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Tobago parishes.svg
Map of Tobago (large island), Little Tobago (far right) Goat Island (between Tobago and Little Tobago) and St Giles Island (top right).
Lesser Antilles location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location of Tobago in the Lesser Antilles
LocationEastern Caribbean
Coordinates 11°15′00″N60°40′01″W / 11.250°N 60.667°W / 11.250; -60.667 Coordinates: 11°15′00″N60°40′01″W / 11.250°N 60.667°W / 11.250; -60.667
Area300 km2 (120 sq mi)
Highest elevation550 m (1800 ft)
Highest pointPigeon Peak
ISO 3166-2:TT TT-TOB
Districts 12
Capital city Port of Spain
Largest settlement Scarborough (pop. 17,537)
President Paula-Mae Weekes, I
Prime Minister Keith Rowley, PNM
Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis, PNM
Deputy Chief Secretary Joel Jack, PNM
Demonym Tobagonian
Population60,874 [1] (2011)
Pop. density203/km2 (526/sq mi)
Languages Trinidad and Tobago English, Tobagonian Creole, Antillean French Creole, Spanish [2]
Currency Trinidad and Tobago Dollar (TTD)
Religions Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Spiritual-Shouter Baptist, Orisha (Yoruba), Traditional African religion, Afro-American religions, Rastafari, Bahá'í [3]
Ethnic groups African, Multiracial (non-Dougla), Dougla (Indian-African), Indian, European, Amerindian, Chinese, Arabs, Hispanic/Latinos, Others [4]
Additional information
Time zone
Postal code 90xxxx – 98xxxx [5]

Tobago ( /təˈbɡ/ ) is an island within the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is located 35 kilometres (22 mi) northeast of the larger island of Trinidad and about 160 kilometres (99 mi) off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. It also lies to the southeast of Grenada. The official bird of Tobago is the cocrico. The indigenous name for the island is Aloubaéra. [6]



Tobago was named Belaforme by Christopher Columbus "because from a distance it seemed beautiful". The Spanish friar Antonio Vázquez de Espinosa wrote that the Kalina (mainland Caribs) called the island Urupina because of its resemblance to a big snail, [7] :84–85 while the Kalinago (Island Caribs) called it Aloubaéra, supposedly because it resembled the alloüebéra, a giant snake which was supposed to live in a cave on the island of Dominica. [7] :79 The earliest known record of the use of the name Tabaco to refer to the island is a Spanish royal order issued in 1511. That name was inspired by the resemblance of the shape of the island to the fat cigars smoked by the Taíno inhabitants of the Greater Antilles. [7] :84–85


Indigenous Tobago

Greenstone ceremonial axe, from shell midden, Mount Irvine Bay, Tobago, 1957. Tobago jade ceremonial ax.jpg
Greenstone ceremonial axe, from shell midden, Mount Irvine Bay, Tobago, 1957.

Tobago was settled by indigenous people belonging to the Ortoiroid cultural tradition some time between 3500 and 1000 BCE. [7] :21–24 In the first century of the Common Era, Saladoid people settled in Tobago. [8] They brought with them pottery-making and agricultural traditions, and are likely to have introduced crops which included cassava, sweet potatoes, Indian yam, tannia and corn. [7] :32–34 Saladoid cultural traditions were later modified by the introduction of the Barrancoid culture, either by trade or a combination of trade and settlement. [7] :34–44 After 650 CE, the Saladoid culture was replaced by the Troumassoid tradition in Tobago. [7] :45 Troumassoid traditions were once thought to represent the settlement of the Island Caribs in the Lesser Antilles and Tobago, but this is now associated with the Cayo ceramic tradition. No archaeological sites exclusively associated with the Cayo tradition are known from Tobago. [7] :60

Tobago's location made it an important point of connection between the Kalinago of the Lesser Antilles and their Kalina allies and trading partners in the Guianas and Venezuela. In the 1630s Tobago was inhabited by the Kalina, while the neighbouring island of Grenada was shared by the Kalina and Kalinago. [7] :115–119

Columbus sighted Tobago on 14 August 1498, during his fourth voyage, but he did not land. [9] :2 The Spanish settlers in Hispaniola were authorised to conduct slave raids against the island in a royal order issued in 1511. [7] These raids, which continued until at least the 1620s, [7] :115–119 decimated the island's population. [7] :83

European colonisation

Seventeenth-century map showing the fort of Nieuw Vlissingen. Plan of Nieuw Vlissingen.jpg
Seventeenth-century map showing the fort of Nieuw Vlissingen.

In 1628, Dutch settlers established the first European settlement in Tobago, a colony they called Nieuw Walcheren at Great Courland Bay. They also built a fort, Nieuw Vlissingen, near the modern town of Plymouth. The settlement was abandoned in 1630 after indigenous attacks, but was re-established in 1633. The new colony was destroyed by the Spanish in Trinidad after the Dutch supported a Nepoyo-led revolt in Trinidad. Attempts by the English to colonise Tobago in the 1630s and 1640s also failed due to indigenous resistance. [7] :115–119

The indigenous population also prevented European colonisation in the 1650s, including an attempt by the Courlanders, who colonised the island intermittently between 1637 and 1690. Over the ensuing years, the Curonians (Duchy of Courland), Dutch, English, French, Spanish and Swedish had caused Tobago to become a focal point in repeated attempts of colonisation, which led to the island having changed hands 33 times, the most in Caribbean history, before the Treaty of Paris ceded it to the British in 1814. In 1662, the Dutch brothers Adrian and Cornelius Lampsins were granted the title of Barons of Tobago, and ruled until the English captured the island in 1666. Adrian briefly recaptured Tobago in 1673, but was killed in battle when the English, under Sir Tobias Bridge yet again took control of the island. [10]

French attack on the British island of Tobago in 1781 with text. French painting from 1784. Prise de Tobago 1781 par les Francais.jpg
French attack on the British island of Tobago in 1781 with text. French painting from 1784.

From about 1672, during the temporary British rule of 1672–1674, [11] Tobago had a period of stability during which plantation culture began.[ citation needed ] Sugar, cotton and indigo factories sprang up and Africans were imported by the British to work as slaves. The economy flourished. France had abandoned the island to Britain in 1763, [12] and by 1777 Tobago was exporting great quantities of cotton, indigo, rum and sugar. But in 1781, the French re-invaded Tobago, and destroyed the plantations, and forced the British governor to surrender. The island's buoyant economy fell into decline.[ citation needed ]

British rule and independence

In 1814, when the island again came under British control, another phase of successful sugar-production began.[ citation needed ] But a severe hurricane in 1847, combined with the collapse of plantation underwriters, end of slavery in 1834 and the competition from sugar with other European countries, marked the end of the sugar trade. In 1889 the island became a ward of Trinidad. Without sugar, the islanders had to grow other crops, planting acres of limes, coconuts and cocoa and exporting their produce to Trinidad. In 1963 Hurricane Flora ravaged Tobago, destroying the villages and crops. A restructuring programme followed and attempts were made[ by whom? ] to diversify the economy. The development of a tourist industry began.[ citation needed ]

Trinidad and Tobago obtained its independence from the British Empire in 1962 and became a republic in 1976.


Castara Bay Castara Bay (Tobago 2009).jpg
Castara Bay

Tobago has a land area of 300 km² [1] and is approximately 40 kilometres (25 miles) long and 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) wide. It is located at latitude 11° 15' N, longitude 60° 40' W, slightly north of Trinidad.

The island of Tobago is the main exposed portion of the Tobago terrane, a fragment of crustal material lying between the Caribbean and South American Plates. [13] Tobago is primarily hilly, mountainous and of volcanic origin. [14] The southwest of the island is flat and consists largely of coralline limestone. The mountainous spine of the island is called the Main Ridge. The highest point in Tobago is the 550-metre (1804 ft) Pigeon Peak near Speyside. [15]


The climate is tropical, and the island lies just south of the Atlantic hurricane belt, making it vulnerable to occasional southward-travelling tropical storms. Average rainfall varies between 3,800 mm (150 inches) on the Main Ridge to less than 1,250 mm (49 inches) in the southwest. There are two seasons: a wet season between June and December, and a dry season between January and May. [16]


Due to its close proximity to the hurricane belt, the island was struck by Hurricane Flora on September 30, 1963. The effects were so severe that they changed the face of Tobago's economy. The hurricane laid waste to the banana, coconut, and cacao plantations that largely sustained the economy, and wreaked considerable damage on the largely pristine tropical rainforest that makes up a large proportion of the interior of the island's northern half. Many of the plantations were subsequently abandoned, and the economy changed direction away from cash crop agriculture and toward tourism. In 2004 Hurricane Ivan, while less severe than Flora, also caused significant damage.


Flag of the Tobago House of Assembly Flag of Tobago.png
Flag of the Tobago House of Assembly

Central and local government functions in Tobago are handled by the Tobago House of Assembly. The current Chief Secretary of the THA is Ancil Dennis. The Tobago Council of the People's National Movement controls 10 of the 12 seats in the Assembly, with the Progressive Democratic Patriots led by union leader Watson Duke controlling two seats since the 23 January 2017 election. [17]

Tobago is represented by two seats in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, Tobago East and Tobago West. The two seats are controlled by the Tobago Council of the People's National Movement, which won them in the 2015 Trinidad and Tobago general election. [ citation needed ]


Historically, Tobago was divided into seven parishes (Saint Andrew, Saint David, Saint George, Saint John, Saint Mary, Saint Patrick and Saint Paul). In 1768 each parish of Tobago had nominated representatives to the Tobago House of Assembly. On 20 October 1889 the British crown implemented a Royal Order in Council constituting Tobago as a ward of Trinidad, thus terminating local government on Tobago and formed a unified colony government.

In 1945 when the county council system was first introduced, Tobago was administered as a single county of Trinidad.

In 1980 provisions were made for the Tobago House of Assembly to be revived as an entity providing local government in Tobago. Under the revived system, Tobago is made up of 12 local electoral districts with each district electing one Assemblyman to the THA.

No. Electoral districts [18]
1 Bacolet / Mount St. George
2Goodwood /Belle Garden west
3Bethel / Mt. Irvine
4Black Rock / Whim / Spring Garden
5Buccoo / Mount Pleasant
6 Canaan / Bon Accord
7Lambeau / Signal Hill
8Parlatuvier / L’Anse Fourmi / Speyside
9 Plymouth / Golden Lane
10Providence / Mason Hall / Moriah
11Belle Garden East/ Roxborough / Delaford
12 Scarborough / Calder Hall


The population was 60,874 at the 2011 census. [1] The capital, Scarborough, has a population of 17,537. While Trinidad is multiethnic, Tobago's population is primarily of African descent, although with a growing proportion of Trinidadians of East Indian descent and Europeans. Between 2000 and 2011, the population of Tobago grew by 12.55 percent, making it one of the fastest-growing areas of Trinidad and Tobago.


Tobago racial breakdown
Racial composition2011 [19]
Afro-Trinidadians and Tobagonians 85.2%
Dougla (Indian and Black) 4.2%
Multiracial 4.2%
Indians (Indo-Trinidadian) 2.5%
White Trinidadian/Tobagonian 0.7%
Native American (Amerindian) 0.1%
East Asian (Chinese) 0.08%
Arab (Syrian/Lebanese) 0.02%
Not stated2.6%


St Giles Island, northernmost part of
Trinidad and Tobago, a bird sanctuary St. Giles Island - August 2013 (50).JPG
St Giles Island, northernmost part of
Trinidad and Tobago, a bird sanctuary
Tobago - August 2013 (1530) Tobago - August 2013 (1530).JPG
Tobago - August 2013 (1530)
Tobago Cuisine - Crab and Dumplings Tobago Cuisine (10).JPG
Tobago Cuisine - Crab and Dumplings
Panoramic shot of Downtown Scarborough, Tobago Scarborough Tobago Panorama 2015.jpg
Panoramic shot of Downtown Scarborough, Tobago
Tobago Cuisine - Pacro Water and Sea Moss drinks Tobago Cuisine (20).JPG
Tobago Cuisine - Pacro Water and Sea Moss drinks
Pigeon Point, Tobago. Boccoo2-2005.jpg
Pigeon Point, Tobago.
Fishing - Tobago, West Indies Artisanal Fishing - Tobago, West Indies.jpg
Fishing - Tobago, West Indies
Castara village beach Castara village Beach1.jpg
Castara village beach

Tobago's main economy is based on tourism, fishing, and government spending, government spending being the largest. Tourism is still a fledgling industry and needs to be developed. The local governing body, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), employs 62% of the labor force.

Tobago's economy is tightly linked with Trinidad which is based on liquefied natural gas (LNG), petrochemicals, and steel. The principal economic forces specific to Tobago are tourism and government spending. Conventional beach and water-sports tourism is largely in the southwest around the airport and the coastal strip. Meanwhile, ecotourism is growing in significance, much of it focused on the large area of protected forest in the centre and north of the main island and on Little Tobago, a small island off the main island's northeast tip.

The southwestern tourist area around Crown Point, Store Bay, Buccoo Reef, and Pigeon Point has large expanses of sand and is dominated by resort-type developments. Tobago has many idyllic beaches along its coastline, especially those at Castara, Bloody Bay, and Englishman's Bay. Tobago is linked to the world through the Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson International Airport (formerly Crown Point Airport) and Scarborough harbour. Domestic flights connect Tobago with Trinidad, and international flights connect with the Caribbean and Europe. There is a daily fast ferry service between Port of Spain and Scarborough.[ citation needed ]

Tobago was thought by some to have been the island that inspired Robinson Crusoe , [20] [21] but the book is probably based on some of the experiences of Alexander Selkirk, who was marooned in the Pacific's Juan Fernández Islands. Adding to the confusion, Tobago was the filming location for the Walt Disney movie Swiss Family Robinson in 1959.

Swiss Family Robinson

In 1958, Tobago was chosen by the Walt Disney Company as the setting for a film based upon the Johann Wyss novel Swiss Family Robinson . When producers saw the island for the first time, they "fell instantly in love". [22] [23] The script required animals, which were brought from all around the world, including eight dogs, two giant tortoises, 40 monkeys, two elephants, six ostriches, four zebras, 100 flamingos, six hyenas, two anacondas, and a tiger. [22]

Filming locations include Richmond Bay (the Robinsons beach), Mount Irvine Bay (the Pirates beach), and the Craig Hall Waterfalls. The treehouse was constructed in a 200-foot tall saman in the Goldsborough Bay area. After filming, locals convinced Disney, who had intended to remove all evidence of filmmaking, to let the treehouse remain, sans interior furnishing. In 1960, the treehouse was listed for sale for $9,000, a fraction of its original cost, and became a popular attraction before the structure was destroyed by Hurricane Flora in 1963. [24] The tree still remains, however, and is located on the property of the Roberts Auto Service and Tyre Shop, located in Goldsborough, just off of Windward Road. A local Tobago resident says, "The tree has fallen into obscurity; only a few of the older people knew of its significance. As a matter of fact, not many people know of the film Swiss Family Robinson, much less that it was filmed here in Tobago." [25]


Tobago is also a popular diving location, since it is the southernmost of the Caribbean islands that have coral communities. Trinidad, which is further south, has no significant coral because of low salinity and high silt content, the result of its position close to the mouth of Venezuela's Orinoco River. Scuba diving on Tobago tends to be centred at Speyside, almost diametrically across the island from the airport. [ citation needed ]

The island has some of the best diving sites in the Caribbean. There are three wrecks located around its shores, but the one usually considered the best is the Maverick Ferry, which used to travel between Trinidad and Tobago. The ferry is 350 feet (110 metres) long and has been sunk in 30 metres (98 feet) just off Rocky Point, Mt. Irvine. The top of the wreck is at 15 metres (49 feet). The wreck has an abundance of marine life, including a 4-foot (1.2-metre) jewfish, a member of the grouper family. The wreck was purposely sunk for divers, and so all the doors and windows were removed. The waters around the island are home to many species of tropical fish, rays, sharks, and turtles. [26]


Tobago is home to two golf courses, both of which are open to visitors. The older of the two is Mount Irvine Hotel Golf Course, built in 1968. It was seen throughout the world after hosting the popular golf show "Shell's Wonderful World of Golf". The course is built amongst coconut palms and has a view of the Caribbean Sea from almost every hole. Formerly known as Tobago Plantations Golf Course, the recently renamed Magdalena Grand Hotel & Golf Club was opened in 2001 and has hosted the European Seniors Tour on three occasions. [ citation needed ]


Red-billed tropicbird on Little Tobago. Phaethon aethereus Little Tobago.jpg
Red-billed tropicbird on Little Tobago.

The Tobago Forest Reserve (Main Ridge Reserve) is the oldest protected rain forest in the Western hemisphere and is biodiverse. It was designated a protected Crown reserve on 17 April 1776 after representations by Soame Jenyns, a Member of Parliament in Britain responsible for Tobago's development. It has remained a protected area since. [ citation needed ]

This forested area has great biodiversity, including many species of birds (such as the dancing blue-backed manakin), mammals, frogs, (non-venomous) snakes, butterflies and other invertebrates. It is one of the most approachable areas of rainforest, since it is relatively small and there are government-appointed guides who provide an authoritative guiding service through the forest at a reasonable cost. The guides are knowledgeable about the plants and the animals, and can call down rare and exotic birds from the canopy by imitating their calls. Tobago also has nesting beaches for the leatherback turtle, which come to shore between April and July. [ citation needed ]

The island of Tobago has multiple coral reef ecosystems. [27] [28] The Buccoo Reef, the Culloden Reed and Speyside Reef are the three largest coral reef marine ecosystems in Tobago. [29] These coral reef systems protect the shores of Tobago from eroding. [30]

Little Tobago, the small neighbouring island, supports some of the best dry forest remaining in Tobago. Little Tobago and St Giles Island are important seabird nesting colonies, with red-billed tropicbirds, magnificent frigatebirds and Audubon's shearwaters, among others. [ citation needed ]

Environmental problems

Coral reefs have been damaged recently by silt and mud runoff during construction of a road along the northeast coast. There has also been damage to the reef in Charlotteville village caused by sealing the road at Flagstaff Hill and diverting more silty water down the stream from Flagstaff down to Charlotteville. [ citation needed ]

Notable Tobagonians

See also

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