Moving Waters and Thriving Reefs
When a Tobago divemaster tells you to “go with the flow,” take it literally. The Guyana Current bathes the eastern coast of the island in nutrient-rich waters than support magnificent growths of soft corals, and create seasonal gatherings of hammerheads and manta rays. Currents can run from mild to wild, but there's no danger, as dive operators well versed in the techniques of drift diving select itineraries based on each diver's comfort and skill levels. More tranquil waters along the island's western shore offer shallow reefs and a fish-laden wreck. Any trip to the island should also include a visit to the forests and waterfalls of the Western Hemisphere's oldest nature reserve.
- Best for: Drift and pinnacle diving, with many sites suitable for all
- Best season to visit: Year round, with visibility generally best from January to June
- Weather: Tobago sits below the Caribbean hurricane belt, with average air temperatures ranging from 80 in winter to 88 in summer. During the rainy season from July to November there may be short, vigorous showers at night
Things to Do
- Spa and Wellness
About Diving in Tobago
Diving takes place at points all around the island, with some sites five minutes from the dock, and others requiring a longer boat ride. Sites on the south coast have stronger currents and mild wind-driven chop on the surface, and most are conducted as drifts. North coast sites have minimal currents and calm seas, especially in summer months, and may be done as drifts or from a moored boat. Depths range from 30 to 130 feet, with the majority of profiles in the 50 to 70-foot range. Water temperatures are often in the low to mid 80s, but can dip to 75 degrees in winter.
Diving in Tobago Tips
Despite its reputation for currents that can race at speeds of up to three knots, Tobago diving isn't reserved for the advanced and adventurous. At some sites, currents are hardly noticeable. This variability allows dives to ease into the drift experience, working their way from the slow lane as they gain confidence.
Best Places to Dive in Tobago
When you ride the currents from Kelleston Drain through Kamikaze Cut, keep an eye out for the largest brain coral in the Caribbean. The rock arch at London Bridge looks even more spectacular from below. Tarpon swoop through the bubble clouds at Bookends, while hammerhead sharks make seasonal appearances at Sisters. The Maverick allows you to add an easy wreck dive to the logbook, and Mount Irving provides a break from the currents and allows long bottom times. When the flow is strong, flights across Divers Dream are nothing short of amazing.
What to Pack for Diving in Tobago
A 3mm wetsuit is ideal in summer, some divers may want an extra layer or light hood for winter, or when currents bring cooler ocean water. Most operators will provide some type of personal marker buoy, but you are better off bringing your own, along with a reel for sub-surface deployment.
Diving in Tobago
Diving takes place at points all around Tobago, and there is significant variation in both underwater scenery and conditions. Sites on the southern coast are exposed to the Atlantic and the full force of the Guyana Current, while those on the Caribbean side are more sheltered, and experience mild to no current. Water clarity can reach 100 feet at certain times, but can also vary greatly based on seasonal variations in the outflow of Guyana's Orinoco River. Many dive sites are located close to shore, but not always close to a dive center. Boat rides can range from five minutes to nearly an hour. At Tobago's southwestern corner, the area known as Crown Point is the starting point for visits to more than 25 sites along both the Atlantic and Caribbean side of the island. Sites such as Bucco Reef, Mt. Irvine and Dutchman's Reef have minimal currents and moderate depths, allowing divers to enjoy leisurely explorations of coral formations that include mini-walls, canyons, tunnels and ledges. This is prime hunting ground for macro life, including sea horses and frog fish, while more open areas are visited by tarpon, cobia and eagle rays. A favorite dive in this area is the MV Maverick, a 280-foot ferry that sits in 100 feet of water. Its superstructure rises to 50 feet and is often engulfed in schools of baitfish, rainbow runners and patrolling snappers. Second dives are often conducted at Arnos Vale, where an intricate network of nooks and crannies hide lobster, eels and Torpedo Rays. The action is very different on the opposite side of Crown Point, where coral plateaus rising from the deep waters of Columbus Channel. Here, sites such as Diver's Dream and Diver's Thirst are washed by north-flowing currents, which can range from less than a mile an hour to more than three. Drifts staged at depths from 20 to 60 feet carry divers over reefs that hold dense schools of fish, and are known for sightings of larger grouper, blacktip and gray reef sharks, turtles and eagle rays, along with less-frequent encounters with manta rays and bull sharks. Closer to shore, currents are often milder at Flying Reef, which is known for huge formations of plate coral. Many of the island's most famous sites lie to the east, offshore of the village of Speyside. Eddies and counter currents swirl around the offshore landscapes of Little Tobago and Goat Island, creating a range of unique drift dives and nurturing thick forests of sponges and corals in vibrant hues of orange, green, purple, yellow and red. There are more than 25 dive sites in the Speyside area, including some of the most beautiful coral gardens the island has to offer and the largest brain coral in the Caribbean, which measures 12 feet high and 16 feet across. This is also the area where manta rays are most often encountered, and the starting point for longer boat rides to the dramatic rock formations of the St. Giles Islands. Among the signature dives in this area is the London Bridge, which is a pair of steep spires that rises from a depth of 100 feet to form an above-water arch. Divers can follow a narrow passage through the base of the arch, which often holds schools of fish. Other formations in the area deliver boulder fields, canyons and spires that attract tarpon, turtles and sharks. Many of these sites can also be reached from Chancellorsville Bay. Also nearby are the five uninhabited islands of the Sisters. These steep-sided rock spires rise from a field of large boulders at a depth of 130 feet to break the surface. Dive profiles usually involve a quick descent to the base followed by a spiraling circumnavigation that may result with a sighting of the hammerhead sharks that sometimes frequent this formation. Closer to shore, Boulder Valley provides a shallower adventure that leads divers through a maze of sponge and coral-encrusted boulders.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
Entry/Exit Requirements: A valid passport is required for all U.S. Citizens. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your date of entry and must have at least 1 blank page for entry stamp. No visas are required for stays shorter than 90 days. All persons leaving Trinidad and Tobago for an international flight pay a departure tax of 100 TTD.
Vaccinations are not required for entry into Trinidad or Tobago. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov.
Culture and Customs
To see what the Caribbean was like before direct flights and cruise ships, take the winding coastal road north from Tobago's capital of Scarborough. At villages like Delaford, Castara and Canaan, the old ways still prevail in tight-knit communities where cooks always add a bit extra to the pot in anticipation of welcoming the unexpected guest. Away from the beachside resorts on the south coast, daily life revolves around farming and fishing rather than service industries. English is spoken everywhere, but traces of France, China, England, Spain, India and numerous parts of Africa can still be found in the cultural mix. Savory examples of this blending are manifest in favorite street foods such as roti, which is a Caribbean take on Asian curry, wrapped in an Indian-inspired flat bread known as Dhal Puri. Islanders identify their settlements as being on the windward or leeward side, as the mountainous and unsettled center of the island is home to one of the Caribbean's first conservation zones. Established in 1776, the Main Ridge Forest Reserve was created with the understanding that its rainforest-covered slopes were vital to harvesting rain showers from the trade winds. Today, it covers more than 14,000 acres and stretches two-thirds of the island's length. These forests become a playground for true eco-tourism, which involves hiking, birding and mountain biking rather than zip lines and four-wheelers.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity in Tobago is 110 volts, 60 cycles, so no adapter will be needed for US visitors. The country/area code for Tobago is 868. Check with your local service provider for data plans available while travelling or roaming charges will apply. Wifi is available at most hotels.
Drinking bottled water is recommended throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
Language & Currency
English is the official language. The local currency is the Trinidad and Tobago Dollar (TT); see the current exchange rate here.
Tobago is on Atlantic Standard Time (AST) and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Tobago is 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).
Location, Size and Population
Tobago is an island located in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Tobago, often called Trinidad’s sleepy sister is northeast of Trinidad and southeast of Grenada. It is located outside of the hurricane belt. Tobago is roughly 116 square miles, 6.2 miles wide and 25 miles long.
The population of Trinidad and Tobago combined is approximately 1.36 million people with a little over 60,000 of the total living on the island of Tobago.