View from Paramina hilltop islets dotted in the sea below, Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago, The Odd Couple - in a Nutshell

Author: Sue
Date: 9th November 2009

Facts and Factoids

  • Trinidad and Tobago is a two island nation, with its capital, Port of Spain, on Trinidad
  • The islands are known as the 'Odd Couple', as the vibe and diversity of Trinidad contrasts so strongly with the laid back African/beach atmosphere of Tobago
  • Trinidad and Tobago lies on the South American continental shelf and is considered to be in the continent of South America.
  • There are a large number of bird species to be seen here, especially humming birds. (Trinidad is known as The Land of the Humming Birds). And Trinidad is also home to the world's second largest leatherback turtle nesting site.
  • There’s a regular ferry service between Port of Spain in Trinidad and Scarborough in Tobago. The journey takes about 2½ hours.

Is it Safe to Travel to Trinidad and Tobago?

  • Trinidad and Tobago is considered to be the happiest country in the Caribbean....
  • But the crime (and murder rate) in Trinidad is high. Tobago is statistically much safer.

A Very Brief History of Trinidad and Tobago

  • Trinidad is thought to be the first inhabited island in the Caribbean. The original peoples came over the sea from South America, around 5,000 BC.
  • Both islands were 'discovered' by Christopher Columbus on his third voyage in 1498 and claimed by Spain.
  • Trinidad remained in Spanish hands until 1797, but there was fierce Amerindian resistance to the slavery and imposed Catholicism, which went hand in hand (the slaves weren't allowed inside the churches they were forced to build.) The native population was eventually eradicated entirely. The Spanish solved the problem by offering free parcels of land, which were mostly taken up by French colonists.
  • Tobago changed hands between the British, French, and Dutch, but eventually ended up under British control. It was joined by Trinidad in 1797, when the Spanish navy surrendered. The islands 'flourished' with slaves from Africa working the sugar, coffee, cocoa and cotton plantations. settlers came from all the countries of the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy.
  • When slavery was abolished in 1833, it was replaced by an indentured labour system. In Trinidad, workers were imported from India and China and paid a pitiful wage. They were rewarded with 10 acres (or their passage home) after 10 years. That's why Trinidad's population today is roughly 40% of Indian heritage. There is a significant Chinese minority and one of the most diverse populations in the world.
  • As the profitability of plantations waned, oil was discovered off Trinidad. in the 1850s.
  • In 1889 the two islands were incorporated into a single crown colony, (The British were finding it tough to establish an efficient government in Tobago - it was the easy way out.) They eventually obtained independence from the British Empire, in 1962.

Trinidad

  • Columbus named Trinidad after the Holy Trinity.
  • Port of Spain, the capital of the country and of Trinidad, hosts the biggest carnival in the Caribbean
  • Trinidad is the birthplace of the steel pan, the only new acoustic instrument of the twentieth century. it was a by-product of the oil industry; the first pans were made out of oil drums.
  • The limbo dance was created in Trinidad. Some dancers can cross under a stick at a height of just over 21 centimetres. Just to make things extra exciting they sometimes set the stick on fire.
  • The Moruga Scorpion, grown in the south of the island (at the landing palace of Christopher Columbus) is consistently ranked as one of the world’s hottest peppers.
  • The La Brea Pitch Lake, also in the south of the island (and 'discovered' by Sir Walter Raleigh) is the largest natural deposit of asphalt in the world.
  • Trinidad boasts that it grows the best quality cocoa in the world
  • Read about my trip to Trinidad here

Tobago

  • The smaller island of Tobago is known for its beaches, its brain coral and the Main Ridge Forest Reserve
  • The name Tobago was attributed during Spanish colonial times and is a corruption of the word tabaco or tobacco. This was actually, it is thought, the name for the 'pipes' or the process of smoking the rolled up leaves and not the plant itself. Just to complicate things further Tobago was named Tabaco because of the resemblance of the shape of the island to the fat cigars smoked by the Taíno inhabitants of the Greater Antilles.
  • Tobago used to be attached to South America and is home to wildlife usually only found on the geographical mainland. The central part of the island is covered with the oldest rain forest in the western hemisphere.
  • Tobago's main economy is based on tourism, fishing, and government spending. Perhaps surprisingly, government spending is the largest contributor. Tourism is still embryonic.
  • Read about my trip to Tobago here

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