Not everyone arrives in Tobago to flop out on the beach. With its steep hilly curves, rugged canyons, dramatic waterfalls and caves and scenic walking trails, hiking in Tobago is a true delight.
Few small Caribbean islands offer such incredible diversity as Tobago. Hiking here will uncover tropical rainforests, plump exotic fruits, rugged ravines, sunny beaches and waterfalls shielded by dramatic, towering palms. A riddle of steep, heart-pumping trails give way to jaw-dropping views: snaking through flowery bird-filled valleys to emerge on cliff-top precipices overlooking turquoise waters.
Protected by law since 1776, Tobago's Main Ridge Forest Reserve is spread over the island's mountainous spine and rich in flora and fauna – a delight for anyone with a decent pair of hiking boots and a head for heights. Forming the backbone of the island, the Main Ridge runs lengthways across two thirds of Tobago's surface, reaching a height of over 600 metres. Nourished by abundant rainfall, this lush, evergreen forest is home to around 16 mammal species, 24 non-poisonous snakes, 16 lizards and a rare gecko not found anywhere else on the planet.
Choose a comfortable steady climb with gentle ascents through ancient forest-rimmed caves and gullies that provide a real chance to spot some of Tobago’s 230 species of birds. Of these, some 25 are found only on the island, including the utterly beautiful White-tailed Sabrewing hummingbird: a rare and endemic avian species with a glittering green plumage, iridescent dark violet throat and bronze tail with handsome white markings. Altenatively, opt for steeper, sloping paths that lead through vine-knotted rainforests burrowed into U-shaped valleys; a landscape blessed with an ethereal ambience that encapsulates the beauty and power of Mother Nature on Tobago – little wonder hikers refer to a Tobago trek as a life-affirming, spiritual experience as opposed to a simple stomp.
Ragged rocky crags lay peppered with mysterious crevices and crinkle-cut peaks in this botanical wonderland of waterfall cascades and soaring ferns. Loose stone paths turn to rutted dirt tracks and boggy jungle stretches, in a maze of arduous interlocking trails characterised by bloom-filled thickets. On the toughest of the Main Ridge trails, your quadriceps and gluteus maximus muscles begin aching the moment your forehead beads with sweat – so be prepared. The reward for your gruelling climb are truly priceless views across a forested expanse once joined to the South American continent some one million years ago. Breathtaking.
Keen to hike responsibly? Then book an eco guide from Hike Seekers or Tobago’s own hikemaster Emile Serrette www.naturetrektnt.com. Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothes, pack a change of clothes (and swimwear), and don sturdy hiking boots and socks. Expect to pay around US$60 per day including equipment, transport, guiding and maps.
Header photo: Hiking through the jungle in Tobago © Hike Seekers
Have you been hiking in Tobago? What were your personal highlights?
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About the author: SarahWoodsSarah Woods
Award-winning travel writer, author & broadcaster Sarah Woods has lived, worked and travelled in The Caribbean since 1995. She has visited resort towns, villages and lesser-known islands where she has learned to cook run-down, sampled bush rum, traded coconuts, studied traditional medicine, climbed volcanoes and ridden horses in the sea. Sarah is currently working on a travel documentary about the history of Caribbean cruises.