Some great hiking trails, but they're
too slick immediately after a rain.
You needn't worry about poisonous snakes on Little Tobago or Tobago itself. Although they do exist on Trinidad, they're absent in Tobago apparently because Tobago broke off from the South American mainland thousands if not millions of years earlier than Trinidad.
Bird of Paradise I and II are the names of the first two hiking trails, but these signs are as much tombstones as trail markers. About 50 pairs of these colorful birds with the big plumes were brought here from New Guinea in the early 1900s and for decades they roamed the island freely, the only place in the Western Hemisphere where they lived wild.
Generally considered the most beautiful birds in the world, the birds of paradise were a major tourist attraction until they gradually disappeared due to predators and storms. The last recorded sighting of a bird of paradise was November, 1981.
And although they may be gone, their spirit remains in a very curious way. Some of the crested oropendola, commonly called yellowtail cornbirds, apparently copied the distinctive call and adopted it as their own.
The yellowtails are the birds whose distinctive stocking-shaped nests as long as 6 feet hang from the limbs of tall trees. One of the first hiking trails you encounter, the Yellowtail Trail, passes an area where a large number of these nests are usually found.
But before exploring the interior of the island, take the short 5-minute trail to Seabird View I. This lookout offers a surprising sight since you walk to it unexpectedly and suddenly. Hundreds of feet below you, stretches the windward side of the island, the rolling Atlantic and a cove of sheer cliffs peppered with seabirds. These are some of the most turbulent waters in Trinidad and Tobago, and the vista is an impressive one.
This is where you'll see the red-billed tropic birds continually circling over the bay, a major fishing ground. The birds build their nest at the cliff edge, supposedly because they have short legs and need an easy landing site.
Noddy and sooty terns, laughing gulls and brown boobies also nest in these same cliffs. A pair of binoculars is essential for good closeup views, although during spring you may find birds nesting within only a few feet of the lookout.
From Seabird View I you'll see another prime nesting area in the distance, St. Giles Islands, which is little more than a clump of rocks. Landing on the island is prohibited although boat tours go there in good weather.
A 15-minute walk will take you to Seabird View II which overlooks Alexander Bay, a coastline fringed with cactus, particularly prickly pear and Turk's Head. Thousands of boobies, terns and laughing gulls inhabit this area, and they sometimes build their nests closer to the lookout than at Seabird View I.
In the distance is a finger of land that offers the island's longest hike, a walk of about 45 minutes to a light beacon.
Expect a visit to Little Tobago to take at least several hours, especially if fully explore the island. Besides birds, you may see iguanas, hermit crabs, bats and a harmless snake or two.
The trails, however, can be quite slick immediately following a rain, and you should wait several hours for the sun and wind to do their work and let the ground dry out.
You can wait to pay your boatman until you return to Speyside. That's also a way to ensure that you don't play Robinson Crusoe for a night.