Cuffie River Nature Retreat - Review Page 5

Grounds & Nature Walks

A nature walk with guide, DesmondThe Cuffie River Nature Retreat was built on land recovered from secondary bush. The old cocoa estate was abandoned after Hurricane Flora wreaked her devastation in 1963. Growth is rapid in the tropics. After thirty-five years it must have been a nightmare to survey the land, much less clear it and decide how best to utilise it for the retreat.

The hotel is surrounded by wild heliconias, bamboo groves and ancient cypress and pine trees. The immortelle trees planted to provide shade to the more delicate cocoa plants have survived, reproducing themselves continuously. They normally flower between December and February, but sadly we missed the spectacle this year. There is nothing more beautiful than the setting sun casting her spell over the flame vermillion blossom of the immortelle. The terraced slopes of the ridge upon which the lodge stands have been planted with every manner of tropical plant and bush, in total sympathy with the natural environment. This is no place for formal gardens. You are surrounded by nature, to the very foundations of the buildings. Even inside, potted exotic plants continue the theme.

The River Cuffie - ideal terrain for bird watchersBird feeders have been placed at strategic points around the hotel and are clearly visible from all common areas of the retreat and most bedrooms. Although the birds appear largely unconcerned by human presence, guests invariably talk in hushed tones, so as not to disturb them. Breakfast and lunch tend to be long drawn out affairs – it is hard to drag yourself away from the simple pleasure of watching myriad species of birds arguing over the fruit provided for their enjoyment and sustenance. I've never seen as many white-necked Jacobins anywhere on Tobago and their territorial disputes continue all day long.

There are several trails in the Runnemede valley, but the dangers of getting lost and the often impenetrable bush make it unwise for guests to go wandering along trails on their own. However, walks up the three-mile driveway are relatively easy-going, despite the heat, and can be very rewarding.

The hotel has an excellent resident guide, Desmond, who takes small parties on general, nature or bird-watching tours. We have had the pleasure of three-hour 'general' nature walks with Desmond on previous visits. He is knowledgeable, articulate and amusing and always pitched the tour at just the right level.

The nature walks are open to non-residents of the hotel. I can highly recommend visitors (staying anywhere on the island) to book a tour with Desmond, followed by lunch at the hotel.

Conclusion

If you love nature and birds or are seeking a small friendly establishment and intimate environment in which to chill out and relax, we can thoroughly recommend the Cuffie River Nature Retreat.

The hotel at nightProviding the highest levels of accommodation, service and catering within a natural and eco-friendly environment is no easy task. Regina has undoubtedly achieved her dream and ambition and must be congratulated for her vision. Her establishment is unique on Tobago. The standards of accommodation and overall service levels rank with the best the island has to offer. Her catering is a clear winner and by far the most interesting on Tobago.

Yes, the Cuffie River is a truly unique and special place. We shall continue to think of it with very great fondness until our next visit. We highly recommend the hotel, particularly as part of a multi-centre holiday.

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