Bunny Visits Tobago Cays
What Are Tobago Cays?
Tobago Cays is one of those magical places that looks like it has been lifted from the pages of a fancy travel magazine: picture-perfect, awe-inspiring and impossibly turquoise.
Tobago Cays Marine Park is located in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The area consists of five small islands, or cays, as they are called: Baradal, Jamesby, Petit Tabac, Petit Bateau and Petit Rameau. All of them are uninhabited and gorgeous, surrounded by crystal clear waters and extensive coral reefs.
Swimming with turtles is one of the main attractions here, but Tobago Cays has lots to offer and is also known as one of the yachting paradises of the Grenadines.
Check out Bunny’s dos, don’ts and tips below and be sure not to miss her video either!
The five islands of Tobago Cays: Baradal, Petit Tabac, Jamesby, Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau
How to Get There
The closest airports are found on Union Island and Canouan in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and on the island of Carriacou which is part of nearby Grenada. The main airlines servicing the region are SVG Air, Grenadines Air and LIAT.
Once you have made your way to one of the nearby islands, you have a couple of options to make the final stretch to Tobago Cays: you can take a water taxi, charter a private yacht or participate in a day tour from Union Island or Carriacou.
A couple of cruise liners also make a stop in Tobago Cays but Bunny would advise against this option. Tobago Cays is such a special, tranquil place that you really do not want to share it with hundreds of cruisers. Tobago Cays is best experienced in relative solitude, Bunny says.
Bunny is lucky to have visited Tobago Cays four times. Twice, she has sailed there on a private yacht as part of her sailing holidays in the Grenadines. Read more about how to do a sailing holiday in the Caribbean.
The two other times Bunny visited Tobago Cays was as a day trip from Carriacou with Isle of Reefs Tours.
Isle of Reefs Tours
Going to Tobago Cays on a day trip from Carriacou with Isle of Reefs Tours is an easy and (more) affordable way to experience this special place.
The day trip includes transportation by speed boat to Tobago Cays and back, snorkelling with turtles (equipment provided) and a second snorkelling stop in the Horse Shoe Reef, delicious lunch and drinks (including stiff rum punch) and an additional stop on the way back.
The boat ride is spectacular but a little bumpy and takes about 45 minutes each way. Captain Mojo is an expert in reading the waves so, don’t worry, you are safe at all times. However, if you’re skittish, life jackets are available and you can wear one during the boat journey if you wish.
The scenery seduces you right from the beginning: first you ride past the gorgeous Sandy Island, then follow the beautiful Carriacou coastline, before getting a glimpse of Palm Island, where the rich and famous holiday. The mighty Union Island is never out of sight. Then, there’s a stretch of open water until the Cays start coming into view.
A day trip to Tobago Cays from Grenada is also doable but it will be a long and exhausting, even if fabulous, day. You will first have to take an early morning flight from Grenada to Carriacou and then proceed to Tobago Cays by speed boat, and reverse those steps coming back to make the last flight back to Grenada in the afternoon. Bunny says better to stay a night (or more) in Carriacou to enjoy what this special place itself has to offer.
Things to Do in Tobago Cays
Prepare yourself for a busy and memorable day. There is so much you can do.
Swimming with Turtles
The biggest attraction in Tobago Cays is swimming with the turtles. Tobago Cays Marina Park provides a sanctuary for sea turtle nesting sites and feeding areas. Plenty of green and hawksbill turtles can be seen foraging on the seagrass growing on sea’s floor and surfacing for air around Baradal island and elsewhere in Tobago Cays.
You can spot the turtles from the boat but nothing beats lowering yourself into the water with your snorkelling equipment to observe and swim with the turtles. The water is very clear and the waves are gentle. The turtles are quite used to snorkelers in the protected area and many of them swim unperturbed right next to you. Others are more shy.
No matter how tempting it may be, don’t chase and especially don’t touch the turtles, Bunny says. It’s sad how many people do exactly this (most of whom seem to sport GoPros). This is the turtles’ home and they’ll share it with you for a brief time so please behave like a good guest. You are all but guaranteed to get wonderfully close to these magnificent creatures in Tobago Cays.
If you want to venture a bit further from the protected turtle area, there is some excellent snorkelling in the Horse Shoe Reef surrounding Tobago Cays. The water is amazingly (even surprisingly) clear. Bunny has spotted reef sharks, eagle rays, puff fish, eels and colourful schools of tropical fish when snorkelling in Horse Shoe Reef.
When you get your fill of being in the water, the uninhabited islands of Tobago Cays also provide some hiking opportunities. There are scenic paths on all the islands and the panoramic views of the Grenadines, particularly from the top of Petite Bateau, are breathtaking.
You are also very likely to bump into wildlife, such as iguanas, on the foot paths. Bunny was a bit spooked by the size of some of them, not really knowing for sure whether iguanas have developed an appetite for lil’ Bunnies or not. However, no matter how much they may look like mini man-eating dinosaurs, apparently they are (mostly) vegetarian.
Do not forget to bring waterproof sunscreen! Bunny has gotten burned pretty badly at Tobago Cays. There is little shade and you’ll be in the water most of the time, not noticing the sun’s strength until it is too late.
Liming on the Beach
Naturally, Tobago Cays has some wonderful beaches. The most popular one is the beach on Petit Bateau. The white soft sand, turquoise waters and swaying palm trees create the quintessential Caribbean dream beach.
An equally lovely beach, but without palm trees, can be found on Baradal.
On Petit Tabac, which lies just outside the Horse Shoe Reef, you can usually have the long sandy beach for yourself. This is where you can engage in a little Pirates of the Caribbean fantasy: Johnny Depp and Keira Knightly were stranded on this particular island in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
Due to their protected status, you are not allowed to spend the night on any of the islands in Tobago Cays. Good decision, Bunny says. But a number of local entrepreneurs do make the trip every morning from Union Island to set up make-shift kitchens on Petit Bateau.
This is where you’ll enjoy your lunch onshore if you are visiting on a day trip. There are picnic tables scattered around the area (not much shade though), the food is excellent and the drinks are ice-cold.
Check out a short video of Bunny’s trip to Tobago Cays.
What to See Nearby
There are a number of beautiful places close to Tobago Cays worth visiting on the same day, if you can.
Most day trips, including those with Isle of Reefs Tours, make a short visit to Happy Island or Salt Whistle Bay on the way back to Carriacou.
Happy Island is a small, man-made island just off the shallow coast of Union Island. It is actually just a bar, set up by an ingenious local fellow on an island made of concrete and discarded conch shells.
The atmosphere is cheery, the hours are relaxed and the spiced rum punches flow easily. Bunny thinks Happy Island might just be the definition of laid back.
Salt Whistle Bay
Salt Whistle Bay in Mayreau is one of Bunny’s favourite beaches in the whole world. It is a perfect horse shoe bay with swaying palm trees, very calm waters (perfect for stand-up-paddling!) and powdery white sand.
There are a number of beach bar shacks and a couple of places where you can grab something to eat in Salt Whistle Bay but if you are lucky you can find it almost deserted, particularly outside the busy tourist season.
If visiting by chartered sail boat or yacht, Bunny’s exclusive tip is to ask to be dropped off on the other side of the island and make the hike to the actual bay. It’s a short up and down hike and you’ll experience some wonderful local colour, including an interesting church.
Visiting Tobago Cays is one of the best things you can do in the Grenadines, Bunny says.
Swimming with turtles in the wild is an unforgettable experience you will treasure for a long time. And all those photos with lovely shades of blue and turquoise water in Tobago Cays will make an excellent screensaver once you are back at home daydreaming about returning again…