Off-Road Safaris: Tobago Now Tourism Services
Promptly, and as arranged, Fabrizio 'Fab' Ceppi, the owner of Tobago Now Tourism Services, called to collect Steve and I at 9.30 a.m., from our hotel. [2009 Update: Collection now takes place between 8:00-8:300am, enabling return to the hotel around 2pm so that sun lovers will not miss out on their afternoon tanning]. He was to take us and eight other visitors on a new, special, and excitingly different tour – a tour with a new twist! It was to be a kind of safari - an ‘off the beaten track’ exploration of the island around the south west end of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve. We would make the trip in three of Fab’s special vehicles - modified, 4-wheel drive Suzuki Marutis fit to handle the extremely rugged and challenging terrain that we were to encounter.
Having collected our other passengers from their hotel, we rolled back the roofs and set off – Steve accompanying Fab in the lead vehicle, while I joined driver, Dennis, and a few others in the second vehicle and Laury, Fab's third driver, brought up the rear in a third jeep. Each vehicle can take five passengers, plus driver, in adequate comfort and I was pleased to see that there was a cool box with a generous supply of assorted cold drinks. Like me, all our party were wearing proper walking shoes, in anticipation of the occasions when we would be able to leave the vehicles and explore.
Our first trail started in the Arnos Vale area and ran along a rugged and pot-holed dirt track, up the Caribbean coast. The track was cut about two hundred years ago by British soldiers during a period of British occupation and was subsequently widened by locals to provide access. However, it must be stressed that the trail can ONLY be accessed by 4-wheel drive vehicles handled by very experienced drivers who know and are familiar with the trail.
We proceeded to jolt, rattle and shake our way – but not uncomfortably so – along the winding, rutted track looking out for any interesting birds – seeing a solitary mot-mot perched on a branch very early on. With the roof removed, visibility was excellent and the roof struts came in as handy grab rails when the going got tough. The scenery was stunning – lush, tropical vegetation and dense forest cladding the hillsides on our right, with frequent glimpses of the sunlit, glittering Caribbean sea on our left.
We were given lots of opportunities to stop and admire or photograph the scenery and differentspecies of birds. At one stop, we were able to see the stunning Caribbean coastline all the way from Buccoo, in the south, to Parlatuvier, in the north; a view you can’t see from the normal road.Our excellent driver and guide, Dennis, was very knowledgeable, calling to birds and pointing out different vegetation such as banana trees, plantain, cassava, bread fruit, cocoa and so on. Just before Culloden, at a place called Sweet Hill, we saw areas of land which had been tilled to grow many different varieties of fruits and vegetables including avocado, mango, pumpkin, and chick peas, cultivated for local consumption.
Our second trail, in an area called Les Coteaux, was to lead us to the stunning Highland Waterfall. After another very interesting and scenic drive along a rough and hilly track, we parked the vehicles and made the 20 minute walk to the waterfall, crossing a shallow river on the way. You could either leave your shoes on to make the crossing or take them off. There was a third way to get across where, if you were clever, you could keep your shoes on and not get wet. This involved balancing on a bamboo pole using another pole as a balancing aid but you had to be extremely dextrous to achieve this, particularly if you were carrying a camera, binoculars and other essential paraphernalia!
Suddenly, there was the Highland Waterfall, the waters cascading with considerable force from a high rocky bluff. It really is a magical spot. Not being the easiest of places to get to, it is still visited by few tourists. Long may it continue so! A short climb takes you to a nice viewpoint over-looking the waterfall. I was hot from the walk and the sound of the rushing water was irresistible so I elected to cross the stream and plunged into the pool formed by the foaming torrent.
The water felt so cool and refreshing as I made my way against the current, grabbing on to rocks occasionally, right up to the base of the falls. It was pure bliss floating around in the cool water, feeling the spray caressing my face, aware that Fab and Dennis, on guard at the head of the falls, were keeping a careful eye on everyone in the group. I think we all could have happily lingered there for hours but, eventually, the thought of a cool drink and lunch enticed us away from the falls and back to the vehicles.
Thoroughly refreshed, we left the waterfall and walked back to the vehicles. An enjoyable short drive through yet more stunning scenery took us to a small isolated private nature park where we enjoyed a very tasty local lunch [2009 Update: to enable earlier return to the hotel, the full luncheon has now been replaced by a picnic snack with fruit juice] and relaxing break in a private picnic area of the park.
Our third and final trail took us to the Hillsborough Dam where all the tap water for the southern end of Tobago comes from. The objective was to look out for cayman - the smallest members of the crocodile family. It wasn’t long before we saw a small one, asleep under a tree on the banks of the river. It was so motionless that it could have been dead but I was assured that it was just sleeping in the afternoon sun. After taking some photographs, we moved on again and soon we spotted another Cayman – about two metres long – also on the banks of the river. It was an exciting moment for us all.
Our final stop was in a cool and attractive glade with the ruins of an old sugar mill. Dennis and Laury treated us to a highly humourous and entertaining description of the sugar production process. I can't speak highly enough of Fab and his team - they are clearly very competent at their job and strike just the right balance, giving just the right level of information but in an interesting and entertaining way.
To complete our very action-packed day, we had a lovely refreshing drive home in the cool of the late afternoon along the breezy Atlantic coast. Then we turned in along the Carnbee road that leads to the Caribbean coastline. At the Turtle Beach Hotel, we said ‘Goodbye’ to our fun companions for the day and Fab drove Steve and I back to Mount Irvine Bay Hotel. Everyone who went on the trip agreed that they were very impressed by the exciting and eventful day they had experienced. Steve and I highly recommend this exciting trip as we are sure that everyone visiting Tobago would enjoy it as much as we did!
General questions and reports about this service should be posted in our Tobago discussion forum. Please contact the firm direct for information about prices and availability.
Tobago Now Tourism Services
420 Orange HIll Road
Prospect, Patience Hill
Telephone: (868) 639-1476
Fax: (868) 639-1476
These Off-Road Adventure Tours can also be booked through Yes Tourism
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