Submitted by Kadene Buchanan on November 17, 2015
Overview of Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago is a beautiful and thriving country that is a popular destination for many travellers. Trinidad is separated from Tobago by the Caribbean Sea by about 21miles. Tobago is slightly overlooked in comparison to Trinidad, however, it sports beautiful beaches with pink sand! It offers a very beautiful aesthetic view and a relaxing environment. Tobago is also known to have huge turtles. Trinidad on the other hand is known to have a festive carnival season that attracts many persons from other countries on a yearly basis. There are several attractions in Trinidad, for the adventure seeker. You won’t be disappointed, not with the cultural diversity, plethora of activities and unique crafts that can be found there.
The originators of the limbo and calypso, Trinidad and Tobago is booming with musical geniuses and rhythmic dance movements. The steelpan is a popular instrument in the country; in fact there are several steel bands that use this instrument to create sweet music. Calypso evolved from when the African slaves inhabited the island and has a highly rhythmic underlying tune.
The country has great ecology and a beautiful landscape. One of the oldest rainforest reserves is located in Trinidad and one of the largest brain corals can be found there. Coral reefs are usually a sight to behold! Imagine getting a close up view of one of the largest, in the world. Snorkelling should definitely be on the list of things to do in Trinidad and Tobago.
Some of the major events that happen in Trinidad are either cultural or religious affairs, and taken very seriously by the people… literally. They are very serious in ensuring these events are celebrated in a very big way. Carnival is a pre-lent celebration and lasts for weeks. Persons will masquerade in masks and costumes and play songs from the steelpan. Calypso and reggae can be heard blasting from the radios as people dance and gyrate in cultural festivity. Other major events include Hosay, Divali, and Eid-Ul-Fitr.
Weather in T&T
The weather is generally pleasant and tropical in the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, as is the case in most Caribbean countries. The island is usually humid; however the sea breeze allows the air to feel cooler and much more relaxing. Tobago tends to be slightly cooler than Trinidad due to several factors.
The best time to visit these islands is from January-May when the skies are clear and there is not much rain in the weather forecast. Trinidad and Tobago are not located in the hurricane belt however, they do get a bit of rain later down in the year. After the dry season, the weather tends to cool down even though it is nothing compared to the harsh winters of North America. The islands experience a lot of rain in the winter season, otherwise known as the wet season. Don’t let the rains deter you, because they only usually last for a few hours or less and then the sun will come right back out. A little secret is that the hotel prices are usually way lower in the wet season. Also, you will find less tourists visiting at that time of year. The benefits of you travelling at that time are unparalleled.
Food and drink
The cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago has many major influences. It is probably one of the most diverse cuisines of the Caribbean. Also, to add to the diversity of the country’s cuisine, T&T has several national dishes which include include Callaloo, Bake & Shark, Doubles, Pelau, Curried crab & dumplings, Oil Down, Pastelles, Black Cake, Dhal Puri Roti, Buss-up-shot Roti (Paratha), Murtanie (a.k.a. Mother-in-law) and Souse.
Food served at a Trini’s table are usually, sada roti which is usually served with, fried or curry long beans, roasted eggplant, pumpkin talkari , roasted tomatoes, aloo choka, fried plantains, stew chicken, liver or gizzard, and the popular bake and shark! Hashed browns with Vienna sausages and eggs are also a popular breakfast combination. Many families have variations of what they serve with breakfast.
Staple foods that are always present at breakfast are Fried Bake and Coconut Bake.
Fried bake (a fried dough unleavened bread) is normally served with saltfish (dried and salted cod), sardine, smoke herring), buljol (saltfish with fresh peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and sometimes boiled eggs); Bacon, Fried Plantain, Stew Chicken, Corned beef with onions and tomatoes. Coconut bake (coconut bread) usually served with fried accra (saltfish fritters), butter, cheese paste black pudding, tannia cakes) and boiled yuca with butter. Fried plantain is also popularly served with breakfast or even served as a snack. Tea is almost always served with breakfast and can be hot chocolate or “farine” with powdered milk. When visiting Trinidad try all of their traditional food and drink. You won’t be disappointed with the natural flavor and spices found in their food and drink!
Lunch and Dinner usually mirror each other and are usually heavy. They are almost always barbequed or stewed! Seafood is widely more popular in Tobago and Trinidad. Some of the popular seafood that can be found in Tobago are flying fish, king fish, carite, sapatay, red fish, bonito, lobster, conch and crab, tilapia and seasonal cascadura. Dinner meats are served with a vaiety of breads, rice and staple food such as cassava and yams.
Condiments are integral with any dish in the islands’ culture. They are normally homemade and can include chutneys, pepper sauces and pickles. There hot pepper sauces are made up from minced hot peppers, spices and seasonings. The famous "mother-in-law" is another popular condiment and considered a national dish in Trinidad and Tobago. The condiment is a coarsely chopped spicy medley of habaneros, carrots, carylie and other spices.
Desserts are usually very sweet and usually have a fruit element. They are mouth-watering and people are anxious to get to the dessert part of the meal when they hear about the dessert being served for the day. Some of the popular sweets found in Trinidad and Tobago are: Paw Paw Balls, Tamarind Balls, Sweet Bread, Guava Cheese, Brown Sugar Fudge and Sugar Cakes. Those were just a few of the popular treats. There are tons more that can be found in restaurants and streets. Tourists can enjoy a variety of delicious meals when visiting the sister islands, and surely they will not be able to try them all! Be sure to grab a recipe book with some of the original dishes of Trinidad and Tobago.
Places to see in T&T
When travelling to the beautiful sister islands there are a number of activities to choose from. Your trip promises to be packed with fun-filled activities that will leave you tired! It would be well worth it of course. My top 5 picks are:
Port-of-Spain - This is the country’s capital and is an excellent example of colonial style architecture.
Caroni Bird Sanctuary - This is literally nirvana for bird lovers. The area is very rich in biodiversity and other animal species can be spotted along the way.
Little Tobago Island - This is also another sanctuary for bird lovers and those after an more natural and eco experience. The island is uninhabited and has amazing views from the hills!
Mount St. Benedict Monastery - This monastery is a significant cultural landmark and is a prime location to learn about one of the oldest monk monasteries in the Caribbean.
Fort King George and Tobago Museum - One of the most well-preserved forts found on the island, Fort King George offers a great view of the town and Park. It can be very peaceful and allow tourists to view a large collection of antique maps.
When visiting the sister islands I advise you to engage with the locals, as they are probably the best part of the visit. They are very friendly and welcome you into their homes and share their culture.
Things to Know When Planning your Trip to T&T
When planning your trip, it is important to know that transportation is readily available to take you wherever you would like to go. It is fairly easy to charter a taxi and airport transfers can be arranged with your hotel.
Be prepared to overexert yourself… especially if it is carnival time! Carnival allows locals and tourists to come together and have a lot of wild fun. Carnival goers can be seen wearing scantily clad costumes and dancing in the streets to calypso and reggae music. I personally recommend vitamins and a hearty “Trini” meal before heading out to the carnival scene.
The US Dollar is widely accepted anywhere in Trinidad and the current conversion rate is at 1USD- 6.37TTD. Money can be exchanged at the airport upon arrival and there are also several cambis licensed to change your money into local currency. Atms can be found almost everywhere.
When travelling to these beautiful islands, one can expect a truly cultural experience. If you are either there to visit the serene island of Tobago to relax or for more upbeat fun on Mainland Trinidad, you are bound to have an experience you will never forget.