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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).
Capital Scarborough
Largest city Scarborough
Official languages English
Recognised regional languages Trinidadian Creole
Tobagonian Creole
Government Autonomous island
 -  President of
Trinidad and Tobago
Anthony Carmona
 -  Prime Minister of
Trinidad and Tobago
K. Persad-Bissessar
 -  Chief Secretary Orville London
 -  Total 300 km2
116 sq mi
 -  2011 census 60,874
 -  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 the smaller of the two main islands that make up the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is located in the southern Caribbean, northeast of the island 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.

Geography and climate[edit]

Tobago has a land area of 300 km² and is approximately 40 km long and 10 km wide. It is located at latitude 11° 15' N, longitude 60° 40' W, slightly north of Trinidad. The population was 60,874 at the 2011 census. The capital, Scarborough, has a population of about 17,000. 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 the country.

Tobago is primarily hilly and of volcanic origin.[1] 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.[2]

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

Region Parish name Area (km2) Population
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

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 southwest. There are two seasons: a wet season between July and November, and a dry season between December and June.[citation needed]


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.

Possession of Tobago has been fought over by numerous nations since it was first sighted by Columbus in 1498.[3]

The original Island Carib population was forced to defend the island against other Amerindian tribes. Then, during the late 1500s and early 1600s, the natives defended it from European colonists, the first being Courlanders in 1654. Over the years, the Dutch, English, Spanish, Swedish and French transformed Tobago into a battle zone and the island changed hands 33 times, the most in Caribbean history, before it was finally ceded to the British in 1814 under the Treaty of Paris.

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

In 1814, when the island was again 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 was made 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.[citation needed]

Economy and tourism[edit]

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.

Pigeon Point, Tobago.
Castara village beach

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,[4][5] 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 The Swiss Family Robinson.

Tobago is the site of the famous "mystery tombstone".[6]

Environmental problems[edit]

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]


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 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. The waters around the island are home to many species of tropical fish, rays, sharks, and turtles.[citation needed]


Tobago is home to two excellent 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]


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

The Tobago Forest Reserve (Main Ridge Reserve) claims to be the oldest protected forest in the Western world. 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, (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.[citation needed]

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]

Notable Tobagonians[edit]

  • ANR Robinson - Arthur Napoleon Raymond "Ray" Robinson was born on 16 December 1926 and died on 9 April 2014. He was the third President of Trinidad & Tobago, serving in office between 1997 & 2003. Tobago's International Airport was renamed "ANR Robinson Airport" in his honour in May 2011.
  • Lalonde Gordon - Born in Lowlands, Tobago on 25 November 1988, Gordon won a bronze medal in the 400m in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. He was also part of the Trinidad & Tobago 4x400m relay team that won a silver medal in the same Olympics.
  • Dwight Yorke - Born in Canaan, Tobago on 3 November 1971, Yorke played football for Aston Villa, Manchester Utd, Blackburn Rovers, Birmingham City, Sydney FC & Sunderland. He won 79 caps for his national side, scoring 19 goals


Local 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.[7]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]


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.


  1. ^ "Tobago (Great Tobago) [1551]". United Nations Earthwatch. Retrieved 2011-10-19. 
  2. ^ Anthony, Michael (2001). Historical Dictionary of Trinidad and Tobago. Scarecrow Press, Inc. Lanham, Maryland, and London, UK. ISBN 0-8108-3173-2. 
  3. ^ "Railroad Map of Trinidad". World Digital Library. 1925. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  4. ^ Rhead, Louis. LETTER TO THE EDITOR: "Tobago Robinson Crusoe's Island", The New York Times, 5 August 1899.
  5. ^ "Robinson Crusoe and Tobago", Island Guide
  6. ^ Mystery Tombstone
  7. ^ Staff (2009-01-22). "TOP gains ground, but unhappy with illegal advertising". Trinidad and Tobago Guardian. Retrieved 2009-04-10. 

External links[edit]

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