For other uses, see Tobago (disambiguation).
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Pulchrior Evenit" (Latin)
"She becomes more beautiful"
Anthem: Forged From The Love of Liberty
Map of Tobago (large island), Little Tobago (far right) Goat Island (between Tobago and Little Tobago) & St. Giles Island (top right).
Map of Tobago (large island), Little Tobago (far right) Goat Island (between Tobago and Little Tobago) & St. Giles Island (top right).
Largest city Scarborough
Official languages English
Government Autonomous island
   President of
Trinidad and Tobago
Anthony Carmona
   Prime Minister of
Trinidad and Tobago
Keith Rowley
   Chief Secretary Orville London
Legislature Tobago House of Assembly
   Total 300[1] km2
116 sq mi
   January 2011 census 60,874[1]
   Density 202.9/km2
525.5/sq mi
Currency Trinidad and Tobago dollar (TTD)
Time zone (UTC-4)
Calling code 1 868
Internet TLD .tt

Tobago /təˈbɡ/ is an autonomous island within the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is located northeast of the mainland of Trinidad and southeast of Grenada. The island lies outside the hurricane belt. According to the earliest English-language source cited in the Oxford English Dictionary, Tobago bore a name that has become the English word tobacco. The national bird of Tobago is the cocrico.


The population was 60,874 at the 2011 census.[1] The capital, Scarborough, has a population of about 25,550. 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.


The Great Courland Bay Monument in Tobago commemorates the Courland colonization of the Americas
French attack on the British island of Tobago in 1781 with text. French painting from 1784.

Christopher Columbus first sighted Tobago in 1498. Subsequently, several powers fought over possession of the island.[2]

The original Island Carib population had to defend the island against other Amerindian tribes. Then, during the late 1500s and early 1600s, the natives defended it from European colonists, for instance in 1654 from the Courlanders, who colonised the island intermittently between 1637 and 1690. Over the years, the Dutch, English, Spanish, Swedish, Curonians (Duchy of Courland) and French transformed Tobago into a battle zone and the island changed hands 33 times, the most in Caribbean history, and often name, before the Treaty of Paris ceded it to the British in 1814.

From about 1672, during a period of stability under the temporary British rule of 1672-1674,[3] plantation culture began. Sugar, cotton and indigo factories sprang up and Africans were imported to work as slaves. The economy flourished. France abandoned the island to Britain in 1763,[4] and by 1777 Tobago was exporting great quantities of rum, cotton, indigo and sugar. But in 1781 the French re-invaded, destroyed the plantations, and forced the British governor to surrender. The island's buoyant economy fell into decline.

In 1814, when the island again came under British control, another phase of successful sugar-production began. But a severe hurricane in 1847, combined with the collapse of plantation underwriters, marked the end of the sugar trade. Without the highly profitable sugar production, Britain had no further use for Tobago and 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 to diversify the economy. The development of a tourist industry began.


Local Government and Central Government functions in Tobago are handled by the Tobago House of Assembly. The current Chief Secretary of the THA is Orville London. The People's National Movement controls all 12 seats in the Assembly, with the Tobago Organization of the People controlling no seats since the 21 January 2013 election.[5]

Tobago has two parliamentary seats, Tobago East and Tobago West, which are controlled by the TOP, which won them in the general elections in Trinidad and Tobago on 24 May 2010. The island featured in the international press in early 2007 for its establishment of a Minister of Mental Health. Minister Ellen Tang was appointed on the first anniversary of the launch of the Happiness Project. Her aide, Melody Williams, has been allocated a major proportion of the annual housing funding to revamp government housing projects all over the island.


Tobago is divided into seven parishes – three in the Western Region and four in the Eastern Region:

Region Parish name Land area (km2)[1] Population[1]
Western Saint Andrew 21 17,536
Western Saint Patrick 38 15,560
Western Saint David 38 8,733
Eastern Saint George 43 6,875
Eastern Saint Mary 56 3,297
Eastern Saint Paul 49 6,048
Eastern Saint John 55 2,825


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.

Tobago is primarily hilly, mountainous and of volcanic origin.[6] The southwest of the island is flat and consists largely of coralline limestone. The hilly spine of the island is called the Main Ridge. The highest point in Tobago is the 550-metre (1804 ft) Pigeon Peak near Speyside.[7]


The climate is tropical, and the island lies just south of the Atlantic hurricane belt. 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 July and November, and a dry season between December and June.


Although Tobago lies south of the hurricane belt, it was nevertheless 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.


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

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.

This forested area has great biodiversity, including many species of birds (such as the dancing blue-backed manakin), mammals, frogs, (nonpoisonous) 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.

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.

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.

Economy and tourism

Speyside - Small town on NE coast of Tobago, West Indies. Main activities: fishing, agriculture, bird-watching, snorkelling scuba diving.
St. Giles Island - Northernmost land area of Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies. Protected bird sanctuary. Scuba diving nearby.
Charlotteville - Small town on northern tip of the island of Tobago, West Indies.
Tobago - August 2013 (1530)
Parlatuvier Bay - North central coast of Tobago, West Indies. In the distance is a dive site named "The Sisters".
Tobago Cuisine - Crab and Dumplings
Little Tobago island - Located off the north east village of Speyside, Tobago, West Indies. It is a bird sanctuary.
Panoramic shot of Downtown Scarborough, Tobago
Englishman's Bay - North central coast of Tobago, West Indies
Tobago Cuisine - Pacro Water and Sea Moss drinks
Speyside - Popular diving sites at Manta Reef and Angel Reef
Pigeon Point, Tobago.
Artisanal Fishing - Tobago, West Indies
The port of Scarborough, Tobago. Administrative and commercial capital of the island.
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.

Tobago was thought by some to have been the island that inspired Robinson Crusoe,[8][9] 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 their forthcoming film based on the Johann Wyss novel, Swiss Family Robinson. When producers saw the island for the first time, they "fell instantly in love".[10] [11] The script required animals, who arrived from all around the world, including eight dogs, two giant tortoises, forty monkeys, two elephants, six ostriches, four zebras, one hundred flamingos, six hyenas, two anacondas, and a tiger.[10]

Filming locations include Richmond Bay (the Robinsons beach), Mount Irvine Bay (the Pirates beach), and the Craig Hall Waterfalls. The infamous 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 finally destroyed by Hurricane Flora.[12] The tree still remains, however, and is located on the property of the Roberts Auto Service and Tyre Shop, located in Goodwood, 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."[13]

The film, released in 1960, was the highest-grossing film of that year and is regarded as one of the most iconic live-action films that Disney has ever released. Adjusted for ticket price inflation, the box office revenue is $427,773,600. The treehouse proved to be popular enough that Disney has built a version of their own featured in many of their theme parks across the world.


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.

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. [14]


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.

Notable Tobagonians


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Trinidad and Tobago 2011 Population and Housing Census Demographic Report (PDF) (Report). Trinidad and Tobago Central Statistical Office. p. 26. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  2. "Railroad Map of Trinidad". World Digital Library. 1925. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  3. Nimblett, Lennie M. (2012). Tobago: The Union with Trinidad 1889-1899. AuthorHouse. pp. 11–12. ISBN 9781477234501. Retrieved 2015-02-05. 1672: England declared war against the Netherlands and captured Tobago.
    1673: The Dutch defeated the English in the third Anglo/Dutch war and occupied Tobago in May 1674 after the Peace of Westminster.
  4. Nimblett, Lennie M. (2012). Tobago: The Union with Trinidad 1889-1899. AuthorHouse. p. 12. ISBN 9781477234501. Retrieved 2015-02-05. The island remained in dispute between Britain and France and was essentially a neutral island between 1679 and 1763. [...] Tobago [was] formally ceded by France to Britain at the Treaty of Paris 1763 after the Seven Years War.
  5. Staff (2009-01-22). "TOP gains ground, but unhappy with illegal advertising". Trinidad and Tobago Guardian. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  6. "Tobago (Great Tobago) [1551]". United Nations Earthwatch. Retrieved 2011-10-19.
  7. Anthony, Michael (2001). Historical Dictionary of Trinidad and Tobago. Scarecrow Press, Inc. Lanham, Maryland, and London, UK. ISBN 0-8108-3173-2.
  8. Rhead, Louis. LETTER TO THE EDITOR: "Tobago Robinson Crusoe's Island", The New York Times, 5 August 1899.
  9. "Robinson Crusoe and Tobago", Island Guide
  10. 1 2 Passafiume, Andrea. "SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON (1960)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  11. Maltin 1995, p. 176.
  12. "Some Really, Really Big Roots". Kevin Kidney. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  13. "Swiss Family Tree Found". Kevin Kidney. Retrieved 2015-01-06.

External links

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Coordinates: 11°15′00″N 60°40′01″W / 11.250°N 60.667°W / 11.250; -60.667

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