Getting the Pigeon Point

The green waters and white sand are famous, but James Fuller discovers Tobago’s Pigeon Point is so much more than just a pretty picture

Photograph by James FullerThe quintessential thatched hut on the jetty. Photograph by James Fuller

Everyone is familiar with the picture-postcard image of the carat-thatched hut on the jetty, but Pigeon Point has far more to offer than picturesque holiday photos alone. A narrow, white-sand peninsula on the southwestern tip of Tobago, Pigeon Point has long enjoyed fame for its outstanding natural beauty, but is an area of beguiling contrasts.

When pigeons ruled the roost

The most popular theory on how Pigeon Point got its name is through an early 19th-century British plantation manager, James Kirk. An energetic and industrious ornithologist and author of List of Birds of Tobago, he noted large flocks of wild pigeons which roosted in the area’s dense woodland until it was cleared to make way for a coconut estate in 1887.

Owned by the state since 2005, when it was purchased by the Tobago House of Assembly, the 125-acre estate is run by Pigeon Point Heritage Park Ltd.

Natural bounty

This compact geographic location houses a finely-balanced interdependence of reef, lagoon and mangrove ecosystems. These habitats give Pigeon Point its unique attributes and atmosphere. Buccoo Reef acts as a natural oceanic barrier, the lagoon’s seagrass beds cycle nutrients and organisms, and the mangrove provides a haven for crustaceans and fish, especially in their juvenile stages.

All also help prevent erosion and keep the waters clear, ensuring fishing, scuba diving, snorkelling and glass-bottomed boat tours to Buccoo Reef and Nylon Pool are popular pastimes.

Food and shopping

At RenMars, Liz’s on the Bay and Club Pigeon Point, as well as pizza and chips, visitors are encouraged to try local fare. You can breakfast on saltfish and tomato, or smoke herring with bake. You can lunch on rich, delicious soups including cowheel and oxtail; sample curried conch, goat, chicken and beef; or indulge with Tobago’s trademark dish of crab and dumpling.

Burn off those excess calories with a little retail browsing and encounter some genuine Tobagonian characters, such as Cleve Arnold, in the process.

Arnold, 53, is one of a number of vendors onsite at the South Beach (others are located just outside the park entrance). Given the name “Young King of the Island” by a Swedish friend, he ran the first booth at Pigeon Point, and, three decades later, is still there. The store of this part-time painter, tourist guide, musician and DJ is an Aladdin’s cave of arts, crafts and souvenirs.

“The best part of being here is treating people well and being an ambassador for Tobago. You have to remember people have saved to come on holiday, and we should make them feel at home, make sure they have a wonderful time and feel they should come again.”

Watersports

If the habitats are contrasting, so are the weather conditions. The warm aquamarine waters of the leeward shoreline are perfect for swimming and sunbathing, while just around the corner in Bon Accord Lagoon, consistent offshore winds provide perfect conditions for watersports. The high-octane Tobago Carnival Regatta, A Festival of Wind, will be staged here from February 18 – 20.

“We pretty much do it all,” says Radical Sports Tobago’s managing director, Brett Kenny. “Windsurfing, kite surfing, water skiing, wake boarding, paddle boating, kayaking, snorkelling or even sailing a hobie catamaran.”

Weddings & entertainment

With its soft sand beaches and glorious golden sunsets, Pigeon Point is a popular destination for romantics. Those looking for a special place to say “I do” can choose from three main locations on the South Beach, and there are plans for a tiki hut for larger wedding parties.

But fired-up feters come to the fore in July/August. The annual Great Fete Weekend is a Caribbean beach party, born out of the celebrations surrounding the annual 84-mile powerboat Great Race from Trinidad to Tobago. Billed as “the longest weekend”, last year these five nights of partying attracted 8,000 revellers.

Other big events include the Tobago Culinary Festival and the Tobago Jazz Festival, in which international megastars such as Erykah Badu, Maxi Priest, and Chaka Khan have performed at Pigeon Point. It’s also the location for the Trinidad & Tobago Game Fishing Association’s
annual big-game tournament.

Whether you’re seeking a fast pace or slow, heart-warming or heart-thumping, the coursing adrenalin of going airborne on a kiteboard, or the tranquil pleasure of going horizontal on a recliner, Pigeon Point Heritage Park provides it in one package.