Unlike other Caribbean islands that have big developments catering to tourists, Tobago seems almost untouched by the huge hotel conglomerates that often clutter beach fronts. This was one of two reasons why I had come. The other was to see the “Nylon Pool,” just off the coast of Tobago’s Pigeon Point, and probably the liveliest beach in the southwest of the island. Wondrous Nylon Pool is a crystal-clear span of water offshore, almost like a natural swimming pool amidst tropical fish and a coral reef.
Ecotourism is growing significantly on this little island in the southeast West Indies, part of the nation of Trinidad and Tobago. About 50,000 lucky people call this paradise home. Tobago is only 26 miles (42 km) long and 6.2 miles (10 km) wide. From my hotel, I could walk to Store Bay, where glass-bottomed boats leave for the reef. Travel in Tobago moves slowly. Although it only took about 20 minutes, in the Caribbean heat, it felt like an hour in the desert!
At the bay, there was a sudden rush of touts stating prices of the tickets to go on the two-and-a-half-hour trip, each slicing an extra bit of his price to cut a deal with me. For a moment, I felt overwhelmed, but once I realized the operators just try to outbid each other and are harmless enough, I wised up and began to haggle over the price with them.
Getting into the boat turned out to be a bit of an ordeal. I waded into water up to my knees to get to the entry steps, which constantly move with the tumble of the waves. The boat owner had a couple of employees aiding the passengers to their seats. Finally I sat, scrunched between fellow tourists on the wooden seating around the enclosed glass bottom of the boat. You can look directly down into the water to see the spectacular views of corals and other sea life. But I felt somewhat claustrophobic and jumped at the chance to ride on the roof of the boat. It was flat and not exactly made to carry passengers, but there were railings for safety. The views were spectacular and there was a fresh breeze.
As we pulled away from Store Bay, the sea got bluer and deeper. From the roof, I could see clumps of darkness in the seabed where the coral reefs were and the smoky, shadows of schools of fish moving through the waters. The coast of Tobago, with white sands and green palm trees grew smaller and smaller.
Our first stop was Coral Gardens, which is only viewable from the glass-floor on the bottom of the boat, so standing around the seated passengers, I overlooked the glorious colors and growth that is the Tobago coral reef. The boat owner pointed out various types of fish and sea life, but you have to be quick as they dart between the coral.
The next stop was the coral reef in the shallow water where snorkel masks and safety shoes were provided. Even though you are not supposed to touch the fragile coral, they have sharp edges if you accidentally should get too close. When I jumped into the water, the undercurrents were slightly rough and kicked up the powdered coral, though I was able to see some tropical fish and white stubbly coral.
Finally, we reached famed Nylon Pool. Here the waters are warm, clear and crystal blue. It is only about three feet (one meter) deep, waist-high on me. Nylon Pool is surrounded by the natural coral reef found in the water close by and has soft white sand on its bed. The sand has a gritty feel to it and comes from the crushed coral from the neighboring Bucco Reef.
From here, you can see the picture-perfect coast of Tobago in all its glory, with swaying palm trees and white, outstretched, deserted beaches. In the water, you can catch glimpses of the colorful, tropical fish that live nearby. There were squirrelfish, parrotfish, angelfish and triggerfish that darted between my feet. Nylon Pond has no seaweed, just clear, turquoise water. The sky is blue, the sea is blue, and the only thing that wasn’t blue was me, who enjoyed every miraculous minute of it!
If You Go
Passengers are allowed to dive off the glass-bottom boat. If swimming isn’t your thing and you would rather enjoy the breathtaking view, you can retire to the top of the boat.
Tours are offered year-round and are around US$ 34 for two persons. Boat owners cater for small children, supervised by their parents or guardians, and have lifejackets on hand should children need them. Unfortunately, the tour operators don’t stay at the Nylon Pool for very long; at most you may get 30 minutes (of a two-and-half-hour tour) to experience the luxury of floating aimlessly in paradise.
Official tourism website of Trinidad and Tobago