Waking up in Tobago was an altogether more ‘tropical islandy’ experience compared with the previous mornings in Curaçao and Aruba. Tobago – Trinidad’s much smaller sister – is said by some to have been the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe, and I could see why when the daily excitement of jumping out of bed to peek out of the curtains was met with a scene of lush, forested hillsides. There were a few showers around and a rainbow was visible off the ship’s stern as she slipped slowly into the port of Scarborough. Stepping out onto the balcony, the humidity hit me almost like stepping into a sauna; it was much steamier than it had been in the Dutch Caribbean and we were grateful for the air-conditioned comfort of our cabin.
Once again we were glad to be on Britannia’s port side, as we had a wonderful view over Scarborough, which is the capital “city” of Tobago.
We were not originally scheduled to stop at Tobago, but we’d had an email from P&O before we were due to sail saying that Grenada had been affected by the hurricane, so this stop was going to be changed to Tobago. In fact the ship was continuing on to Grenada after we disembarked, so I guess they must have been ok after all! Anyway, I was very happy to have stopped at Tobago, because it turned out to be one of my favourite islands on the cruise.
I was looking forward to exploring the town later in the day, but first up on the agenda was the shore excursion we’d booked for the morning.
Breakfast having been consumed on the balcony as was our custom, we disembarked and made our way to the meeting point for the excursion, which was to be a walk to the Argyle Waterfalls around the coast near Roxborough.
Every minute of the hour-long journey there was full of interest. We were driven along a winding coastal road on the Atlantic side of the island, the ocean on one side and verdant rainforest-covered hillsides on the other, through small settlements with British names like Goodwood, Glamorgan and Pembroke. We trundled past banana trees and coconut palms and colourful little houses perched on stilts on the steep hillsides, past goats and chickens loose by the roadside, and sleeping dogs flat out on their sides on porches.
Here’s a video of part of the journey; our guide is talking about ‘Sunday school’, which is a big street party held in Buccoo every Sunday night.
At length we pulled off the coast road and were deposited at the ticket office marking the start of the nature trail that would lead us to the waterfalls. The Tobago Forest Reserve is the oldest protected rainforest in the Western hemisphere, and along the way our guide pointed out some of the remarkable array of species found here.
There is so much abundance in the Caribbean, the climate and fertile volcanic soil providing the perfect environment for an absolute bounty of natural riches, including mahogany and cacao – the latter seen here. Hard to believe that chocolate starts life looking like this!
We were amazed to learn that bamboo grows at a rate of six to eight inches a day!
I confess that the trail was not nearly as demanding as I would have liked, this straightforward path conducting us to the waterfalls with the minimum of physical exertion.
The thing I liked most about the walk was hearing the sounds of the rainforest. The humid air was filled with the calls of exotic birds and the trickle of the river, as you can hear in this video.
This was our little companion for the walk.
We stopped by the river to look at an amazing iridescent bird, which was too far away to get a good picture unfortunately. We also saw a kingfisher and a hummingbird.
This was the path down to the river.
They weren’t wrong – those rocks sure were slippery!
And here’s the waterfall! At 175ft, it’s the highest in Tobago.
A few braver souls than I took the opportunity for a swim. It looked a bit muddy for that!
This was the one and only time on the trip that I ditched my collection of pretty summer dresses in favour of a more practical outfit. I felt a bit like Lara Croft, scrambling over those rocks in my tiny shorts, haha. I wish the whole walk had been like that, so I would have felt a bit more like an intrepid explorer!
These videos give a much better impression of the falls.
After spending a while by the falls enjoying the view, we walked back down the trail to our waiting bus. On the way home we made a brief stop by this beach to take photographs.
The sea on the Atlantic side is noticeably choppier than the Caribbean side. There was a fair bit of debris washed up on the beach by recent storms.
Back in Scarborough, we had lunch on the ship and I had a quick change back into my customary summer wardrobe before heading out to explore the town.
From our balcony, we could just about make out some buildings nestling in the trees at the top of the hill, and this was our destination for the afternoon: Fort King George.
It was a fairly steep uphill climb through the town to reach the fort, and we had some good views of Britannia along the way.
We passed lots of crumbling villas like this one, which looked to be deserted. As I’ve said before, I rather like the peeling paint and air of decay about such places. It gives them a sense of romance, history and charm; one imagines them in their heyday and the things that might once have happened there. I like Rome and Venice for the same reason.
We were walking up through winding residential streets to get to the fort, and the vegetation surrounding this little house gives you a good idea of what it was like everywhere we went.
As you can see in this photo, the vegetation is even starting to reclaim the telegraph wires!
Eventually, in sweltering heat, we reached the top of the hill and the entrance to the fort. I thought the pathway up to the fort buildings, lined with lamp posts and palm trees, was most attractive. The fort is free to visit – you just wander in as you please.
The spectacular views from the top amply rewarded the effort of reaching the fort, as did the chance to learn something of the island’s colonial history. Having first been sighted by Columbus in 1498, the island changed hands between various European nations a whopping 33 times throughout its history, eventually ending up under British rule from 1814 and finally gaining independence from the British Empire in 1962. Named after King George III, the fort was built between 1777-79 by the British, and swapped between British and French control several times thereafter. Back under British rule, most of the buildings were badly damaged in a hurricane in 1847, but they’re now restored and there are quite a few to be explored.
Did you spot Britannia looking majestic down there in the bay?
To the left of this path there was a building once used to store munitions, which was now home to a small colony of bats. We could see them dangling upside down from the ceiling, and the whole room was filled with the pungent smell of them (bat droppings smell, not to put too fine a point on it, like marijuana). They’re such curious little creatures. Luckily, I’m not someone who finds bats alarming – I think they are quite cute, the way they wrap their little wings around themselves. [Though a slightly closer encounter with bats the following day in St Vincent did sorely test my enthusiasm, as you will find out in my next Caribbean post!]
We didn’t spend all that long up there as it was so hot, but I think this was one of my favourite things we did on the whole trip! There was hardly anyone else up there and it was exactly the sort of experience I had been hoping for from the holiday. Photographs just can’t do justice to the view at all.
I was so preoccupied with looking at and photographing the view that I’ve realised I don’t actually have any pictures of the buildings!
How amazing is this tree? To say nothing of the little rundown hut behind it.
We made our way back to the ship after that, and I went off armed with my camera to get some pictures from Deck 19 before it was time to leave.
The usual glass of Prosecco in the Crow’s Nest bar as the ship left port felt well earned after the exertions of the day. How I loved that daily ritual!
Our next port, the following morning, would be St Vincent and the Grenadines, and I’ll write more about that next time.