Blue Mango Cottages - Review Page 1
Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in February 2010
I hesitate to say that Blue Mango Cottages are an ‘institution’, but this property undoubtedly had a major influence on the development of tourism in Castara. The reason: well, Blue Mango offered the first visitor accommodation in the village and many of those that followed tried to copy and achieve the same ambiance.
Returning to Tobago after 35 years abroad, Trinidadian Colin Ramdeholl was travelling home from Castara one evening when he looked back through the rear window of the taxi and was entranced by the view of Castara Bay in the silvery light of the full moon. So profound was the experience that Colin decided that he just had to build a house there.
To cut a long story short, Colin became the proud owner of the rocky headland that cuts Castara beach into two separate entities. The difficult terrain proved no match for Colin’s determination and commitment. Years of training and practise as a mechanical/project engineer with a passion for building wooden furniture had given him the skills and experience to match his determination. Tourism was the last thing on Colin’s mind; his intention was simply to build an eco-friendly home from which to enjoy his retirement. His involvement with visitor accommodation only happened unintentionally after he rented a small cabin at the far end of his land to a visitor. Eighteen years later, Colin’s rocky headland had become the most desirable location in the village.
The Blue Mango Cottages now comprise of five accommodation units in three separate buildings, plus the Clay Kitchen Restaurant and Colin’s own home. To say that the design is unique is an understatement. There were no pre-determined plans: the design of the buildings evolve as construction progresses. Any description is valid only at the time of writing; as soon as he captures breath from one project, Colin blocks off bookings and changes or enhances a unit to his latest vision. He jokes that the buildings are made from wood and galvanize and can be easily changed. That may be an exaggeration, but it is not far from the truth. Thank heavens for the solid reinforced concrete piling that form the basic foundation for these fascinating structures!
Make no mistake. Sea Steps – and, to a lesser degree, Sweet Point – are highly, even wonderfully, quirky structures that will not suit everyone. The simple accommodation gives true meaning to the expression “living in the landscape” and I mean no disrespect to those who have followed and tried to emulate the effect. Neither is Colin your typical hospitality/guesthouse owner. He is not commercially driven and his ‘take it or leave’ manner could easily ruffle feathers. However, those who accept Colin and Blue Mango for what they are will experience a totally unique holiday experience; one they will be surely keen to repeat.
It is hardly surprising that this intriguing property has been so widely praised in newspapers and periodicals as diverse and respected as The Times, Sunday Times, The Guardian and British Airways High Life magazine.
As mentioned, the Blue Mango Cottages are located on the rocky headland that separates Castara’s main beach (Big Bay) from its smaller and often quieter smaller sister (Little Bay/Heavenly Bay).
From the property grounds you are totally unaware that you are in the centre of the village and every part within easy walking distance. Well, ‘easy’ is not exactly true. The village is built on hillsides steep enough to make many question their fitness. However, it is surprising what a difference a week can make and how much better a cold beer tastes after a walk.
Whilst a self-drive rental car would enhance your stay, transport is not essential. Touring the island could not be easier and is thoroughly recommended.
Castara is a 50-minute drive from the airport and Colin will arrange for a taxi to meet arriving guests and transport them back to Blue Mango. Shopping opportunities in the village are limited, to say the least, so it is important to stock up at one of Tobago’s main supermarkets before leaving the more populated end of the island. This can be done on the way from the airport. Colin is also a regular visitor to Scarborough and surrounding areas and is happy to shop for items that guests need.
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