& the ABC ISLANDS
Winter escape to islands off the coast of Venezuela
> 7 weeks across Trinidad, Tobago, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao in the Caribbean off Venenzuela <
Trinidad is quite un-Caribbean due to its very individual character. In fact, Trinidad feels very different from the rest of the +20 Caribbean islands that we’ve been visiting during several trips. It is a hotpot of mixed people descended from Africa, India, Lebanon, Syria and China. All over are open-air stalls serving curry roti – perhaps the best outside the Indian subcontinent –, callaloo soup and root beer. We stayed two weeks here on Trinidad during late December and based ourselves on the northern coast in the mountains, an extension of the Andes Mountains since before Trinidad broke off from South America. A rented car brought us around the island to explore its many windy beaches, mangrove swamps, and mud volcanoes, while we also did several hikes into the rainforest of the northern range to search for remote waterfalls. After celebrating a wild, street-party-style New Year’s Eve in Port of Spain together with the Trinidadians, famed for their legendary party stamina, we continued to Tobago, the next-door neighbor east of Trinidad.
In Tobago, a local saying goes: “If there is no room in heaven send me back to Tobago”. In many ways Tobago is a microcosm of what first-time visitors might imagine a Caribbean island to be: frequently deserted beaches, an unspoilt rainforest, and a local island population practicing a go-slow attitude. We stayed here for two full weeks during January, rented a four-wheel drive and toured around the island several times. In south and west are several lazy beaches and coves such as Pigeon Point, Man o’War Bay and Pirate’s Bay, while the route around the island tracks the northern ridge of mountains and runs up through the rainforest to the fishing village of Charlotteville with good diving offshore. There are many small secret corners of the island, where the mood is mellow and we could laze on the beach to watch the evenings ebb away with a bottle of Stag or Carib beer.
Finally, while fleeing the Danish winter, we spent three weeks hopping across the southern trio, the ABC islands, off the coast of Venezuela, down in the deep south of the Caribbean. Aruba is all about beaches, but the coast on the northeast is rugged and wild and hence good for long walks. Also, there is a splendid barrier reef on the southwest coast. Bonaire is the odd island of the ABCs. It is desert-like and dry, but it has some of the best preserved reefs in all of the Caribbean. Acutally, many belive it is the absolute best diving spot across the entire Caribbean. It’s relative lack of tourists means much of its coral is very intact. Flamingos wander the terrain of multicolored salt plains, and the island is one big eco-friendly backpacker haunt. Finally, Curacao is the most “Creole” of the three islands with a very vibrant cultural mix and lovely exotic markets. The natural beauty of the island is astonishing – it’s a real gem. Also, there is a range of good walks crisscrossing the island.
For more Caribbean adventures nearby check our or pages on the upper part of the Volcanic Arc, the lower part of the Volcanic Arc, the Limestone Arc of islands and Montserrat. Other more farflung adventures in the Caribbena are the Mesoamerican Reef, the Corn Islands and the Bocas del Toro islands.
We stayed for a full week in tiny Blanchisseuse and did day trips using busses and taxis. Blanchisseuse was a great base for hiking. Going west, we could reach several attractive bays, and hiking east we could trek over rivers through the forest to completely undeveloped beaches and remote waterfalls.
Tobago has many white-sand beaches while the interior is ruggedly mountaneous with thick rainforest full of parots and tropical birds. We did a good hike to Argyl Waterfall, an attractice tripel-tiered falls, where we could jump off the cliffs into several cristal-clear pools. It was easily reached off the windward road near Roxborough village. The deep, pretty bay with powdery dark sands at King's Bay near Roxborough was nice, too.
Comepared to Tobago, big-brother Trinidad is quite different - much bigger, more crowded and more ethnically mixed. The most beautiful part of the island is the north coast and northern range from Maraval to Toco. Maracas Bay was particularly beautiful as it was set against the backdop of verdant rainforest mountains.
Having a guide was a good idea as the trails was often not visible. He could tell us where to cross rivers and how to navigate through the dense jungle.
The Carapichaima area is the heartland of Trinidad's Indian population, where Indo-Trinidadian culture dominates. It was a fascinating area to explore with endless restaurants and street stalls selling roti and snacks, and Hindi temples in many street corners. We felt as if beeing immidately transported back to Kerala or Tamil Nadu. The Waterloo Temple, or temple at the sea, was particularly exciting to visit.
We did several interesting hikes seaching for near-the-coast as well as inland waterfalls. Often the hilkes would take anywhere inbetween 2 to 6 hours.
Tobago was delightfully relaxed way off the tourist track. We stayed in a small bnb at Crown Point and walked to the beaches and reefs in Store Bay, Bucco Bay or Mount Irvine Bay. We also rented a car and drove around the entire islands several times, always clockwise up the Leward Road and down the Windward Road.
Only some 50.000 people live on Tobago of which most has African and East Indian origin. Driving around Tobago we saw how farmers sold their local produce, vegetables and fruits in small stalls along the road. A good way to stay hydrated in the very humid climate is to drink plenty of coconut water.
Along the Leward road that follows the costline are many picturesque bays and interesting places. The beaches in Castara Bay, Englishman's Bay, Parlatuvier Bay, Bloody Bay and Pirate's Bay are remarkably lonely. In most of the bays are clusters of cheap eateries serving rotis and fat plates of local fare, and good places to "lime".
North of Castara, the road winds past several pretty villages and undeveloped beaches shaded by bamboo and conconut palms, of which the best is Englishman's Bay. We spent a full day here simply "liming", meaning realaxing in a deck chair with a beer in hand watching the crystalline water shimmer in the sun.
Spread over Tobago's southwest are several beaches and resturants that is Tobago's tourist "epicentre", althought it still is very low-key. We walked this section many times and it is easy to mingle with local fishermen showing off the day's catch.
In the north of Tobago, the small fishing village of Speyside fronts Tyrell's Bay and several unhabited islands, including Little Tobago, St Giles Island and Goat Island. Diving here was some of the best during our whole trip offering stunning corals and a variety of dive sites. Most dive sites where drift dives only for the serious divers.
Walking the stretch of beach just in front of our BNB appartment. Offshore lies the amazing Bucco Reef where we would go early in the mornings to encounter both sharks and turtles.