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Radical Sports Tobago on Pigeon Point
 

Water Activities on Tobago

Boat & Sailing Tours

The classic Caribbean ingredients of warm clear waters and secluded bays with fantastic snorkelling make Tobago a great destination for those who yearn for the sea and like to get salty! Tobago is a stunningly beautiful island and few visitors will leave without taking a road tour of the island. However, the perspective from the sea is even more memorable and so we strongly recommend a boat tour to all visitors.

We only list the most established, popular and reliable boat tour operators. There are other operators, but we advise caution. Boats that have been inspected and licensed by the local government can be identified by the registration number on the bow of the boat. Licensed boats will display a registration number starting with the letters 'TL'. Normal fishing boats (generally referred to as pirogues) are not normally insured to carry passengers. They can be identified by a registration starting with 'TF'.

The excellent Island Girl Catamaran service ended in early 2017. There are no catamaran or sailing charter companies based in Tobago that we consider reputable, honest or would choose to list on this site.

Alibaba Tours

Brian 'Alibaba' Taylor and Alibaba Tours offer snorkelling, beach BBQ, fun fishing, sunset and reef cruises, plus coastal or deep-sea fishing charters in a canopy-covered Spacey boat with twin 90hp engines.

Although based in Castara, arrangements can be made to collect and return guests to other points along Tobago's Caribbean coast. Alibaba Tours are head and shoulders above all other local boat operators in terms of professionalism, competence, expertise and understanding of the service levels expected by most visitors. We strongly recommend them.

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Telephone:+1(868) 635-1017 or +1(868) 686-7957

Coco Motion

Coco Motion is a 31-foot (10m) offshore powerboat with twin 200-horsepower engines. Although the boat has a top speed of 55 knots, the speed on regular tours will seldom exceed 35 knots; quite enough to give a high-adrenaline ride to thrill-seekers. The business has operated under the ownership and management of Marlon Winter-Roach and Rachel Crew since September 2003.

Marlon and Rachel offer coastal tours to the best snorkelling sites along Tobago's Caribbean coast. They are PADI-certified Scuba Instructors and offer private diving trips to learners and experienced divers, with tuition and qualification right the way up to PADI Divemaster. Coco Motion is also available for private boat charter to those who would like an exclusive trip.

The cockpit seating area of Coco Motion is protected by a small sunshade, but high-factor sun block is essential to protect against the combined effects of sun and salt spray. In fairness, this equally applies on all other sailing or boating trips.

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Telephone:+1(868) 639-2449

Frank's Glass Bottom Boats

Frank's Glass Bottom Boats are based at the Blue Waters Inn hotel near Speyside. Subject to sea conditions, they offer twice daily glass bottom boat excursions to Little Tobago, stopping at the Angel Reef off Goat Island, for snorkelling.

Frankie Tours & Rentals

Frankie Tours & Rentals are one of the oldest tour services on Tobago and offer everything from group island and rainforest tours to bird watching, bicycle tours, reef tours and daily fishing trips. As a result, tours are operated by employees and contractors, not the owner. So, standards vary hugely and may not be quite as high as some other tour operators listed.

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Telephone:+1(868) 681-3717

Pops Tours

Pop's Tours is a long-established, THTI-licenced and registered boat tour operator based in Buccoo village, offering fishing charters, coastal tours with beach BBQ and snorkelling trips in a 28ft covered pirogue. In recent years, they have expanded their services and now also offer general island tours.

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Telephone:+1(868) 738-8226 or +1(868) 383-2384

Splash Sports

Splash Sports Catamaran Cruises offer day and sunset cruises and private charters to various popular locations along Tobago's Caribbean coast. The service utilises a custom-built fully motorised 50-foot (15m) catamaran called Maestro del Mar.

The company offers regular 7-hour scheduled daytime tours and shorter 3-hour sunset tours. After complimentary transfer from the visitor's hotel, the tours depart from The Bon Accord Lagoon and, weather conditions permitting, travel up the Caribbean coast with stops at Englishman's Bay, emerald Bay (near Castara) and Cotton. A BBQ lunch and open bar is included in the price.

The boat can take up to 60 passengers and tours operate with a minimum of ten passengers.

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Telephone:+1(868) 682-2919

Top Ranking Reef Tours

Top Ranking Reef Tours are one of two tour firms based at the Blue Waters Inn hotel near Speyside. Subject to sea conditions, they offer twice daily glass bottom boat excursions to Little Tobago, stopping at the Angel Reef off Goat Island, for snorkelling.

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Telephone:+1(868) 660-4904

Zoe Snorkeling Tours

Zoe is a 23-foot Yamaha SX230 jet boat that draws just 16 inches. This means that the boat can enter really shallow water without disturbing the marine life and also enables guests to step aboard almost from the beach. The boat can hold up to nine people, but most tours have a maximum of six people, and a minimum of three. The boat is extremely comfortable, with cushioned seating and a full Bimini cover. A swim platform at the back allows easy entry and exit from the sea.

Zoe is now owned and operated by Duane Kenny. Duane has been working in hospitality for many years, as a hotel general manager, both locally and abroad. He offers personalised and guided snorkelling tours, teaching guests about every fish they see. Duane also guides you in the water, making sure each snorkel is tailored to the ability of the client. He has a waterproof camera and takes photos of each tour that are emailed to the client after the tour. Light snacks, such as granola bars, Pringles and nuts are provided on tours, together with a cooler stocked with juice, coke and water.

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Telephone:+1(868) 681-4741

Water Sports in Tobago

The seas around Tobago are no place for weekend sailors. So, you will be unable to hire a motorised, or non-motorised, boat and head off to do your own thing. A few hotels do provide small kayaks, but even here great care must be taken.

The relatively challenging conditions do mean that Tobago is a wonderful playground for those of a more adventurous spirit and who are prepared to do so under the careful eye of instructors who have intimate knowledge of the local water and weather conditions. Due to the inherent risks of all water sports, we are only prepared to list the most professional and reliable water sports operators in Tobago. It would be irresponsible of us to list or recommend unlicensed, uninsured jet ski operators and similar.

Radical Sports Tobago

Radical Sports Tobago is Tobago's leading and most professional windsurf and water sports centre. They offer a full range of fun and exciting water sport activities, for all ages and all levels of experience. They are based at the tip of the peninsula, within the Pigeon Point Heritage Park, and offer kiteboarding and windsurfing instruction from beginner to advanced. They also rent single and double sit-on-top kayaks, a Hobbie Wave Catamaran and paddle boats.

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Telephone:+1(868) 728-5483 or +1(868) 631-5150

Stand Up Paddle

Looking for something a little different? Why not try stand up paddle boarding? It is an ancient form of surfing that has re-emerged, primarily as a way for surfers to paddle longer distances. You can learn and practice the sport in the safe calm waters off Pigeon Point and in the capable hands of Duane Kenny, the former popular General Manager of Stonehaven Villas and, previously, Blue Waters Inn. Duane offers both traditional surf and stand up paddle lessons on various beaches in Tobago.

In addition to stand up paddle and surf lessons, Duane also offers several different tours, depending upon conditions, time available and skill levels. These typically include a tour of the Petit Trou Lagoon, Pigeon Point, Bioluminescence tour of the Bon Accord Lagoon and a full day adventure tour showcasing some of Tobago hidden natural gems. Duane takes pictures on all his tours and these can be emailed to the client after the tour.

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Telephone:+1(868) 681-4741

Tobago Waterholics

Based on Pigeon Point, Tobago Waterholics offer het skis, wake boarding, banana boat rides, water skis, water ringos and donut rings, plus various boat and jet ski tours of the coast.

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Telephone:+1(868) 688-7669 or +1(868) 377-7668

We understand that there is a new water sports centre on Mount Irvine beach, but have been unable to determine any information about this operation. If you are the owner of this business, or know the owner, please contact us so that we can add your (free) details here.

Sports Fishing in Tobago

Tobago rivals any Caribbean location for both the quantity and range of game fish caught on a regular basis. Variety is the name of the game and game fishers are highly unlikely to find interest waning, whether fishing inshore or off.

Grand Slam Fishing Charters

For some years, Kester Herbert of Grand Slam Fishing Charters has been acknowledged as Tobago's number one choice for inshore, river, mud flats and fly-fishing. He has also been a serious contender for the top title in offshore game fishing for many years, regularly out-fishing the other local game fishing services before they all closed.

Kester is a quiet man with a wealth of experience. He is particularly good for "one-to-one" fishing. He operates a 38ft Bertram Convertible and a smaller custom-built flats boat for inshore fishing. Grand Slam Charters offer big-game offshore fishing, flats fishing, jig fishing, wreck fishing, fly fishing, reef fishing, shark fishing and also day cruises around the island of Tobago with visits to the most popular beaches and Little Tobago island.

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Telephone:+1(868) 683-1958 or +1(868) 762-6602

Hard Play Fishing Charters

Captain Gerard Frothy de Silva of Hard Play Fishing Charters is undoubtedly the largest, best-known and most publicised game fishing player in the Tobago market and his excellent record speaks for itself. They operates a 42-foot fishing boat, Hard Play.

We have been informed that Hard Play are relocating to Grenada, but may leave the smaller boat in Tobago. When asked about this, the reply from Hard Play was "We still operation Hard Play in Tobago and plan to do so in the future." [sic].

Workshop Sea Tours

Based in Charlotteville, Captain Curtis Aming Antoine and Workshop Sea Tours offer fishing charters, snorkelling trips and coastal tours. His twin-engine 28-ft covered pirogue is fitted with VHF radio, life jackets, GPS and a fish finder. He is highly recommended for serious anglers visiting the north of the island and Charlotteville in particular.

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Telephone:+1(868) 660-4262

Alibaba Tours

Brian 'Alibaba' Taylor and Alibaba Tours offer snorkelling, beach BBQ, fun fishing, sunset and reef cruises, plus coastal or deep-sea fishing charters in a canopy-covered Spacey boat with twin 90hp engines.

Although based in Castara, arrangements can be made to collect and return guests to other points along Tobago's Caribbean coast. Alibaba Tours are head and shoulders above all other local boat operators in terms of professionalism, competence, expertise and understanding of the service levels expected by most visitors. We strongly recommend them.

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Telephone:+1(868) 635-1017 or +1(868) 686-7957

Woody's Tours

Based in Mason Hall, Woody's Tours is another well-established general tour service that offers a little of everything, including inshore coastal fishing.

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Telephone:+1(868) 335-8314 or +1(868) 761-2887

Pops Tours

Pop's Tours is a long-established, THTI-licenced and registered boat tour operator based in Buccoo village, offering fishing charters, coastal tours with beach BBQ and snorkelling trips in a 28ft covered pirogue. In recent years, they have expanded their services and now also offer general island tours.

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Telephone:+1(868) 738-8226 or +1(868) 383-2384

Frankie Tours & Rentals

Frankie Tours & Rentals are one of the oldest tour services on Tobago and offer everything from group island and rainforest tours to bird watching, bicycle tours, reef tours and daily fishing trips. As a result, tours are operated by employees and contractors, not the owner. So, standards vary hugely and may not be quite as high as some other tour operators listed.

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Telephone:+1(868) 681-3717

The Tobago coast features deep seas running up onto the continental shelf with clear warm water and abundant feedstock – ideal conditions for good game fishing.

The main offshore fishing season lasts from October to June and during this time anglers will do battle with some of the world's most exciting game fish, including blue marlin, white marlin, swordfish, wahoo, tuna, barracuda, mahi-mahi (the local name for dolphin-fish) and shark.

It is a fascinating sight to see large game fish that have migrated south for the winter chasing the vast schools of small flying fish so prolific in the warm Caribbean waters.

During the peak season around November, wahoo is so plentiful that anglers will be busy from dawn until dusk. Typical catches range between 30 and 65 pounds, but at least half-a-dozen 100-pound wahoo are caught each year.

Large marlin, sometimes estimated to be in the 1200-pound range, are present in the waters at the north-western end of the island, just a couple of miles offshore (between the Sisters Rocks off Bloody Bay and the Giles Islands at the northern end of the island). These huge fish are seldom landed, because they are too large for the gauge of equipment used. Sailfish are also common off the coast of Trinidad and can exceed 100 pounds, although a good catch is more likely to be around 75 pounds.

The annual Tobago International Game Fishing Tournament is held in Charlotteville in each May. The small local game fishing fleet is joined by a much larger fleet that make the 70-mile crossing from the west coast of Trinidad. International anglers who would like to join the boats and take part need to book well in advance.

Sadly, Tobago now offers very little choice of charter game fishing operators. See the Fishing Charters & Tours panel below for details.

Facilities and shelter on most pirogues are non-existent, so a hat, polarizing sunglasses, long-sleeved shirt, gloves, sun block and something to drink are essential and not to be forgotten. Don't necessarily expect to see safety equipment, such as flares, life jackets or VHF radio. This type of equipment is strictly reserved for the specialist fishing charter operators and even there, standards and levels of equipment vary.

The local fishermen don't use rods and reels. Many will not be familiar with the angling techniques or tackle used by visiting anglers. You will need to bring your own gear. If you plan to fish from a boat on a budget, a 20–30lb class outfit, coupled with a multiplier reel holding at least 300yds of mono or braid, is ideal. Most fishermen fish for the pelagic species by trolling 'muppets' (artificial squid) at around 4 or 5 knots. You should take a range of these plastic lures in pink, orange and white, and a few strong plugs (Rapala, Yo-zuri or Storm), as they are difficult to get hold.

If tuna, dolphin or billfish are expected, then a 5-foot mono leader of at least 100lb breaking strain should be used to avoid abrasions from teeth and sharp gill plates which can sever the main line. For barracuda, wahoo, king mackerel and shark, an 80-100lb wire trace is mandatory. Don't try with anything else if these are expected.

A barracuda or wahoo will bite clean through the stoutest mono as if it were cotton thread. Nearly all these species will pull your string harder than you can imagine. Being warm water species, they are always on the move and hungry and when they hit a lure, they strip the reel of line. Everything has teeth, and plenty of them!

Coastal and reef fishing are excellent throughout the year and all around the Tobago coast. The angler will be treated to barracuda, king mackerel, snappers, various groupers, jacks and more. Tarpon, in particular, are likely to give the coastal fisherman a wonderful fight, with typical catches in the 30 to 50-pound range. It is also a distinct advantage, particularly if your family are waiting back at the hotel or villa, that the best fishing area for tarpon is immediately off the north-western coast, between the airport and Plymouth cove – home to most of the island's hotels and villas.

Tarpon, of 40 pounds and above are regularly hooked on fly from the shore between Crown Point and Buccoo. As with most tarpon fishing, hooking a fish and landing it are usually only a few jumps apart. A 1:10 ratio of fish landed to those hooked is a good average. Large flies such as deceivers and streamers all work, with white or white/orange being the choice of the discerning tarpon, especially if the water is murky.

Heavier gear is needed to have any chance of hooking and landing a tarpon. Ideally, a 12-weight outfit with a good reel and an adequate supply of 30lb backing will give you a fighting chance. Hooks need to be needle sharp and any take should be met with several hard 'strip-strikes' to set the hook in the corner of the tarpon's bony mouth.

Tarpon can also be caught, more effectively, on live or dead baits fished on the bottom, or under a float. Dawn or dusk is a good time to try for tarpon, but if you're fishing and a pod of tarpon start busting baitfish, don't hesitate to chuck anything you have at them. The experienced angler may even wish to experience the adventure of night fishing for shark, rays and grouper.

Tobago is a reasonable, but not ideal, destination for the salt-water fly fisher. There is a scarcity of flats, so essential for bonefish. However, the flats at Friendship (between the Crown Point airport and Lowlands) are popular and ideal for bones, snook, snapper and the elusive permit. An eight or nine-weight fly outfit, a medium sized reel with a silky-smooth drag, loaded with a floating line and 8-12lb leader, will tame most of the fish that you will encounter here. The usual bonefish flies will work, but anything with a touch of orange or pink seems to work better than 'natural' representations.

Other popular areas are Plymouth Bay (off the old jetty) and Pigeon Point. Just five minutes sailing from shore, fly fishers can be in the action with what are known locally as 'bonito', but which are actually false albacore.

Using spinning gear (carp rod and fixed spool reel, loaded with 20lb braid) and plugs, jigs or spinners and spoons, from any of the rocks or jetties will tempt almost anything including snook, tarpon, jacks (including pompano), ladyfish, hound fish (garfish), snapper, lizard-fish, small barracuda and even small tuna, if you're fishing into deep water.

Rock fishing is a popular pastime for many Tobagonians and you will regularly see boys and young men practising their skills, using nothing but a simple line and some crabmeat or fish pieces. The Caribbean coast is particularly popular and a good place to try is the rocks on the left side of beautiful Back Bay, between Mt.Irvine and Black Rock. You might catch something wherever you can climb onto rocks on the Caribbean coast. Great care must be taken because the rocks can be very slippery. You must also keep an eye on the tide and the occasional big wave. For tricks and tips, simply ask any of the locals that you will invariably meet on the rocks.

Seine fishing, known locally as pulling seine, has been practised on the beaches of Tobago for more than 150 years. The practise has remained largely unchanged, but is sadly declining due to falling catches and the lack of interest of the younger men.

Despite this, you will still regularly see large groups of local people, plus a few tourists, hauling in the net in the early morning, on the beaches at Mount Irvine Bay, Turtle Beach, Black Rock, Castara, Bloody Bay, Man 'O War Bay, Mount St.George and Goodwood.

There are very limited opportunities for freshwater fishing in Tobago. The main body of fresh water, Hillsborough Dam, is a nature reserve and angling is not permitted. Apart from that, the lake is inhabited by crocodile-like Cayman, so it's best to steer clear unless you can get a local guide who has permission to access it.

Some of the streams emptying from Hillsborough Dam do contain freshwater mullet and odd-looking minnows and loaches. The pool at the bottom of Argyle Falls is a good example. Nearer to the sea, some species of flounder gain access to the mouths of streams and rivers during periods of exceptional high tides or flood. It might also be possible to find small tarpon or snook in these intermittent estuaries and lightweight fly gear may induce a fish.

The Courland River, near Plymouth, is probably the best place to try for these species.

The great thing about fishing in Tobago is - you never know what to expect next!

Swimming in Tobago

The sea around Tobago is at its calmest and warmest between June and August, but the sea temperature is warm throughout the year. The Atlantic coast is the roughest and will only appeal to the strongest swimmers. The western Caribbean coast is more sheltered.

As anywhere in the world, the seas offshore can be subject to strong currents. Swimming should only be undertaken with great care and never attempted alone. Some beaches display warning flags, with red flags indicating unsafe bathing areas and yellow and white flags indicating safer areas. However, due to their isolated nature, very few beaches on Tobago have lifeguards.

Our ears are not used to constant and repeated immersion and particularly not in warm tropical waters rich in nutrients and teaming with life. To minimise the risk of ear infection, ensure that you thoroughly dry your ears after coming out of the water. Adding a drop or two of olive oil to each ear, morning and evening, can help augment your body's own protection. If you are unfortunate enough to get an infection, any local pharmacy can provide drops that will quickly clear the condition.

While on the beach, keep a lookout for manchineel trees because the fruit and sap are highly poisonous. These attractive trees provide lots of shade and visitors not knowing about them may well decide to use the tree for shade. They grow to over 30 feet and have small bright green leaves with yellow stems. The fruit are like tiny green crab-apples. The sap from the tree causes painful blisters to the skin, and temporary blindness and terrible pain if it gets into the eyes. It is essential not to stand under one of these trees in a rainstorm or even to handle wood from the tree, such as when preparing a barbeque, because even the smoke from the wood can be dangerous. If you do get any sap on your skin, wash it off in the sea as quickly as possible. Manchineel trees have been destroyed on most popular beaches, but can still be found near the beach in many more isolated bays.

Snorkelling in Tobago

Snorkelling, or snorkeling as our North American cousins would say, is one of the most popular activities for visitors to Tobago. This is hardly surprising, considering that Tobago has some of the best coral reefs in the Caribbean. The island's shallow reefs are ideal for visitors who want to experience the magical underwater landscape. The experience of snorkelling may lead you on to SCUBA diving, but basic snorkelling requires little more than that you are a fairly fit, competent swimmer.

As you drift over a coral field, you will see a world full of colour and movement. Coral reefs are one of the most diverse environments in the world. Multi-hued fish dart amongst the coral heads, feeding on plants, algae and each other. Crustaceans and invertebrates plod along the bottom. Soft corals, sea fans and sponges flutter in the currents.

Although the hard corals that form the structure of a reef can look like lifeless coloured rocks, they are actually living creatures. Inside the calcium 'rock' live thousands of tiny coral polyps – jelly-like creatures that usually show themselves only at night when they feed. The colour comes from the algae that live with the reef in a symbiotic relationship.

Reef fish come in an amazing variety of colours and shapes, like the tube-like trumpet fish and the disk-shaped butterfly and angel fish. Many are easy to spot with their bright neon colours, but others are disguised and hard to distinguish from the reef. Many are solitary; others travel in schools, such as the clouds of yellowtail snappers or blue tangs that swarm over the reefs. To see these wonders, just hover over a coral patch, keep still and wait for the shy creatures to show themselves.

Once you are comfortable on the surface, you will be ready to try free diving. Take a deep breath and swim down a few feet to examine the reef and its residents more closely. Make a game of finding the many camouflaged creatures that look like part of the reef. Peek, but do not poke, into small holes to look for the wary animals, such as the red squirrel fish, that like to stay hidden.

For more information about Tobago's magical undersea world, we recommend that you check out the articles and photos in our main Diving feature, which includes a fascinating article about Tobago's Reefs by Dr Owen Day of the Buccoo Reef Trust.

To go snorkelling, you need little more than a mask, a snorkel tube and a set of fins (flippers). You can buy or rent these locally and many hotels, apartments and villas have snorkelling equipment for guests borrow. However, your ability and enjoyment of the sport is highly dependent upon the condition and fit of the equipment. An uncomfortable, badly fitting, mask or fins can ruin the experience. The only way to guarantee a the best fit, and your own enjoyment, is to accept the initial cost hit of buying your own equipment. Although fins are bulky, they are flat and will easily fit in the top or bottom of a suitcase, so are less problematic to pack than you might think.

You can buy snorkelling equipment locally in Tobago *, but the choice is limited. Having said that, very few of us live close to a major dive/snorkelling store and it's not something you can do by mail order. When choosing equipment, you should bear the following points in mind:

The mask is the single most important part of kit. Nothing will spoil your enjoyment more than a badly-fitting, leaking mask, or one that is scratched and blurred. You should try on several masks and find one that fits your face comfortably, with the skirt forming a perfect seal. Masks with silicone skirts are more expensive, but give the best, most comfortable fit. Ensure that the mask has got a tempered glass safety lens, not a cheap plastic mask. If you wear prescription eyeglasses, you may also want to get a prescription mask. Gentlemen (or ladies) with heavy beards or moustaches, or strong 'designer stubble', might find it difficult or even impossible to get an effective seal. In some case you might need to smother your facial hair with Vaseline to create a watertight seal.

The fins should fit your feet as comfortably as a pair of shoes. The 'closed heel' (also known as 'shoe' type) fin is probably best for snorkelling. Do not settle for fins that are too small or too big because this will only hinder your swimming and will be uncomfortable or even painful. The fins should be a snug fit and allow you to wiggle your toes. If they're too slack, they will come off too easily. If you buy your fins in a colder climate than Tobago, remember that your feet are likely to swell a little in the higher temperatures of the tropics. If you plan to wear booties, you must try the fins on while wearing them.

The optimum length of a snorkel is 30cm. A number of different designs and varieties are available, but the basic function of a snorkel is to enable you to breathe easily at the surface without raising your head from the water. We would recommend a 'purge' snorkel because these make it easy to clear water from the tube.

A 'must have' is a protective case for your mask and a mesh drawstring bag in which you can carry all your snorkelling gear.

Some people like to wear a snorkelling vest, which act as a flotation device. These should be mandatory for children.

* Tobago's best outlet for those wishing to buy snorkelling equipment is Ocean Experience in Pigeon Point Road. If you wish to hire equipment, we recommend that you check our dive shop listings and try a service near your Tobago hotel or accommodation.

Whether you have taken your own equipment or borrowed or rented it, care of your mask, snorkel and fins is vital. The first priority is to thoroughly soak the equipment in fresh water after every use. If you don't, the salt crystals in the sea water will dry and harden causing any metal parts to rust and straps and fabrics to stiffen and crack. Sand and salt crystals act as an abrasive and will quickly ruin clear visibility of your mask. Masks should always be kept in their protective case when not in use to prevent the face from becoming scratched. Fins should be stored flat and never standing upright on their tips. If you have snorkelled before you will know that lens fogging can be a frequent problem. There are a variety of products that promise to keep a snorkel mask clean, but saliva is just as effective. Before entering the water rub some of your own saliva on the inside of the lens and rinse it with sea water. If you do this before the mask gets wet, you should have a fog-free lens for at least half hour or more.

As long as common sense is applied, snorkelling is perfectly safe. However, we do recommend that all snorkelers heed the following advice:

  • Always swim within your capabilities. Unless you're particularly fit, you could tire easily and have difficulty returning to shore. Don't forget the effects of tides and currents.
  • Never swim or snorkel alone. Only snorkel with a 'buddy' so that you can help each other if either gets into difficulty.
  • Practice your skills in shallow water. Learn how to clear water from your snorkel and put your mask on while treading water.
  • Always apply a high-factor sun lotion and reapply it according to the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Wear a dark T-shirt for additional protection from the sun. Light coloured t-shirts give very little protection when wet and might actually increase the intensity of the burn. Your back, shoulders and legs are going to take the brunt of the sun.
  • Watch out for 'nasties'. Sea urchins are a particular hazard to snorkelers in shallow water, as are jellyfish. The small translucent jellyfish do not sting.
  • Never turn your back on the ocean, unless you want to get thumped by the waves. Do not underestimate the effect of being 'downed' by strong breaking surf. Duck or dive under breaking waves before they reach you, to avoid suffering their full force.
  • Be particularly careful of the effects of surge (waves) or the tide and current when swimming near rocks and headlands. Being thrust onto coral-encrusted rocks can cause serious and intensely painful injuries.
  • Never swim against the current – swim diagonally across it.
  • Do not go snorkelling (or swimming) after a heavy meal. Allow at least an hour to avoid any risk of getting of cramps.
  • Like other marine environments, Tobago's reefs are an extremely delicate ecosystem. It takes only seconds for an uncaring, ignorant swimmer to ruin hundreds of years of natural growth.
  • Please, please observe the golden rule – LOOK BUT DON'T TOUCH. A single touch can kill or damage coral that has taken hundreds of years to grow. Also remember that even a tiny coral cut can be highly infectious and painful and ruin several days of your holiday.
  • Maintain a comfortable distance from the reef, taking into account surge or currents that might force you closer.
  • Know where your fins are. Keep leg kicking to the minimum and ensure that you do not kick up sand which can smother tiny organisms.
  • Never touch, handle or feed marine life except under expert guidance.
  • Never chase or try to ride marine life.
  • Do NOT use gloves or reef shoes.
  • Never discard rubbish – plastics, in particular, can smother and kill marine life. Turtles can mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them.
  • Use biodegradable suntan lotion. The effect of thousands of visitors jumping into the sea covered in oil-based lotion is like a tanker running aground.

This table lists all major snorkelling sites in Tobago in a clockwise direction around the island, starting from Crown Point. Each site has been graded on a scale of 1 to 5 to give a general indication of the quality of the snorkelling at that point; high scores offering a better snorkeling experience. Please take great care. Some of the sites mentioned are only suitable for experienced fit swimmers. Snorkelling should only be attempted when sea conditions are calm.

Crown Point
Kariwak **** Easy swim from Store Bay to the southwest (left of the Bay). Snorkels and masks are available from beach vendors.
Store Bay **+ Easy swim from the beach. The cliffs at the edge of the hotel grounds are in fairly sheltered water and offer reasonable snorkeling. Watch out for boat traffic.
Coconut Bay *** Coco Reef Resort sea defence wall. Serious swim from Store Bay or Cable Bay. A rapidly-developing artificial reef is forming on the rock barrier built to protect the beach at the Coco Reef Resort.
Buccoo Reef **+ Dinghy, boat or glass-bottom boat from Store Bay, Pigeon Point or Buccoo Village to the Coral Gardens. Pollution and the uncontrolled actions of glass-bottom boats and visitors have killed the majority of this reef, the third largest coral concentration in the western hemisphere. Most glass-bottom boat operators provide snorkel equipment.
Lower Caribbean
Mt.Irvine Beach (Hotel Beach) **+ Walk or swim to the east (right) side of the Mt.Irvine Hotel beach. Watch out for surfers!!! Some snorkel equipment available from beach vendors, but better to rent at the watersports shop.
Dutchman's Reef ***** Dinghy or good swim from beach, out into Mt.Irvine Bay. Marked by yellow reef markers.
Mt.Irvine Bay (Beach Facilities) *** Easy swim to the west (right) of the Mt.Irvine Beach Facilities. For advanced snorkelers. The waters wash over and around the northern end of the bay, Rockly Point, and the water is teeming with plankton and marine life. Snorkel equipment available from small shop before the Beach Facilities.
Back Bay **+ Swim west (left) from the beach. Rich in marine life but only attempt when the water is very calm.
Grafton Beach ** Walk to north (right) end of beach and then easy swim. Watch sea conditions and beware of white water.
Arnos Vale ***** Grounds of the now derelict Arnos Vale Hotel. Some of the best snorkeling in Tobago in relatively sheltered conditions. North (right) end is probably the best. You will regularly see barracuda. Fear not! Don't hassle them and they won't hassle you.
Upper Caribbean
Culloden Bay *** Footprints Eco-Resort beach. Not as rocky as Arnos Vale, but not as many fish.
King Peter's Bay ***+ Easy access from beach. Remote sheltered black-sand beach. No facilities. Bring own equipment, food and water. Three-mile drive down from village now treacherous and should not be attempted other than by very experienced drivers in a good 4x4. Security risks, so larger parties only (safety in numbers).
Castara Bay **+ Short swim to either side of the beach. Beautiful beach, but no sun before 11am. Take care if there is a lot of white water activity. Snorkeling on right side is generally reckoned to be the best. Beach vendors rent equipment.
Bloody Bay **+ Local boat or swim from shore. Sandy bay with lots of turtle grass. Can suffer from poor visibility due to run-off from the river.
North End
Man O'War Bay *** Boat. Various opportunities, including Cardinal Rock, Booby Island and Long Rock. Limited opportunity from Charlotteville beach.
Pirate's Bay **** 15-minute walk from village or fishing boat shuttle from village. Doesn't get much better than this! Bring your own equipment, food and water.
Angel Reef ***** Glass-bottom boat from Speyside (village or Blue Waters Inn). Walk to the right from the main beach. Go as far as you can (about 300m).
Atlantic Coast
Snorkelling is not recommended between Speyside and Bacolet.
Scarborough
Bacolet Bay ** Easy swim from beach Normally associated with Blue Haven Hotel, but public access to the beach is from the highway.

Almost all of the boat tours listed in the opening Boat Tours of this set of articles offer snorkelling as a main feature of the tour. All these operators provide masks and fins, but there is no guarantee that you will find a perfect fit or that the equipment will be in pristine condition. For the very optimum snorkelling experience, you do really need your own snorkel kit.

Boat Owners & Yachties

Being upwind and east of the main chain of Antilles islands, most private yachts miss Tobago. However as other Caribbean islands get busier, more and more yachts make the trip across to Tobago, often on their way to Trinidad's excellent sheltered outhaul facilities.

Unlike other Caribbean islands, you can't clear in or out with Customs &anp; Immigration at the local airport. This would make a lot of sense, because the main safe yachting anchorages are in Store Bay and Pigeon Point, only a few minutes' walk from the airport! However, the powers-that-be insist that you beat, or motor, to windward eight miles upwind and up-current, to the capital Scarborough. The alternative is Charlotteville, at the northern end of Tobago.

Scarborough is on the windward side and not particularly where you want to be. The ferry generally comes in to Scarborough harbour twice a day, so it is important to keep tucked as far as possible inside the harbour to avoid the effect of powerful bow thrusters!

Most of the bays on the north coast offer good daytime anchorages. The most scenic of these is Englishman's Bay, where the rainforest comes right down to the water's edge. However, all these anchorages on the north coast can become untenable if there is a northerly storm or low-pressure depression that invariably sends uncomfortable swells, which also increase surf on the beach and restrict visibility for divers and snorkelers alike. Store Bay and Mt.Irvine Bay offer the most suitable overnight anchorage.

Sadly, Tobago lacks most of the basic facilities for servicing yachties. The only practical fuel stations are located in Bon Accord (near Store Bay) and on Charlotteville's sea front.

You can purchase water at Pigeon Point Jetty (ask at the office), and can even go alongside the jetty if you draw less than 4ft. It has been possible to get fuel and water in Scarborough Port. However, it is easier to ask at the Coast Guard jetty for water if the need arises.

LPG is widely available at gas stations, as is ice, but if you have a different fitting go straight to the NP Terminal behind the airport to have your bottle filled. Party Ice bags are widely distributed around the island in mini markets and some Rum Shops.

All the various yacht services are widely (and efficiently) available at numerous locations in Chaguaramas Bay in Trinidad. Services are limited, but Store Bay Marine Services [email] located in Pigeon Point Road offer various services, include water, engine repair, canvas work, marine electronics and commercial diving, together with laundry and internet facilities (using long range Wi-Fi).

Store Bay Marine Services

Store Bay Marine Services provides everything for domestic and visiting sailors to Tobago - from repairs, mail order chandlery to laundry and WIFI. It is based just 200 yards from the anchorage at Store Bay on Pigeon Point Road. Look out for our signs! SBMS can also refuel and provision superyachts.

Operations Director John Stickland is the port officer in Tobago for the Ocean Cruising Club, the HLR for the Blue Water section of The Cruising Association and Station Host for the Seven Seas Cruising Associaiton.