In Trinidad everyone works hard. People always seem busy with their day-to-day hustle and bustle. Tobago is a place to play!
At 6am on DAY 5 the ferry departed from Port of Spain and set sail for Tobago. The two hour trip to Tobago is a great way to catch more of a glimpse of the coastline. For the most part the boat ride is smooth sailing, but the last 20 min. of the journey was the first time I’ve ever experienced sea sickness. I was able to keep it under control but there was a few not so lucky guest that regurgitated their breakfast.
(Ferry docked in Tobago)
Once on dry land in Tobago all of the sickness subsided. Tobago is a magical place. Much smaller than its political counterpart, Tobago thrives on tourism. After a quick bite to eat at a local shop we started our day of touring the island. Traveling around the entire island only takes about 2 hours so we rented a car and made our way around the loop of Tobago.
Known for its pristine beaches and expansive rain forests, Tobago boasts the oldest protected forests in the western hemisphere. It has turned into a hot spot for eco-tourism, and although touring the rain forests was tempting with only a short time to spend on the island we decided to just be beach bums. Driving around from beach to beach we spent the day in Tobago enjoying the scenery, eating in local restaurants and cooling off in the water. My favorite was the picture perfect beach in the seaside village of Castara on the northern shore of the island. All of the beaches in Tobago had a relaxed and inviting atmosphere and were surprisingly empty. Although this is the slow season, apparently the beaches are normally like this. Tobago also lacks massive hotel chains dominating the skyline. The hotels on the island are smaller and seem to blend seamlessly with the natural environment of the country. This is one gem of the Caribbean that has yet to be discovered by the masses.
(Beach in Castara.**My Favorite picture of the trip**)
(Sign overlooking Englishman’s Bay.)
(Steelpan drummers on the street in Tobago)
(View from the hotel room patio)
After two wonderful days on the island unfortunately we had to leave it’s beautiful shores. Opting out of the boat trip back we decided to take a plane instead. The short 15 minute flight back to Trinidad was on a small, propeller plane my dad would refer to as a “crop duster.” Back in Trinidad we made our way to the Caroni Swamp for a bird watching tour. The bird sanctuary here is home to flamingos, egrets, and the scarlet ibis. The highlight of the tour is the ibis’ nesting ground on a small, isolated island. At dusk hundreds of the bright red birds descend on it to stay safe from predators throughout the night. We also saw multiple fish going airborne out of the water, a boa constrictor, and a spectacled caiman (similar to a gator, only smaller) on the prowl.
(Caiman on the shore)
Filed under beach, bird sanctuary, caiman, Caroni Swamp, Castara, eco-tourism, scarlet ibis, Tobago, tourism, travel, Trinidad
Sitting 1,000 ft above Port of Spain, Fort George was built by the British in 1804. Nestled high above the town the fort was used to monitor all advancements on the capital city. From the vantage point at Fort George you have an amazing birds-eye-view of all of Port of Spain. The beautiful view of the city and the conveniently placed picnic tables and decorative landscaping make it a favorite for locals wanting a small escape from city life. The only problem with the fort is the journey 1000ft up the mountain to reach it! The windy one-and-a-half lane road up the mountain with no guard rails (I repeat, no guard rails!) was treacherous and I probably wouldn’t have made it safely without an experienced driver. But besides risking your immediate safety it’s a great place!
(Cannons overlooking the city.)
After trekking down the side of the mountain we journeyed into Port of Spain to go on an impromptu tour. This was our first real day of going into the heart of the city and it is a very lively place, especially during lunch hour. I got a little taste of home from the pedestrians who blindly darted in front of oncoming traffic. It reminded me of UGA’s campus, specifically the intersection of Baldwin St. and Sanford Dr. during class change. Once in the city we made a pit stop at Queen’s Park Oval, the cricket stadium. With a capacity of 25,000 people it is the West Indies largest cricket grounds and is home to the Trinidad & Tobago cricket team. Our guide, with surprising ease, talked our way into the stadium although it was closed. It was eerie actually being inside the empty stadium after researching so much about the sport before the trip (see “Cricket” post).
(Queen’s Park Oval)
At the official halfway marker for the trip, today we ventured out of Port of Spain into the southwest region of the island. Our destination was San Fernando and it’s premier attraction San Fernando Hill. Affectionately referred to as simply “The Hill” by locals, the limestone formation is the tallest point in the region. The Hill provides excellent views of the of south and central Trinidad, the Gulf Of Paria, and on a clear day, the coast of nearby Venezuela. Unfortunately today was slightly overcast and Venezuela was not visible but the Hill still offered a very commanding viewpoint. Being employed by the UGA Vistors Center, I was excited to learn that the Hill had its own “Visitor Centre.” This pathetic excuse for a visitors center was disheartening. The entire building was empty. Not a single brochure, pamphlet, tour guide, information desk, NOTHING! The only thing their “Visitor Centre” offered was a flight of unmarked stairs that led to a look out point. Needless to say I was very disappointed but overall the Hill was still a powerful attraction.
(misleading “Visitors Centre” sign)(EMPTY Visitors Centre!)(View coming down from the Hill)
On the trip back to Port of Spain we were able to see some of the industry that keeps the island afloat financially. Unlike many of its neighbors in the Caribbean, tourism is not Trinidad’s main source of revenue. The thriving oil and gas industries are the country’s main source of income. We travelled through some of the oil fields and were able to see some of the oil refineries that support the area. We also saw Pitch Lake, the largest natural asphalt deposit in the world. “Discovered” by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595 it has fascinated explorers, scientists, and tourists ever since. Now it provides a boost to the local economy through the exportation of the asphalt for road construction.
(Pitch Lake)(Oil refinery)
To cap off the midway point in the trip we ate dinner at the marina. The restaurant was hidden away in a place that only locals and “yachtees” (yacht owners parked in the marina) knew about. The food was great, but the atmosphere was better. The patio sat on the water with the sights and sounds of the marina engulfing you. As the sun slowly faded away past the horizon, the mesmerizing sound of the waves slowly crashing into the shore was profoundly peaceful. A true Trinidadian way to end the day: Liming.
Filed under cricket, economy, Fort George, mountain, oil, pedestrians, Port of Spain, Queen's Oval Park, Tobago, tourism, travel, Trinidad, UGA campus, Visitors Center