Sailing & Watersports: Alibaba Tours
RSR A review of a snorkelling and sightseeing boat tour with Alibaba
Captain Anaconda arrived at the Mount Irvine Bay beach facilities to take me on a snorkelling trip around Buccoo Reef. His fishing boat, known as a pirogue, was able to come in very close to the shore, and with a helping hand from the crew, I waded though the shallow light surf, hopped aboard and joined the Canadian family he had collected earlier. I was pleased to see that the boat was well-equipped, with nicely cushioned seats, a canopy for protection against the sun, ladders to get in and out of the boat, flotation devices, snorkelling gear and a cool box full of beers, soft drinks and bottled water. The boat was fitted with twin engines and there was a radio on board, not to mention Anaconda’s mobile phone, so one way and another I felt safe and so relaxed to enjoy the trip.
As we moved away from the beach, we could clearly see Buccoo Reef and the Nylon Pool out at sea, shimmering turquoise in the sunshine and surrounded by white, foaming wavelets. Staying as close to the shoreline as possible, we passed Buccoo village, then passed around Booby Point into Buccoo Bay, past the Bon Accord Lagoon and No Mans Land and finally to the tip of the long spit of sand that is Pigeon Point. From there, we headed directly out to the reef, going slowly and carefully over the extremely shallow water. Anaconda then cut the engines and cast the anchor so we could begin our exploration of the Coral Gardens.
With snorkel on and fins in hand, I climbed down the ladder that Anaconda had put over the side of the pirogue and gently entered the water. A magical, undersea world was immediately revealed – beautiful, amazing fish of many different colours, shapes and varieties were everywhere, feeding around the coral. I found the whole experience entrancing and absorbing and was impressed at the generous amount of time that we were given to snorkel to our hearts content. The crew were extremely alert and vigilant, constantly checking that everyone in the party was safe and happy.
Returning to the boat and enjoying a refreshing drink from the cool box, we then covered the short distance from the Coral Gardens to the Nylon Pool – a shallow sandy expanse in the eastern part of the reef lagoon. Princess Margaret gave it the name when she visited in the 1950’s. She was so impressed by the clarity of the water that she described it as being “like a pair of nylons”. What a mystical experience, to wade through such clear shallow water, with its base of coral fragments, so far out to sea! Some other boats were anchored nearby, so we all got together and chatted, shared drinks and refreshing slices of pineapple before Anaconda said it was time to leave.
I was pleased to find out that the trip was not yet over – there was still time to explore further areas of the coastline, west of the reef. Our boat had such a shallow draught that we were able to come in very close to the shore, going around the other side of Pigeon Point, past the Coco Reef Hotel and finally into Store Bay, where we turned round to head for home. As we passed Bon Accord Lagoon and No Mans Land again, Anaconda told us that when carrying passengers who were elderly or physically handicapped, he would anchor very close to shore and carry them on to the beach so they could enjoy a boat tour and picnic.
As we continued past Buccoo Bay, Booby Point and Buccoo Village, Anaconda pointed out the island of Trinidad that could be seen very clearly from the boat that day. On reaching our destination, Mount Irvine Bay, we lingered for a while to watch a magnificent sunset before disembarking. As we said ‘Goodbye’ everyone on board enthusiastically agreed that we had all had a wonderful afternoon that would remain in our memories for ever.
Reviewed April 2005 by Steve Pitts
As Jill has already mentioned in this review, the Alibaba Tours Pirogue is equipped with basic safety gear, which makes the operation somewhat safer than hiring a local fisherman, for a spot of inshore fishing. This therefore provides the opportunity for an ideal family outing, being much less expensive than a big-game offshore charter, yet offering the creature comforts that are totally absent when fishing in the smaller open boats.
Tackle provided is of a serviceable standard and comprises of 50lb class Star tournament rods, matched with PENN Senator 6/0 reels, loaded with sufficient quantities of mono line to land anything that is likely to be encountered within a mile or two of Tobago’s coastline. From a practical point of view, I would suggest that four fishing at any one time would be the maximum number, whilst a couple of non-anglers could easily be accommodated in relative comfort, to take the photos and shout encouragement to those doing all the hard work.
Captain Owen ‘Anaconda’ Cox knows these inshore waters like the back of his hand and has many favourite spots for the different species of fish (see fishing article for a list of what to expect). He specialises in trolling with lures for bonito and kingfish and has an uncanny knack of finding good barracuda for those who want to catch these toothy predators.
General questions and reports about this service should be posted in the forum. Please contact the firm direct for information about prices and availability.
Telephone: (868) 635-1017
Cell: (868) 686-7957
Fax: (868) 635-1017