Two Trinidadians share their experiences of Tobago when they return to the land of their birth after two years.
Julie Baker was born and grew up in Pointe-à-Pierre. She worked at Amnesty International Secretariat in London. After her children were born, she became a primary school teacher, and retired in 2019 after nearly 30 years. She is now married to Tim Baker-Bartholomew, an actor and writer, with three boys of his own. With grown up children, their shared interests are birding and gardening. Baker is a stained-glass artist. She is the daughter of author Richard ffrench (A Guide to the Birds of TT)
Tobago is my happy place. I got married on Stonehaven beach in 2008, and Tim and I have been back nearly every year since then, until the pandemic hit.
Tobago is where we came during school holidays, often staying at the Turpin’s beach houses in Charlotteville. I have wonderful memories of family time, swimming and snorkelling at Lovers Bay (which our family called Pink Beach). We limed with the village children. We trekked to waterfalls and had outings to St Giles Islands and Little Tobago with my dad. I also hiked the length of Tobago three times, in my teen years and early 20s, and came here several times when my own kids were small. Lately I have been a keen birder, alongside my photographer husband, becoming more familiar with the wonderful birds that I so took for granted when I was young.
In 2019 when I retired, one of my first thoughts was that now we would be able to come to Tobago to stay for longer than the one or two weeks afforded by school holidays. Bad timing! We tried to book for both 2020 and 2021, and both times our flights were cancelled, the borders remained closed. This time, we planned some other excursions rather than risk being disappointed a third time. So we went first to Guyana via Barbados (our BA flight on December 31 to Tobago had been cancelled) on a birding trip-of-a-lifetime, and then came to Tobago on January 16. How glorious it feels to be here!
Tobago seems to have spruced up since we were last here – the airport has been freshly painted, and we were wowed by the spacious new Pennysavers at Carnbee. Of course, the roads are still entertaining with their dips and bumps. Over the Main Ridge at Roxborough, in one section, the entire road appears to have slid about a metre down the hill! The island seems extra quiet, with less traffic, and none of the Carnival build-up fetes. We are impressed by how conscientious everyone is about mask-wearing, temperature-checking, hand-sanitising. Puts us in the UK to shame.
We booked a cabin at Erasmus Cove just beyond Parlatuvier. Oh. Wow. What a find! A simple but comfortable wooden cabin, with better Wi-Fi than we have at home, the most gorgeous breeze flowing through, and a view over Bloody Bay. Frigatebirds drift by. Parrots squawk in the hills. A ruby-topaz hummingbird just below the verandah on our first morning. I feel we have arrived in heaven.
I do suffer from seasonal affective disorder, and so it is the greatest luxury to come home and enjoy the warmth, the colour of the sea and sky, and everything in between. We plan to have many days just chilling with a book, interspersed with pilgrimages to our favourite snorkelling spots, beaches and waterfalls. We will visit friends, hopefully go birding with Faraaz Abdool, and generally revel in the wonder that is Tobago. One of the original plans was to play mas, with my friend June, but it doesn’t appear likely. We’ll wait till next year!
Family time on the beach
Corinne Aaron was born in Trinidad. Her family home is in Point Fortin. She has lived in several cities in the USA, and has made Amsterdam her home for the past ten years.
I have been going to Tobago since I was a child; it’s still one of my favourite places in the world. It’s now the same for my children, Maya, 13 and Luka, 11, who have never lived in the Caribbean.
We come home to TT every two years to see my family. Christmas is my favourite time to visit, (especially when there is no Carnival), to see my parents, visit friends and relax. Most of my family lives abroad, so it’s now a tradition for my siblings and me to rent a house in Tobago for a few days after new year’s.
The announcement of the beaches opening came a few days before our return home, and it was the only Christmas present I needed. In the pandemic (with lockdowns, curfews and varying restrictions), I thought of the beaches of Tobago for months. In Europe, there are some beautiful beaches, but with colder water and often rocky shores. Warm Tobago – white sands and blue waters – is my ideal vacation destination. Now that KLM is flying from Amsterdam to Trinidad, it was possible for us to have a very painless trip home.
I was last in Tobago in January 2020, just before the pandemic was announced. On that trip, I took my daughter scuba-diving in Charlotteville. Whenever I visit, it feels like time stood still. Not many changes, and that’s why I love Tobago so much. No big hotels or major developments in the works. The simple life and warm-hearted people are still there. The fruit stands and fishermen were just as I had remembered. The people who bring you mangoes or want you to “taste their hand” is what makes Tobago the special place that it is.
We stayed on top of the hill at Villa Petrus. It’s an old estate house with beautiful grounds, an open-air design and a lovely view of the ocean. Our nights were filled with catching up on each other’s lives, eating all the foods we typically crave, and laughing at jokes from “de ole days.” My brother Chris spoiled us with fried bakes and buljol, and freshly baked buttery bread.
We spent five nights in Tobago, but this was too short! Our days were spent enjoying the beaches in the mornings, or exploring the island, and our afternoons in the pool, reading and winding down. It really is a time to switch-off. This year we visited Castara, Englishman’s Bay, Parlatuvier, Black Rock and of course, Pigeon Point, where we did some kayaking. We did miss some activities like the Nylon Pool and going to Sunday School (I first went there about 30 years ago)!
It’s indescribably exciting to come home, and it was more special this year.