Tobago, September 2014

I'd had Tobago on my mind for a while, mainly because there often seem to be good deals going. Oonas sent me an offer for a week's accommodation half board, 5 days diving with no single supplement for £995, so I booked it. The flight was with Monarch, so hardly anything was included, though you did get a meal, but there were no seat back TV screens. It was all a bit 1990s. We arrived early but then sat on the plane for the best part of 45 minutes because the plane's ground generator wasn't working and they couldn't find a generator truck that actually worked. The airport is quite small and the second round of luggage seemed to take an inordinate amount of time.

I was met at the airport and it was a 5 minute drive to my accommodation at the Toucan Inn in Crown Point. On arrival, I found that I was the only guest for that night as everyone else in the hotel was leaving on the return Monarch flight. More people did arrive at the weekend, but it was never exactly busy. The room has aircon, which worked well, but not much else, not that I was particularly interested in watching the TV anyway. There was a bar/restaurant, a pool and free WiFi. The beer was cold and the food was good. I had the cooked breakfast every morning, a meal in the evening and generally skipped lunch or had a snack. A bottle of beer cost between TT$12-15 and a rum and coke TT$20, so it was pretty cheap.

The main street of Crown Point was about a ten minute walk away. There were a few bars, a couple of casinos, a pharmacy, a couple of takeaways and a couple of banks with ATMs. The beach at Store Bay was about the same distance and it had lifeguards present during the day. Slightly further was Bago's Beach bar where you could watch the sun set over a couple of drinks. Insect repellent was a good idea when dusk fell.

My dives were with R & Sea Divers who had an office on site at the hotel. Their main base was a basically a brick hut on the beach about 10 minutes away and they used to run me down there every morning for the diving. Tobago's proximity to the Venezuela coast means that the visibility is affected by the seasonal flow of the Orinoco river. The sea looked greener than is usual for the Caribbean and there was often a warm, plankton layer for the first 2-3 metres on most dives. The difference in salinity and temperature means that it doesn't mix, so below that layer, the visibility was fine. I did one dive where the plankton was thick enough to give everything a very green tinge. It was like diving inside a green bottle and was an interesting experience.

Most of the dives were on local fringing reefs and there was plenty of coral and the fish life was good by Caribbean standards. I also saw turtles, squid and octopus on several dives. There is a wreck called the Maverick, which lies in 31m and was a ferry before it was sunk deliberately for divers. It's very open inside, so swimming through it is very easy.

On the Saturday, we did something different as their was a spear fishing competition organised. I've never done this before and it's not something I'd usually consider, but in this case we had a very specific prey in mind. Lionfish are residents of the Indo-Pacific region but some escaped in Florida and they've rapidly spread across the Caribbean as they have no natural predators. Whether competitions like this actually have any effect is debatable, but the local ministry organises it, there's a bit of a party and the fish all gets eaten. I think it was donated to a worthy cause of some sort. We were using spear poles and it was surprisingly difficult. My paltry contribution was 2, but the total event catch was almost 300. The dive sites were nice too, as we went about as far from Crown Point as it's possible to go, diving around Charlotteville in the far north east of the island.

The last day was a little different as we did a site called Diver's Dream. It's quite a lot further offshore than the other sites and it's an area where the seabed rises up. We were warned to be prepared for strong currents, but there weren't any. There was a lot less coral life. The strong currents favour sponge growth, so this was much more in evidence. Also in evidence were some nurse sharks hiding out under the rocks and several turtles, so it was one of my favourite dives of the trip.

Tobago was a good place for a quiet and relaxing break. There's a big party on Sundays called Sunday School which I didn't go to, preferring a more local beach party. Other than that, it wasn't really a party destination, but then I wasn't looking for that. I saw plenty of life on all the dives and the whole holiday was inexpensive for what I got.

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