Promotional feature with the Tobago Tourism Agency
Relatively undiscovered, Tobago has everything you could wish from a Caribbean island, from unspoilt sandy beaches to dreamy hotels and resorts. But there are also a fair few off-beat, wild and wonderful activities that guarantee an unforgettable holiday.
Beyond the white-sand beaches and azure oceans there are big, colourful cultural festivals across the whole island, small farmsteads making divine sweet treats and some rather unusual animal races. Of the 101 extraordinary things this island has to offer, here are six exciting activities you never knew you could do in Tobago.
1. Join a band at the carnival
If the chaos of Carnival has never appealed to you, don’t be put off attending Tobago’s annual party in February. This colourful event is actually a far more laid-back affair than most carnivals around the world, and is a very family-friendly experience. You can still expect the striking costumes, irresistible calypso music and delicious creole cuisine, but with a far more inclusive and relaxed atmosphere.
The island has a host of fascinating cultural events throughout the rest of the year too, such as The Tobago Heritage Festival. This fortnight of fun sees a traditional wedding parade with plenty of frills, a cultural pageant and lots of folk storytelling and dancing.
2. Go to a goat race
Forget horse racing or going to the dogs, in Tobago, it’s all about the Buccoo Goat Race Festival. An almost hundred-years-strong tradition, this is one of the island’s more unusual events and is now a hugely popular family affair for locals and visitors alike. It all began because horse racing was reserved for only the rich, and so goats became the sporting animal of choice for the residents of the small fishing village of Buccoo. Today, thousands of people turn out to watch.
Taking place on the Tuesday after Easter, the race itself is enthralling: jockeys who have been training their goats for months before the race run alongside the animals, all vying for the trophy. And of course, there’s plenty of delicious Caribbean food on offer from vendors that line the streets during the parade before the race. There are plans afoot for more events throughout the year, too.
3. Eat the freshest fish you’ve ever tasted
That canned fish you have at home will never be the same again. This enormous Trevally fish is just one of the many catches available on Tobago. The fruitful waters that surround this island offer an astonishing array of seafood, from glorious lobster cooked on a barbecue to curried crab served with dumplings – a classic Tobago dish.
With hundreds of fantastic restaurants serving local fare across the island, there’s never been a better time to get acquainted with traditional Caribbean food.
4. Visit the home of award-winning chocolate
By far and away one of the highlights of a trip to Tobago is a visit to a cocoa estate. Cocoa was once one of the main exports here, and a major part of the economy, but since the 1970s production has slowed and now just a few plantations exist. The Tobago Cocoa Estate is vast, with cocoa plants aplenty under the baking sun and they offer tours for groups of around 10 at a time. You’ll walk through the recently-declared 100% organic plantation, see the fruit on the trees, and begin to understand the process for making chocolate.
You’ll then, of course, get to taste the good stuff. Their multi award-winning chocolate is made in France by artisan chocolatier Francois Pralus and can be purchased in the form of bars or ice cream – ideal for a refresher on a sunny day.
5. Stand atop a fort
Teetering on top of a hill and presiding over the island’s largest town of Scarborough, Fort King George is perhaps a surprising sight for many visitors. Built by the British in 1777, it initially comprised 30-odd buildings, but a hurricane destroyed around 20 of them in the mid 19th century. It was fought over by the British and French in the late 1700s, and is now home to the Tobago Museum.
Once you’ve had a browse at the intriguing collection of artefacts from life on the island through the centuries, head outside and watch the sun set from the best viewpoint on the island. It’s an incredibly romantic spot, and is even used for destination weddings.
6. Hike in the rainforest
Tobago’s natural wonders extend well beyond the beaches and oceans – the untouched Tobago Forest Reserve is the oldest protected rainforest in the Western Hemisphere. A leisurely hike here is a fantastic way to get active and adventurous, and offers a pleasant shelter from the sweltering sun, as its thick vegetation and vines block out most of the rays.
Along the three-mile Gilpin Trace you’ll pass huge termite mounds and spot humming birds flitting about between flowers. Take a guide with you and you’ll get a whole new insight into life in the rainforest.