Why Tobago Should Be Your Next Volunteer Destination
Stuck for trip ideas? Want to see and experience something completely new? Tobago might be your answer. Located about 100 miles off the coast of Venezuela, Tobago hosts a vast number of possibilities including volunteering.
A hotbed of wildlife and a hub of local business, Tobago is a paradise-like island. It’s perhaps not the most obvious travel choice, however Tobago offers adventures which can be found in few other countries.
Joe, a recent graduate, travelled to Tobago as part of a twelve-week university expedition, but he also managed to find time to explore the island. Staying in the village of Charlotteville, located in Man of War Bay, Joe described what it was like to live in a place representative of “what most people picture as paradise […] blue water, blue skies and golden beaches situated in front of the thick green tropical forest.”.
“The village is reasonably well equipped with a number of restaurants and guest houses. There is a library from where you can access wifi for a small fee, and also a police office and medical centre. Most medical trips will be to the main hospital in Scarborough [a 1.5-hour drive away].”
“The village also has its own playing field and a jetty that provides access to fishermen boats and dinghies from visitors on yachts. Although relatively remote, Charlotteville is a popular holiday destination for local islanders, Trinidadians and also tourists on yachts (the bay provides a safe anchorage) and therefore the locals are generally very welcoming.”
The island is home to a host of exotic wildlife which provides an ample sample for researchers and wildlife enthusiasts. However, Tobago also offers a very typical holiday destination away from the animals.
“Our work was looking at turtles, frogs and bats. Anti-poaching and data gathering during the turtle’s hatching season was our primary focus with members of the team being present on the beaches seven nights a week to deter poachers and gather data about the turtles.”
“For frogs we carried out population research on several days and nights each week throughout the north side of the island, and then for bats a team of four was set up to carry out a zoological project looking at bat populations.”
Attractions on the island aren’t the dog and pony show you might find in some holiday hotspots, but they do exist if you know where to find them.
“Outside of work we had most afternoons off and the odd full day free to explore. Daily activities involved kayaking, snorkeling, swimming – incredible during a tropical rain shower – or simply sunbathing.”
“Day adventures included visiting idyllic beaches, waterfalls, and hidden jungle pools, jungle treks, and taking trips to the neighboring islands of Little Tobago and St Giles. A special mention goes to the ‘nylon pools’ which are famous for a long expanse of shallow reefs, white sands and turquoise waters. Tourists and visitors can enjoy a glass-bottomed boat tour with snorkeling and jet skiing.” When partaking in activities like this, it is very important you take out appropriate travel and health insurance to protect yourself from any problems or accidents you might have.
Cultural festivities on Tobago are not few and far between, in fact, Joe’s team were welcomed by local villages across the island: “cultural festivities like heritage festivals are hosted by several villages. We also were lucky enough to learn to scuba dive in Tobago which was a major highlight.”
“There are a few dive centres dotted around the island and ideally for us, one in Charlotteville. This Environmental Research Institute of Charlotteville gives snorkel tours which are highly recommended if you’re looking to learn to dive and all funds go back into the centre’s conservation work.”
When asked if he had any insider tips about the island, Joe didn’t hesitate: “The roads! If you venture away from the south of the island and head north the first thing you’ll notice is your heartbeat increasing.”
“Straight roads aren’t a thing in Tobago and soon you’ll be sucked into a rollercoaster as you dodge ditches, cliff edges and oncoming traffic. You really can’t get further away from the M8. It takes a bit of getting used to but after a week or two it’s actually quite fun.”
And although Trinidad and Tobago is an English speaking country, the local accent can be difficult to understand: “It takes time to get used to. Most locals make the effort to speak standard English to foreigners though.”
Despite the diversity of the island and its tropical climate, some may hesitate before booking a trip to this relatively unexplored part of the world. LGBT rights are not widely accepted in Trinidad and Tobago and there are restrictions allowing LGBT individuals into the country.
The laws are rarely enforced but it is still necessary to check the travel advice on this issue before travelling. If it’s vaccinations and visas stopping you from travelling to Tobago, don’t worry. Visas aren’t necessary for the Island, however it is recommended that you receive vaccinations for yellow fever as well as Hepatitis A and B prior to travelling.
For more travel and tourism advice for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Travel Aware site and follow them on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
By Rachel Mccallion & Joe Cameron