Tobago is the smaller of the two main islands that make up the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is located in the southern Caribbean Sea, northeast of the island of Trinidad and southeast of Grenada. The island lies outside the hurricane belt.
Tobago is primarily hilly and of volcanic origin. The southwest of the island is flat and consists largely of coralline limestone. The hilly spine of the island, the Main Ridge. The highest point in Tobago is the 550 metre (1804 ft) Pigeon Peak near Speyside.
At the time of European contact, Tobago was inhabited by Island Caribs. According to the earliest English-language source cited in the Oxford English Dictionary, it bore a name that has become the English word tobacco.
The first European visitors appear to have been English adventurers in 1580 and in 1608; James I claimed Tobago for England. The first European settlers were Dutchmen who formed a short-lived settlement at New Walcheren or modern Plymouth. The island changed hands at least 22 times altogether between the French, Dutch, British and Courlanders (the Duchy of Courland, at that time a fief of Poland, located in present-day Latvia), however Courland's inhabitants and the settlers were primarily peoples of German and Latvian origin, it was also controlled at times by various pirate groups. It was finally ceded to the British in 1814 at the Treaty of Paris. From 1833 to 1889, it was part of the British Windward Islands colony.
Originally a sugar colony, Tobago's economy collapsed after the abolition of slavery. In 1889, Tobago was made a Ward of Trinidad, and remained one until 31 August 1962, when Trinidad and Tobago became an independent Commonwealth country and together became a republic in 1976.
The island of Tobago is also thought to be the island that the story Robinson Crusoe was written about. However, the book is probably based on the experiences of Alexander Selkirk, who was marooned in the Pacific's Juan Fernandez Islands.
The climate is tropical, and the island lies just south of the Atlantic hurricane belt. Average rainfall varies between 3800 mm on the Main Ridge to less than 1250 mm in the south-west of the island. There are two seasons: a wet season between June and December, and a dry season between January and May.
Tobago's economy is tightly linked with Trinidad, and 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 focussed in the south-east around the airport and the coastal strip; however, ecotourism is growing in significance, and much of it is focussed 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 north east tip of the main island.
Tourism is concentrated in the southwest of the island, around Crown Point, Store Bay, Pigeon Point and Buccoo Reef. This area has large expanses of sand and is dominated by resort type developments. Tobago has many idyllic beaches around its coastline, especially those at Castara, Bloody Bay, and Englishman's Bay.
Tobago is linked to the world through the Crown Point International Airport and the Scarborough harbour. Domestic flights connect Tobago with Trinidad, and international flights connect with the Caribbean and Europe. There is also a daily fast ferry service between Port of Spain and Scarborough.
Tobago is also a popular diving location, since it is the most southerly of the Caribbean island with coral communities. Trinidad, which is further south, has no significant coral because of low salinity and high silt content which result from its position close in the mouth of Venezuela's River Orinoco. 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 long and has been sunk in 30 metres/100 feet just off Rocky Point, Mt. Irvine. The top of the wreck is at 15 metres/50 feet. The wreck has an abundance of marine life, including a 4-foot jewfish, a member of the grouper family. The wreck was purposely sunk for divers, and so all the doors and windows were removed.
This forested area has great biodiversity including many species of birds, 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.
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 Tropicbird, Magnificent Frigatebird and Audubon's Shearwater amongst others.