Why is Trinidad and Tobago called Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago at a glance

The two dissimilar sisters are somewhat isolated at the southern end of the Caribbean island arc within sight of the South American mainland. And yet nobody has to do without the unmistakable Caribbean ingredients, such as the delicate coconut palms that lean in an exemplary manner over pristine sandy beaches, the rainforest and its exotic inhabitants, the pulsating life of people of all skin types. The smell of the rum is part of it as well as the spicy Creole cuisine, the omnipresent sound of soca and calypso and the fading traces of an inglorious colonial past.

Maracas Bay, Trinidad
(Photo: © PHB.cz - Fotolia.com)

The "Trinbagonians" have chosen "Come to Life" as their motto, whereby the Tobagonians take it easy and carefully manage their treasures - the fish-rich coral reef, the beaches, the steaming rainforest and a multitude of local traditions. The Trinidadians, who do not need the gentle tourism a là Tobago, because they bring in more oil and gas, who love the grand gesture, the spectacular event such as the carnival, which they firmly believe is about to overtake Rio, are completely different . So things are going on in Port-of-Spain, where everything is concentrated: motorcades and cruise fleets, business and nightlife, countless festivities of a multiethnic society and the carnival enthusiasm that is already noticeable in October when in the so-called Mascamps ("mas "=" Masquerade ") begins with the creation of unusual, downright ludicrous costumes and the noise of the steel bands swells as they hammer on barrels and canisters called steelpans and with the calypso, who was also born in Trinidad, the Caribbean" joie-de-vivre. " " to celebrate. The time has come on a February or March Saturday. A children's move is the beginning. Carnival king and queen are elected on the following “Dimanche gras”, “J`ouvert”, Monday, sees the “Oldmas bands” prancing through the streets and on Tuesday the carnival street theater soars to its colorful, sound-saturated climax.

Port of Spain, Trinidad
(Photo: © lidian neeleman - Fotolia.com)

Before turning your back on the vibrant Port of Spain, you should take a look at the pride and joy of the city, Queens Park Savannah, the more than one square kilometer lawn (“has room for everything”) where you can go jogging or play football and cricket, fly kites, meet for a picnic. On its western edge are the "Magnificent Seven", magnificent city palaces from the colonial era, including the Queens Royal College, which was built in the German Renaissance style for inexplicable reasons, and where the Indian-born Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul acquired his literary tools, which earned him the 2001 Nobel Prize for Literature. In his novel “A House for Mister Biswas” he tells of his childhood and youth in Trinidad. Fort San Andres at the harbor and Fort George in the green hills of the hinterland with wonderful views of the city and the sea and the not so distant mountain ranges of Venezuela bear witness to a warlike past. Churches and cathedrals, the large Friday mosque and the many Hindu temples reflect the ethnic and religious diversity of today's Caribbean state.

On Ash Wednesday, “Carnival cool-down parties” are the order of the day, preferably at Maracas Bay, which is only 35 minutes away, or another beautiful sandy bay on the north coast. Cooling down is guaranteed. This is ensured by fresh breezes and brisk waves. And the favorite food of all Trinidadians, "bake and shark" (fried shark fillets in a dumpling with lots of vegetables and sauces) lifts the mood. Tyrico, Las Cuevas and Blanchisseuse are other beaches and weekend homes on the northern shoreline, where the strong currents of the Atlantic and Caribbean seas collide. Grande Rivière is particularly attractive with a small hotel right on the beach, which can offer its guests an incomparable spectacle. Between March and August, the mighty leatherback turtles heave themselves right in front of the terrace
out of the water, drag themselves up the beach, remain exhausted for a short moment, then dig a deep hole into which they lay their eggs, in order to start the arduous way back to the water after this procedure.

From the coast the terrain rises steeply to the inaccessible Northern Range. The broad mountainous terrain takes up around a quarter of the area of ​​Trinidad. Dense rainforest covers its mountain ranges, an Eldorado for hikers and nature lovers, especially for “birdwatchers”. The striking biodiversity of the mountain region is explained by the meeting of Caribbean and continental American species. You can spot the golden tree frog here, but only in the foggy, damp, cool summit area of ​​the two highest mountains of the range (approx. 940 m) and in close association with a bromeliad, in whose water the leaves it lays its eggs. Armadillo, agouti, possum, wild boar and anteater scour the undergrowth and scare away the now rare, endemic blue-throated guuan, which is vaguely reminiscent of a turkey. Examples from Trinidad's bird world, whose roots are in the South American Andes, include the golden-beaked muse thrush, telesilla hummingbird and red-necked swift, as well as the chicken-sized "oilbird", the only nocturnal, fruit-consuming bird in the world that navigates like bats with echolocation and is at home in the Aripo Caves. Everything about the animal world of the range is known at the 400 m high Asa Wright Nature Center and Lodge. Guided tours are offered and guest rooms are made available.

The Caroni swamps south of Port-of-Spain, which are badly crowded by settlements and highways, also magically attract “birdwatchers”, as the mangrove swamp is home to a large colony of scarlet ibis, hundreds or thousands of which in the evenings as a breathtaking scarlet cloud rest in their resting places approach the mangroves. Visitors can be maneuvered through the narrow canals in shallow keel boats and watch Trinidad's scarlet heraldic bird and rare heron species during their flight maneuvers.

The scarlet ibis, Trinidad's heraldic animal
(Photo: © hotshotsworldwide - Fotolia.com)

In the middle of the country, more precisely: in the eastern Central Range on the northern slope of Mount Tamana, there is a destination that is seldom approached, perhaps because it triggers not only curiosity but also a good deal of fear and disgust. They are the Tamana Caves, shelter for up to three million bats. The forest path there is a slippery affair and nettle plants attack unprotected areas of skin from everywhere. Then it suddenly goes steeply downhill, guano puddles have to be waded through, where masses of giant cockroaches feast on the excretions of the bats, high time to cover all skin surfaces in order to adequately protect yourself against bacterial infections by guano. It is already shortly before six and the first swarms are leaving the maze of caves. It will be hours before everyone is out. No fewer than eleven species live in the 18 sections of the cave, including insect-hunting and fruit-eating, nectar-sipping and blood-sucking species, "but only a few" of the latter, as it is soothingly called.

(Photo: © BJN - Fotolia.com)

Some rivers from the Central Range just visited dump their water loads in the island's largest freshwater wetland. Nariva Swamp on Trinidad's Atlantic coast has a whole mosaic of vegetation types. So there are tropical lowland rainforest, mangrove areas, swamp forest, palm settlements, freshwater marshes. The protected area is to become a national park and open to ecotourism. After all, it is a designated waterfowl habitat and is home to some family associations of the endangered West Indian manatees. Caimans are common, and anaconda and boa constrictor are also not uncommon.

For miles, coconut palms flank the coastal fringe south of Nariva, which is washed over by the thundering Atlantic breakers. Then you reach Mayaro with the longest beach on the island, and finally the village of Guayaguayare on the southeast corner of the island, where, according to tradition, Christopher Columbus sighted Trinidad for the first time on July 31, 1498 on his third voyage. The Aruak Indians resident here and the warlike Caribs who beset them were not very impressed by the arrival of the Europeans, and Spain itself did not do much for its new territory, as it did not promise any riches. It was not until 1530 that the Spanish crown installed a governor who, in the following 20 years, had the Caribs and Aruaks almost completely exterminated. Much later (1592) the first settlement was founded, San José de Oruna, which was promptly reduced to ashes by the English envious people in the person of the royal favorite Sir Walter Raleigh. Decades later, the Spanish governor complained that no Spanish ship had visited Trinidad in living memory. To stop the impending decline, the Spanish crown encouraged the immigration of Catholics of other nationalities from 1783. French people from other Caribbean islands accepted the invitation and immediately brought their slaves and their expertise in sugar cane cultivation with them. The French language islands in T&T go back to these immigrants. Then again British warships appeared off Trinidad, took over the island in 1797 and had it finally awarded in the Peace of Amiens (1802).

The Spanish interest in Tobago was zero. Other colonial powers were all the more involved, not only the English and the French, but also the Dutch and even the Baltic Duchy of Courland under Jakob Kettler, a grandson of the last Teutonic Order Master, reached out to Tobago and founded “New Courland”, which is located in “Nieuw Walcheren “Transformed when it was the Dutch turn to move. Between 1608 and 1803 the island changed hands 31 times.
In the 1830s, after the abolition of slavery, the cocoa and sugar cane-based economies of the two islands came into dire straits. Contract workers from India and China were the way out. In 1888, London united the islands into a colonial administrative unit and declared it a crown colony, which gained considerable strategic importance from 1910 after the discovery of oil deposits and their systematic exploitation by US companies. In 1962, T&T passed the colonial constitution and became an independent state under the Commonwealth, with a republican constitution since 1976.

Parlatuvier Bay, Tobago
(Photo: © PHB.cz - Fotolia.com)

If you missed Port of Spains Carnival, you don't have to despair. In the southwest of the island, in Point Fortin, a month or two later a miniature carnival is celebrated with everything that goes with it - only the appearance is a bit more modest. If you are on the southwestern peninsula, a detour to the nearby Pitch Lake of La Brea is part of the visit program. The emergence of liquid asphalt, which becomes plastic through evaporation, created the largest natural asphalt repository on earth on an area of ​​approx. 40 ha. It consists of a mixture of petroleum, salt water, minerals, sand, sulfur and organic matter, is estimated to be a hundred meters deep and its total amount is between seven and ten million tons. Its surface is so rigid and viscous that it looks like an "abandoned parking lot" and can be entered with due care. A car would sink pretty quickly, only to reappear after years, because the viscous mass circulates - like in 1928, when a huge tree trunk, which was estimated to be 4,000 years old, drifted out of the black underground to the surface, only to sink again immediately.
The day can end leisurely in the "distant" southwest, which many a Trinidadian only knows from hearsay. Small forests follow coconut plantations, on the edge of teak plantations, freely roaming Buffalypsos emerge (actually a word creation from Buffalo and Calypso, a breed of water buffalo that originated in Trinidad and is described as intelligent and disease-resistant). The narrowing path leads to inviting beaches.

No, Tobago is not "the island of Robinson Crusoes" that brazen copywriters insist on! The real Robinson Crusoe island, where what took place, which Daniel Defoe used as a template for his novel, is on the other side of the continent in the Pacific. It is called Mas a Tierra and belongs to the Chilean Juan Fernández Archipelago. In 1966 it was renamed Isla Robinsón Crusoe.
Why decorate with strange feathers when the small island effortlessly manages to make the dream of a tropical island paradise come true every day? What is needed for this is available in abundance. There are countless sandy beaches lined with palm trees and a pristine beach life with no parades of vanity. Hotels, large or small, surprise with a touching "old-fashioned courtesy" and the leisurely way of life of the locals, their reserved and helpful manner, quickly finds its way to the hearts of visitors. The Tobagonians do not appreciate the loud, zealous rush of speech and neither do they appreciate the cranked glittering world. If you miss that, they would give you a friendly signal to go over to Trinidad. All the more enthusiastically they show strangers their island homeland by taking them to the annual Tobago Heritage Festival, at which local traditions come back to life, wedding customs, for example, and storytelling, dances, music, culinary delights. Now is the chance to finally enjoy Curried Crab & Dumpling, an island favorite that simmered crabs in a thick curry sauce mixed with coconut milk and served with a kind of dumpling. Goat races are a highlight of the Easter holidays. Of course, the jockey is not sitting on his goat - he runs after, holds the animal on the rope, cheers it on with loud shouts and sometimes helps with a whip. He can even earn money with it, after all, bets are made on every occasion. The crab races, on the other hand, are leisurely and often last an hour if the stubborn arthropods do not want to complete the 3-meter race course at any price.

Rainforest covers much of the island. Largely untouched, it follows the Main Ridge, the main mountain range, from the northeastern tip to the southwest, where Tobago becomes flat and sandy. Known as the Tobago Forest Reserve, the rainforest is believed to be the oldest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. An "Act of Parliament" of April 8, 1776 declared it a protected area. Very steep and fragmented slopes do not allow the terrain to be used economically. It was able to permanently preserve its vegetation cover and even the destructive hurricanes of 1790, 1847, 1963 and 1974 had their benefits, because they rejuvenated the forest. Guided tours through the dense rainforest vegetation are without question a sweaty undertaking, but still highly recommended. The rangers are well versed in fauna and flora, can assign every flower and interpret every sound, whether it comes from the maiden trogon, Tabago's heraldic bird, the red-tailed guuan, or the "king of the woods", the motmot. They know the changing colors of butterflies, 133 species of which are buzzing through the forests, and they explain the living conditions of ferns and herb plants, orchids and heliconias, and the many tree species.

Tabago's beaches are some of the best in the Caribbean. Probably the best known is called Pigeon Point. Mount Irvine Bay nearby and Englishman`s Bay on the Caribbean side and Speyside Beach on the Atlantic are "great for swimming and snorkeling".

Tobago's diving areas are also “great”. Anyone who should know, notes a diversity "that you normally only find in the Great Barrier Reef" and Jacques Cousteau put Tobago's Buccoo Reef in third place in his ranking of the most important coral reefs. It will be due to the nutrient-rich inputs that favor the submarine communities. You can find almost every known species of coral, including the largest brain coral on earth. There are parrot fish nearby, a giant tarpon shoots past, manta rays float through the turquoise blue. A shoal of bottlenose dolphins play around a sea turtle, barracudas meet octopuses and moray eels in their loopholes are eyeing them.

Eckart Fiene

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General travel information and current Entry requirements as well as notes on security and medical care can be found on the following pages of the Foreign Office (Berlin): Foreign Office

From Frankfurt / Main, Condor flies non-stop to Tobago (Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson International Airport) in a good 10 hours, and back in 11 hours, 30 minutes with a stopover in Barbados. Condor also flies to the capital of the island state, Port-of-Spain (Piarco International Airport), but with a somewhat time-consuming connection that first leads to Toronto (Canada) and then continues with a plane from the Canadian low-cost airline WestJet. The travel time including stopover / waiting time is a good 20 hours. LIAT (Leeward Islands Air Transport), based in Antigua, serves 17 destinations in the Caribbean from its two hubs in Barbados and Trinidad (Piarco International Airport). The network extends from the tiny British overseas territory of Anguilla via Trinidad and Georgetown (Guyana) to Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands. Caribbean Airlines have also selected Port of Spain as their hub and fly from there to ten Caribbean island destinations and are also internationally linked with the USA (Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New York), Venezuela (Caracas), Canada (Toronto), Guyana (Georgetown), Suriname (Paramaribo), Nassau (Bahamas).

Caribbean Airlines commute several times a day between Trinidad (Piarco) and Tobago (A.N.R. Robinson International Airport). Flight time: 25-30 minutes. It takes about two and a half hours for high-speed catamarans to make the 20 mile trip from the Port of Spain terminal on Wrighton Road to Scarborough, Tobago. The state-run Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) uses modern, mostly air-conditioned buses to transport people overland and provide city service in San Fernando and Port-of-Spain. The countless inexpensive maxi taxis (minibuses) do not have a good reputation. There is left-hand traffic! The roads are quite tidy, but mostly only two lanes and very winding. The driving style of the locals is described as "unorthodox".

Atlantic Standard Time (AST) applies in Trinidad and Tobago. It is 5 hours behind CET and 6 hours behind Central European Summer Time (CEST).

The stay is most pleasant from the end of December to the beginning of May, as there is less rainfall (driest: February / March) and the relative humidity is bearable. The water temperatures are between 26 and 28 degrees all year round.

The local currency is the Trinidad & Tobago Dollar (TTD). 1 dollar = 100 cents. Foreign currencies are exchanged in larger hotels and in most banks. Withdrawing money with the EC card is sometimes possible in larger cities. Prerequisite: the Cirrus or Maestro symbol. Withdrawing with one of the major credit cards is easier, as there are plenty of ATMs, at least in larger locations. Cashless payment with major credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard is possible almost everywhere.

110 V / 60 Hz, an adapter is required.

The Caribbean island state of Trinidad and Tobago forms the southern branch of the island arc of the Lesser Antilles. It is only a dozen kilometers off the Venezuelan coast at the height of the Orinoco Delta. Its closest northern neighbors are the island republics of Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados. With 5,128 km² (of which Trinidad 4,828 km², Tobago 300 km²), the islands are twice the size of Luxembourg.

Most of the islands in the Lesser Antilles are of volcanic origin. Not so T&T. They were once part of the South American mainland and only separated from this continent late - during the last Ice Age. The three mountain ranges that shape the landscape of Trinidad running in a west-east direction are continuations of Venezuelan mountain ranges. The Northern Range with the highest peak in the country, Mount Aripo (940 m), is an extension of the Venezuelan coastal cordillera (Cordillera de la Costa). Like the Southern Range on the south coast, the Central Range in the middle of the island only reaches heights of a good 300 m. Between the three mountain ranges lies partly swampy, often very fertile farmland. The flat west coast spans the Gulf of Paria with its two prominent peninsulas pointing to Venezuela. Lagoons have formed on this stretch of coast and mangroves have settled. During the summer rainy season, huge amounts of mud, drifting in from the Orinoco Delta, settle here in mud pools. They prevent corals from growing. The 80 km east coast has long sandy beaches and lagoons. An already strong surf here increases in strength on the steep cliff coasts and beach areas in the north. The image of the south coast is determined by high white cliffs, interrupted by sandy beaches and a few lagoons. The Northern Range also continues on Tobago, here under the name Main Ridge. It reaches 579 m and dominates the little sister island, which is famous for its beautiful sandy beaches and the offshore coral reefs.

T & T`s climate is humid and tropical with a dry season from December to May. The high temperatures (often over 30 degrees) fluctuate only insignificantly on an annual average. It rains least on the west coast (1,200 - 1,500 mm), in the interior much more (up to 2,500 mm) and most productively in the mountainous northeast (up to 3,800 mm). On Tobago, an average of 2,200 mm of rain falls with slightly lower temperatures than on Trinidad.

Because of the former dovetailing with the continent, both islands have an unusually rich flora and fauna that can hardly be found in any other ecosystem in the Caribbean. One speaks of around 2,500 plant species. Lush, tropical rainforest covers the island of Tabago except for a stretch of coast and the entire north of Trinidad. In Trinidad's south and west, the natural vegetation consists of savannahs and dry forests, in the extreme northwest there are xerophilic shrub steppes and extensive mangrove swamps on some sections of the coast. 700 species of orchids are native here, bamboo and bromeliads, coconut, date and royal palms, flamboyant, poui and teak.

The fact that the Trinidad Islands were part of the South American mainland until the last Ice Age is also reflected in the diversity of the fauna. Based on the size of the islands, there is the world's highest concentration of bird species, namely 470, including the endemic, shy forest bird Trinidad Guan, countless species of hummingbird, yellow-breasted sugar birds, the red-billed tropical bird, macaws, pelicans and scarlet bites , Tyrant, mangrove heron, the glossy red-tailed bird. Red-brown howler monkeys and white capuchin monkeys, manatees and caimans live in the marshland. Tree and rainbow boas, smooth-haired agouti guinea pigs, porcupines and the rare ocelot can be found in the dense forest areas, and encounters with armadillos, iguanas, opossums, umbilical pigs and anteaters are not uncommon. Around 600 species of butterflies cavort in the sea of ​​flowers and at Grand Riviere Bay the 700-900 kg leatherback turtles drag themselves to lay their eggs on the beach, the world's most important breeding ground for this endangered species.

The former British crown colony T&T has been an independent state with a republican constitution since 1962. He is a member of the Commonwealth. Legislative is a bicameral parliament: House of Representatives with 41 members elected for a maximum of five years (39 from Trinidad, 2 from Tobago) and Senate (31 members, recommended or appointed). Tobago received limited autonomy and a regional parliament in 1980. The small island (300 km²) has enjoyed full internal autonomy since 1987. A chief secretary is at the head of the administration. Administrative units are the parishes of St. Andrew, St. David, St. George, St. John, St. Mary, St. Patrick and St. Paul. The division of Trinidad includes two cities (Port-of-Spain and San Fernando), three boroughs (the municipalities of Arima, Chaguanas, Point Fortin) and nine districts: Couva / Tabaquite / Talparo, Diego Martin, Mayaro / Rio Claro, Penal / Debe , Princes Town, Sangre Grande, San Juan / Laventille, Siparia, Tunapuna / Piarco. As far as their political ties and voting decisions are concerned, a large part of society orients itself along ethnic dividing lines. Trinidadians and Tobagonians with African roots prefer the People's National Movement (PNM), while voters of Indian descent favor the United National Congress (UNC). The Prime Minister and Head of Government has been the Tobago-born PNM politician Keith Rowley since 2015. Since 2018, Paula-Mae Weekes has been the first woman to hold the presidency.

Port-of-Spain with 37,100 inhabitants (2011 Census). More recent estimates assume around 55,000 inhabitants.

The Population and Housing Census of 2011 determined a population of 1,328,019 in the island republic, around 52,600 of whom live in little Tobago. Trinidad's Central Statistical Office reported the population of the island state with 1,356,633 inhabitants in July 2017. In 2011, descendants of black African slaves make up 36.3% of the population, 37.6% have their roots in India (their ancestors were Indian contract workers who were brought into the country after the abolition of slavery), 24.2% themselves as mixed race, 0.3% have Chinese ancestors (they are also descendants of contract workers), 0.7% are whites, 0.1% Arabs from Syria and Lebanon. The native Indian population of the Arawak and Caribs was completely exterminated by the European colonial powers.

The official language is English. Spanish should become the second official language by 2020 at the latest. Various Hindu dialects (“Caribbean Hindustani”) are spoken, as well as Tobagonian Creole English and Trinidadian Creole English, as well as the French Creole patois, which goes back to French settlers and their slaves who came to Trinidad in the 18th century.

Over half of the total population belongs to Christian churches. Of these, 21.6% are Catholics, 12.0% Pfingskirchler, 6.9% Baptists, 5.7% Anglicans, 4.1% Adventists, 2.5% Presbyterians and others. smaller denominations. 18.2% are Hindus, 5% Muslim and a few percent follow Afro-Caribbean religious cults. These figures were determined in 2011.

The mainstay of the T&T economy is (still) the energy sector - the extraction, processing and export of crude oil and natural gas. Their share in total exports is 80% and in gross domestic product (GDP) 55%. However, the resources known today must be expected to be exhausted by around 2025 (natural gas) or 2045 (crude oil). Trinidad's refineries have already adapted to this and are increasingly processing imported oil and increasingly liquefying natural gas. T&T are right at the front among the liquefied gas producers. The island republic also occupies a leading position in the production and export of ammonia and methanol. With the support of foreign, including German companies (after the USA, Canada and Great Britain, Germany is the fourth largest direct investor), a lot of money is being invested in new petrochemical plants. T&T own the world's largest natural asphalt deposits. In order to reduce dependence on the chemical and energy sectors, the government is trying to diversify the economy as part of an investment program, which is progressing very slowly. The focus is on high-tech industries, financial services and tourism. The largest trading partner is the USA, to which more than 40% of exports go (in the past the USA alone bought 80% of the liquefied gas, today only 20%), most of it now goes to the Caribbean and South American countries. Around a third of imports come from the USA. So far, tourism has been seen more as “a form of economic addition” and not as the main source of income as in so many less developed countries. Now, however, the tourism sector is also to be promoted in a targeted manner in T&T. In recent years, however, the number of visitors has decreased slightly. The highlight was the year 2005, when over 463,000 travelers came to the land of carnival, natural beauties and beach paradises. This number was not reached afterwards. In 2012 there were 455,000 overnight visitors, in 2014 there were 412,000 and in 2016 410.00. The cruise passenger business fluctuates significantly from year to year. While 114,763 crusaders came to Tobago and Trinidad in 2009, their number fell to 49,159 in 2012. In the 2017/18 season, around 136,000 passengers were originally supposed to go ashore. However, significantly more came because competing Caribbean ports were canceled due to hurricane damage.