Friday, 13 December 2013

Contrasting Caribbean Islands: Tobago & Jamaica

I don't think we made the best of Jamaica. We stayed at a very nice all-inclusive hotel in Montego Bay, which sounded glamorous because I always think of the song. The staff we encountered were friendly and the food was pretty good. I'm not sure why 'very nice' was disappointing. There was an uninspiring shallow beach which we had virtually to ourselves because guests seemed to prefer the pool areas and security staff guarded the beach perimeters to ensure that the private beach stayed private.

And I think that was the problem, we felt like prisoners - might as well have been guantanamo bay as montego bay. Of course, we were allowed out of the hotel but always with an underlying message of lurking danger which, if you have children with you, you take no chances. To join escorted tours and even to hire a taxi was priced astronomically high per person, so we elected to remain in our open prison. Thank goodness it was only for a week.

 (Montego Bay : Bobby Bloom) 

Prior to that, we had visited Tobago, staying at the same hotel we had been to years before - a small, friendly hotel on the northern coast, Turtle Beach, which lived up to its name. One evening, the entertainment was interrupted by one of the water-sports guys who asked if anyone would like to follow him, quietly, towards the shore to watch a giant turtle laying and burying her eggs. It was amazing! From the hotel, you could walk a fair distance in each direction and also watch the daily fishing catch being landed, if that's your thing.

Tobago is a lovely island to explore and feel relaxed, by taxi or hire car. The main town, Scarborough, has a really good market for buying sensible souvenirs rather than tourist tat. What we really liked about Tobago was the way people treated us - normal! Not like we were tourists. Apart from our lilywhite skins, we blended right in.

Verdict: it's difficult to see the 'real' Jamaica - what we saw was very commercialised. Tobago possibly has pockets of commercialised tourism but we didn't encounter any and we loved it, both times.