For those who know Tobago, this independent streak is what makes it so special. It is a Caribbean island that has shunned the standard, polished development; on Tobago, high rise hotels and glossy resorts are replaced by gingerbread houses and wild tropical gardens, and nothing can be built higher than a coconut palm
. Wooden fishing boats outnumber yachts and cruise ships, and home cooked stews – made with a pinch of pepper and a whole spoonful of love – take favour over international buffets. But the Tobagonians have learned to strike the balance between craziness and cosiness, roughing it and relaxation.
They just recognise that, sometimes, gazing off your balcony at the fishing boats bobbing in the deep emerald ocean is a better option than a TV screen – although there’s never a substitute for a comfortable bed and a full night’s sleep to a backdrop of crashing waves.
There are postcard-perfect beaches here, of course – but unlike the rest of the Caribbean, these are often seen as just one jewel in a treasure chest of land and sea activities, the prize at the end of a long day horse riding, sailing or surfing. With over 200 bird species in an island 42km long, the birding is world class. The Main Ridge rainforest is one of the world’s first examples of conservation – protected for almost two and a half centuries, and now a haven for hikers, mountain bikers and elusive island wildlife. Tobago’s underwater ecosystems are equally as bounteous – with over 60 dive sites spanning all abilities, scuba diving is one of the biggest draws. When you do, finally, get to sprawl on that gem of a beach, you may find yourself itching to get out and snorkel the reef – or captivated by a tiny, hatching turtle.
Tobago’s famous exports betray its love of the good life – chocolate and calypso, carnival and coconut rum – and being indulged is, ultimately the theme of any vacation to Tobago. The triumph is, however, that Tobagonians have managed to achieve thoroughly spoiling their guests – without spoiling any of their sparkling natural and cultural treasures.