Tobago. The Less Known Dive Vacation Island


Drifting Along with Macros and Pelagics

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From the smallest seahorse to an abundance of majestic sized mantas to gigantic groupers to perhaps the world’s largest brain coral, Tobago has something to offer just about every diver. It’s not always this black and white when you are talking about a dive destination. That is unless you are talking about Tobago’s black sand beaches being on the Atlantic side of the island and the white sand beaches on the Caribbean side, but Tobago has lots of macro sea life to view as well as an unusual abundance of pelagic life. The reason for the great quantities of reef and pelagic life is because of the out flow of nutrients from the nearby Orinoco River in Venezuela, South America which feeds the plankton who in turn feed the small fish and this process works its way up the food chain at an amazing exponential rate. This doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to see a whale shark or school of 30 scalloped hammerhead sharks on your visit, but it does increase your chances of filling up your camera and video cards with lots of awesome images and memories.

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Before you get ready to jump off the dive boat, we should probably give you some background information about Tobago and mention what you might want to see and where you might like to dive first. Tobago is the small sister island in The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is approximately 40km (25 miles) long and 10km (6.2 miles) wide. It’s where many from Trinidad come to take a leisure vacation as it is only 35km (22 miles) away; a twenty minute flight. We should mention that Tobago is only 80km (50 miles) from South America. In fact, most of the flora and fauna is identical to what you would expect to find in South America as a land bridge connected this region during the end of the last ice age.

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The Arawak were the first to inhabit the island and they were later replaced by the Caribs. Columbus discovered Tobago on his third voyage and soon afterwards, in what seemed at the time like an endless rotating order, the Caribs were replaced by the French, English, Dutch, Spanish, and finally by Africans and East Indian descendants. You might say Tobago has changed hands more than any other island in the Caribbean, and yet somehow, it remarkably retained one of the oldest forest reserves in the western hemisphere starting in 1776. The Main Ridge Reserve is 550m (1804 ft) high at Pigeon Point Peak near the village of Speyside. If you want to visit this protected forest and view the beautiful water falls you’ll have to hire an official Tobagonian guide. Tobago also has some small islands off its coast that have become bird havens or sanctuaries. The south end of Tobago is low lying and is home to the Robinson International Airport (TAB). You can fly nonstop into Tobago, or go “directly” through Trinidad, or you can even take the ferry service which runs from Port of Spain, Trinidad and takes 2.5 hours to reach Crown Point, Tobago.

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Back to diving that will excite beginners to the most experienced, 4km (2.5 miles) south of the airport are the sites of some of the most well-known drift dives near the island, and when it comes to drift dives, the name Flying Reef pretty much says it all. Here you can drift by at 0-2 knots down to 17m (58ft) of depth over the coral and past a ship’s anchor as you keep a look out for stingrays, turtles, schools of fish, nurse sharks, and passing pelagics. This dive site goes right into Sting Ray Alley where guitarfish, electric rays and more nurse sharks are usually spotted.  Nearby Divers Dream is the site with overhangs for nurse sharks to the left, and a rock garden full of fish for those that dive to the right. Nearby Divers Thirst is where black tips, bull sharks and tiger sharks are spotted.

Mt Irvine Wall with is another dive destination where one dive site leads to another or is nearby.  The Wall is where you may find lobsters, crab, shrimps, and sea horses, but over at the Mt Irvine Extension is where the grouper, eagle rays tarpon, cobia, and hawksbill turtles like to hang out. Rainbow Reef in the middle of the bay goes down to 21m (70ft) and is named for the rainbow runners that like to hang out around a 17th century fishing anchor.

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For specific fish destinations we recommend Arnos Vale, max 14m 45ft depth, which is a rock crevice nursery for all kinds of fish and is a great place for beginner divers as well as for night dives. Kelliston Drain near Goat Island and not far from Speyside, is home of the world’s largest brain coral at over 3m (10ft) high and 5.3m (16ft) wide; while not every diver is amazed by these measurements, at least the large number mantas who pass by here are impressed. The nearby Sisters are a group of five pinnacles that rise up from the deep and this is where you have a great chance to see scalloped hammer heads, especially during October to May, and whale sharks whenever they feel like it. Also close by is Japanese Gardens near Goat Island and it gets its name from all the soft corals, sea whips, and barrel sponges. This dive site flows right into the rock corridor named Kamikaze Cut. London Bridge is another popular spot when currents permit, and where water pushes you between two hard rock surfaces and empties you out into a 15m (45ft) deep area of sand. You’ll see where it got its name from before you even get close to the exposed topside rock formation. It’s a great spot to view black surgeonfish, trumpet fish, and trunk fish. Some of the more unique fish you may find around the island include: cherub angelfish, flame angelfish, angle sharks like the sand devil, and giraffe garden eels. As for wreck dives, the M.V. Maverick, 107m (350ft) long passenger and car ferry that was cleaned and opened up and made safety ready for divers before being sunk on purpose in 1997, has plenty of coral and animal life including: crabs, clams, schools of bonito and bait fish, turtles, and eagle rays.

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Now for adventurous divers and weather permitting, there is practically untouched diving 32-64km (20-40 miles) away at the off shore reefs. Plus, there is the wreck of the S.S. Kioto, which was sunk Sept 15, 1942 by U-boat 514. After three torpedoes, it finally sunk in 12m (40ft) of water and the scattered debris are still visible.

As you can see, Tobago is a small island, but there are more than 40 dive sites to choose from. There is also bicycling, birding, exploring the old sugar mills and plantations, visiting the 1770 Fort George, or checking out the beaches in April-July to view the leatherback turtles nesting. We didn’t even have time to point out all the beaches, but Tobago is where Disney filmed Swiss Family Robinson in 1958, so you already know that the beaches are Disney approved; even the Pirate’s Beach. There is a lot to experience, so you might not be able to fit everything in on one vacation trip, but the steel drum music bands are always playing something good, the crab and dumplings “Creole style” are simmering in the pot, and to make Tobago’s sunsets complete, the island just needs you.

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15 Responses

  1. Three things that I remember about diving in Tobago are: 1. The huge brain coral. 2. My first and only encounter of guitarfish. 3. Leatherback sea turtle nesting. Witnessing a leatherback sea turtle digging a hole on the beach and seeing it laying eggs into the hole is such a memorable experience that I'd never forget. That mother leatherback sea turtle was huge. I guess it's about 5' long, weighed probably about 800 lbs. It breathed like a race horse. Simply amazing experience! [ATTACH=full]424226[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=full]424227[/ATTACH]<br />-----<br />
  2. I found super cheap RT tickets out of SLC but is it all boat diving? Any cheap places to dive/stay?<br />-----<br />"Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game"
  3. As I ask with any such (U.S. & Caribbean) dive destination that seems to get a lot less attention (e.g.: discussion threads, trip reports) than others (I think Dominica gets more 'love' on the forum than Tobago; I see Dominican Republic mentioned much more often, and neither of those gets anywhere near the attention of Cozumel, Bonaire, Belize, etc...), what is keeping Tobago off most U.S. divers' radar? Why is it 'lesser known,' not used more often? It's way south of here; what about round trip airfare? What I'm asking is, while there may be substantial upsides to a Tobago trip, are there [I]down[/I]sides? Richard.<br />-----<br />
  4. For me, it is the 13 hour, $2000 flight from Atlanta... never gonna happen....<br />-----<br />
  5. [QUOTE="Damian G. Finch, post: 8081109, member: 22487"]For me, it is the 13 hour, $2000 flight from Atlanta... never gonna happen....[/QUOTE] Atlanta, that is a gold mine! I have to fly out of IDA. When do you want to go? I just looked up a flight for you under $500 10 hours. Search to POS instead of TAB, then take a $50 RT from POS to TAB.<br />-----<br />"Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game"
  6. [URL];f=ATL;t=POS;d=2017-09-19;r=2017-09-26;q=atl+to+POS[/URL]<br />-----<br />"Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game"
  7. Im originally from Trinidad and (Tobago) now live in Houston, I've logged quite a few dives there. Anyone need 1:1 advise or trip planning let me know...<br />-----<br />
  8. [QUOTE="Crystal A., post: 8081115, member: 479186"]Atlanta, that is a gold mine! I have to fly out of IDA. When do you want to go? I just looked up a flight for you under $500 10 hours. Search to POS instead of TAB, then take a $50 RT from POS to TAB.[/QUOTE] Seriously, it looks like to get a fare under $800 from Atlanta, you have to go through contortions like traveling a 10-hour itinerary, from Atlanta way north to Toronto (as in the itinerary you linked to), and back down to Trinidad. If I'm going to spend more than $800, I might as well take the nonstop to Bonaire and be there in 4 hours. If I'm going to devote more than 10 hours to travel, it had better be a trip to Asia. Anyway, for me, what keeps me from venturing to dive destinations that seem to get less attention on SB is mainly the travel cost. They're all "on my radar" to some extent--they just get shot down when I weigh where I could go for less money and arrive sooner.<br />-----<br />
  9. [ATTACH=full]424682[/ATTACH] Don't go there for the next few weeks. Cat 4 Irma is coming to town! I'm not even done with Harvey. Fire fighters just knocked at my door to ask for voluntary evacuation here in Lake Jackson, Texas. It looks like Tobago will be a bust for awhile. I'm glad I went there 4 years ago. I bought a roundtrip ticket to Indonesia for $680 for this November.<br />-----<br />
  10. [QUOTE="Dan_T, post: 8081767, member: 477433"]I bought a roundtrip ticket to Indonesia for $680 for this November.[/QUOTE] Now that's what I'm talking about. A LOT of hours on a plane (is that the one on Singapore Air via Moscow?) but the price is right and the destination has some of the best diving in the world. T&T, at more than $800 and still 10 hours of travel, just ranks way below that kind of trip on my list.<br />-----<br />
  11. Yes, but they are done with Moscow (thank God) & now flying through Manchester (UK). I'm going to do a 12-day liveaboard from Ambon to Sorong, passing Banda Sea & Raja Ampat for half the price of the liveaboard to Galápagos/ Cocos to see this: [MEDIA=youtube]3wTg547-1KM[/MEDIA]<br />-----<br />
  12. I wish I had that kind of luxury. We are in Idaho Falls. our trip to Bonaire will entail driving 5 hours to an airport, 3 flights, one redeye. $734 RT, one of tickets paid with miles. A 10 hour trip for $450 seems a significant savings over the $2,000 you mentioned. If your time is that valuable, well then by all means just charter yourself a jet!<br />-----<br />"Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game"
  13. [QUOTE="Diverspoint, post: 8139646, member: 453879"]It would ruin the island.[/QUOTE] Accessibility has an impact; my mother once said if you want to ruin something, make a road to it (basically that people will do the rest). That said, the degree of 'ruinage' varies. I'm not familiar with topside or undersea Tobago (aside from having read repeatedly it's currents/drift diving can be substantial). If indeed direct flight options open up (and with the human population expanding, and more people traveling, I'm guessing at some point that'll happen), what would make Tobago so compelling to the mainstream U.S.-based recreational divers as to descend upon it in large numbers & 'ruin' it? Particularly compared to other options. It's not just what a potential destination has; it's what it was relative to competitors. Richard.<br />-----<br />
  14. Many times visited Tobago - off the beaten track for incredible diving - which makes it even better. Dive with Sean and Kat Robinson out of TDE - Tobago Dive Experience. Speyside!<br />-----<br />
  15. I seriously hope there will be no more direct flights to Tobago. It would ruin the island.<br />-----<br />[SIZE=3][FONT=book antiqua]Diverspoint Puerto Morelos[/FONT][/SIZE] Website [URL][/URL] Facebook [URL][/URL] Tripadvisor [URL=""][/URL] Email [EMAIL=""][/EMAIL] I'd rather suffer sunburn on a boat then cold feet in the city

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