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Claire Bradford, assistant manager of our Colchester travel store, took an action-packed trip to the Caribbean island of Tobago. Here's what she got up to during her five-night stay in paradise...
(Hotel names/Ship name): CoCo Reef Resort
Airline: British Airways
Duration: 5 Nights
I met my group at North Terminal on Saturday morning of the 7th May 2011. There were only 6 of us including Ana from Caribtours. We got to check in and were advised that we had been upgraded to Club World, which for me was so exciting and an absolute treat as I had never travelled in any class other than Economy!
Our next stop was the Club Lounge for breakfast. I couldn't resist the champagne so although it was a little early I thought it was rude not to indulge, not forgetting the croissants too.
As you can imagine for someone who is only 5ft, the flight to Tobago was very comfortable indeed. I drank a few more glasses of champagne, had a lovely meal eaten from proper plates and even had proper cutlery to use. I then watched a couple of films, had a quick snooze and woke up in time for a snack (and yet more champagne). Our flight went via Barbados so we stopped there for an hour, but all in all the flight was very good and seemed to fly by!!! (No pun intended!)
We arrived into Tobago to the most amazing sunset, very high temperatures and humidity, but it was lovely to feel the heat on your face. The transfer from the airport to CoCo Reef Resort was about 5 minutes. So there I was; my home for the next 5 nights.
The Coco Reef was a lovely comfortable hotel and the team there certainly made us feel very welcome. I stayed in a reef room which was sea facing and very spacious. The décor throughout the hotel was very flowery, green and peach; very much how a lot of the Caribbean used to be, but it felt right at this hotel as it suited the atmosphere and ambience.
On the whole, the staff at the hotel were very friendly and very helpful, however, there were a few that needed a bit more training to reach the standard of others; especially when it came to service with a smile! We had breakfast every day at Coco Reef as there were always a lot of options to choose from. The hot and cold buffet included an egg station, but my personal recommendation has to be the homemade banana loaf.
On the first night that we got to Coco Reef we had dinner at Café Coco. It is about 5 minutes’ walk from the hotel and is a very nice alternative to eating in the hotel. The outside terrace restaurant had great variety on the menu and if you book through Caribtours on an all-inclusive basis you will be able to eat at Café Coco at no extra cost. Bookings through other tour operators usually have to pay an additional supplement. On the Sunday night, we ate in Tamara’s, the restaurant at Coco Reef. I don't think we really got a good idea of what they have to offer as it was one of their buffet nights. However, the buffet options were all very nice and there was plenty to choose from. A word of warning, though, beware of the mosquitoes! You will definitely need to use repellent when in the restaurant and when drinking on the terrace.
We first met Elvis, our driver for the week, when he collected us for the transfer from the airport to the hotel. It has to be said that he has the most infectious laugh; I couldn't even begin to describe it. On our first full day in Tobago, he guided us on an Island Tour that lasted the whole day; driving us up and along one coastline and then back down the other. Tobago is only 26 miles long and 6 miles wide so you would think that it doesn't take too long to get round the Island. However, it is very mountainous which I absolutely wasn't expecting.
We spent the first hour or two driving through little villages; stopping for photo opportunities and to spot some of the local wildlife (we saw a snake, an iguana and many different species of bird). We then stopped for a trip on a glass bottom boat which took us to a place known as Goat Island. Here we had a bit of a hike through woodlands before arriving at a viewing point across which offered stunning vistas across the ocean to the mainland. I have to say that I kind of enjoyed the trek, though I'm not a massive fan of hiking!
Our next stop was for lunch. We arrived at a typical creole eatery called Jemma's Treetop Restaurant. It was very busy with locals as it was Mother's Day and I really liked the atmosphere which filled the whole place like air gradually inflating a balloon.
The food was very good and fresh, although we did have to wait a while for it. We got to try some local dishes which were all very nice; something which is a must if you are out and about around the island. After lunch, we moved on for another walk up to Argyle waterfall. The walk probably took us about 20 minutes each way as we strode through woodland; spotting birds and other exotic wildlife as we went. Once at the falls, you can take the plunge into a natural pool to cool off if you are brave enough. Overall, the day was fairly long but is definitely the best way to see the island and all that Tobago has to offer.
After a leisurely breakfast the next morning (this was the case every morning!), we made our way to Kariwak Village for a hotel inspection. Kariwak Village has 24 rooms with either a pool or garden view and the whole hotel has a very holistic and spiritual feel to it. If you want to go somewhere to totally relax and forget everything this is definitely the place.
It isn't on the beach but there is a shuttle that takes you to the nearby beach at Pigeon point in five minutes. Alternatively, there is the option to walk which would only take around half an hour. At Kariwak Village you will experience some aircraft noise but this is minimal due to the fact that there aren't many flights in and out of Tobago.
After our hotel inspection, we took part in a beginners Yoga session in the most amazing and tranquil yoga pavilion situated on site at the hotel. I had never done yoga before but very much enjoyed it and felt very relaxed during and after the session. So much so during that I think I might have nodded off!
Suitably at one with myself, we sat down for lunch. The owners of the hotel are very hands on when it comes to the cuisine; grow all of their own produce in the grounds before cooking and preparing it from scratch. We had sandwiches which were made with home-made rye/brown bread with salad grown on site and whatever else you wanted as a filling. They were very good. These were followed by my choice of homemade vanilla ice-cream which was also very good.
On the Tuesday night, we had dinner at Kariwak Village. Below is the menu that we had:
Tomato & Butternut Squash Soup with Homemade Bread
Steak with Garlic Butter and Fresh Vegetables and Wild Rice
Homemade Ice-Cream (Mint)
The food is tremendously flavoursome and you can taste the fact that it is very organic. I'm sure by now you get the idea but I can't stop raving about the place! Finally, it’s also worth mentioning that the staff gave us excellent service and were all very pleasant throughout our stay.
On Monday night we went to a restaurant called The Seahorse which was situated perfectly with an outside terrace overlooking the ocean. From the moment we arrived, I found the staff to be very friendly and attentive. The food was of a very high standard and, possibly due to the fact that the owners are originally from the UK, the menu had plenty of options that tourist will recognise. This was another place to eat that I recommend highly enough.
On our way back from The Seahorse, Elvis had a call to say that a Leatherback Turtle had come up on the beach to lay its eggs. We dropped a couple of the group at the hotel and then turned around and raced back to Turtle Beach. When we arrived there was already quite a crowd and I didn't really know what I was looking for; something that wasn't helped by the fact that it was pitch-black and you couldn't really see anything. I was told that once the Turtle had dug her hole they would then able to put the infrared lights on for us to see.
And what a sight it was. When they put the lights on, I was absolutely amazed. I have never seen a turtle of that size before. She was nearly 2 metres long and over 1 metre wide. She laid her eggs, then covered them up and then made her way back to the sea. This was an experience I can't describe. We were on the beach for about 2 hours and it felt like we were there for 10 minutes. WOW!
The following day we were lucky enough to spend the whole time on a catamaran called Island Girl. The crew was brilliant and made every second of our day fun. They cooked a BBQ lunch on board along with salads, dressings and Caribbean chicken stew. The drinks were also included so the traditional rum punch was flowing all day and is highly recommended (you could also have soft drinks if you prefer). The boat stopped a couple of times during the day to offer us the chance to go snorkelling or you have a swim in the beautifully clear water. Snorkelling gear was provided if you needed it and it was all very easy with steps that drop down from the back of the boat.
While we were sailing we spotted dolphins and flying fish; making it a great day out and a good way of seeing the island’s dramatic coastline.
When it came to Wednesday, we had a complete day at leisure on an all-inclusive basis at Coco Reef. After breakfast, a few of us walked to a nearby beach called Pigeon Point. As I mentioned before, it’s about half an hour’s stroll from the hotel but the walk offers some great scenery and the beach is well worth it when you get there.
You do have to pay a few Trinidad and Tobago Dollars to get in but this allows you to stay for the whole day if you like. It is a very well kept area with beautiful gardens which lead down a private road to the beach where you will find a few shops and cafés. Coco Reef has bikes which are available for hire and his would make a nice bike ride.
When we got back we went to the Bacchanals which is the beach front restaurant at Coco Reef. Here they serve lunch and snacks all day with salads and a good cold buffet on offer. They also had a BBQ which included hot dogs, burgers, chicken and steak.
We spent the rest of the day on sunbeds by the pool.
In the evening, we went to Stonehaven Villas for a hosted dinner. The atmosphere that night was very subdued as we were all tired from our very busy day! We were the only people in the restaurant so it was all a bit quiet. Because this resort is made up of private villas most people tend to stay in their own accommodation for dinner. The food was good although none of us were really in the mood for a big dinner.
Thursday was our last day and so we just had time for a final breakfast at Coco Reef before begrudgingly checking out. We spent our remaining hours at Stonehaven Villas where there are 14 luxurious, 3 bedroom villas, all of which are individually decorated. Each one has en-suite bathrooms, air conditioning, fully equipped kitchen, cable TV, private infinity pool set within a spacious sundeck and a large furnished verandah with outdoor dining and living areas.
Each villa also has a personal housekeeper who will prepare meals for you if you wish. This also explains why there was no-one in the restaurant on the Wednesday night!) We had full use of the villa, the pool and the bar, whilst our own personal chef came and cooked us lunch on the BBQ and then served us dessert. For the rest of the day, we again occupied sunbeds! Towards the end of the day, we used the bathrooms, had showers and got ready to leave. This definitely was the perfect end to a perfect trip.
The one and only Elvis then came and collected us for our journey back to the airport. To round off our fantastic trip, we were then upgraded to Club World again on our return journey.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Steve Williams, Louise Tweed and Caribtours for giving me this amazing opportunity.
Must see? A turtle laying her eggs (if you get the chance)
Must do? Tour of the island, visit Pigeon Point
Must try? Many of the local meals on the menu at the Kariwak Village
Whilst the UK spends half of the year under a cloud of rain, Tobago is bathed in glorious sunshine throughout; making it the perfect place to enjoy some winter sun. Visit one of our travel shops today to arrange your holiday in the beautiful Caribbean.