Postcard from Tobago

Suzanne Atkin sounds as if she's not going to leave

Barbados Pride. Photograph by Bruce AntonFort King George, Sunset Beach. Photographs by Bruce AntonMount Irvine Bay. Photograph by Kenny LeeNo Man’s Land, Tobago. Photograph by Bruce AntonNo Man’s Land. Photograph taken by Bruce Anton

Dear Kathy and Bob,

A local restaurant owner said to me: “There are two things easy to do in Tobago. One is to relax, and the other is to stay here.”

I’m sitting in the shade of a coconut tree, watching the fishermen pull in their nets, and it’s easy to understand why people feel like that, and why so many visitors come back here year after year. Some of them have made their homes here. (Hold that thought: a fisherman just advised me to relocate under a tree with fewer ripe coconuts, for obvious reasons.)

True, anyone whose idea of paradise is a skyscraper hotel and duty-free shopping won’t find a dream holiday in Tobago. There are no massive hotels here. Building stops at the height of a coconut tree. There are less than fourteen hundred rooms for rent in the whole island, and we’ve often gone on trips without seeing another tourist.

Even in the peak winter season, when you could expect to be sidestepping sunbathers on all sides, there are plenty of beaches to choose from, many with nobody on them. Isn’t that great in a world where there are hardly any unspoiled places left?

But it’s more than the palm trees and the reefs and the icing-sugar beaches. What’s really special about Tobago is the people here. Unlike the urban jungle we call home, folks here acknowledge each other with a nod and a “hello” or an “all-right”. It would be considered rude to go into a store and approach the clerk without saying “good afternoon

Tobago is linked with Trinidad, where there’s oil, so it has not had to look for tourist dollars until quite recently. Perhaps it’s this sense of security and well-being which gives Tobago people their unaggressive quality. A vendor in Tobago is more likely to be interested in passing the time of day than in doing the hard sell.

There’s one big dilemma here after a day of snorkelling and fishing. What to eat? Should it be lobster, shrimp or grilled fish? Tobago’s idea of fast food is a heaping plate of curried crab and dumplings from Store Bay. You see the sort of problems I face?

There are two more golf courses planned, and there’s talk of several new hotels, so who’s to say whether Tobago will stay sleepy forever? But for now, the fishermen have gone, and I have the beach to myself.

And I’ve got another big decision to make. What level of sun-screen to put on.

See you in a few weeks.

Maybe.

Love,
Suzanne