Lookout Villa - Review Page 1

Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in February 2007

Thousands of tourists visit Tobago each year. Many will be pampered by the island’s luxury resorts. Their impressions of the island will often be formed from the back of a tour bus. Are we to criticise them for this? If so, perhaps the only real Tobagophiles are the backpackers who stay in the cheapest home-stay guest houses and only travel by local bus or route taxi.

Lookout Villa, TobagoTobago can be many different things to many different people. What constitutes the ‘real’ Tobago? Of course there is no single answer to this question. To many the true charm of Tobago is the local endemic population – the Tobagonians. To others it is the untouched beauty of the oldest rainforest in the western hemisphere – the Main Ridge Forest Reserve.

Being a protected reserve, there is no accommodation in the rainforest, nor ever will be. Even around the edges of the rainforest the choice is sparse. Lookout Villa is one of a small handful of properties that offer the opportunity to get off the beaten track and be immersed by the rainforest, whilst enjoying high standards of accommodation with all modern conveniences.

Make no mistake; this is not a property for everyone. The very remoteness of the property would put many off. The risk of toddlers falling from the semi-open balconies makes it an unrealistic choice for families with small children. However, this place could be heaven to bird watchers, naturalists or those simply wanting total peace, tranquillity and the opportunity to unwind from hectic ‘developed’ lifestyles.

Location

The Englishman's Bay EstateThere are two signature images of Tobago with which most visitors will be familiar: the turquoise waters and white coral sands of Pigeon Point and the golden sands of Englishman’s Bay backed by the rainforest.

It is in this latter image that Lookout Villa can be found. Don’t expect any signs for the villa. Lookout is located on the Englishman’s Bay Estate – a privately-owned 400-acre ex-sugar/cocoa/coconut plantation covering the hills behind the bay and home to around a dozen properties. When you next stop at the lookout point over Englishman’s Bay, drag your eyes away from the beauty of the bay and study the lush and colourful hills behind you. See if you can spot Lookout Villa – it is the highest of the four or five properties you can see. It blends with the forest so well that you could easily miss it.

Do not even consider a stay at Lookout unless you are going to rent a vehicle. Young trendies will be delighted. For once they will have genuine reason to request a 4x4 SUV. A car will do, but even a short burst of overnight rain (a daily event in the rainforest) can turn sections of the track into a mud bath, making a 4x4 by far the best choice – even the ‘toy’ 4x4s available in Tobago.

The trail through the Englishman's Bay EstateHaving turned off the main north coast road half a mile before the entrance to Englishman’s Bay beach and passed through the security check-point (manned at night; camera 24/7), you must negotiate a 2.8km (1¾ mile) un-surfaced track up the hillside. It is an easy drive and no off-road experience is necessary. Ladies might wish to consider a good sports bra however. After driving for what will seem like ages, you will be forgiven for wondering if you have taken a wrong turn and/or what you have let yourself in for. Enjoy it – the 10-15 minute drive is a sample of the wonderful environment you will be staying in.

Staying in such a non-commercialised area is a major draw, but equally requires careful planning. One can’t simply nip down to the shop for a pint of milk. In fact forget dairy products, period. Both Parlatuvier and Castara are only a 10-minute drive away, but only the latter offers any shopping possibilities. Even there the range of products available can only be described as limited. Shopping requires planning and an hour’s drive to the other end of the island, with a mad dash back before the frozen goods melt – unless you have remembered to grab the coolbag (stored beneath the sink) and ice packs from the freezer before you leave; an ideal way to get your chilled and frozen items back to the villa.

Dining out is fortunately easier. Castara has four decent Creole restaurants and hopefully at least one will always be open. The choice has Views over Englishman's Bayrecently been supplemented by a more upmarket international restaurant attached to a guest house (Sandcastles) on the outskirts of the village. Returning from dinner offers a special treat to bird watchers. White-tailed Nightjars love to sit on the track during the evening. They are almost invisible against the dirt road and give you quite a jump as they rise in front of the vehicle, almost as you pass over them.

Some visitors may prefer to eat out during the day. Although many of the Castara restaurants are closed at lunchtime, there is a local restaurant in Parlatuvier and another at Bloody Bay, just a few minutes further on. There is also a restaurant on Englishman’s Bay beach but we would strongly recommend that visitors avoid this. The shack has been illegally built on Government land and the business is subject to an eviction order. The biggest issue, however, is that the property has no running water. Adequate cleaning must be a nightmare. A number of myTobago readers have suffered seriously upset stomachs after eating there.

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