Located just 10km off the coast of Venezuela, Trinidad is roughly 60km long by 50km wide, and is the southernmost point of the Lesser Antilles island chain, a good way out of the reach of Atlantic hurricanes. Once a part of the South American mainland, the island shares a geology and natural environment with that of Venezuela rather than the other Antilles to the north. As a result, Trinidad boasts an incredible array of eco-systems, flora and fauna, combining those found in South America with those from other Caribbean islands.
Trinidad’s rainforest-smothered Northern Range mountains rise to 941m at the mighty peak of El Cerro del Aripo before dropping down to one of the Caribbean’s most undeveloped coastlines to the north, where stunning beaches become home to thousands of giant egg-laying turtles from March until August.
In the far south of Trinidad lies an incredible geographical feature – the world’s largest lake of natural asphalt, or pitch). Gradually self-replenishing, asphalt from this ‘lake’ was used for the world’s first paved streets – in Port of Spain and then followed shortly by Washington DC. Oil was also discovered nearby at La Brea in the 1850s, and Trinidad’s industrial heartland on the eastern coast and in the far southeast now produces around 150,000 barrels of oil each day.
Between the mountains and industrial areas lie diverse savannah environments complete with Morish palms and seemingly countless bird species, low-lying wooded hills with cocoa and coffee plantations, and fields of sugar cane and rice – all interspersed by the colourful Hindu flags of Trinidad’s East Indian population.
Another remarkable natural feature are the ‘mud volcanoes’ found across the south of the island. Spurting bubbles of sulphuric mud, these mounds have been known to erupt viciously at times, and once buried part of the village of Piparo in 1997.
For many, Tobago is a more ‘typical’ Caribbean island, boasting a western coastline of gorgeous white sandy coves and a couple of long swathes of pristine beach too. The water is of the postcard-perfect variety – turquoise and clear, with gentle waves lapping at the shoreline. A couple of phenomenal reefs lie just offshore, a divers’ paradise with schools of brightly coloured tropical fish. The Atlantic coast, conversely, offers surfing waves and a series of low-key fishing communities.
Around 40km long by just 15km wide, Tobago has a central mountain ridge which harbours the western hemisphere’s oldest protected rainforest. Though not as diverse in animal and plant life as Trinidad’s forests, there is still a great deal to see, including a few species not found on its larger sister isle.
The Culture of T&T
If there’s one thing that ties together all of Trinidad and Tobago’s population, it has to be liming. The Trinbagonian word for socializing or hanging out, limes can take place in peoples’ houses and yards, in bars and clubs, and typically outside at beaches and on riverbanks. There are definitely strong connotations of eating and drinking at a lime, and it’s a pretty open-ended pastime too – big limes can go on for days at a time!
Why not come and join the lime in person!?