Charlotteville, Tobago and the surrounding bay are absolute jewels. The anchorage is extremely rolly and somewhat nausea inducing and if you don’t have an electric windlass (which fortunately we do) then anchoring in >20 meters will be a workout for the arms. But the bay is a little circle of dark blue in the middle of sloping bright green rainforest hills leading down to pristine white beaches. Landing the dinghy is a thrill with the large swell but so far we have only flipped traumatically on one occasion and have recovered.
At night the fireflies dart amongst the trees and phosphorescence glows in the water with every movement through it.
With a charming village of friendly people, very few sailboats and many fishing boats with long bamboo poles adorning the harbour it feels like the Caribbean Islands as described by visitors 30 years ago.
Within 24 hours we were already feeling part of the community recognising, greeting and stopping for a chat with a few of the locals that gather on the quay and front street. We became members of the library which, in addition to having reasonable Wi-Fi, offered a quiet cool environment for our morning lessons and we could check out books which is a super special feeling for transients like ourselves.
We were lucky enough to bump into Neil Cook, who works at E.R.I.C. (Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville, Tobago (www.eric-tobago.org/index.html)) a non-profit research and dive institute dedicated to working with the local fishing community in an integrated ecosystem and communities-based ridge to reef management approach. He spent a couple of hours giving us a private introduction, sitting with us discussing the plight of the oceans and what the institute is trying to achieve. Remarkably he kept the rapt attention of both adults and children for the entire time. Apparently, Tobago is rather important, having some of the most intact corals and one of the most diverse collections of types of corals in the world.
Sharon and Phe’s became the evening hang-out of choice. A full meal of shrimp, pork stew, pork ribs, chicken stew or fried chicken filet is always served with an incredible array of a minimum of 6 side dishes or fixins’. Generally accompanied by one or more well nut-megged rum punches (adults only) and some very nice long and interesting chats with the team there.
Even the cars here are special. Colourful, boxy, dating from sometime in the 80s-90s painted in bright colours with shining chrome accessories and lowered chassis. It’s like Macsen and Emma’s Hotwheels have come to life in full size!
And there is lots to do on this lovely island. Neil suggested some good snorkel spots where we could even view the coral that they are cultivating (literally a nursery garden for coral). We rented a car for some island exploration only to discover that the cars unfortunately look better than they perform. The thing seemed to be powered by a small squirrel running laps up under the hood but occasionally as we rounded an incredibly narrow, hair-pin turn the squirrel would suddenly turn into a lion with no additional pressure to the accelerator and the car would leap ahead finally displaying some power at the most inconvenient time.
This turned what would naturally have been a harrowing drive into something of a desperate carnival ride. But, we found the Mountain Ridge Reserve, which was set up in 1764 making it one of the oldest nature reserves in the world. Against the advice of the information centre we refused the help of a guide and set off for a fabulous 3.5 hour hike along little paths and river through the rainforest. We even found a tree with hanging vines perfect for some Tarzan-like swing practice. Super fun!
After that a visit to the Argyle Falls where (probably due to the bucketing rain) we were the only visitors swimming in this amazing 54 m (highest in Tobago) waterfall. Pounding, brown murky water but hey, we live on a boat and unlimited fresh water is always welcome.