Castara and Tobago 2015

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Paul Tallet
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Castara and Tobago 2015

Post by Paul Tallet » Sun Feb 08, 2015 2:02 am

It seems that every year I go home and reflect on my last visit to my beloved Castara for a week or 2 and then have a rant about it's failings and the business opportunities that are crying out for attention.

Well, after 15 years, nothing has changed so I will try to provide some rational comments and a few thoughts of how tourism has changed in a quite remarkable way over this time.


Dining/Eating

Over the last 3 visits I have increasingly self catered. If I eat out at lunch time I normally leave Castara because no one seems to do lunch in Castara. Although this last year my good friend Duck was providing really good value lunches for about 50TT behind L&H ... the gentlemen rebuilding the Fishermen's Building seemed to take most advantage ... knowing Duck though, I am not sure if he will keep it up ... never seen him hold a job down for long ... lovely chap though.

So what about the evening? Yep, as always there are several restaurants all charging about 90 to 100TT for what I now describe as 'bone' with a choice of rice, chips and various veg. It's not good, so I stay in and cook for myself. I went out dining 3 times in Castara in 3 weeks ... I did Marguerites twice, this restaurant is the exception ... it charges about the same but the food is always tasty ... I went to Castara Retreats once, this is what you would describe as upper class and incomparable to the traditional restaurants in Castara, the service is top class and they aim to serve delicious food and you will, accordingly, pay a higher price ... so I would say it's a nice treat.

Elsewhere, there are feature nights ... Heavenly Bay produces a rather expensive 200TT deal for Wednesday nights with entertainment normally in the form of traditional drummers or steel pans (I have not been to this a few years ... maybe next year) ... Shirma has a barbecue every Friday night, simple tasty and very good value at around 40 - 50TT ... Chinos does entertainment and meals on Saturday nights, I forget his prices (and I did not go this year) but probably 100TT upwards.

To sum up ... Castara is not the best place for food and generally very expensive ... sorry, it's just my opinion.


The Village

Where Castara lacks it makes up for it in spades in it's beauty and uniqueness ... there are not many places where you can mix with locals or be part of the community, as opposed to being institutionalised at one of the major resorts, although there are a few in Castara that do not like visitors which I feel is quite understandable ... some of the tourists should respect Castara a little more and think before they leave their rubbish on the beach which is cleaned daily.

The beach is safe, beautiful and continually changing. Every year I wonder what direction the river is taking. One negative is the unsightly wall on the north side of the river which is going to be part of the new Fishermen's Building.

There is also a waterfall about a mile into the rainforest and decent coral to explore at the northern end right out to the headland and beyond ... at low tide you can see a stack breaking the water towards the end of the headland ... sometimes a snorkeller will see a very good show here.


Activities

One option can be to visit the west end of the Island for Reef tours and parties on a deserted beach, or go to Speyside which offers birdwatching as well as diving/snorkelling ... but there are some good tours to be had from Castara. The most consistent and reputable of these is Brian (Alibaba) ... he can take you anywhere, either you go with a group or charter him to take you where you want ... it's always good fun and Brian is a little unique because, as well as singing songs about the history of Tobago, he sings the song about the eco side of Tobago and explains the threats to the Island ... this is a serious side and although I have heard him say it many times I will never tire of being reminded.

Oh ... Brian also has cushioned seats in his boat =D>

One quick comment about Rainforest Trips ... by all means go if it is your first time ... I have seen more from the road by just stopping here and there ... several boa constrictors (one about 3 metres long), bright green Iguana, Leaf Cutter Ants, Trap door Spiders and too many birds to mention ... often you see more when it is raining, especially along the new north road to Charlottesville.

Night visits to the Rainforest are also quite spectacular, the forest is screaming with the sounds of frogs and crickets and the displays of the randy fire flies are quite electric and in good contrast to the rainforest canopy and the stars beyond ... there is too much light pollution in Tobago so you can't experience this in a Hotel or even in Castara ... you have to drive into the Forest.


Tourism

This applies to the whole of Tobago, not just Castara.

Over the years it has been interesting how Tobago has attracted people from different countries at different times and I wonder if it is the flight operators that influence this.

15 years and up until about 3 years ago I would say that the majority were British ... not only have I seen few Brits in recent years but it is evident that interest has waned as fewer Brits are posting on this forum.

In those days there were 3 UK flight operators; BA, Virgin and Excel (Monarch). From around April this year only BA will visit Tobago indirectly via Antigua. Virgin look like they will be doing some strictly packaged flights. I think Caribbean Airlines does or did a flight from Manchester but that's it ... BA are adding a Friday flight sometime over the next year and I have already booked my flights for next Christmas with BA.

More recently there have been quite a few Canadians although I understand these flights are looking doubtful in the future. Last year there were many eastern Europeans but not many of them this year.

The big growth area has been Scandanavians and you can see that on this forum.

So somehow Tobago is keeping it's tourism going and that's good hopefully for the small businesses but it does seem like an increasingly risky business to attract visitors from different parts of the world.


Trinidad

If you can go to Trinidad ... then go.

It is best to take a guide and there are many attractions such as the Asa Wright Nature Reserve, the Caroni Swamp, Mud Volcanos, Pitch Lake, Howler Monkeys and much more ... June July is good for Turtle watching on the north coast but you need to register BEFORE you go otherwise you won't get on the beach.

It costs about 100TT to take the ferry (3 hours) and about 300TT by plane (20 minutes).


Health

I had one of my turns in my last visit and ended up in the Scarborough Hospital.

It's free and it's brilliant (albeit a little coarse). Just like the UK's National Health Service back in the 1970's ... if you visit A&E they can do all the tests there and then ... now in the UK you visit A&E and they tell you to come back for the tests because the department is either booked up or closed.

So readers, never fear the Hospital. They may be a little slow and you are put through the Spanish Inquisition before you are admitted ... but they are effective and the morphine was great :shock:

On that note ... I had better not write anymore but I hope someone finds this update helpful.

Regards
Paul Tallet
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Re: Castara and Tobago 2015

Post by Glyn Kirpalani » Sun Feb 08, 2015 7:52 pm

Brilliant review Paul, very enjoyable read, a 10 from Glyn!

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Re: Castara and Tobago 2015

Post by Robert T » Sun Feb 08, 2015 9:19 pm

Agree with Glyn, enjoyable indeed..

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Re: Castara and Tobago 2015

Post by Hugh S » Mon Feb 09, 2015 12:02 am

Lots of great nuggets here but since I'm not really a Castara-fari what helped me most was the good recommendation for the 'new' hospital. It's only a matter of time before I see the inside. (Hope I didn't just jinx myself! 8-[ )

Thanks, Hugh 8)

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Re: Castara and Tobago 2015

Post by Ronald » Mon Feb 09, 2015 9:28 am

I can only agree with the others about Paul´s review, but he always write fact and comments about different things in a good way.

Hugh, if you have been to the old hospital in Scarborough, and now you go to the new one on top of the hill outside Scarborough, it´s like a dream compared with the new old one!
The doctors and nurses was doing a god job in the old hospital too, but now they are working in a more modern area, so it´s Very Much Better now a days! I´ve been there myself and just to show how good they are, I´ll tell the story here.

I had an accident the very first evening when I arrived to Tobago year 2013, I´d slip in the shower, fell and I almost did break my hand. It become swollen, big pain so I went to the hospital next morning.
1-Registration, still in the old way, paper work and also in the old slow way, but they are friendly
2-Waiting, same long waiting as before, but now better as the hospital has full AC
3-First check by a doctor & nurse, as I had pain, my blood pressure was higher than normally, so they gave me tablets and I was told "lay down here for a while, we will come back"
4-They did so and I was taken to get an X-ray of my hand, a short waiting first, new good modern equipments, no longer the old types
5-New waiting until the doctor did take a look at the pictures, no bones was not broken, but they got a bad hit, at least good news
6-Got a receipt of pain killers by the doctor, got some from them from at the hospital, but they didn´t have the stronger ones, so I had to go and by it myself, no problems for me
7-Everything at the hospital was completely free of cost, I didn´t even have to show that I have an insurance from home
So over-all the give each visitor at the hospital good service, better than I expected and free of charge, you only must know that it goes according to the normal Tobago-speed

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Re: Castara and Tobago 2015

Post by Steve Wooler » Mon Feb 09, 2015 9:58 am

Hi Paul

Just got in to the office and read your post. Couldn't agree with Glyn and the others more. Well done! :D
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Re: Castara and Tobago 2015

Post by Hugh S » Mon Feb 09, 2015 4:18 pm

Thanks Ronald,

I have been to the old hospital many times but only driven through the grounds of the new one. Impressive place but I can't help thinking about how much money and time were wasted in the process. Shaw Park is open (http://www.thetobagonews.com/news/item/ ... -dismissed) but the new library (which took so long that the exposed concrete rotted) project continues (http://www.tha.gov.tt/news/news-release ... -announced).

Hugh 8)

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Re: Castara and Tobago 2015

Post by Ronald » Tue Feb 10, 2015 1:22 am

Well Hugh.

I´m an Electric Engineer who had been working withs Documentations, CAD-constructions for Electric Equipments, switch gears, control and AC-; DC-drives from mid 60´s until I´d retire 2010. I know how things are working at home and it work in the same way into mostly European countries.
If we give an offer for a project everything is included if not the buyer has told us "we will come with more info later to the one who get the job", mostly for very large project were not even the owner doesn´t know exactly everything.
But here it seems to be a common rule to give an ooffer, get the contract, and THAN say "no we need more money otherwise we can´t finish!"

Such things doesn´t work at home, than the papers to the companies was badly written or the offer had a lot of wholes, so the buyer did expect "all is there". I hav myself seen such things more than once "but of course we need this too" but if not in the papers....
Some years ago they build a big houses for repair and maintenance for local trains, they need 15000V, so they had a big transformer outside the building. I was there when they tested this section, but they couldn´t switch on the transformer unit.
They had power 3x400VAC in but no power did come out, so when we checked the transformer we did see that they didn´t have any control voltage 1x230VAC! Too many peoples were involved, and all seemed to belive "he buy that for us", but no one did that.
It might be so here too sometimes, many bosses but no one who have the over-all knowledge and control.

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Re: Castara and Tobago 2015

Post by Carol G » Tue Feb 10, 2015 4:39 pm

Hi Paul,
Had been thinking about you; what a way to have your trip (at least in part) derailed by a stay in the hospital, what a great friend you have in Ancle. Have heard the new hospital is a big improvement (as Ronald has confirmed). Although several years ago we had to use the old hospital and the care was excellent. It may be slow, but the Emerg in Toronto is slow too!

Your review was very interesting...as you know we do not stay in Castara, but I thought your total view of Tobago was right on. There are so many wonderful things about Tobago; welcoming communities, local friends, the sheer beauty of the land. And so many things that can drive you absolutely insane The new lookout in the rainforest, the lovely beach facility at Blood Bay...forgotten (?) and not really open, the delayed/over budget new library; etc. Local business struggling to stay open..the ones that actually want to do their best. Sigh...but we all still love it.

Food
It's a shame there are so few options for reasonable priced/varied food in Tobago....also why we do most of our own cooking; with food stuff & produce we buy in Tobago. BBQ/roti/macaroni pie is nice, but all the time?? Sure wish the Kings Bay Cafe, Salsa Kitchen or Beach bar at C'ville were closer!

Airlines
Not sure where you heard the news about flights to Canada. I would be truly surprised if Caribbean Air stopped flying out of the Canadian hub...Toronto. There is a enormous number of expat Trinis who live in Toronto and on a regular basis fly to T&T. Most flights are totally filled and fortunately for those of us who want to go on to Tobago, the flight can be booked at the same time. Wonderful arrangement; after the horrible years of another carrier doing the airbridge. Yes, Caribbean Air can be a pain; had the full effect trying to get to POS to make our flight to TO in Dec. Maybe, the info was in reference to West Jet flights?

Cheers, Carol

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Re: Castara and Tobago 2015

Post by Paul Tallet » Tue Feb 10, 2015 6:28 pm

Hi all ...

The Canada issue I heard from Ancle. A couple of years ago he indicated that there was a bit of a push by THA to get more tourists from there so, as always, this time I asked him how business is going and he felt that the Canada push was easing off. Not sure about the flights.

It is always interesting to hear how businesses find things and the hostelries are the most astute, they always need to be on the front line, competing for guests, and the catering businesses and tour operators feed from this source.

I did not need Ancle to tell me that the Scandinavian business is booming but the point I was (badly!) trying to make was that it seems Tobago's tourism seems not to evolve but that another part of our world will go for a few years and then be replaced by another part of the world and so on ... so it seems risky.

I don't think there are enough regular visitors to Tobago that can make a difference.

On my boat trip this year with Brian there were no other Brits apart from my carer, there was an Irish couple, a Canadian couple and the rest were from Sweden.

Last year it was mostly Eastern Europeans mostly from Poland ... no sign of them this year.

So who's next? Will the Brits make a come back? There was a big thing in the press about the first ever Brazilian flight arriving shortly after I left ... not sure if that will catch on, who knows.

All very interesting.

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Re: Castara and Tobago 2015

Post by Steve Wooler » Sat Feb 21, 2015 4:47 pm

Hi Guys & Gals

The thread took a sudden turn here and is far more appropriate in our Health & Security sub-forum. So, I've split the thread and moved everything from this point over under a new thread entitled "Tobago 2015".
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