Columbus named it ‘Bellaforma’ in 1498. Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond novels there in the 1950s, a bottle of Bollinger on ice nearby. Close your eyes and imagine what they saw, and felt: a near-perfect tropical isle, warm starlit nights and sun-bleached days, a glistening white curve of sand, intense blues of sea and sky, swaying palm trees and virgin forests, tropical flowers and fruits filling the air with perfume, bright-coloured birds and butterflies, and a welcome from a friendly rural people.
The island is Tobago. These days, as in the past, people come here to experience the real Caribbean. For centuries it has been, and remains, one of the world’s most natural, beautiful, peaceful places. It is the last of the Caribbean’s unspoilt islands —similar in size to Barbados yet with only 20% of its population and 5% of its visitors.
At 26 miles long and seven miles wide, it is a paradise in miniature, a feast for the eyes and senses: picturesque, bumpy roads wind around the coast past beautiful bays, then climb across the mountainous backbone through tall stands of creaking bamboo and dense rainforest—the western hemisphere’s oldest protected forest reserve—before plunging into the panoramic vistas on the other side. On one side, the wave-lashing Atlantic Ocean; on the other, the placid Caribbean Sea.
Steep orchards planted with bananas, lemon, orange and lime trees line the roads. Beaches line the shoreline, each with a different character, some busy with fishermen and sunbathers, others deserted, their warm sands disturbed only by the slap of tiny waves and the occasional thud of a falling palm frond.
It seems you have seen the most beautiful, but walk around the bend and there is another: Pigeon Point, among the world’s top 10 beautiful beaches; Englishman’s Bay, ravishing and often deserted; Store Bay, another picture-postcard beach where candy-coloured cabins sell crab and dumplin’, macaroni pie and sea-moss punch; Canoe Bay, where you can drink perhaps the best rum punch in the islands; Mount Irvine, where the reef is near the shore and snorkelling is breathtaking; and Buccoo Bay, matched only by Australia’s Great Barrier Reef for marine variety, another snorkellers’ delight and the beach where they race goats—seriously. There is a new bay for every day, and our new private villa is in the perfect place to explore them all.
This luxury two-bedroom villa is owned by one of our members. It stands in peaceful seclusion on a former sugar cane plantation—now the Tobago Plantations Beach and Golf Resort—its private terrace and pool set amid tropical plants and flowers, with views of the fairways and the sea. You can expect to hear at dawn the call of the cocricos (rufous vented chacalaca), or be visited on your verandah by bananaquits and blue-grey tanagers. A short stroll from here can take you either to the five-star Vanguard Hotel and Spa (formerly the Hilton), and its private beach on the Atlantic side of the island, or, farther away in the opposite direction, to the placid Caribbean side and a quartet of those wonderful beaches—Pigeon Point, Canoe Bay, Stonehaven and Store Bay.
The sea that laps these beaches is as warm and gentle as your bath. It is at its warmest in the rainy season—jumping in during a quick tropical rainburst is great fun, and the re-emerging sun dries you in no time. Beyond the beaches, the scuba diving is legendary. Enriched by nutrients swept along from Venezuela’s Orinoco River, the reef sites contain 44 species of coral, including the world’s biggest brain coral (12ft by 16ft). Then there is Tobago’s magnificent fishing.
These sparkling waters offer some of the most productive big game fishing grounds in the Caribbean, and for a day of serious fishing you can charter all you need for light tackle and flyfishing, offshore and coastal. Captain Gerard ‘Frothy’ De Silva and his crew have released more than 200 marlin up to 700lb, more than 200 sailfish, and caught swordfish, long bill spearfish and mako shark in the waters off Tobago. The Tobago International Game Fishing Tournament is held each year in March in the beautiful fishing village of Charlotteville.
WHEN TO GO
Any time. Tobago is out of the usual hurricane path. It is warm and sunny all year, with fresh trade winds. The average temperature is 30°C (86°F). Peak season, January to May, is the ‘dry season’. It is cooler (80°F) and rains little. The low season, June to December, is the so-called ‘wet season’ but is far from monsoon-like. It is more humid, the sea is warmer, and tropical rain usually falls in short, sharp bursts before the sun comes out again. The island is at its most beautiful then, as everything is full of colour.
Tobago lies off the coast of Venezuela, South America, just north of the Equator. It is an 8-10 hour flight from the UK, depending on route. It used to be part of South America and is therefore home to wild life usually found only on the geographical mainland. There are no poisonous snakes or spiders, no man-eating sharks or box jellyfish.
English is the official language. The local currency is the Trinidad and Tobago dollar (currently 10.40 TT$ to the pound). A bottle of local beer, Carib, costs about 8 TT$ at most beach or local bars, as can the local take-away favourite, roti with chicken, beef, shrimp or goat.
Getting around is easy. You can hire a Jeep, and petrol is inexpensive. Driving is on the left with a 30mph (50kph) speed limit. There are buses, or hail a maxi taxi along the road. This unofficial taxi network is inexpensive and a bit like thumbing a lift.
January: Carnival season starts. You will see the preparations, adults and children busy making costumes and rehearsing dances.
February: Carnival season continues, culminating in two days of music and mayhem on the Monday and Tuesday before Lent when the island closes down and pulsates with music and dancing.
March: The Tobago Game Fishing Tournament.
April: Goat racing in Buccoo on Easter Tuesday. The goats are bred for racing and ‘jockeys’ run alongside them. It is a serious sport, but provides its hilarious moments. Also: Jazz Festival.
May: Angostura Regatta Tobago Sail Week, ‘the friendliest regatta in the Caribbean’. The emphasis is on partying for all. The hub of activities is Crown Point (not far from our Member’s villa).
June: Fisherman’s Festival. Celebrates the patron saint of fishermen on St Peter’s Day.
July: Tobago Heritage Festival. Folk singing and dancing to celebrate the island’s traditions.
August: Carib Great Race. Pow-erboat racing to Trinidad.
September: Tobago Fest, a mini-Carnival of music and dance.
October: Tobago International Cycling Classic. Attracts cyclists from all over the world in an event that covers the island.
December: Caribbean Christmas.
The luxury villa is on the ground floor of a modern duplex with two large double bedrooms, each with walk-in wardrobes and spacious en-suite bathrooms with shower and tub, set apart by a large open-plan living area and full-equipped kitchen. Facilities include a washer and dryer, air conditioning, ceiling fans, cable TV in each room, DVD player, safe box and wireless internet access. Outside there is a private plunge pool with pool shower and lavatory.
The villa is a few minutes’ walk from the five-star hotel and spa, with all the usual facilities including restaurants, cocktail bar overlooking the beach, and spa. The 18-hole PGA golf course (which has hosted the European Seniors Classic Tournament three times) has a clubhouse, putting green and driving range.
International Hotel: The published rates for this villa and others of a similar standard start at more than £2,000 per week, but Members receive 75% off. As it has two double rooms, Members are therefore paying a little less than £18 per person per day plus VAT for four—an amazing deal, and perhaps the El Snippo of them all …
Low season (May-November), £500 plus VAT per week (seven nights) and £900 plus VAT per fortnight (14 nights). High season (December-April), £600 plus VAT per week and £1,100 plus VAT per fortnight. This makes the holiday incredibly inexpensive, even if there are only two of you, and you can book at any time, subject to availability of course.
Airport transfers, car hire (currently costing about £200 a week with a free day thrown in) and return flights can all be arranged for you.
To check availability, please call Member Services on 020 7399 2960 or follow the link below.
PLEASE READ: Hotel Bookings Cancellation Policy.