When you think of Trinidad, warm beaches, sunscreen, and clear, tropical skies are likely to come to mind. While these are certainly reasons on their own to praise the islands, there is significantly more you probably haven’t heard before! From wildlife and coral conservation, to history, carnival celebrations, and musical innovation, Trinidad and Tobago are some of the Caribbean’s most praised islands. There’s so much more to love than what meets the eye. Below are 10 fun facts about what makes Trinidad and Tobago so very special.
1. The very first black Miss Universe Pageant winner was born in Trinidad and Tobago
Janelle Commissiong was crowned the first black Miss Universe in 1977 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Born in 1953 to a Trinidadi father and Venezuelan mother, she moved to the US at the age of 13. Commissiong later returned to Trinidad and Tobago after attending fashion school in New York City. After her unanticipated and unpopular crowning, she became a strong advocate for the black community, traveling to multiple countries to advocate for black rights.
2. The limbo was invented in Trinidad and Tobago
Although it originates back to Trinidad and Tobago, the limbo has become a recognizable dance contest all over the world. A horizontal stick is held up by two vertical others (or people), allowing room for players to arch backwards to pass underneath it. Players take turns passing under, attempting to “limbo” low enough that they don’t touch the horizontal stick. Each time a player accidentally touches the stick, they are eliminated and the stick is moved lower and lower. This continues until there is one individual left, who is considered the winner.
3. Tobago holds the world’s oldest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere
The Main Ridge Forest Preserve in Tobago boasts of 9,780 acres of preserved rainforest! Established on April 13, 1776 (just before the United States even came to be), the rainforest is home to a diverse collection of plant life, 16 different mammalian species, 210 bird species, and a broad array of other animals. Perhaps the most beloved is the white-tailed sabrewing hummingbird, which can often be spotted all over the island.
4. Trinidad is home to the largest Carnival festival in the Caribbean
If you love lively dancing, parades, fashion, or just having fun, Carnival may be the place for you. The days before Ash Wednesday, thousands of people dressed in vibrant, bold masquerade-style costumes dance down the parade’s path to the sound of island music. Street performers or bands are usually featured and there’s a splash of bright color absolutely everywhere you look, making it similar to one of the largest block parties you’ve ever attended. Given it’s a multiple day event starting in the wee hours of the morning, we recommend staying somewhere in the middle of the action, such as The Hilton Trinidad, to avoid the hassle of daily transportation.
5. The world’s largest deposit of asphalt can be found in Trinidad
Although there is little to no water involved, the asphalt deposit is referred to as “Pitch Lake.” It is believed that the “lake” lies above an open fault line that allows oil to seep up and harden into asphalt after the more liquid compounds begin to evaporate. Around 250 feet deep, the deposit holds over 10 million tons of asphalt at a given time. During rainy season, small pools can build up that are said to contain high levels of sulphur, which locals believe can cure nearly anything!
6. You can stand up in the middle of the ocean off Tobago
Just south of Buccoo Reef, a natural wonder referred to as Nylon Pool has made its way into the hearts of locals and tourists alike. Nylon pool is a shallow (meter high) sandbar/still-lagoon combo in the middle of the ocean, allowing individuals to walk, swim, or float on it as they please. Locals claim the water has rejuvenating powers for those who swim in it! The natural pool was named in 1962 by Princess Margeret, who joked that the crystal clearness of the water reminded her of her transparent nylon stockings.
7. The world’s largest brain coral colony can be found off the coast
What would Trinidad and Tobago be without its reefs? Beyond the vast array of marine life that can be spotted while scuba diving off the coast, the world’s largest brain coral colony calls the coast of Tobago home. Measuring at 10 feet high and 16 feet wide, the coral is a part of a much larger area (a gold mine for scuba divers) named Kelleston Drain.
8. Trinidad and Tobago is the wealthiest and most developed country in the Caribbean
Thanks largely in part to their petroleum and petrochemical sales, Trinidad and Tobago is not only the richest country in the Caribbean, but also the third highest GDP in the Americas! About 40% of their GDP comes from oil and gas, while the rest is a compilation of things like manufactured goods and tourism. The world bank even considers Trinidad and Tobago a high-income economy.
9. Trinidad and Tobago is home to the world’s second largest leatherback turtle nesting site
Matura is known as Trinidad’s safest nesting beach for leatherback sea turtles, given the extreme protection and conservation efforts contributed. Each nesting season, female turtles are expected to lay 80 eggs up to 12 times per season. Earthwatch is one of the organizations in charge of turtle conservation efforts in Matura, claiming they have nearly entirely eliminated the once-popular turtle poaching. They fear, however, our shelled friends are faced with a new threat; climate change. The warmer the sand, the more likely for the eggs to hatch as females, which could throw off the entire population’s gender balance. Visitors are allowed to turtle-watch as long as they receive a permit from the Forestry Division to preserve the turtle’s comfort and reduce disturbances.
10. Calypso music originated in Trinidad and Tobago
As a matter of fact, the steel pan drum was invented in Trinidad and Tobago! Following the invention of the new monumental instrument came plenty of musical genres that incorporate it. Calypso, Soca, and Chutney just scratch the surface on the impact of the steel pan drum.
For families, couples, or individuals alike, Trinidad and Tobago offers an incredible experience with an array of activities for everyone! It’s no wonder locals are so proud of their heritage. There’s plenty of interesting information to brag about!