In Tobago, It's All Good

Tobago or Not Tobago?: Negotiating 182 square miles of tropical Eden, no question about it

    Photo: James Laish

Tobago has a rainy season, from August to December, though rainfall is usually of the sudden, brief, and voluminous frog-choker variety, not an all-day soaking. But come September—Tobago's Indian summer—you'll find a welcome break in the rains and reasonable off-season airfares.

GETTING THERE: From the United States you'll fly through San Juan, Puerto Rico, or straight into Trinidad, where you'll catch a BWIA shuttle (800-538-2942) to Tobago. Round-trip fares from Miami to Tobago's Crown Point via San Juan on American Airlines (800-433-7300) range from $580 in the high season (December through March) to $460 in the off-season.
LODGING: There's a dizzying variety of options, but none is as potentially fun and informative as simply asking locals in the smaller towns about who has a room or two to let, and then bargaining. As far as hotels go, if you want luxury with a clean green conscience, try Footprints Eco Resort, in Culloden, midway from Crown Point to Castara Bay (doubles, $115; 868-660-0118). For simplicity, there's Man O' War Cottages on Man O' War Bay (one to four bedrooms, $65­$135; 868-660-4327). Typical of Tobago's informal approach to lodging, Belle Aire Cottage, farther down the bay, is a house with individual rooms to let (about $25; 868-660-5984). Manta Lodge, in Speyside, is diver central, with an on-site dive operation (doubles, $135; 868-660-5268).

GUIDES: Just about anybody without pressing engagements is a potential guide in kicked-back Tobago. But officially licensed guides are the best way to go. Naturalist Michael Frank, of Frankie Tours and Rentals (868-639-4527), located in the center of the island at Mason Hall, specializes in guided hikes to waterfalls. For diving and sea kayaking excursions, call Charlotteville's Man Friday Diving (868-660-4676). David Rooks, of Carnbee, is an ornithologist and nature guide of international repute (868-639-4276). Argyle Tours (868-660-4154) leads all-day tramps through the Reserve, Argyle Falls, and Buccoo Marsh (a good birding spot). Call Trinidad & Tobago Tourism (868-639-4333) for a complete list of licensed guides.

Jumbie Love: A guide to the island's mystical cryptozoology
More than mere superstition, tobago's folklore springs from a deep knowledge of nature and centuries of dangerous living where the wild things are. Down by the sea and up in the jungle, the mysterious is routine and the inexplicable is an honest facing of the fact that we don't know squat about where we came from or where we're headed. So it goes with the island's multifarious jumbies or evil spirits, who stand with one human foot in society and one cloven hoof in the jungle. The seductive Diablesse, for instance, is said to show up at parties in French colonial attire and lure some poor swain to take a fatal stroll with her out back; the douens, faceless ghosts of unbaptized children, have backward-facing feet, always poised to head for the bush with unwary youngsters in tow. And those who answer the call of the wild a little too willingly by, say, moving to the forest's edge, may be suspected of becoming Soucouyant—a vampire that flies by night in the form of a fireball. The lesson? Watch your step, and the footprints of your traveling companions, so you don't end up in some lost episode of In Search Of....

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