Weather: Sunny, partly cloudy, occasional brief showers
Air Temperature: 28ºC, 80°F
Wind: 5 knots
This morning Silver Explorer approached the small city of Scarborough, Tobago, along the island’s windward coast, though there was hardly a breeze as we tied-up for a day of exploration. A few sheep and several chickens were seen “free-ranging” on grassy areas smack in middle of town and oblivious to the morning traffic. A short coach ride took us to Pigeon Point along the leeward side of the island where we boarded two glass-bottom boats and headed for Buccoo Reef, the largest such reef around Tobago.
Our local guides discussed the condition of the reef and pointed out some of the characteristic corals, sponges and fish to us before we donned masks and plunged in for a fantastic underwater exploration. Fish abounded and among the more striking species seen were inquisitive large French angelfish keen to careen one of the boats, at least five types of parrotfish all biting off bits of coral and ‘making sand’, iridescent blue-striped grunts, and various tangs, wrasses, squirrelfish, sea bass, and others. A stop at a shallow sandy bank called Nylon Pool provided the perfect place to swim or just sit and chat. Common terns and brown pelicans dove for fish nearby. On our way back to shore we passed by some mangroves where a couple spotted eagle rays gliding through the water.
Lunch beckoned us back onboard and afterwards we were out again in the afternoon to head in the other direction, along the windward coast by coach. In the terminal at the end of the dock a colourful performer was belting out songs and soon Assistant Expedition Leader Jarda Versloot had joined him in some local dance moves. Our destination was to be the Tobago Cocoa Estate, situated in what is said to be the oldest nature reserve in the Western Hemisphere. We drove the Claude Noel highway ,named for the Tabagonian boxer and one-time lightweight world champ who ‘fired thunderous left hooks’ to gain the title. Small villages dotted the landscape along the way – places named Hope, Goodwood, Mt. St. George, Pembroke and Roxborough, reflecting the strong British heritage.
We turned inland and made our way up a narrow winding road to the estate which is set amidst verdant tropical vegetation and possesses a spectacular view beyond the hills. Local guides led us on an easy walk, telling us about the history of cacao on the island and demonstrating the techniques used to get the final product, cocoa powder and cocoa butter, for the manufacture of chocolate. The Trinidadian variety of cocoa sported massive bright red fruits and we got to sample the sweet pulp surrounding the seeds. So as not to damage the seeds only wooden implements are used to extract them. The drying rack with its rolling roof offered up intense aromas and the cocoa tea was delicious. Theobroma cacao (the ‘chocolate tree’ whose name means “food of the gods”), an Amazonian native and a crop of global significance, grew alongside coffee plants, as did annatto (for red dye), imported Asian bamboo, guava trees, cassava, and tall mountain immortelle trees (Erythrina sp.) that provided important shade for the plants. It was a fine place to see birds as well and the highlights included excellent looks at several crested oropendolas and a flock of orange-winged parrots perched atop a nearby tree.
In the evening, Captain Adam Boczek warmly welcomed us to his Captain’s cocktail party where he introduced us to some of his senior officers aboard and we toasted the voyage with champagne. Executive Chef Grant then treated us to a sumptuous dinner of delicious food at the Captain’s Welcome Dinner. Our first full day on this journey had been a great one.