The Tobago Cays

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The Tobago Cays are a group of small, deserted islands, protected from the sea by Horseshoe Reef. The water and reef colors are a kaleidoscope of gold, brown, blue, turquoise, and green. There are small sand beaches and clear water. On cloudless nights, the stars are cast across the sky like wedding confetti thrown in an excessive gesture of bonhomie. Even squalls can be dramatically beautiful as they approach from afar. The anchorage is, however, open to the full force of the ocean winds, which are occasionally strong.

The best approach is between Mayreau and Baleine Rocks, staying south of One Fathom Bank. Black-and-white day-markers help you get the approach right. Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau look like one island for most of the approach. Don't cut corners, lest you land on a coral head.
You can anchor just west of Petit Rameau, in the cut between Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau, to the north or south of Baradel, or between Baradel and the other islands. Shallow draft yachts can even anchor to the east of Baradel. Moorings are available in the Cays for $45 EC a night, but are not compulsory. They mainly surround the turtle watching area. Do no anchor between the moorings and the turtle watching area.
There are strong currents in the cut anchorage, so bow and stern anchoring may be necessary.

Tobago Cays is a well-run national park. Park fees are currently $10 EC per day per person, which rangers come to collect. Superyachts should call in advance for advice on where to anchor. While Mayreau is included in the park, no fees are collected in Mayreau anchorages, but diving regulations apply. Park users are requested requested to use holding tanks. Using a holding tank will keep the water clean for swimmers in what can be a crowded area.

This magnificent park offers the most spectacular anchoring in the Eastern Caribbean. Enjoy, and help others to do so, by obeying regulations and being considerate.

A 6-knot speed limit is in effect in the Tobago Cays. This applies to all vessels, dinghies, water taxis and sailing boats. Please obey it and keep a good look out for swimmers. People swim throughout the area through the anchored yachts, to the reef, and to the islands. The speed limit precludes water skiing and many water sports. However, sail and kite boarders may exceed the speed limit in the area north of Petit Rameau.
Enjoy snorkeling and looking at the fish and turtles. They are there because this is a conservation area and no fishing is allowed. You may not collect or harm any kind of sea-creature, including the corals. Do not take souvenirs of any form, including shells and rocks.

A turtle-watching area has been established around the beach in Baradel. It is marked by a series of linked buoys. If you wish to snorkel in this area, either anchor your dinghy outside or take it directly (and very slowly) into the beach and pull it up on the sand. No anchoring or drifting with your dinghy is allowed in this area, and you should not run your dinghy through this area except to go to and from the beach. Approach turtles slowly, and no closer than 6 feet. (If you are still and they come closer, that is fine.) Though they look calm and peaceful, they are easily frightened if you chase or try to touch them. No fires may be made on the beaches, and the vegetation ashore is part of the park and should be left alone. Do not discharge any oil, chemicals or other waste into the water, or pump your bilges in the park. Avoid using bleach and strong cleaners that get flushed overboard in the park. Those wishing to scuba dive in the park may only do so with a local dive shop.

Some people get so excited at the beauty of the Tobago Cays, that they think the way to complete the experience is to play their favorite music at top volume for the whole anchorage to hear. Cathartic as this might be for them, it may not be what others want. Keep any noise you make on your boat from music, generators and windmills, low enough that your neighbor cannot hear it.

Beach barbecues are regulated and several local vendors offer such barbecues. Anchoring your yacht is permitted behind Horseshoe Reef and around the islands in sand only. Adventurous and experienced skippers could sail outside Horseshoe Reef (the approach is easiest from the south exit) and find temporary anchorage in Petit Tabac on sand bottom only. This is strictly eyeball navigation and for calm weather. Even so, it is small and rolly. Yachts should not anchor among any of the reefs between Petit Rameau and Mayreau, except in the anchorage we show directly east of Mayreau.

Local boat vendors ply the Cays during the season, selling everything from ice, bread, and lobsters to jewelry. They are a friendly bunch and very obliging if you need them to bring you ice or bread the next day. If you want to be left alone, they will do that, too. They offer great beach barbecues and water taxis to places like Baradel.

Free Spirit 2 and My Desire sell the Carriacou Fidel Productions art t-shirts. Each one is a painting by a local artist reproduced on a shirt. Another vendor, Mr. Fabulous, is one of the good guys in the Tobago Cays. He has a powerful twin-engine water taxi, which is both licensed and insured. He sells lobster in season and offers beach barbecues. He is an excellent choice for this as he brings his own grill, cleans up properly, and does not take any fish from the reef. If you want to clear customs from the Cays, he can arrange it with Erika's in Union Island. You can also book him through Erika's. Sydney, is a well-known vendor and he offers a big stock of t-shirts. He also has a guest house in Union Island.

The snorkeling on Horseshoe Reef is still good, though recent hurricanes have done considerable damage to the hard corals. The reef near the small boat passage is in the best condition. Fish are still plentiful and there are lots of turtles. It can be choppy out there, and anywhere near the small boat passage you will meet current. If you have beginner snorkelers on board, the east beach on Petit Bateau (facing Baradel) has some snorkeling that starts in calm, shallow water. The dinghy approach through the reefs is tricky. For turtles, check out protected turtle area just west of Baradel.

The Tobago Cays are also an excellent place for sailboarding. The designated area for this, when you want to go more than 6 knots, is north of Baradel. Experts can sail out through the small dinghy passage into the ocean. Keep an eye out for swimmers and snorkelers.

To go scuba diving, contact Grenadines Dive, who will come and collect you from your yacht. Currents can be very strong, and most dives are done as drift dives.



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