Caribbean Tourism

Excursions

Trinidad

There are pleasant drives in the hills around with attractive views of city, sea, and mountains. Go up Lady Young Rd, about two miles from Savannah, to a lookout 563ft above sea level (not on a taxi route, but some cars take this route from the airport), by Lady Chancellor Rd to a look-out 600ft above sea level (not always safe, even by car) and to the Laventille Hills to see the view from the tower of the shrine of Our Lady of Laventille.


From Fort George, a former signal station at 1,100ft, there are also excellent views. To reach it take the St James route taxi from Woodford Square and ask to get off at Fort George Rd. From there it is about one hour’s walk uphill passing through some fairly tough residential territory. The fort was built around 1804 and formerly called La Vigie. Although it was never used to defend the island, in times of danger people from Port of Spain brought their valuables up here for safe keeping. From Fort George you can also continue on foot on a rough road up to the telecommunications masts at the top of the hill, from where there are views down to Port of Spain, over to Venezuela and across the northern hills.

Tobago

If you are driving around Tobago, the 1:50,000 map, usually available from the tourist office in Scarborough, at US$3.50, is adequate, although note that many of the minor roads are only suitable for four-wheel drive. If you are hiking, get the three 1:25,000 sheets, not currently available in Tobago but obtainable from the Lands and Survey Division, Richmond St, Port of Spain, or a good map shop abroad. It is possible to walk anywhere. There is book of trails.

East from Scarborough

Off the coastal road you can go to the Forest Reserve by taking a bus from Scarborough to Mount St George and then walking or hitching to Hillsborough Dam. The lake is the drinking water supply for the island so no swimming, you may find a man to take you on the lake in a rowing boat. It is a lovely forest setting. A four-wheel drive vehicle is necessary if you want to drive but walking there is recommended. From there continue northeast through the forest to Castara or Mason Hall on an unpaved, rough road. A guide is not necessary, there is only one path. Birdwatching is excellent (oropendulas, mot-mots, jacamans, herons) and there are cayman in the lake, but look out for snakes (none of them poisonous). Alternatively, take a taxi to Mason Hall (ask the taxi to drop you at the road for the Hillsborough dam) and walk to Mount St George via Hillsborough Dam, which is easier walking as the track is on the level or downhill, about nine miles. By Mount St George (Tobago’s first, short-lived principal town, then called George Town) is Studley Park House and Fort Granby which guards Barbados Bay.

The road continues through Pembroke and Belle Garden and nearby is Richmond Great House, now a hotel. It has a lovely view but is not as ‘great’ a house as some of the plantation houses on other islands. Roxborough, the island’s second town, also on the Windward coast, is worth a visit. The Argyll River waterfalls near Roxborough comprise four beautiful falls with a big green pool at the bottom, a 10-minute walk upstream from the road which can be very muddy. You can’t miss them because of all the rather overpriced and pushy guides standing in the road.

A good walk is the road from Roxborough to Parlatuvier and Bloody Bay through the Main Ridge Forest Reserve. There is hardly any traffic and you go through singing forests with masses of birds (early morning or late afternoon is the best for spotting great numbers) including cocricos, collared trogon, mot-mots, jacamans, humming birds. After the five-mile marker is a semi-circular trail in the forest called Gilpin’s Trace. There are great views from the hut at the top of the road. If you walk Gilpin’s Trace and want to try other, lesser known trails, Kelton Thomas is a recommended guide, contact him through the airport information centre. Wordsworth Frank is also good, he runs glass bottom boat tours too. Beyond Roxborough is King’s Bay, with waterfalls near the road in which you can swim. These are sometimes dry, however, so a refreshing swim cannot be guaranteed.

Speyside & Little Tobago

From the fishing village of Speyside you can visit Little Tobago, a forested islet off the northeast coast, and sanctuary for birds. There are wild fowl and 58 species of other birds, including the red-billed tropic bird found here in the largest nesting colony in the north Atlantic. Boats across cost US$12.50 (includes a guided tour of the islet and snorkelling). There are lots of glass bottomed boats and fish and coral to see, boatmen will find you (see page 920). Go early in the morning to see the birds. If you want to camp, you are supposed to have prior permission from the Forestry Division at Studley Park, T6394468. They also have a rudimentary camp on the main ridge by the Roxborough-Parlatuvier road, which can be used by arrangement. At Speyside, you can sling a hammock near the government centre on the beachfront. It is well-lit but it may be windy. A night-guard might keep your belongings under lock.

From Speyside you can climb Pigeon Peak, at about 1,900 ft the highest point on the island. There are two routes up the hill through the forest, the shorter one is steeper than the longer, so both take about three hours. There is also a track on the Speyside Road from Charlotteville, 100m on the right before the turning to Flagstaff Hill. This is suitable for a four-wheel drive to begin with. After about 30 mins’ walk you clamber down into a stream bed and up again, from where it becomes a rough, steep path through old banana plantations and then woodland. There is no trouble following the path here, there are even markers cut into or painted on to trees, and there are many birds. However when the ground becomes flatter it becomes confusing. A guide therefore is essential and Lebeque Jack has been recommended. Remember there are lurid, yet true, tales of tourists being lost up here for days. The actual summit is above the woodland, through grass and small shrubs, and has a trig point. From the top you can see the north and south coasts and offshore islets.

Charlotteville

A trip to Charlotteville in the northeast is recommended. There are maxi taxis from Scarborough (TT$10, three a day but not on Saturday, when the Adventist drivers do not work, for the return journey you can arrange to be picked up). Magnificent views are afforded on the way and the village itself is on a fine horse-shoe bay with a good beach, lifeguard, good swimming and snorkelling and two dive shops. The Americans erected a radio tracking station in the Second World War on Flag Staff Hill high overlooking Charlotteville (take the rough track off the main Speyside- Charlotteville road about one kilometre). There are several seats and a bandstand here. Half way along the rough road to Flagstaff Hill there is a cattle path to the right. Follow this as it descends and curves to the left. Near the bottom it meets another, wider trace (trail). Turn left and this will eventually bring you back to Charlotteville. It is a pleasant, shaded walk. From Charlotteville, it is a 15-minute walk to Pirate’s Bay, which is magnificent and unspoilt and good for snorkelling. Also adjacent is Man O’War Bay. Campbellton Bay is a 30 to 40-minute walk from Charlotteville (ask locally for directions) through dense forest to a secluded beach, mostly used only by fishermen. It is fairly easy to hitch a ride from Charlotteville to Speyside.

The North Coast

The road between Charlotteville and Plymouth along the Caribbean coast has been improved but four-wheel drive is needed for part of the way and then only in dry weather, or in summer, maybe. Best on a mountain bike or on foot. The stretch between L’Anse Fourmi and Charlotteville is usually impassable and a notice says you travel at your own risk (work has been abandoned on road improvements, supposed to be completed sometime). You are much better off on foot and it is a wonderful hike. In fact hikers are opposed to any paving of the road. The views are worth the trouble with lots of lovely bays beneath you. Get a taxi to L’Anse Fourmi and walk (a comfortable four hours) along the track to Corvo Point, Hermitage (bush rum for sale), Man O’War Bay and Charlotteville. There terrain is undulating. Bird life is plentiful, including parrots, and you may see iguanas. The stretch of road between L’Anse Fourmi and Moriah is smooth, traffic is light and it is very picturesque. Take water with you.

At the southwest end of the island there are many hotels and resorts. The Crown Point area is developing rapidly and parts feel like a building site, with associated litter. At Store Bay are the ruins of small Milford Fort, and brown pelicans frequent the beautiful but crowded beach, which is a good place to watch the sunset. The fort was once Dutch (Bella Vista) but was overrun by the Indians. The British maintained a small battery here but it is now no more than a nice garden. Pigeon Point has the island’s most beautiful beach, clean and with calm water, though US$2 is charged for adults and US$0.50 for children for admission as the land is private; a wall has been built to stop you walking along the foreshore and groynes built by the owners have caused beach erosion. There are huts, tables and benches, lockers, bars, shopping, boat hire and watersports. It is another good place to watch the sunset.

From Mount Irvine Bay, where there is an attractive, palm-fringed championship golf course (the hotel of the same name has a good beach – surfing) you can walk up to Bethel (about two miles), the island’s highest village, for excellent views across the island. Another beach which is well worth a visit is Turtle Bay.

The main town on this coast is Plymouth, with Fort James overlooking Great Courland Bay (site of the Courlander settlement in the 17th century). Destroyed several times, the present fort was erected in 1800. Also here is the Latvian Monument, designed by a local artist, it was erected in 1976 and represents “Freedom”. A much-quoted attraction in Plymouth is the enigmatic tombstone of Betty Stevens (25 November 1783), which reads: “She was a mother without knowing it, and a wife, without letting her husband know, except by her kind indulgences to him.”

Hidden in the forest some miles from Arnos Vale is the Arnos Vale Sugarmill, dating from 1880; a recommended excursion, it is possible to hitchhike. The Arnos Vale Waterwheel Park has a small museum, gift shop, restaurant and stage where shows are put on. It is difficult to continue along this coast by public transport, Plymouth to Parlatuvier is not a recognized route. You have to go instead via Roxborough, with a lovely journey from there through the forest. Check that there is transport back in the afternoon as there is nowhere to stay in Parlatuvier.

The small village of Castara on the coast can be seen in 10 minutes but is a pleasant place to visit. There is a small bay with a sandy beach and a snorkelling reef, or a 10-minute walk inland will take you to an easily accessible waterfall. Eating places are readily available and there is accommodation.

Buccoo Reef

Glass-bottomed boats for visiting this undersea garden leave from Pigeon Point, Store Bay and the larger hotels nearby. Boats may be cheaper if hired from Buccoo Village. The charge is US$6 for 2 to 2½ hrs, with shoes and snorkel provided; wear swimming costume and a hat. Longer trips with barbecue cost around US$20, worth it if you eat and drink plenty. The dragging of anchors and greed of divers have tarnished the glory of this once marvellous reef, though, and you may prefer to make the trip to Speyside where there are also glass bottomed boat trips over a pristine reef. Elkhorn and other corals have been badly damaged by snorkellers and divers walking on them. The reef is now protected by law; it is forbidden to remove or destroy the corals or other marine life. Boat trips also include the Nylon Pool, an emerald-green pool in the Caribbean. Boats leave between 0900 and 1430, depending on the tide. Be selective in choosing which boat – and captain – you take for the trip; some are less than satisfactory (Selwyn’s Pleasure Girl has been recommended, so has Archie and Mala’s Come to Starcheck, others include Hew’s Tours, Hewlett Hazel, T6399058, F6397984, Kenneth Christmas, Buccoo Reef Cooperative, Buccoo Point, T6398582, or after 1900, T6398746). From Scarborough to Buccoo by bus is TT$2. Taxis also go to Buccoo.


More . . .

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