Here are some suggestions to make the most of your visit to Tobago and discover more about the island's fascinating history.
Fort King George and the Tobago Museum
Built in the early 1770s by the British, Fort King George is Tobago's best preserved fort. It sits on the hill overlooking the island's capital Scarborough and was used as a military prison more than a hundred and fifty years ago. Several of the fort's buildings have been preserved including the Officers' Mess, powder magazine and lighthouse. Cannon grace the manicured grounds which has incredible panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Inside the restored Barrack Guard House is the Tobago Museum, home to thousands of artifacts relating to Tobago's past. There are examples of early Amerindian pottery, antique maps and coins and military relics as well as displays relating to slavery. A real historic highlight of your trip.
The Battle of Scarborough, 1677
Two of Tobago's bloodiest sea battles took place in February and December of 1677. The Dutch and French both wanted control of Tobago and when the countries' warships met the result was the death of thousands, including French and Dutch women and children and African slaves. Three centuries later and the remains of twenty warships and their undiscovered artifacts are still in the muddy bottom of what is now Scarborough harbour. This bloody period of Tobago history is about to feature in a new docudrama, Tobago 1677. Filming has already taken place in Tobago and now the production company, Oceans Discovery, is currently editing the footage before the film's release. Visit the film's locations including Fort King George and Parlatuvier.
Silk Cotton Tree at Runnemede
Towering some 40 meters above the Northside Road, this silk cotton tree has witnessed more than two hundred and fifty years of Tobago's history and firmly links the island to its African roots. The folk story of Gang Gang Sara, the most well known in Tobago folklore, is the epitome of this. Gang Gang Sara was the resident village obeah (voodoo) woman in the 1700s. She had flown to Tobago straight from Africa and settled in Les Coteaux, but after her husband died, she tried to fly back home.
She launched herself from a silk cotton, but sadly she had eaten salt and could no longer fly, so she fell to her death beside the great tree.
Can you solve the mystery of the tombstone at Plymouth? The tomb of Betty Stiven, who died in the 18th century, is inscribed with the strange epitaph: Beneath these walls are deposited the body of Mrs. Betty Stiven and her child. She was the beloved wife of Alex B Stiven. To the end of his days will deplore her death, which happened upon the 25th November 1783 in the 23rd year of her age. What was remarkable of her, she was a mother without knowing it, and a wife without letting her husband know it except by her kind indulgence to him. There are many theories about what this means, the most common is that this was an inter-racial romance between a white slave master and a black female slave. At the time this would have been taboo. Others claims that Betty gave birth to her child while unconscious. To date none of these theories have been proved although that doesn't stop people from trying to guess.
Tobago Cocoa Estate
From the 1860s to the early 1920s Trinidad and Tobago was one of the biggest producers of cocoa in the world. It was grown on many of the larger plantations, such as Roxborough and Richmond, and by individual farmers. But production virtually came to a standstill after prices collapsed and the crop developed witchbroom disease. Hurricane Flora in 1963 was the final disaster for this once thriving industry. But Tobago is once again making its mark with cocoa. Duane Dove is reviving the 47-acre Roxborough Cocoa Estate, and his crop is now in demand all over the world. Tours of the now renamed Tobago Cocoa Estate offer you the chance to get your taste buds around a piece of Tobago history.
- August 7th, 2013.
5 ECO ADVENTURES ON TOBAGO
Tobago has to be one of the most bio-diverse nations, per square mile, in the Caribbean. It boasts an unbelievable variety of natural wonders. Its South American heritage - like Trinidad, Tobago was once joined to the mainland - has left a legacy of plants, birds, insects, fish and mammals both on land and in the ocean. Usually on Tobago you slow down to "island time" but you can pack in plenty of eco adventures during your stay, even in one day if you want. Here are some suggestions for an itinerary.
Tobago is a paradise for birdwatchers. The island has more than 250 species of tropical birds and you can see them everywhere - from bananaquits pecking your leftovers from your breakfast plate and hummingbirds on feeders and the incredible jewelled mot mot, to magnificent frigates, sea hawks and brown pelicans catching the thermoclines over the ocean and nesting red billed tropic birds in the cliffs. Experienced local guides can take you to the best spots such as Little Tobago, Tobago Plantations, Bon Accord and Buccoo wetlands the Main Ridge and Forest Reserve, the Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Sanctuary and Cuffie River. Many of them know the calls and songs of the birds increasing your chances of seeing what might be on your bucket list. It is advisable to go early morning too to catch the amazing sound of the dawn chorus.
11am: Glass Bottom Boat Tour of Buccoo Reef
French undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau named Tobago's largest reef as the third most spectacular reef in the world. It was declared a marine protected area in 1973 and is home to 40 species of coral and a variety of aquatic life. A trip on a glass bottom boat is the only way to see it. Boats leave twice daily from Store Bay where it is a short ride out to the reef. Here you'll have the chance to snorkel the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. There's is every chance you will have an encounter with a ray, turtle or one of the hundreds of species of colourful, tropical fish which live on the reef. It is a fantastic way to discover Tobago's incredible underwater world.
2pm: Horse Riding
Whether its an exhilarating canter on the beach or a slow hack through an historic plantation, horse riding in Tobago is suitable for all levels of riders. Horse riding offers you the unique chance to really immerse yourself in your surroundings. There are two stables in the south of the island which offer a range of experiences. One of the most popular is the swim and trail. After a hack down to the beach, rider and horse enter the ocean where the horses swim along the bay, often at shoulder height. Many describe this experience as being the highlight of their holiday as it allows them to feel completely "at one" with nature.
5pm: Stand Up Paddle Boarding
One of the best ways to see Tobago's diverse mangrove swamps is by stand up paddle board. The swamps are a vital part of Tobago's eco-system and act as nurseries for all kinds of species. With the wind in your hair you can glide around the lagoon, glancing down to catch the tips of a stingray's wings breaking the water or glimpsing a turtle coming up for air. On land, egret chicks, cocricos, herons and other nesting birds will provide the soundtrack to your experience. Tours are available of the Petit Trou Lagoon and the Bon Accord Lagoon. The basics can be learnt in just one lesson making it an ideal, easy way to get up, close and personal with nature. For those who are more experienced there is the chance to surf the waves at the end of your tour.
10pm: Leatherback Turtle Watching
Between March and September the largest of all living sea turtles return to Tobago to lay their eggs. These incredible creatures usually nest at night, heaving themselves up onto the beach and then digging a nest before laying. Often they cry tears - a way for the females to release excess salt from their systems after being so long at sea. It is an immensely intimate two hour experience which is definitely worth doing as sadly leatherbacks are endangered. Many authorised guides will arrange to ring you when a female comes ashore so you can witness this magical feat of nature. If you come later in the season there is every chance you will witness the palm-sized hatchling leatherbacks making their way to the sea. It is a mass of tiny flippers and sand as these babies make a dash for the ocean, trying to avoid predators. An experience you'll treasure forever.
- July 31st, 2013.
5 CULTURAL ADVENTURES ON TOBAGO
Tobago has one of the richest cultures in the Caribbean, as diverse as the countries which invaded and colonized it. The biggest influence on Tobago's culture comes from the island's African ancestry which permeates dance, song, folklore, superstitions, stories and community life. Tobagonians are unsurprisingly proud and passionate about their cultural heritage and love sharing and showcasing it to visitors.
This is one custom that everyone is welcome to take part in - the daily communal hauling in of fish. Traditionally a huge net - know as a seine - is cast close to shore and then it is pulled in by hand. Fishermen and volunteers drag the net to shallow water, often heavy with small fish like sprats and jacks to larger fish like dolphin and tuna. Anyone can help pull in the catch, part of which can be claimed as payment for the effort. The number of nets used depends on the size of the bay and the size of the village. This time-honoured custom has been taking place in Tobago for at least one hundred and fifty years and today is a regular feature in fishing villages like Castara, Charlotteville, Grafton and Black Rock. This cooperative work ethic, called "len han" (lending a hand) can be traced back to Africa; the method was adopted by Tobago's slave population after Emancipation to build homes and work the land.
If you happen to miss the pulling seine, then you can always buy fresh fish at any of the fisherman's markets up and down the island - a true Tobago experience.
Nothing tells you more eloquently that you have well and truly arrived in Tobago than the sound of the national instrument - steel pan. Nearly every village has a pan band and it is well worth attending their practice nights throughout the year to hear the instrument's evocative and distinct sound. Over the decades pan has evolved from the instrument of poverty to one of the most cherished; all over the world steel pan resonates at carnivals, bringing the sound of the Caribbean to a wider audience. The modern steel pan was invented in Trinidad during the Second World War from the readily available steel drums discarded by the oil refineries on the island. Prior to that its history can be traced back to the 1800s where freed slaves created their own instruments out of bamboo and performed in so-called "Tamboo Bamboo" bands. These bands were banned by the British colonial government at the start of the war, forcing people to look at other ways to make music. When the war ended in 1945, Trinidadians celebrated on the streets with their newly discovered instrument. The stationing of American servicemen during the war years helped to popularise pan and bring it to an international audience.
Folklore and Traditions
Heavily based on Tobago's African influences, the island's folklore is a mix of fascinating myths, stories and superstitions. Nearly every village has a performing or cultural arts group where these traditions are kept alive throughout the year. Speech bands are the keepers of Tobago's oral traditions, dancing and performing songs which focus on issues of political and social importance, often with a humorous or satirical twist. The Tobago Speech Band has strong links with the Tambrin Band which is made up of fiddles, a triangle and the Tambrin drum (similar to a tambourine). The Tambrin drum was created by slaves after the British colonial government outlawed traditional African drumming, music, dances and religious worship. This percussion instrument is often used during ceremonial occasions and usually accompanies one of the island's distinct dances, the Reel and Jig. This dance is British in origin but with strong African influence and is traditionally performed at weddings, christenings, thanksgivings and healing ceremonies. Other Tobago customs include folk cures using "bush medicine" such as bush rum or bamboo leaf for fevers and colds, bois canor or monkey paw leaves for coughs, noni fruit for boosting the immune system and traditional courtship rituals where prospective bridegrooms must pass a test of strength to win the lady.
Nothing religious about this weekly Tobago fixture on the social calendar. It is instead a loud and vibrant street party held at Buccoo every Sunday. It starts at 9pm when the Buccooneers Steel Orchestra entertain the crowds with traditional steel pan. There are also dozens of craft, food and even gambling stalls. The party really comes alive after 11pm when the main sound system is cranked up, filling the night with Soca, Chutney, R&B, Jamaican dancehall and the odd classic from your schooldays. Come with plenty of energy as the party will not stop until dawn.
Sunday School has come a long way from its origins. It was started in 1972 in Buccoo by Fitzroy Hendrix Parris who opened his bar, The Original Sunday School on Chance Street. He wanted to provide a place for people to socialise on a Sunday evening, naming it after the traditional religious Sunday School which was extremely popular in Tobago. Since then it's become the place to be at the end of the week
Harvest and Fisherman's Fetes
These really are at the core of community life in Tobago, where villages take turns throughout the year to come together and give thanks. Generally it begins with a church service before villagers go home to cook. There is the atmosphere of a village fair with music and dance. Each household in the village throws open its doors and visitors and friends alike are urged to sample a delicious range of food from stewed chicken and curried crab to cassava, barbecue fish and macaroni pie. Where else could you call in at a stranger's house and be welcomed inside for food and drink?
Community life is still a vital part of Tobago culture. In many parts of the island villagers still come together to lay the foundations of a new home in their community.
- July 24th, 2013.
5 CULINARY ADVENTURES ON TOBAGO
One of the exciting things about travelling is discovering new flavours to get your palate jumping and Tobago won't disappoint. Cuisine here and in Tobago's neighbouring sister-isle Trinidad is an addictive fusion of African, Indian, Chinese, European and Latin American influences. Over time these influences have been blended to create a distinct and unique culinary style far more interesting than the typical food found elsewhere in the Caribbean. A visit here is guaranteed to get your taste buds tingling and you will certainly leave with a full and satisfied stomach. Here are just a few of the indigenous culinary treats on offer in Tobago.
Crab and Dumplin'
This is Tobago's signature dish; blue crab cooked in its own shell with a coconut curry sauce served with boiled dumplings. It can be classed as a Creole dish - in Tobago this refers to African style cooking which has absorbed other influences along the way. You don't need knives and forks just your fingers and some patience to eat this. Use your teeth to crack the shell before sucking out the sweet crab meat. The dumplings are incredibly filling but are the perfect instrument to soak and scoop up the delicious coconut curry sauce. Have plenty of napkins to hand as it can get a bit messy! Fresh seafood is one of best things about Tobago cuisine and is extremely popular in Creole cooking here; you can expect to see steaks of king fish, tuna, marlin and dorado on most menus as well as fillets of snapper and flying fish, conch and lobster.
Known locally as ground provisions, these are root vegetables which will accompany nearly every local meal you eat. It is a firm staple of the local diet and is highly nutritious, much more so than the Irish potato which is popular internationally. Traditionally blue food specifically refers to dasheen (also known as taro), so named because it turns a blue-white colour when cooked. The term now encompasses other locally grown vegetables such as cassava, sweet potato, breadfruit, pumpkin and plantain. Over the years Tobagonian cooks have taken the humble dasheen and turned it into arguably one of the most diverse vegetables in the region. Now it is used in appetizers, entrees, desserts, beverages and liqueurs - anything you can imagine from lasagne to ice cream. The leaves of dasheen, which are similar to spinach, are traditionally cooked with okra and coconut milk to make the national dish of Tobago and Trinidad, callaloo. It is served as a side dish on most menus.
If it is Saturday then you can guarantee that many on Tobago will be enjoying a bowl of cow heel soup. Traditionally soup was served at lunchtime where everything in the ice box was brought together to make a nutritionally rich meal for families. It meant the ice box was empty, ready to restock at the market on a Sunday. Today the most popular soups in Tobago include cow heel, pig tail, fish broth and corn. Many of the soups are so filling that its unlikely you'll want bread with it. But if you still have room to spare then nothing tastes sweeter than the bread baked in the traditional clay ovens at Castara and Parlatuvier.
Raw cocoa was once a major export from Tobago so its not surprising that it features as part of the island's culinary culture. Chocolate tea is a breakfast drink made from grated cocoa balls which also contain nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar. It is mixed with condensed milk and water and then boiled. Other spices may be added before it is strained. It can be accompanied with bread or coconut bake, a non yeast bread which is sweetened or flavoured with grated coconut. High quality trinitario cocoa beans grown on the island are now being used to make gourmet chocolate which is available locally and internationally - a must for any chocoholic.