My fingers were stained yellow, but I didn’t care. Using my
hands was the only way I could eat the tasty, but messy, curry
coconut crab with flat flour dumplings that we’d bought for
take-out. Besides, driving over to Store Bay for lunch gave us a
good excuse to check out another beach.
Store Bay is just one of Tobago’s many beaches. With a curve of
golden sand, calm waters watched over by lifeguards, a craft market
selling tie-dye beach wraps and handmade jewelry and food stalls
serving the local crab and dumpling specialty, it’s also one of the
island’s most popular places to lime (local jargon for hanging
Tobago has few private or hotel-annexed beaches. Depending on where
you book your clients, they may have to walk or drive a short
distance from their villa or hotel to get to a public beach. But
the island is so small, they’ll likely be keen to beach-hop and
One day trip clients won’t want to miss is the drive north along
the coastal Windward Road to the small fishing village of Speyside.
The scenic route passes a kaleidoscope of rainforest and tiny
seaside villages with chickens and sheep wandering about tin-roof
houses. A good hour later, visitors will reach the Speyside Lookout
which affords sweeping views of Little Tobago Island and Goat
Speyside has its own strip of beach, but the main attraction is the
departure point for snorkeling and scuba-diving trips to the two
uninhabited offshore islands, typically by glassbottom boat. While
we were eager to get into the turquoise water ourselves, we were
engrossed by the enormous, round, grooved brain coral we ogled
through the Plexiglas boat bottom.
“It’s 16 feet by 12 feet,” declared our boat guide Tyrone Frank of
Frank’s Glassbottom Boat Tours, adding that the brain coral along
the Speyside Bay Reef is among the largest in the world.
We then picked up another couple from Little Tobago Island, who had
hiked there with a guide earlier that morning. Also known as Bird
of Paradise Island, the place is a sanctuary for brown boobies,
hummingbirds and red-footed boobies with funny webbed feet and
graceful frigate sea birds.
Soon we anchored in front of the isolated yellow mansion straddling
the rocks of Goat Island, once owned by James Bond author Ian
Fleming. The current was strong, so Frank snorkeled with us. After
warning us to stay clear of the fire coral with its stinging
white-tipped branches, he pointed out some of the undersea life:
stately royal blue parrotfish, fan corals swaying like hula
dancers, sprightly emerald-and-gold queen triggerfish and a
stonefish scuttling along the sand bottom.
A bit later, we were ready for lunch at Jemma’s unique treehouse
restaurant. Built in a seagrape tree overlooking the ocean, lunch
here is another must-do in Speyside. Our tour driver/guide, Calvin
Isaac, explained that “Miss Jemma” decided to build a treehouse
restaurant when locals, who bought food from her original roadside
shack, sat to eat on boards nailed into an uprooted tree that had
fallen over in a storm.
Today, the restaurant is a breezy, casual, multi-level eatery, with
birds flying through open sides and a busy, good-time vibe. Local
dishes served include garlic lobster, grilled fish or chicken,
accompanied by breadfruit pudding in cheese sauce, sauteed
vegetables, rice pilaf and salad a satisfying meal that put us to
sleep on the drive back.
Another day, we set off for Pigeon Point, which turned out to be
our favorite beach. The scene of the wooden dock on stilts, topped
with a thatched roof hut and extending into the sea, is Tobago’s
most photographed site and adorns many of the island’s postcards.
After paying an entrance fee (about $4) and renting beach chairs
($2 each), we settled under the shade of a palm and gazed out at
the aquamarine sea.
Families with small children are also drawn to Pigeon Point’s
tranquil bathtub-warm water and gently sloping sand floor. And when
the wind picked up on one side of the point, skilled kite-boarders
entertained beachgoers by performing somersaults in the air.
Other fine beaches are found elsewhere on the island. Our only
regret was that we didn’t have time to discover them all.
Guided tours: Clients should be aware that cars
drive on the left in Tobago and most roads are narrow and winding.
Any extended driving (like an island beach tour or day trip to
Speyside) is best left to a competent tour guide familiar with the
roads. We found Calvin Isaac of Calvin Isaac’s Taxi Service to be a
safe, slow and reliable driver/guide.
Snorkeling at Speyside: Several glassbottom boat
operators offer snorkeling trips. Frank’s Glassbottom Boat Tours
charges $20 for snorkeling only; $25 for hiking Little Tobago