Little Tobago,

Tobago
Part 1

This isolated island

is one of the West Indies

most important bird sanctuaries.

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Although Walt Disney chose Tobago for filming Robinson Crusoe many years ago, the tiny nearby island of Little Tobago would have been a more apt location for literature's most famous castaway.

Little Tobago, a 243-acre uninhabited landfall located just a mile and a half off Tobago's northeastern coast, remains as remote and cut-off from civilization as any island today can be.

Totally lacking the benefits of modern development, Little Tobago is one of the Caribbean's premier bird-watching and hiking spots. At least 33 species nest on Little Tobago, and as many as 34 species of hummingbirds can be counted when the trees are flowering, enough to tire the eyeballs of the most avid birder.

The 20 different hiking trails offer several remarkable sights. Certainly the most memorable is the panoramic view of dozens of sleek and majestic red-billed tropic birds gliding around the island's steep hillsides as crashing waves spew up foam beneath them. It's an awesome spectacle you won't see anywhere else in the Caribbean. They're most plentiful from October to June.

As a genuine Robinson Crusoe island and an important bird sanctuary, Little Tobago shouldn't be on the regular tour schedule, and it's not. You have to arrange your own passage, which usually means finding a fisherman at the village of Speyside who's willing to ferry you over and wait for you.

You may find one who's also willing to act as a guide, although that isn't absolutely necessary.

You'll dock at a small sand beach with a picnic shelter: This is only an uninhabited island, not an unvisited one.

The beach is nestled at the base of a tall cliff, and it's a steep walk through a forest mostly of thatch palm to reach the top. Because soil erosion is such a problem here, the trail up through the employs concrete steps to keep the trail from being washed away. Once at the top, you'll find nothing but natural dirt pathways.

Hiking up, take note of the bamboo water troughs scattered about. In the dry season, water is hauled over to accommodate the birds, an indication of how seriously Tobago tries to maintain this habitat. There's no potable water anywhere on the island for humans. Yet in the 1800s the island was a thriving cotton plantation.

And keep an eye in the trees, not just on your feet. This is a good place to see the blue-crowned motmot (also called king-of-the-woods). It grows to 18 inches and is easily identified by its racquet-shaped tail.

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