Cuffie River Nature Retreat - Review Page 1
Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in January 2005, 2013 and March 2016
We first reviewed the Cuffie River Nature Retreat back in 2005. We said then that we looked forward to our return. However, it was some eight years before we could fit another stay into our busy review schedule. We promised that we wouldn't leave it so long until our next visit, so just four years later, we planned our third visit to this small intimate hotel; one of our Tobago favourites.
The Cuffie River is a unique establishment. It offers a unique experience to anyone looking for a truly peaceful place to chill and relax. In addition, it can also justifiably claim to be Tobago's premier bird-watching and nature resort.
The Cuffie River Nature Retreat is owned and managed by a very determined lady, Regina Dumas. Her mother and father were both born and raised in villages close to the retreat and the creation of the lodge was the culmination of a dream she held for many years.
Regina never knew the father she so closely resembled and after whom she was named. He died when she was just seven weeks old. His legacy was a cocoa estate in the Runnemede valley, on the edge of the Main Ridge Rainforest Reserve. The estate had been his dream and his life.
After Reginald's death, the estate was leased to local farmers. The devastation of Hurricane Flora in 1963 was the final blow to an ailing industry. Cultivation stopped. The land was reclaimed by the forest from which it had been hewn.
Regina grew up to constant stories about her father. She has no recollection of him, but that did not hinder the bond she felt. Completing her studies, she became involved in rural development and was the first director of the Caribbean Network for Integrated Rural Development (CNIRD). During a business trip to Belize, she spent a weekend with a Mayan family. The wholesomeness and simplicity of their natural lifestyle had a material effect on her own attitudes.
Influenced by the Mayan experience, and despite family opposition to her allegedly madcap ideas, Regina started work, planning a nature resort deep within her father's former cocoa estate. After many years of hard work, the Cuffie River Nature Retreat opened its doors to guests in 1998.
The Cuffie River Nature Retreat is unlikely to be somewhere you will happen upon by chance. It is located three miles from the nearest village; nestled in a tranquil valley whose northern slopes mark the foothills of the oldest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere.
As you drive along the narrow and twisty Caribbean coast road (Northside Road) in Tobago, you could easily miss the small sign that marks the turn-off to the hotel. Having followed the sign, you could equally be excused for thinking that you must have taken a wrong turn. Fear not! The three-mile five-minute drive through secondary bush, may initially concern you, but fear not – a unique experience awaits. The road to the retreat was largely unpaved until mid-2015. It was a slow and uncomfortable drive with constant concern that your vehicle could get stuck. The road is now a scenic joy.
If you want or expect a beach holiday, then forget the Cuffie River. If you intend to sample a different restaurant every day, or if shopping of any type is on your list of priorities, then likewise, forget the Cuffie River. If, on the other hand, you are looking for high standards of accommodation with the best Caribbean cuisine on Tobago, in an environment that is as close to nature as it is possible to get, then this small romantic property should be top of your list.
The Cuffie River Nature Retreat is around 45 minutes drive from the airport. Tobago's capital, Scarborough, is 30 minutes away and is the nearest place for pharmacies and 'serious' shopping (as serious as it gets on Tobago). The hotel offers a range of organised excursions, but a self-drive rental vehicle will undoubtedly allow you to maximise your stay at this remote location and the stunning Caribbean coast on which it is situated.
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