Centuries of foreign occupation and slavery transformed Trinidad and Tobago, the sister islands once called "Leri land of the Humming Bird" by native Amerindians, into a cultural melting pot. Descendants of Spanish, French and British settlers, as well as African slaves and Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern indentured servants all live on the southern Caribbean islands. A trip to these islands today offers tropical relaxation, outdoor activities, such as snorkeling and diving, and a glimpse into a diverse cultural life.
Tobago gained its name for the abundance of tobacco cultivated on it by its native inhabitants. Later, when Great Britain ruled the island, sugar, cotton and indigo plantations were established and worked by African slaves. Tobago's forts give a glimpse into the explosive history of the island, which changed possession more than 30 times and was a stopping point for pirates, as well as British, French, Spanish, Dutch and even Latvian soldiers. Trips to Fort King George and Fort James offer a glimpse into that past while less established, older forts, such as Forts Bennet and Granby provide a relaxing place to have a picnic lunch.
Carnival in Port of Spain
Just miles off the northern tip of Venezuela, Trinidad's capital, Port of Spain, boasts an annual, colorful Carnival celebration that captures the spirit of much larger South American Carnival festivals like the one held in Brazil. Parades, music, dancing, floats and imaginative costumes make up Carnival or "as mas" as it is called in Trinidad. Plan a trip to Trinidad and Tobago during the first week of March to witness the incredible costumes, king and queen competitions and intriguing culture of this southern Caribbean nation.
Maracas Bay Beach
Like so many other islands in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago boast of beautiful beaches rimming cool, clear waters. Take a dip in Trinidad's most sought-after beach, Maracas Bay. Perched upon the northern tip of the island, Maracas Bay provides breathtaking views of the island's rainforest and other beaches. Soak in the sun while munching on a local delicacy -- shark and bake. Bits of seasoned shark meat stuffed inside deep-fried dough balls topped with eclectic local toppings are served up hot on Maracas Bay beach. Wander away from the beach, if you can muster the energy, to tour Port of Spain's botanical gardens, Emperor Valley Zoo or Stollmeyers Castle, all within a 10-mile drive of Maracas Bay.
Tobago Rainforest Reserve
Trinidad and Tobago provide abundant opportunities for ecotourism. The Tobago Rainforest Reserve, the oldest rainforest national park in the Western Hemisphere, offers travelers the opportunity to watch rare birds, hike forest trails, mountain bike through abandoned cocoa estates and enjoy picnics at mountain lakes. Little Tobago is home to a bird sanctuary while Trinidad's Northern Mountain Range boasts miles of trails, pristine rivers and thundering waterfalls. Kayaking, diving and snorkeling are plentiful and easy to engage in all along Trinidad and Tobago's coasts.
If you're looking for something other than eating, drinking and sunbathing to do in the evening, Trinidad is known for its abundant turtle-watching opportunities. Beaches including Maracas Bay, Las Cuevas, Blanchisseuse, Paria, Pitit Tacarib and even Englishman's Bay in Tobago offer opportunities to watch endangered leatherback sea turtles lay their eggs, hatch and make their annual trek to the sea for survival. Five species of turtles frequent the islands -- leatherback, loggerhead, green, hawksbill and olive ridley. Turtle hatcheries provide chances to see newly hatched leatherbacks swim and shimmy in the sand.
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