I would like to share a little secret with my readers. There is a small island 470 miles from the coast of Venezuela. It is Tobago, part of the country of Trinidad and Tobago the southern most islands in the Caribbean ring.
As seasoned travellers to this part of the world we have discovered Tobago to be rich in history, culture and a haven for wildlife normally only found in South America. Tobago seems to be an undiscovered tropical island with the main tourism emanating from the sister island, Trinidad.
The local inhabitants are so friendly and hospitable, just as you would expect from the Caribbean islands, our stay at the Magdalena Grand in the Lowlands area initially was on first inspection was concerning. The hotel was not all in use. Some blocks and swimming pools on the extremities hadn’t been used for a number of years and were falling into disrepair, but the areas in use were well maintained and perfectly appointed.
The buffet style restaurant was really well balanced with local food mixed with European classics with occasional ventures into Mexican and Indian classics. The latter was quite a surprise but on realising the many of the population of Trinidad were originally from the Indian subcontinent, it made perfect sense. The two other restaurants, the poolside and the Robinson Crusoe bar offer either Al a Carte or snacks according to your needs.
Unusually there is an art gallery to the left of reception near to the business suites, probably the best air conditioning on the island but equally some of the best local art we have seen in the Caribbean. The grounds are well maintained and the beach area is cleaned daily. The are many good things about this resort and for a writer where the space and peace gives you a clear head to encourage creative writing. Probably a once in a lifetime experience was seen from the first floor balcony at midnight where a turtle came up the beach almost to the path and proceeded to spend the next two hours laying its eggs before lurching and dragging itself back to the ocean. The following morning daylight revealed the flipper marks in the sand where our friend had been, returning to her place of birth some thirty years before starting the cycle all over again.
The Magdalena has its own PGA rated golf course just a short ride away on a golf cart. Each stay at the hotel comes with two rounds of golf but as non players we availed ourselves of the on-site golf carts to ride the perimeter track to spot the wildlife. In all our years of travel we have never seen so may species all in one place, fitting in with the golfers, the Skimmers were taking in the afternoon sun on one of the greens The national bird of the island, the Corico, the Rufus-tailed Chalachalaca (sometimes known as the Tobago pheasant) walk among the trees with their young, totally oblivious of human presence.
In the lake which is positioned in the centre of the golf course there are many Cayman, basking lazily on the banks, they are used to seeing golf carts as you can drive by them just a few metres away without any reaction.
I would recommend hiring a local taxi driver for the day. The islanders are very proud of their place in paradise and are all eager to show it off. Hiring a taxi for half a day costs around $40 US but you get to see places which normal tourists wouldn’t find. For such a small island they have a rain forest, a sheltered coastline with pure white beaches and a boisterous coastline against the Atlantic which if you can use your imagination, the last stop for the wind was the West coast of Africa.
There are many forts and ruins showing the various battles fought over the Caribbean islands for the insatiable appetite for the sugar and rum. In the 1700s the island changed hands many times from the British to the French and even the Portuguese all tried to gain its natural wealth.
This unspoilt island is not yet on the radar of the long haul tourist, probably due to the journey time from the UK, its around 10 hours with a short stop off either in St Lucia or Antigua, this for some is just too long for a weeks holiday. The majority of the tourist are actually from the sister island of Trinidad, this is a little more built up and industry thrives, so for the weekend whole families descend on the island either to the hotels or holiday homes. After all its is only 20 minutes by aeroplane!
We will be going back as soon as the situation allows, this is one of my favourite places to relax and see the Caribbean as it was before the wave of tourists from across the world demanded fast food, light and entertainment. I commend this tiny island to anyone who wants a view on life from 40 years ago, its serene, thought provoking and above all one of the friendliest places on earth.