Cuffie River Nature Retreat - Review Page 1
Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in January 2005 and February 2013
Over the years I have become somewhat weary and sceptical of the words 'eco' and 'nature retreat'. All too often, the terms are used as an excuse for poor quality accommodation and limited facilities. The Cuffie River Nature Retreat is one of the few where such descriptions are deserved, rather than mere marketing hype.
We first reviewed the Cuffie River in 2005. Five nights convinced us that this small intimate hotel could become one of our Tobago favourites. It offers a unique experience and whilst ideal for anyone looking for a truly peaceful place to chill and relax, it can also justifiably claim to be Tobago's premier bird-watching and nature resort. Eight years later, and having conducted reviews of more than 60 of Tobago's best hotels, guest houses and rental properties, we honestly looked forward to our return and were genuinely intrigued to know whether our opinion might have changed…
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 had 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 plantation in the Runnemede valley, in the foothills of Tobago's Main Ridge Rainforest Reserve. The plantation had been his dream and his life.
After Reginald's death, the plantation 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 tremendous 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 not a place 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) of Tobago, you could so easily miss the small sign that marks the turn to the hotel. Having followed the signs, you could equally be excused for thinking that you must have taken a wrong turn. Fear not! The lower section of the trail is un-surfaced and deeply rutted, but it is passable with a normal saloon/sedan car, although a 4x4 SUV is always preferable. The three mile, eight minute, drive through secondary bush, may initially concern you, but fear not – a unique experience awaits.
If you are expecting 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 forget the Cuffie River. If, on the other hand, you are looking for high standards of accommodation and service plus the best Caribbean cuisine on the island and all 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 the best part of an hour's 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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