Robinson Crusoes Paradise


When Daniel Defoe wrote his adventure classic castaway tale Robinson Crusoe, he couldn't have chosen to set it on a more stunning island than Tobago. (Although Isla Robinson Crusoe in Chile disputes that Tobago was the setting, it's hard to quibble when you are enjoying such an inspiring setting.) Since Defoe's day, it has gone on to inspire nonfictional explorers, including Jacques Cousteau, who was enchanted by its turquoise waters and coral reefs. This island of pristine white sand is only 32km (20 miles) northeast of bustling Trinidad, but the pace here is so relaxing that many Trinidadians come here for weekend escapes. It also draws travelers wishing to laze on the beaches or explore the green mountains of Tobago's rainforest with its glorious flora and fauna, including exotic birds and darting green iguanas.

Tobago is approximately 42km (26 miles) long and 9.7km (6 miles) wide, so you'll want to rent a car or hire a taxi to get around. Its capital, Scarborough, provides a beautiful view of the nearby mountains from its position on the southern coast. While on this part of the island, be sure to climb the hill to Fort King George, just above the town. It was built by the English in the late 18th century, but frequently changed hands as other countries invaded. The fort's old barracks serves as the Tobago Museum (tel. 868/639-3970). Also on-site are the ruins of a military hospital.

Those who love marine life can follow in Cousteau's webbed footsteps and enjoy a day of snorkeling or diving in the clear, warm water that surrounds the island. You'll see a vast variety of colorful tropical fish, sponges, and nearly 300 varieties of coral. The cliffs and volcanic formations are home to large sea creatures like whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles, and squid. A variety of snorkeling tours can be arranged at www.mytobago.info/snorkelling05.php.

If you prefer to stay on dry land, consider a 5-hour naturalist-led tour to get a closer look at the incredible tropical birds and other wildlife on the island. You'll pass through the rainforest, coconut plantations, and dazzling waterfalls while on your tour. For details, contact Newton George, Speyside (tel. 868/660-5463 or 868/754-7881).

Although most people come to Tobago to enjoy the island's tranquillity, lively nightlife can be had. This is, after all, the region that produced calypso, soca, and steel drum music. Local hotels and bars play everything from karaoke music to the laid-back sounds of reggae, perfect soundtracks for a vacation away from it all.

Information: Tourism Division of the Tobago House of Assembly, airport office (tel. 868/639-0509), or I. B. Mall in Scarborough (tel. 868/639-2125).

Getting There: Direct flights into Tobago.

Where to Stay: Arnos Vale Hotel, Scarborough (tel. 868/639-2881; www.arnosvalehotel.com). Blue Waters Inn, Batteaux Bay, Speyside (tel. 800/448-8355 in the U.S., or 868/660-4314; www.bluewatersinn.com).