It was October and we wanted to go diving. We couldn't face the Red Sea again - and despite the bombings in Sharm there weren't any good bargains to be had and I just didn't think that Egypt represented good value. Earlier in the year we'd already spent too much money on other holidays so we wanted something that would be new and different without costing a fortune. After reading a lot of diving brochures we chose to go to Tobago for a week and were really pleased that we did.
We booked with one of our favourite dive operators, UK-based company Regal Dive. They flew us over with late and unlamented Excel airlines who unsurprisingly went into receivership a couple of weeks ago. I'll admit I was nervous - there were some dreadful reviews of that airline doing the rounds but it really wasn't anything like as bad as it could have been.
We split our holiday between the Toucan Inn at Crown Point and the Inn on the Bay at Lambeau and in both places we dived with the World of Watersports dive centre which is based at the Hilton. This company was excellent and rang the reception of the hotels each day to reconfirm our pick up times the next morning and turned up promptly every day.
We were really impressed by World of Watersports as a diving company.We were picked up on the first day and taken to the dive centre to get our equipment together. The staff were all friendly and welcoming and the centre was efficiently run. The equipment we hired was of a high standard, and the manager of the dive centre ran a very tight ship. The guys who run the boats and the dive staff were all funny, friendly and helpful, but were also very attentive to health and safety. One of the dive instructors was an ex-Commonwealth Games martial arts medalist.
All the great equipment and wonderful staff are worthless if there's nothing in the water. So the important thing was, how would the diving be? It was absolutely exceptional. No dive had more than eight divers in the water at any time and we never saw any other dive groups on the same sights. We shared the water with nobody other than the fish! The standard of the coral was outstanding because the sites have only ever been lightly dived. There are plenty of fish and the sea was calm and turquoise.
World of Watersports took us up to the North end of Tobago island on one day to dive near the site where Ian Fleming used to live. That was a bit rougher at sea but gave us a chance to see more of the island. On our free day at the end of the week, they also arranged a tour around the island and a walk to a waterfall to keep us entertained whilst we were barred from diving before our flight home.
The dives are all done in the morning and the afternoon is left free to do what you want. I would advise hiring a car so you can get around. We didn't and we struggled a bit to fill our afternoons.
A few practical points to think of. Wetsuit requirements are for thin wetsuits or shorties because the water is very warm. We were advised not to wear gloves but I asked for permission to use them on the descents down ropes because my hands are very sensitive to rough ropes and barnacles and there was no problem. I just took them off when I reached the bottom.
Tobago is a longhaul destination from Europe and some people won't want to go so far for just a week. However on the positive side the destination offers excellent value for money (I think we paid about £529 plus diving) outstanding reefs, and inexpensive good quality food and drink.
It's important to keep in mind that Tobago and Trinidad are a single country but the two islands are very different. If you read or hear bad things about Trinidad, don't assume they apply to Tobago. It's a much quieter, gentler place. I was told that there were no direct flights from the US to Tobago which means there are very few American divers there which helps to keep the prices down - wherever American's like to holiday, it tends to put the prices up.
We've dived a lot all over the world and this beats almost every other place we've been. From the UK it's quite a long flight but I do think it's worth going further because there's nothing of this standard that's much closer to home.