In all honesty… I didn’t know anything at all about Trinidad and Tobago — well, except for that fact that they are islands in the Caribbean.
So when Stacia volunteered to write about it for this monthly series of ‘Fun Facts from Locals Around the World‘, I was delighted because I wanted to know more about this country that I have been somewhat ignorant about.
After I read through her 10 points, you bet that I was intrigued. I then set off on a research and I realized that Trinidad and Tobago may not be a common destination for tourists in the Caribbean region (except for when it’s carnival season); but as a result, this makes them hold such an unspoiled beauty amidst its industrial scene. Plus, with a rightful mix of rainforested hills and white sand beaches, it can attract travelers that are looking for a serene getaway on such a location that is on the northeastern coast of Venezuela.
Now, I won’t take the limelight away so here goes some of the 10 fun and interesting facts about Trinidad and Tobago from Stacia, a local!
My name is Stacia Yearwood and I am a Trinbagonian writer, filmmaker and educator with a penchant for literary and literal rambling.
Unabashedly curious, I have had a passion for travel since a child and attempted my first unchaperoned “trip” at the tender age of two!! I have since lived on 3 continents and had my work published in a variety of journals such as the Beltway Poetry Quarterly and Bellevue Literary Review. Currently, I am the curator of Paper Passages.
My home country. The very things that make the beautiful twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago stand out from amongst its worldly peers are the very things that make it an uncommon and unparalleled travel destination.
Whether you are a cultural enthusiast, one who gallivants for gastronomical experiences, or a dedicated eco-traveller, you can find your travel niche on one or both of these magnificent isles!
As a start though, here are the top 10 things that you should know about Trinidad and Tobago:
10 Things Foreigners Should Know About Trinidad and Tobago
#1: Birthplace of the Steelpan
Photo by Eric Parker / CC
The Steelpan is the only acoustic instrument to be invented and accepted worldwide in the 20th century and it originated in Trinidad and Tobago. The steelpan is also, quite possibly, the only instrument to be built from industrial waste: starting in the 1930s, discarded oil drums were successfully tuned! How’s that for Trinbagonian inventiveness?
You may treat yourself to entire steelpan orchestras during the Carnival season’s Panorama extravaganza or visit smaller pan yards throughout the year as they prepare for the yearly festivities.
#2: Home of Carnival — The Greatest Show on Earth
Trinidad and Tobago Carnival has been consistently ranked as one of the top 10 Carnival celebrations in the world. It is popularly known as “The Greatest Show on Earth” and is a tradition that began in the 18th century when African slaves created a parallel celebration to the French plantation owners’ masquerades.
For two days, usually in February or early March, the air thrums with frivolity and the earth pulsates to the pressure of prancing feet as revelers “play mas.”
Be forewarned: if you visit during Carnival, you may never leave! Many have started their careers as expats on these shores!
#3: Home of the world’s largest traffic roundabout
Trinidad and Tobago is home to the world’s largest traffic roundabout around the Queen’s Park Savannah (at about 260 acres). Pictured is one small section of the savannah with poui trees in full bloom and the Northern Range in the background.
Around the savannah are the “Magnificent Seven”, a cluster of beautifully ornate colonial buildings constructed in the early 20th century. Additionally, if you would like to indulge in local musical and theatrical performances, visit the Queen’s Hall and National Academy for the Performing Arts for tickets and a show!
#4: First to set a public holiday commemorating abolition of slavery
Photo by Ali Starr / CC
On August 1, 1985, Trinidad and Tobago became the world’s first country to declare a public holiday in commemoration of the abolition of slavery.
Every year, a joyful street parade is organized along with the opening of the Cultural Lidj Yasu Omowale Emancipation Village. The atmosphere is filled with the clapping of African drums, chants and exhibitions of African dance. Vendors sell traditional food and fare to patrons dressed in traditional African garb.
#5: Home to oldest rainforest reserve in the Western Hemisphere
The Main Ridge Reserve in Tobago is the oldest rainforest reserve in the Western Hemisphere. Trinidad and Tobago has over 400 species of birds, making it one of the most abundant birding countries per square mile on this side of the world!
The trails burst at the seams with copious varieties of flora and fauna. One may just run into exotic birds such as the Cocrico and Scarlet Ibis while being shaded by a tapestry of Poui, cocoa, and silk cotton trees. Bring your binoculars and prepared to be amazed!
#6: A rare Leatherback Turtle nesting ground
Photo by rustinpc / CC
The Leatherback Turtle is the largest of all living turtles and can be differentiated from other sea turtles by its lack of a bony shell. Each year, more than 10,000 leatherback turtles make the treacherous journey across the Atlantic Ocean to nest on Trinidad’s eastern beaches. Matura is one of the safest nesting beaches for the leatherback, and one can witness the dramatic nesting rituals during the peak turtle-watching season between April and July.
Trinidad and Tobago is undoubtedly one of the most important leatherback nesting sites on the globe.
#7: Home of the world’s largest deposit of asphalt
Photo by r.lt / CC
The La Brea Pitch Lake in South Trinidad is the largest natural deposit of asphalt in the world. It is a 250-foot-deep, semi-liquid pool that’s both a site for asphalt mining and a healing site for its medicinal sulphur baths.
Scientists believe that the Pitch Lake is similar to the hydrocarbon lakes on Saturn’s moon, which could help answer whether they could support life.
#8: Home of the world’s largest brain coral
The Buccoo Reef is one of the most frequented coral reefs in the Caribbean. It was designated as a protected marine park in 1973 and is home to a mesmerizing and flamboyant ecosystem.
World-famous French oceanographer and explorer Jacques Cousteau visited Tobago’s Buccoo Reef and rated it as the third most spectacular reef in the world. Close by, and measuring 10 feet by 16 feet, is the world’s largest brain coral. It can be found at the popular diving and snorkeling spot off Speyside, Tobago.
#9: Home of the world’s hottest pepper
Photo by John Vonderlin / CC
The Guinness Book of Records has officially ranked the Trinidad Moruga “Scorpion Butch” Pepper as the world’s hottest pepper.
UPDATE: Apparently in 2012, the Guinness World Records recognized the Carolina Reaper as the hottest in the world; still and the same, that makes the Scorpion Butch as the 2nd hottest — apart from it being the 1st in the world previously!
#10: One of the world’s sexiest accents
The Trinidad accent ranks 10th on CNN’s top ten sexiest accents in the world. Our “sing song” accent is so popular it has become the stuff of myth and the core of numerous comedy segments.
Pictured is Trinbago’s own dictionary – our language deserves its own tome! Look it up on Amazon to learn more!
If you’re from Trinidad and Tobago like Stacia, do you agree with the 10 points that she wrote about? Maybe you have something to add too?
As for me, I am particularly intrigued not only with the islands’ famous carnival celebration but also with its rich flora and fauna. I can’t wait to see this destination with my own two eyes!
NOTE: This series will happen monthly so keep an eye out for the next country that I’ll be featuring!
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