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Tobago has so much to offer

CLASS ACT: Kool & The Gang perform at the Jazz Festival

THE RECENT Tobago Jazz Festival once again confirmed the unspoilt charm of the island. Tobago is the little sister to her twin island Trinidad, with a population of just 50,000 Tobago truly is the undiscovered jewel of the Caribbean. A short journey from the UK, you can fly there direct with British Airways in 8 hours.

The island is only 40km long so nowhere is far from the airport. With average daytime temperatures of 28 degrees, and some of the most beautiful beaches, waterfalls, rainforests, wildlife, fine dining and home produced rum there is something for everyone in Tobago.

The island has a rich cultural history; the Caribs and the Arawaks were the natives before good old Christopher Columbus arrived in 1498. The island then changed hands between the English, French, Dutch and Courlanders. From the 1890s thousands of Indians immigrated to Trinidad and Tobago and these many influences are particularly noticeable in the fantastic cuisine which is a combination of Indian, African, Creole, Amerindian, European, Chinese and Lebanese influences.

Any time of year is a good time to visit Tobago. In February they have carnival, they have music concerts, fashion week, food festivals and many different sporting events throughout the year. We were visiting at the end of April when the annual jazz festival takes place with musical entertainment throughout the island.

With hotels to suit every budget, we chose to stay at the award winning Coco Reef in Crown Point which is 5 minutes walk from the airport and next to famous local beach Store Bay with it’s local craft and food stalls selling local specialities such as crab and dumpling, bake and shark or corn soup.


SUNSET: A stunning Tobago view

At night you can walk to local eateries and bars, listen to soca and reggae and live African drummers whilst supping a rum punch, cocktail or locally produced lager.

After a few days relaxing on the white sandy beaches in the vicinity and walking to Pigeon Point Heritage Park, home to one of the most beautiful beaches on the island where we were able to paddle board and watch those more skilled than us wind and kite surf, we ventured out round the island.

As with all the Tobagonians we met our guide Hans who had extensive knowledge of Tobago’s history and was immensely proud of his island. We spent a couple of days with him touring the island, and there is still so much more we could have done.

We visited Fort George in the capital Scarborough, where we ate at locally run small restaurant Blue Crab before setting out to Argyle Falls where we walked through tall bamboo before bathing in the refreshing waterfall.


ON THE PULL: Locals and visitors engage in Pulling Seine

Next stop was the cocoa plantation where Miss Tina, great grandmother to 17, showed us round pointing out local fruit trees before showing us how the cocoa is picked and then dried and made into delicious chocolate which we sampled with fine locally produced rum.

In Tobago the government give huge resources to protecting the wildlife and natural beauty of the island, we visited the government owned Little Tobago, a small island just off the coast which is a wild bird reserve with stunning views before we dined at Gemma’s Tree House Restaurant, possibly my favourite meal of the holiday. Gemma’s is literally a huge tree house by the sea. The setting is a good as the food and we enjoyed fresh fish, chicken, prawns, callalloo, yam pie, thanyia fritters and other delicious local delicacies.

We then headed for the rainforest The forest is full of birds and insects and we were able to observe hummingbirds and leaves that at first glance appeared to be walking, until on closer examination we realized they were being carried by tiny ants!


LOOKING GOOD: Sarah Moore surveys all from a tree house

All you can hear in the forest is birdsong and the rustle of huge trees and bamboo. On the way back to our hotel we passed through the picturesque town of Charlottesville and visited Englishman’s Bay voted the 6th most beautiful beach in the world.

That evening after dining at the highly recommended Fish Pot restaurant, our taxi driver received a call and rushed us to the beach to see something I will never forget– a six-foot turtle (apparently she was a small one!) laying her eggs.

The government pay people to patrol the beaches to protect turtles when they lay their eggs, ensuring no-one comes too close or disturbs the turtles and records the location and date of laying so that they can return when the eggs hatch in order to ensure that as many hatchlings as possible reach the sea safely.

The next day we visited the seaside resort of Castara, home to several eco hotels, a stunning beach, another beautiful waterfall and on this day one of the Jazz Festival events was taking place so there was local food and craft stalls and a stage on the beach where local acts performed reggae and soca. We took part in ‘pulling the seine’ a local tradition which involves pulling in the fisherman’s net to the sound of soca music.


LIFE'S A BEACH: The island has many wonderful beaches and views

During our stay we took a glass bottom boat journey to Buccoo Reef where the snorkeling is amazing, before heading to Nylon Reef – so named by Princess Margaret – a sand bank out in the ocean where you can walk around waist high in water. According to local legend this will make look 10 years younger!

The last 3 days of the Jazz Festival takes place at Pigeon Point so we were able to walk from our hotel and see acts such as Jennifer Hudson, Kool & The Gang, Jill Scott, Busy Signal and Miguel performing alongside local acts, which also included the great Soca Monarch Machel Montana. After the festival closed on all those who still had the energy to party headed off to local dance ‘Sunday School’ .

I cannot wait to return to Tobago and already have my flights booked. I have still to visit the Mangrove swamps, picnic on No Man’s Beach, go goat and crab racing and so much more.

Tobago should be on everyone’s bucket list.

For information on GeeStor Productions Jazz Experience 2015 trip to Tobago please email sarah@geestor.co.uk

Visit: www.tobagostyle.travel/uk

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