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Tobago's an island of giants. The world's largest brain corals, massive sponges, manta rays, hammerhead sharks, and such thick sponge and coral growth that the reefs look as if they've been artificially fertilized with some form of nuclear radiation. Almost every single dive here is a current dive, as the Guyana Current rushes past the island, bringing with it a concentrated package of nutrients. The best dives are off Speyside, Charlotteville, the Sisters and the remote islands around St. Giles. Expect lobster that could feed a village, current sculpted sponges, seahorses, sea turtles, monster eels, eagle rays and manta rays. In the winter months when the water cools down, the hammerhead sharks rise and can be seen off the sheer walls of the Sisters. In the middle of all this is a macro wonderland that you'll be hard pressed to enjoy except in the lee of the reef. Above the water, Tobago would be recognizable to its original discoverers. The center of the island comprises the western hemisphere's first forest reserve - the Main Ridge of Tobago. An incredible array of bird-life makes Tobago a birdwatchers haven. It's all about nature here, above and below.

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Destination Information

When to go:

Tobago is outside the main hurricane belt and seldom feels the effect of the hurricane season. At times the Guyana Current carries effluence from South America's Orinoco River, adversely affecting underwater visibility, but the nutrients brought in by those same currents contribute to the stunning marine life here.

Marine Life Seasons:

Look for manta rays during April and May.

When to Get the Best Deals:

August to November.

What to Pack:

A 2/3 mm wetsuit, safety sausage, water hiking shoes to romp through the rainforest and to hike to the falls, mosquito repellent and sunscreen; DAN card

Water Temperatures:

Seasonal averages: 25°C/78°F in winter and 28°C/84°F in summer.

Air Temperatures:

Seasonal averages: 27°C/80°F in winter and 30°C/88°F in summer.

Currency:

TT (Trinidad and Tobago dollar) is the official currency. In most of the places, credit card and travellers' cheques are accepted.

Visa/Passport Requirements:

Valid passport; check your local immigration office for visa requirements.

Departure Tax:

It is included in your airfare.

Immunizations:

No immunizations required.

What to Eat:

Stop for roti (a wrap filled with meat and curry) at any of the roadside eateries. Try the callaloo - a soup made from taro leaves and coconut cream. Curried crab and dumpling - whole blue crabs in spices - is a common specialty that you'll find at local restaurants. Fresh fish and other seafood is readily available and delicious when accompanied by a spicy creole sauce.

What to Drink:

On Tobago there's a saying, "get up with the sun, go to bed with the sun," so they take their nightlife and post dive drinks seriously here. Angostura, famous for its aromatic bitters, distills a variety of rums from white to dark. There is another saying, "beware the puncheon," that refers to a punch mixed using a potent clear, light rum. Carib and Stag are the locally brewed beers.

Top Adventures/Shopping/Culture:

Birdwatching on Little Tobago Island or along the Gilford Trace trail in the rainforest; hiking to Argyle Falls; Fort King George in Scarborough; the Botanical Gardens; Arnos Vale Waterwheel; the Adventure Farm and Nature Reserve for hummingbird spotting; Englishman's Bay Beach;

Customs and Culture:

An interesting mix of French, English, African and Indian cultures make up Tobago life. Tip your guide to Argyle Falls.

Top Festivals/Events:

Heritage Festival Days, a month long, island-wide celebration of Tobago's amalgam of cultures during July and August; Carnival in February; Goat Races during Easter Weekend

Electricity and Internet:

110V/60Hz is most common, but 240V/60Hz in available on Tobago. Inquire at your hotel before you arrive. Internet is somewhat available.

Drink the water?

Bottled water is recommended.

Language:

English is the official language, but the local dialect can be difficult to understand.

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Amazing Marine Life

Hammerhead Sharks:

Remarkable for their wide-bladed heads, these breathtaking icons of the deep are sometimes seen off the Sisters.

Manta Ray:

Frequently seen on dives, especially off Speyside.

Seahorses:

With their curling tails and iconic chess-piece profiles, seahorses are not prolific, but can be spotted by the watchful diver.

Slipper Lobster:

These shoe-horn shaped lobsters come out at night, and you can frequently see tiny juveniles.

Sea Turtles:

Hawksbill and green turtles can be found swimming in leisurely fashion or napping under ledges on many reefs.

Green Moray Eel:

They grow to huge proportions here.

Brain Coral:

The biggest brain coral in the world is off Speyside.

Barrel Sponges:

Growing to massive sizes here, the current bends and twists and sculpts these into unique shapes.

Barracuda:

These predatory fish are often seen on the reefs.

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Top Dive Spots

Diver's Dream:

Best known for an astounding number of giant barrel sponges, some over two metres/six feet wide, this site offers a wide variety of marine life. Look for plate coral colonies, Bermuda chub, nurse sharks, stingrays, sea fans, turtles and even the occasional tiger shark. Be cautious of strong tidal currents.

Stingray Alley:

An extension of Flying Reef, this slope boasts scorpionfish, moray eels, turtles, barracuda, nurse sharks, eagle rays, black-tip reef sharks, and oversized (up to two metres/six feet across) stingrays.

Bookends:

Off Speyside, this drift dive takes you between two rocks. You'll fly past giant barrel sponges, feeding tarpon and green sea turtles and lots of macro life that will just have to wait until life slows down a bit on this rush of a site.

M/V Maverick:

This wreck, resting at 18 metres/60 feet, shelters snappers, rainbow runners, lobster, eels, torpedo rays, schooling reef fish, barracuda and stunning corals.

The Sisters:

A group of dramatic towering pinnacles host sea whips, enormous lobsters, barracuda and turtles. Hammerhead sharks and manta rays are often sighted here.

London Bridge:

The underwater topography at this site includes a unique arch as well as boulders, keyholes and narrow passageways. Look for tarpon, turtles, sharks, octopus, sponges, brain corals, star corals, tangs, angelfish, trunkfish, trumpetfish, lobsters, moray eels and pelagic fish.

Kelleston Drain:

This site's claim to fame is reputedly the largest brain coral in the Caribbean. A slow drift takes divers by waving gorgonians, sea whips, sea fans, plumes, soft corals and multicolored sponges. Keep an eye out for manta rays.

Japanese Gardens:

Bonsai-like sea whips give this site its name, but the drift dive also features electric-blue vase sponges, purple rope sponges, yellow tube sponges, soft corals, a proliferation of bicolor damselfish and the occasional nurse shark.

Dutchman's Reef:

Named for a sunken 19th century warship (complete with cannons), this gently sloping reef is alive with schooling silversides, anchovies, and herrings. Look for juvenile fish, as well as octopus and seahorses, and a 17th century anchor wedged in the reef.

Mount Irvine Wall:

A favorite with macro photographers, this coral-crusted wall displays fire clams, nudibranch, seahorses and brittlestars. Keep an eye on the deeper water for eagle rays and turtles.

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