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Tobago's beaches boast tranquil waters and glitzy hotels

© Creative Commnos / paul mannix

Tobago beaches

Beach

Boasting glassy, tranquil waters, glitzy hotels and one of the longest beaches on the island, Great Courtland Bay, on the southwest side of the island, is all the rage with vacationers and giant leatherback turtles. During the mating season, these giant reptiles plod to shore and dig into the sands to lay their eggs. Because of its length and relative smoothness, Little Rockley Bay, on the isle's southeast side, is a delightful place for a walk or a jog. The secluded beach is surrounded by grey sands and dazzling vistas. Placid water on its eastern side sometimes clouds up but swimming near the shore is quite pleasant. A reef protects its eastern side, while the strong ocean breezes on the western side make it an attractive destination for wind surfing and other kinds of watersports.

Beyond the beach

Leave the beach and discover terra firma. Bird watching is popular as there are over 200 species on the island. The large statues at Kimme's Sculpture Museum, the castle-like structure on Mt Irvine on Orange Hill Road, capture the spirit of Tobago people. Visit the quaint fishing village of Charlottesville where the day's catch is heralded by the sounding of conch shells or check out the 18th-century Fort King George. It hangs from a cliff, just up the hill from Scarborough and is home to the Tobago Museum. If the links are more appealing, try the Tobago Plantation Golf and Country Club at the Lowlands, where rolling hills, mangroves and beautiful ocean vistas surround it.

Family fun

The beach is always popular with the brood and a trip to Little Tobago (a short boat ride off the northeast coast) for a hike and a swim is also fun. So is a family hike. Spend the day trekking the scenic trail along the North Coast and Englishman's Bay. It starts at Castara and ends at Charlotteville. Harris Jungle Tours (Golden Grove Road, Canaan) offer an opportunity to venture in the rainforest and catch a glimpse of the island's wildlife.

Exploring further

Hop a commuter ferry or puddle jumper to Tobago's sister island, Trinidad. It is just a 34km- (21 mile-) trip. Trinidad is where the steel pan, calypso, soca (another version of calypso) and limbo were born, so nightlife is always spirited. There are good deals on rum, leather goods and Angostura bitters at the urban Port of Spain shops, but get a car and explore the countryside. Undulating landscape and dense foliage border the North Coast Road. The east coast is a string of sandy beaches and towering palms, while bamboo and grottoes grace the Asa Wright Nature Center (www.asawright.org), a haven for birds, butterflies and orchids.

Splashing out

'Splashing out' as such might prove tricky, as everything is pretty low key here. Take a walk on the wild side instead. Tobago Main Ridge Rainforest, the oldest protected preserve in the Western Hemisphere, is alive with diverse species of birds, mammals, frog and (nonpoisonous) snakes. For a small fee, government-appointed, knowledgeable guides will lead you through the forest pointing out different plants and animals. They will also call down rare and exotic birds from the canopy by imitating their calls.

From mid-July until early August, the island comes alive during the Tobago Heritage Festival, which celebrates slave traditions brought from Africa. Each village honours the gala in its own special way. Moriah has an Old Time Wedding; the stadium hosts Rum Shop Lime 2 (a re-creation of what islanders did while waiting for the rum to brew) waiting is the key here and Charlottesville's Natural Treasures has a parade and a treasure hunt. The prize, buried at the beach is three cases of Carib beer.

Edited by Jane Duru
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