Explore Trinidad and Tobago
There are lots of things to do while visiting Trinidad. It is not just a great place to store your boat and to do repair work at the various marinas in Chaguaramas, there are many other experiences waiting for you .in this country.
For Nature Lovers there are quite a number of lovely spots to visit and also for the more adventurous hikers. Most famous is the Asa Wright Nature Centre ("named one of the 1,000 places to visit before you die") which is situated in the Northern Range. Asa Wright is great for a short visit or you can stay for a few nights and bird watch, photograph or just relax.
Nariva Swamp is also a great place to visit and is a sanctuary for migratory birds and the endangered manatee. You can also view the red howler monkeys, beautiful macaws, capuchin monkeys and caimans. The Caroni Swamp features flocks of Scarlet Ibis (the national bird of Trinidad) best visited in the evenings when they come home to roost.
The Pointe-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust is one of the most unusual bird sanctuaries as it is set in the midst of an oil refinery complex. It is devoted to the breeding of endangered species of waterfowl and also hosts many migratory birds and water fowls of North America. Trinidad also has one of the natural wonders of the world -Pitch Lake. It is one of only three in the world and Trinidad is the worlds largest and the only one that is mined to build roads from natural asphalt.
For those wanting a more cultural experience, there are a number of interesting museums to visit. The National Museum of Port of Spain houses a collection of Amerindian artefacts as well as painting and contemporary works of art. The Chaguaramas Military & Aviation Museum chronicles Trinidad military history from 1948, and there is a special exhibit portraying soldiers of World War One and World War Two.
The Angostura Distillery which is the second largest rum distillery in the Caribbean is most famous for its world renowned Angostura Bitters and is the only place in the world where it is made. The distillery produces a wide variety of rum and alcoholic beverages. A visit to the Pan Factory is also an enjoyable experience, the steelpan being the only percussion instrument invented during the 20th century. At the factory you can see how this amazing instrument is made.
The country has a high percentage of Hindus and a visit to the Temple in the Sea and the 85ft. Murti is a good opportunity to get a taste of their culture and religion. The Temple in the Sea was built by an indentured labour named Siewdas Sadhu. Before the 1950’s, Hinduism was not recognized by the colonials, so when he built his first temple on the beach, it was destroyed and he was imprisoned for a short while. But he was not deterred and decided to build his temple out in the sea.
Going on a city sight-seeing trip with a guide is a wonderful and informative experience, as there is much history to be enjoyed as well as historical buildings to view. A visit to Fort George which is situated in the hills of St. James lies 1100ft. above sea level, was built in 1805. One can see the original dungeons, cannon balls and implements used by soldiers. It has a fabulous view of Port of Spain as well. If you do an evening visit, you can enjoy a fabulous sunset. While doing your city tour you can also visit the Emperor Valley Zoo and the Botanical Gardens.
For the Beach lovers there are a number of nice beaches along the North Coast including Maracas Beach which is undoubtedly the most popular beach. There, one must sample the local delicacy; bake and shark.
Seasonally there are lots of festivals to be enjoyed as well as one of nature’s fascinating giants which return to the shores of Trinidad between the months of March to August; "The Giant Leatherback Turtles". These creatures are the largest of the marine species weighing between 700-1000lbs and 5-8ft in length. There are two hotels along one of the beaches where you can stay overnight to observe the nest of the leatherback or you can go to another beach where you can go view the turtles in one evening.
In October, Trinidad & Tobago Hindus celebrate Divali; the Festival of lights. On Divali night many villages and neighbourhoods bend bamboo into different shapes which are then festooned with tiny clay vessels for oil which are lit at sundown making a beautiful sight. Everyone is dressed in their best traditional Indian wear to visit neighbours and share home-made sweets and traditional vegetarian foods.
During December, Trinidad offers another cultural experience “Parang”. Traditionally Parang was the traditional and religious music sung in Spanish by workers here in Trinidad in rural areas. They would take their quartos and maracas and go house-to-house on the few nights before and after Christmas. Nowadays it is much more organized with national competitions and amplified instruments but the old songs are the same and it is a much loved part of Christmas here. In addition there are many traditional Christmas Concerts to attend.
Trinidad has so much beauty, nature and culture to offer! Enjoy it to the fullest!
Mention "Tobago" and images of blue seas meeting white sandy beaches, green lush untouched forests and beautiful healthy colourful reefs teeming with wildlife come to mind!
There are many comfortable and safe anchorages in and around Tobago but before you drop anchor, it would be a good idea to talk to other cruisers that have experienced Tobago for their recommendations. For instance in bays like Pirate's Bay, Charlotteville or Castara, fishermen sometimes cast and set their seine nets in the bays and at those times, it would not be wise to anchor in their fishing areas.
Marker buoys are in use and sanctioned by the Association of Tobago Dive Operators, The Tobago House of Assembly (Government) and the Buccoo Reef Trust. These buoys mark the protected reef areas so do not drop anchor within their bounds towards the shore line. Remember to stay well clear of the reefs; anchors and chains (applies to dinghies as well) can cause extensive damage to the reef.
Here are some tips for boaters, cruisers and divers using the waters around Tobago:
- 1. Anchor only in designated areas.
- 2. When using dinghies please do not drop anchor on the reefs; even small anchors cause great damage.
- 3. Bag and dispose garbage ashore in marked bins; not on the piers and jetties.
- 4. Avoid tying (especially locking) dinghies in the middle of a pier. Dive boats, Coast Guard boats, fishing boats and even Cruise Ship passenger launches use these piers for loading and off-loading people, fish, supplies, dive tanks, fuels, etc. Dinghies have been damaged in the past so please ask for permission.
Some travel writers have described Tobago as an advanced dive destination, most likely due in part to the popularity of the drift dives. During late November and into February, like so many Caribbean islands, the swells caused by the North Atlantic storms pound the shores. March tends to be a very windy month (beware the ides of March!) and this also has the effect of causing some rough surface conditions. The months of April, May and June (the dry season) have the best diving conditions i.e.; calm seas, blue clear waters with very little rain to affect visibility.
To assist divers as to the character of specific dive sites, the following keys are used:
- E – Easy
- D – Diving
- A – Advanced
- S – Snorkelling
Dive Caribbean Coast
The northern coast of Tobago stretches from Store Bay to Charlotteville and can generally be described as rock reefs with encrusting sponge and coral growth, but also comprises some wreck diving.
Kariwak Reef (E - 20-40 ft. D S): Located at Store Bay, this site is quite often used for check dives or classes. It is a good site to look for Seahorses and Frogfish and is home to one of the largest Green Morays you'll ever set eyes on.
Mount Irvine Wall (E - 30-60 ft. D): More of a picket fence than a wall; this site is great for searching out the unusual. Again lots of Frogfish and Octopi with occasional appearances by Seahorses and Bat fish.
M/V Maverick (60-100 ft. D): Originally named the M/V Scarlet Ibis, this car ferry once provided a vital link between Tobago and Trinidad. She now provides shelter for a number of fish and a playground for divers since being deliberately sunk in 1997 as an artificial reef. Laying perfectly upright on the sea floor, she gives the appearance of still being underway.
The Sisters (E A - 50-130 ft. D): Cold upwelling from December thru April draw the Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks closer into the pinnacles. Averaging nine feet in length, an encounter with the “big boys” is sure to make for a memorable dive. On the other end of the scale, keep your eyes open for the rare dwarf Angel Fishes such as Cherub Fish and Flame back Angels. There is an abundance of life at this site which has large rocks coming up from a depth of 120 ft. and series of channels and passages that are fun to swim through. There are three dive sites here.
Pirates Bay Reef (E - 20-40 ft. D S): This dive site is used for the beginners in Man of War Bay, Charlotteville; it is a very easy site with a beach entry from Pirate’s Bay or the Jetty at Charlotteville; lots of life including turtles and seahorses.
Landslide (E - 20-70 ft. D S): This is a great dive site for beginners; many cruisers enjoy this bay for snorkelling since it is sheltered and usually calm. There are lots of juvenile fish and hard and soft corals. It also makes a great night dive site.
Man of War Bay Reef / Long Rock (20-110 ft. D S): “Rugged with underwater mountains” some have said of the dive but easy entry from Breakfast Bay allows divers either a westerly dive or easterly back into the Bay. The dive site includes the Long Rock wall and is quite spectacular as one looks up into the surge above. The Tarpons love it in these conditions.
Brothers:(30-100ft. D): A group of rocks south of Man of War Bay, it lies almost parallel with the Sisters but is located much closer to the mainland. The site is similar to the Sisters except at one of the points, there are huge boulders (almost square and rectangular) that have become home to many large fish.
St. Giles: The islands known as Melville Island, Marble Island, London Bridge and Three Rock make up a group of islands of the northern tip of Tobago known collectively as St. Giles. They all sit on the edge of the continental shelf of Trinidad & Tobago and South America. This of course means that the diving around these islands can be deep and at times advanced. All of the islands mentioned have some easy dives, but most are recommended for advanced divers, all should be done with a dive master who knows the area.
The Speyside dive sites are well known for the rich biodiversity of life which seems to thrive on the currents that exist allowing for great drift diving. Speyside area offers some of the most spectacular dive sites in Tobago
Kelliston Drain / Little Tobago Drift (E A - 20-130 ft. D S): This is considered one of the favourite dives on Tobago; it offers one of our best chances of seeing the Manta Rays. It starts as a flat reef at 5 ft. and gently slopes down to 60 ft. passing by one of the largest measured brain corals in the world. Occasionally there is a strong current. A very beautiful dive!
Blackjack Hole (E - 20-130 ft. D S): Just two minutes separates the Kelliston Drain with Blackjack but they are both different. The reef drops away more sharply; the dive starts in just 15 feet of water where many schools of fish abound. There is also a good chance of seeing the manta rays.
Bookends (A - 10-130 ft. D): This is an outcropping of rocks which from a distance resemble two bookends without the books in-between. A beautiful dive with a gently sloping coral reef! Usually there are only slight currents which will carry the divers along at an easy pace. At the start of the dive one is very likely to see the 3-5 foot tarpons swimming around close to the surface. Further down the reef there are many schools of snapper and the usual abundance of reef fish and life.
Do It (A - 30-130 ft. D): This is another group of rocks which are located just south of the dive "blackjack hole"; the surface is usually a bit rougher, more out to sea and more exposed. This rock has a steep side which is covered in corals and sponges of all kinds; the other being shallower equally covered with corals. Many turtles are seen around here. There are usually currents at the western point and this sometimes prevents the divers from making all the way around the rock, hence the name.....Did you do it ? Do what? Get all the way round the rocks! A spectacular dive for the advanced, although during the period June to October it is usually easy for all to “Do It”.
Shark Bank (A - 30-130 ft. D): This rock/reef is exposed and tends to be a bit rough on the surface; the sides of the rocks are covered with coral and drop away sharply. Much reef life exists including an occasional shark.
Japanese Gardens (A - 20-130 ft. D S): Another one of the great Speyside dives starting at the end of Goat Island where you swim over a reef filled with corals and sponges of all types (including swarms of reef fish of all types). As you get to the point, the current picks up; stay close to the dive master as he will lead you through a rock passage at around 45 feet that ends with you being dumped over a beautifully landscaped area resembling that of a Japanese garden. A dive for everyone, beginners should be under the wing of the dive master since the currents could cause some difficulty.
Angel Reef (E A - 10-130 ft. D S): The advanced divers may want to go deep and the novices stay shallow; there's something for everyone. The dive starts at a point just in front of the house on Goat Island where sometimes there is a gentle current.
Dive South Coast
The south coast is bathed by the Atlantic Ocean and hosts the only true drift dives in Tobago. The dive sites are a mixture of coral reef, rocky ledges and wrecks, providing more encounters with Stingrays, Hawksbill Turtles and Nurse Sharks than anywhere else in Tobago.
Cove Ledge (30-40 ft.): The ledge shelters Green Morays, Hawksbill Turtles and Nurse Sharks.
Diver's Dream (30-70 ft.): A plateau 3 km south of the airport; this site plays home to huge schools of Grunts and Snapper and provides encounters with Barracuda, Stingrays, Hawksbill Turtles, Nurse and Black Tip Reef Sharks. Let's not forget the schooling pelagics such as Horse Eyed Jacks.
Flying Reef (30 to 50 ft.): This favourite dive site runs parallel to Tobago’s runway and with the right drift, will allow you to cover over a mile of reef during a single dive. Multiple sightings of Stingrays, Hawksbill Turtles and Nurse Sharks occur on this dive.
S/S Kioto (40 ft.): Built in 1918, this 347 foot British merchantman met her end on the 15 September 1942 at the hands of Hans Juergen Auffermann, the commander of U-514. Due to the shallow depth, she has broken open over the years with the boilers and propeller providing excellent photo opportunities as do schooling Barracuda and Nurse Sharks.
As usual the best visibility may be found on the rising tides. Be aware that even in sheltered bays there may be some currents at tide change. Caution must be exercised so as not to be alone in the water and be swept out to sea with the currents. Dive operators will provide a “watch” for the divers to follow, account and pick up the divers at the end of the dive and especially careful on a drift dives. Divers should be confident that this is the case. It is always best to use dive operators that subscribe to these principles.
In the event of an emergency, calls for help or assistance can be made on VHF 68, VHF 16 or telephone 990 for ambulance. All dive boats should have medical oxygen on board which could be administered with all suspected cases of decompression illness. A call should also be made to the Department of Marine Resources which is the body that operates the one recompression chamber on the island which this is situated at Roxborough Health Facility next to the playing field and Fire Services Building. This chamber is functional and run by Mr. Kerwin Sampson and Dr. Santana is the medical doctor in charge.
Important and Useful Telephone Numbers
Ambulance and Fire