Sailing with the Current:
Exploring the Tobagonian Waters

In Water by Chelsea Bodoe

Whether you ask a tourist or an island local, the notion remains the same: the sun shines brighter in Tobago. 

As you board the plane from Trinidad to Tobago, you see ahead of you the gorgeous views of crystal blue waters, this being the first of many indicative traits of the serene, and beautiful beachfront that awaits you. Framed by picturesque mountains, you see the pristine turquoise waves gracefully lull onto the sandy shores of an island so minuscule, that one can only deem as the hidden gem of the Caribbean. The plane ride embodies the feeling of absolute comfort, accompanied by the crisp ocean breeze swaying you along towards this little paradise. As you gaze through the window in every direction, you see a bit more of the landscape, and the adventures they hold for you ahead. Even on a flight with locals who have undoubtedly done this trip before, there is a heightened aura of anticipation on the plane as it makes its distinctive final turn before landing on the tarmac.

From the moment you step out of the airport you are acutely aware of the ocean even before you see it. You are welcomed by the calling voices of local street vendors, taxis and vacationers, sounds which are cradled by distant waves and gorgeous sea breeze. This, amidst the rich smells of locally acclaimed foods, and a prominent saltiness that lingers in the air, all serve to remind you that you are mere steps away from your own little paradise. The ocean that surrounds Tobago is a backdrop to the beautiful, vibrant, diversity that thrives on the island. 

There is no time to linger in the hallways of the hotel once you have checked in. The resorts the island has to offer, while breathtaking, take second place to the absolute serenity of the beaches before you have to offer. Trinidad often blows me away with the beautiful mountainous views and sprawling beaches, but Tobago feels like a paradise so discrete and small that it feels as if it’s your very own. Crystal clear waves greet the shoreline resulting in warm foam tickling your toes, provoking an indescribable rise of endorphins, that I can only describe as pure bliss. The water is so sun-kissed and warm that you are lulled into the surf, the land you once stood now only a distant memory. The bliss of the water against your skin easily consumes your body as the saltiness kisses your hair and your skin. Submerged in the water, you are enveloped in one of the most unimaginably warm hugs; a greeting like no other.

One of the popular activities that Tobago has to offer is chartering a glass-bottomed boat tour. It is exactly what it sounds like—a boat in which the floorboards are made of glass, revealing all of the gorgeous aquatic life, breathtaking shells and friendly sea creatures that the deeper waters of Tobago have to offer. 

As someone that probably couldn’t swim to save my life, being on this boat was a rare and perfect opportunity to venture into open water, an experience that I recommend highly. I feel as though oftentimes I can be a bit of a walking contradiction. Even though I find the sounds of waves against the shore peaceful, I have always had a deep fear of being out on open water. I mostly attribute this fear to my inability to swim, and I have suffered my fair share of sea-sickness and panic attacks to know better than to board any boat. Yet, with the magic you feel guiding you and the adrenaline of not wanting to miss anything this gorgeous island had to offer, I pulled myself out of that fear, and I can happily report that I had no regrets. 

It took a minute or two for me to get my sea legs, and at first, I sat as far away from the glass floorboards as possible. What if it breaks? Irrational fears consumed me. There were ten people on the boat, most of whom appeared to be strong swimmers, yet I stayed huddled on my bench for the first few minutes of the ride. Then the captain introduced the upcoming coral, and my curiosity overpowered my fear. I had never seen live coral outside of a museum, and suddenly the vibrant colors of Bucco Reef were as apparent to me as if I was one of the snorkelers that we passed moments ago. I watched—mesmerized as fish darted between coral of all colors, shapes and sizes. This is a world unbeknownst to me, hidden away, for its own protection, and it was absolutely stunning. Our captain pointed out a particularly rough area of water and explained that that is the edge of the reef. As we pulled forward, we graced tales of sharks and many other sea creatures, though I’m one to admittedly fear these creatures, seeing them from the safety of above the glass floor kept me both calm and intrigued.

The boat picked up speed and as we moved farther from the safety of the shore, being immersed in stories of the history of man seeking eternal youthfulness and beauty, which wasn’t hard to believe that if it were to be found anywhere on Earth, here would be a very believable place to look. The captain relayed the story of the Nylon Pool, a spot where you can stand in the middle of the ocean with the water only knee-high. Better yet, this sea-shallow coral pool is made of youth-preserving coral, another highly desired treasure searched for by early voyagers. The passengers got increasingly excited as we were instructed to rub the coral onto our bodies to witness its healing and youth-preserving powers. The boat stopped in time with the story’s end having been perfectly orchestrated, and there was suddenly a flurry of bodies rushing to exit the boat. I was one of the last ones. I stood on the edge of the boat, surrounded by open water. I could feel the panic return and the bile rising in my chest. I almost couldn’t make the step forward, but I did and was once again enveloped by the warm embrace of the Tobagonian waters, suddenly questioning why I was even afraid to begin with. It invited me in and the gentle sweep of water against my skin and made me feel safe. Suddenly I was standing in the middle of the ocean, a surreal experience to say the least. Each step along the pool was cautious for I knew one misstep would lead to a deathly plunge, but with each step I gained courage. I even remember rubbing a little of the coral between my fingers, just for good measure. It honestly wasn’t until I was back on the boat that I realized the magnitude of what I had done. The open water around me seemed much less frightening and much more thrilling as we continued on to our final destination. 

The captain began another tale, this time of the approaching small strip of land ahead. He called it “No Man’s Land” and for the second time that day, I felt in awe of such wonders existing that the ocean protects. No Man’s Land was surrounded by shimmering white coral sand that gives way to a lagoon. To date, it is the smallest piece of land I have ever been on and will likely ever be on. Standing on the coral you are very aware that yet again, you’ve had the opportunity to stand in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by the most surreal view. The lagoon offered an entirely different fauna than the lush rainforest on the mainland and profoundly beautiful waters that enticed you to stay awhile. Our trip felt short-lived, and it was soon time to return to the boat and head back to the mainland. Surprising myself after the initial overwhelming fear, I found myself longing to stay.

Ultimately, the ocean has always been one of the most mysterious places on Earth for me. Considering we’ve explored only about 5 percent of it, and with depths that we have not yet explored that span across the globe, it is hard to imagine what other mysteries and beauty exists that the ocean hides from us, what awaits us, or what it protects us from. My chartered trip through the Tobagonian waters was one that opened my eyes to the vastness of the ocean alongside the beauty, the mystery and the life it manifests.