My girlfriend, Leigh, and I, visited Castara, Tobago for the first time. We flew out of Washington DC (DCA) at 7:05pm, arrived in Houston (IAH) at 9:45pm, then made our connection for Port of Spain at 11:55pm. We landed in POS at 6:05am. Immigration and Customs took a half hour to clear. So our allotted three plus hour layover (to be safe), turned out to be more than enough time for our connection to Tobago. We were the only plane arriving at that time in the morning, so the lines were minimal. I packed some spearfishing gear (a collapsible pole-spear), so I thought I may get the ‘treatment’ from T&T customs. I was simply asked what was in the tube I was carrying, I said a fishing rod, and that was that. Our bags were not checked and off we went.
Our scheduled 10:05am flight out of POS to TAB left about 15 minutes late. We arrived at TAB at 10:50am to a small terminal. We collected our bags and met our pre-arranged ground transportation for the drive to the Seascape Villa in Castara. Rolling, the manager of Seascape was very accommodating. Our first stop was at the ‘Super Saver’ grocery store in Crown Point. The selection was good, (not like you find in a major U.S. supermarket), but it was pretty much what I expected having experienced grocery stores in other countries. The wild birds flying around inside the store added that special touch. The lines were long, but it was Saturday, and everyone was shopping. We spent about $200 (U.S.) for about one week of provisions to the two of us.
Rolling gave us the nickel island tour on the route to Castara, including Scarborough. The cruise ship was in town, so there were groups of cruisers being cattled around like school children on a field trip. (I don’t like cruises ). Driving in Tobago is an eye opener if you’re used to U.S. driving. Potential head on collisions with on-coming passing vehicles is the norm.
We arrived in Castara to find a quaint town with an extra laid back atmosphere. In my opinion, our Seascape Villa has the best views in town. The deck sits about 70 feet over the beach of ‘Little Bay’ and the panorama is amazing. The villa’s ocean facing walls, are shutters that open up which make it completely open to experience the outdoors inside.
That night, Chenno’s coffee shop was having a BBQ with a steel drum player. I had the grilled tuna, (caught that day by a local fisherman), and it was outstanding. Prices are reasonable, I think about $12 U.S. for two tuna steaks and two sides.
We caught up on some sleep in the morning, and even the cock-a-doodle do and dog bark orchestra couldn't disturb us. We hit the blazing hot beach around noon. There’s some shaded areas that offer a bit of respite from the sun. We rented two beach lounging chairs from Alibaba’s outfit for $40 TT or $7 U.S. each. I got to talking to some locals on the beach, and they worked for a local tour guide named ‘Roachee’. One was kind enough to let Leigh use his paddleboard to follow me around while I was snorkeling and checking out the underwater reef life. I had my pole spear with me, but didn’t find the Grouper or Triggerfish I was after. There was a good amount of brightly colored Parrotfish, Anglefish, Cuttlefish, Wrasse, etc. They were too pretty to shoot, and I wouldn't want to take that beauty away from Castara’s reef. I also saw two Hawksbill Sea Turtles and quite a few very large rays. All this on the expansive reef right off the beach. We stopped at the ‘Boathouse’ bar on the beach at Little Bay to end the day. The staff is nice, the beach dogs are super friendly (but don’t feed them) and the sunset was awesome. Note to the tourist that got off Alibaba’s snorkeling tour boat…walking into to a bar/restaurant and throwing your leaky bag of trash on the floor, then walking away expecting the staff to clean it up, is low class. The day of sun must have fried your brain to the size of a plankton turd. Keep your filth close to you, where it belongs.
Before retiring, we visited one of the local shoe-box grocery stores to pick up some beers ($8 TT or $1.30 U.S. each). We also stopped at some fruit and veggie stands where we bought some reasonably priced fresh goods.
We got up and decided to get some exercise. Running the hills condenses a 90 minute workout into about 20 minutes. It’s very challenging for those that decide to do it. After that, we hung out on Little Bay beach. Try to find a spot with a shady tree nearby. The sun is intense, and will suck the life out of you. Some guys landed their little boat on the beach and brought in some nice Yellowfin Tuna, Mahi and Red Snapper. They delivered it to the Boathouse restaurant, so we knew they have some fresh fish in the kitchen. That evening we shopped the local veggie stands and then whipped up a nice dinner in the villa and called it a night. The chickens and dogs will communicate at all hours of the night, but it’s usually short lived.
Rise and shine for another beach day. Snorkeling, sunning and shading. I wanted to go fishing, so I inquired about a trip with Alibaba’s Tours which operates next to the Boathouse. Usually, they will only take a minimum of four people for $450 U.S. That was out of my price range, since it was only me. I got to talking to some locals hanging out around the beach, and was able to find a young man that had a skiff. We talked fishing, and since I run a small fishing business back home, I concluded he knew how to catch them. We agreed to have him pick me up on the beach at 6:30am the next morning. We ended the evening with a home cooked meal, and I geared up for the fishing trip.
Up at 5am, sat on the deck and watched the Parrots do their thing while I had coffee. I also discovered we had some nighttime visitors in our kitchen. Our villa is open air, meaning if animals want to come in, they can. No big deal, but if you don’t cover your fruit up, then they will help themselves. I guess it was birds, but the bananas took a beating. Lesson learned, put a towel over the tasty stuff.
Jade, the skiff fisherman, met me on the beach at 6:30am as promised. I was a little confused, as he didn’t have any fishing rods on board. Apparently they hand line their fish in, which is cool by me. I’ve never done it, so I was excited to try it. The skiff is of the commercial fishing variety. It’s not made for comfort, but I was not surprised. We traveled about 3 miles out then stopped at small boat catching flying fish to get bait. We kept going offshore and it got pretty rough. There was a big eastern swell with breaking white caps. I fish a lot, but have never been in those conditions in such a small boat. But Jade didn't mind, so neither did I. Let me add that there was no GPS, radio, life jackets (except for the one I brought) or safety equipment to speak off. Be prepared if you go on this type of trip, it would frighten most people (including me at times). On the way out we saw a giant Leatherback Turtle surface, and numerous Man-O-War jellyfish. With that said, we were high speed trolling a rope/wire line dragging tuna baits about 20 miles out. The rope came tight, and I looked back to see about a 500lb Blue Marlin sky out of the water. As soon as that giant fish came down, the heavy gauge wire snapped. Jade was upset, as he could have fed the entire village with that fish. It was huge. I have no idea how he would have hand lined that monster in and got it in our little boat, but would have loved to help him try. After that, we spotted some Frigate birds working the surface. We saw some Mahi darting about, and slung a flying fish at them. We managed to hook about a 25lb Mahi, and that was a nice fight with no rod or reel. Gaffed and boxed it. After that excitement, the bite stopped, so we went back in after a few hours. That was a rough ride, but worth it. No beach after that, I was done.
I was running low on cash, but unfortunately the ATM in Castara did not like my card. It liked other people’s cards, including my girlfriends, but not mine. I had to strike up a deal with our property manager to give me ride to Scarborough so I could replenish my cash. We went the long way around the western side of the island to see the sites. I checked out the little villages, the coastline, and got the lowdown on island life. That was an interesting ride. They drive fast and reckless, but I didn't say anything. We stopped to pick up her daughter from school then went to the mall where I got cash and went shopping at the mall grocery store. It’s clean, and has a good selection, including Miller Lite, which Leigh loves. I was the hero for the day. I gave Lavonne (my ride) $300 TT or 60$ U.S. for the island tour/bank/grocery run. When I got back, we cooked fresh Mahi, and that was it. I was burnt out.
I was up before the sun to the roaring sound of a tropical downpour. It made all the motion sensor lights come on around the villa, so that heightened my awareness briefly. It was gone as quick as it started and the sun welcomed a new day.
I walked down to the other beach (Heavenly Beach) over the little hill that separates the two Castara beaches. I grabbed a chair left over from the bonfire the night before and chilled out at the water line with a cup of coffee. Looking out to sea, I saw a strange little submarine type wake cruising at a good clip towards the beach. The early riser fishermen were pointing at it from their boats close to shore. It got right up to the beach and up pops a large head. It was a humongous Leatherback turtle, probably 7-8ft long. I guess it wanted to come ashore, but saw me, and decided it would find less populated spot to land. It veered away and headed back up the coastline leaving a Lochness Monster type of wake behind it. That was a nice little nature surprise. Just after that, I saw Jade, the skiff fisherman, prepping for a trip. He said he’d like to take me back out tomorrow to see if we can get on a better bite. That sounded good to me so I’d be meeting him the next day at 6am.
Leigh and I made the quick mid-morning hike up to the Castara waterfall. It’s a neat little trail through the forest that follows a stream to the falls. We saw lizards, birds and crazy flowers. It’s the dry season, so not so much water coming down, but still a cool hike. After that, it was beach time for the rest of the day and home cooking at night.
I got up to some very loud surf crashing on the beach below. Apparently, a storm offshore had whipped some big seas. I thought fishing may have been called off, but not the case. I met Jade the fish man at 6:30am. I had to swim out to his boat with my gear because the waves prevented him from getting close to the beach. I had anticipated the swim, so I packed nothing that would suffer if soaked. We fished all day in some scary seas. I have a 25’ fishing boat at home, and would not take it out in the conditions we were fishing in with Jade’s 19’ skiff. But despite the size of the waves, we focused on fishing. When the offshore fishing day was over, Jade took by boat to Bucco Reef and then Mt. Irvine to check some surf spots. The waves were cranking and the break was awesome for surfing.
I got back, and Leigh was bummed out because there was no beach to lay out on. The sea had claimed pretty much all the beach on Little Bay. There were some small patches on the big beach, but that was pretty much washed over too. Oh well, a few drinks on the deck and marveling at the power of the ocean was a good end to the day.
Leigh and I woke to more roiling seas. The beach was not really usable (again). We decided to take another hike. This time we headed up the road away from Castara to the scenic overlook at the top of the hill. Walking the road requires you to keep an eye out for fast moving vehicles. Not really that dangerous because you can usually hear them coming before they fly around the blind corners. I’d say it’s about a 2.5 mile hike one way to the overlook. It offers a great view of the town and bays below. We ran back down the hill and I felt like a boiling pot of jelly at the end. We went to the big bay beach to try to find a patch of sand to set up camp. The waves had made the select few hearty beach goers attempt to fit into small patches of dry sand. We decide to pass on that scene. We sat on the deck and soaked up the sun all day.
That night we visited the Castara Retreats restaurant. I must say the food was delicious. I had steak and Leigh had a pesto pasta dish. Very good food indeed. Our bill for two apps, two entrees, and four drinks was $425 TT. We walked back to our villa and hit the sack.
We departed Castara at 11am for our 1:05pm flight to Port of Spain. Since it’s almost impossible to find a connecting flight flying from Tobago to Trinidad then to the U.S. on the same day, we had to spend the night in Trinidad. On the way to the Tobago airport, Rolling, our driver, stopped by a road side stand to get some fresh, cold coconut water. I loved it, Leigh…not so much. At the Tobago airport, the lines were pretty long at the Caribbean Air desks. We spend about ½ hour in line before an agent called out looking for people on our flight. Once we identified ourselves, we were fast tracked to the front of the line and made our flight with a few minutes to spare.
After arriving at POS airport, Veejaintee and her husband picked us up at the front entrance (free of charge) then shuttled us to their bed and breakfast (The Piarco Village Inn). They run a nicely appointed, small Inn about a mile from the airport. It’s modern, secure, with TV, Internet and they offer fantastic personal service. Once we got settled into our room they offered to drop us off at the TrinCity Mall about a mile away. The mall is huge, clean and offers pretty much anything you’d want. It was rather busy with everyone dressed up for the Baptist Liberation holiday. While walking the mall, we were stared at everywhere we went. We both are fair skinned, blond haired folks, which 99% of the other patrons were not. Regardless, we never felt unsafe. Maybe a little flattered. Veegaintee gave us a phone to call her for pickup when we were done. We spent about 2 hours milling about, eating and buying stuff and called for a ride pack to the Inn. Veejaintee was there in minutes, and we went back to our room to watch American TV the rest of the night (an amenity that was not really missed while in Tobago).
Our flight to Houston was scheduled to leave at 8:00am. Veejaintee was up cooking us scrambled eggs and bacon to be served at 6am. We also had fruit, toast..the whole deal. That was a nice way wake up. Veejaintee dropped us off at the airport at 6:45am and made our flight easily. We made the connection to DCA and here we are back in the U.S. Now back to work. Bummer.
A few notes:
1. The younger men have no problem letting a lady know she is pretty with an assortment of adjectives and verbs…even with the lady’s significant other standing right next to her. Nothing blatantly dirty, but I wasn’t too fond of those comments. No trouble came of it.
2. They smoke ganga…a lot of ganga. Beaches, bars, restaurants, street corners, wherever. I don’t care, but thought I’d mention it.
3. The service can be slow. It’s just the way it is. They tend to get to you when they feel like it. Don’t expect a rushed attitude towards service if you visit.
4. The power went out three times for an average of 2-3 hours per outage.
Overall, we loved it. I did not feel threatened, unsafe or have to fight for my life at any time during our visit to Trinidad or Tobago. Most everyone was nice and offered greetings when we passed or met them. We will return armed with the knowledge of our first visit.