25+ cool & important facts about Trinidad & Tobago

There are many people and things that have landed Trinidad and Tobago in the history books…or which are just plain cool! Here are just some. And if you know more that you think should be here, feel free to give us a shout! We always love to hear from our readers.

Did you know…?

Banwari Man

The oldest evidence of human activity in the Caribbean

The oldest evidence of human activity on Caribbean soil is in Trinidad: the archaeological site at Banwari Trace has yielded artefacts dating back to 5,000BC, belonging to the Ortoiroid people (named after the Ortoire river). “Banwari Man”, the human skeleton found lying in a crouched burial position by the Trinidad & Tobago Historical Society in 1969, is preserved at the University of the West Indies in St Augustine. Banwari Trace was included in the 2004 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. Access requires permission through the National Trust (which a tour guide can arrange).

Tobago’s Main Ridge Reserve

The oldest protected rainforest in the hemisphere

The 14,000 acres of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve in Tobago (rising to 876m/1,890ft) encompasses the oldest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere. It became a reserve in 1776, and is full of hiking trails and opportunities for eco adventure. It was declared a National Heritage Site in 2018.

A turtle nesting site of global importance

Discover the leatherbacks in Grande Rivière

Grande Rivière (in northeast Trinidad) is the second largest leatherback turtle nesting site in the world, with 18% of the total global population nesting here. Hawksbill, green turtles, loggerheads, olive ridleys, and leatherbacks — all of which are legally protected on our shores — come up on Trinidad’s north and east coast beaches during nesting season. Hawksbills and leatherbacks also nest on Tobago’s shores. During those nesting months (March to September, and sometimes as early as January), Trinidad and Tobago become two of the world’s most important turtle nesting grounds, especially for the endangered leatherbacks.

Invaders Steel Orchestra performs at Panorama. Photo by Edison Boodoosingh

Invaders Steel Orchestra performs at Panorama. Photo by Edison Boodoosingh

Steelpan to the world

The only acoustic instrument invented in the 20th century…right here

Steelbands exist all over the globe, from the US to Japan and Australia. Local ones have performed at prestigious venues world-wide. In 2015, a steelpan concerto (the second ever composed) was premiered at the Kennedy Centre in Washington by the US National Symphony Orchestra, featuring pannist Liam Teague. And in case you need the refresher, the steel pan — forged in the Laventille hills above Port of Spain, Trinidad some 80 years ago — is the only acoustic instrument invented in the 20th century.

The world’s largest brain coral

The largest live brain coral (about 3m/10ft by 5m/16ft) has been has been recorded off Speyside in Tobago!

De sexy Trini accent

In 2012, CNN Travel listed Trinidad as having the 10th Sexiest Accent in the World (MSN Travel actually had us in the fourth spot!), saying: “For fetishists of oddball sexuality, the Caribbean island of Trinidad offers an undulating, melodic gumbo of pan-African, French, Spanish, Creole and Hindi dialects that, when adapted for English, is sex on a pogo stick…” Ent?

Screen legends

Sam Mendes, Steve McQueen, John Logie Baird & their Trini roots

Long before Sam Mendes and Steve McQueen (both British directors of Trinidadian descent) won Oscars for American Beauty and 12 Years a Slave, Scottish engineer John Logie Baird is said to have produced the world’s first television set on a cocoa estate in Santa Cruz, Trinidad around 1920. There are also several actors of Trinbagonian descent who have made their marks in Hollywood — not to mention the ones that have also done well in places like the UK and Canada. We look at some of those well-known Hollywood actors here.

Stuff of literary legend

It’s almost certain that Daniel Defoe used Tobago as the basis for the island in his classic novel Robinson Crusoe; some claim Robert Louis Stevenson did the same for Treasure Island. There’s even a spot near Crown Point that pays homage, called Crusoe’s Cave.

Lopinot estate and historical complex in Trinidad. Photo: William Barrow

The beautiful Lopinot estate and historical complex in Trinidad. Featured on the Ghost Hunters International television show, it is said to be haunted, with the Compte de Lopinot riding the estate on his horse at the full moon. Photo: William Barrow

The ghost of Lopinot

The greatest amount of paranormal activity in the world…? 👀

Legend has it that on dark, stormy nights, the Compte Charles Joseph de Lopinot appears on a black horse, dressed in military regalia, and gallops across the Lopinot savannah — the site of the cocoa and coffee estate he established around 1806 after he fled to Trinidad to escape the Haitian revolution. He died in 1819. After a visit in 2011, TV show Ghost Hunters International (SYFY Channel in the US) reported that they had found more evidence of paranormal activity here than anywhere else in the world. Incidentally, the Ghost Hunters also tracked down some spine-tingling phenomena Down the Islands in Chacachacare, Trinidad…

Film location Trinidad & Tobago

But ghosts aren’t the only reason that film crews come to Trinidad and Tobago. A range of local and international films have been shot on location here — Fire Down Below (1957), Swiss Family Robinson (1960), The Hummingbird Tree (1992), The Mystic Masseur (2001), Limbo (2010), Home Again (2013), among others.

The Swiss Family Robinson

The classic 1960s film Swiss Family Robinson was shot entirely on location in Tobago. The iconic treehouse used in the film was constructed around a majestic samaan tree that is said to still exist near Goldsborough Bay, on the property of Roberts Auto Service and Tyre Shop in Goodwood. The film’s director, Ken Annakin, instantly fell in love when location scouting, after also visiting Jamaica and Trinidad and finding them unsuitable. Lead actor John Mills was also in high praise of his Tobago adventure: “I’ve been all over the world to shooting locations, and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a more lovely location … Unlike a sugar island like Barbados, it was lush; the scenery was varied and very beautiful. I was lucky to see it before it became popular, with the inevitable golf course and noisy water sports. It was simple and totally unspoilt: miles of empty golden beaches lapped by the sea which was full of exotic and highly-coloured fish that, as they were never shot, were so tame they poked their noses against our facemasks as we swam amongst them.”

Sir Attenborough’s The Trials of Life

Sir David Attenborough filmed many bird sequences from his acclaimed documentary The Trials of Life here in Trinidad. It’s one of many documentaries that have been shot here which explore T&T’s wildlife and natural environment.

Peter Minshall: AirDancers to the world

AirDancers? What are air dancers? Also known as “SkyDancers”, these inflatable, dancing, icons may now be best known as dancing baloons that are often used as eye-catching advertising and branding. They were originally conceptualised as “Tall Boys” for the 1996 Summer Olympic Opening Ceremony by Trinidadian artist Peter Minshall, with a team that included Israeli artist Doron Gazit (who controversially patented the “flygyuys” concept in 2001 — without Minshall).

The Pitch Lake. Photo courtesy TDC

The Pitch Lake. Photo courtesy TDC

A very special pitch lake

It might, to some, just look like a giant car park. But the Pitch Lake at La Brea is one of only three natural asphalt lakes in the world (the other two are in Venezuela and California). Some claim it is the largest. The result of a fault in the sandstone 250 feet down, through which crude oil or bitumen seeps, the pitch has been exported for decades, for use on roofs and road surfaces. Though you can walk on its surface, objects have been swallowed up, sometimes reappearing years later as the pitch slowly swirls. The island’s First Peoples are said to have believed that the Pitch Lake was created by the Good Spirit to drown a village whose people had sinned by killing too many hummingbirds.

Trinis musicians to the world

Multiple award-winning rap/hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj; Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Angela Hunte (who co-wrote “Empire State of Mind”, performed by Jay Z featuring Alicia Keys); Tony and Grammy winning singer/actress Heather Headley (read our full interview with her here); and the late, celebrated performer Geoffrey Holder are all Trinidadian. Cardi B is also half-Trinidadian. For a list of national icons and heroes, click here!

Winston Duke. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Winston Duke. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

M’Baku love

And it’s not just The towering talent named Winston Duke, who plays M’Baku in Marvel’s Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War was proudly born in Tobago. Read our full interview with Winston here. And you can learn about several more actors of Trini heritage here!

The Moruga Scorpion Pepper

We like it hot, hot, hot

The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper was ranked as the world’s hottest pepper by the Guinness Book of Records.

Award-winning destination

Tobago has won many awards as a top destination for eco-tourism, including four World Travel Awards (two for being the world’s leading eco-tourism destination).

Divers adore the reefs off Tobago. Courtesy The Division of Tourism and Transportation.

Tobago’s coastal waters are rich in nutrients brought by the Guyana Current, which produce an abundance of plankton – food for massive shoals of small fry, which in turn feed large fish, such as jacks, barracuda, wahoo, tarpon and tuna. Courtesy The Division of Tourism and Transportation.

The third most spectacular coral reef in the world

The Buccoo Reef/Bon Accord Lagoon Complex is the island’s first Ramsar Site, recognised as a wetland of international importance. Buccoo Reef was once rated by legendary French oceanographer and explorer Jacques Cousteau as the third most spectacular reef in the world. Like many reefs worldwide, Buccoo has suffered from the impacts of climate change and human activity. Plans were announced in 2015 for an underwater sculpture park to help support restoration efforts.

Men of science

Meet Doctors Pawan and Achong

Trinidadian Dr Joseph Lennox Pawan discovered the transmission of rabies by vampire bats to humans in 1933, leading to the development of a vaccine for the virus. Other Trinis have made significant contributions to modern science, including Dr Bertrand Achong, co-discoverer of the Epstein-Barr Virus.

Guppy love

Still on the science front, British-born naturalist Robert John Lechmere Guppy (whose father served as Mayor of San Fernando) is credited with discovering the girardinus guppii (commonly known as guppy fish) in Trinidad in 1866. As you probably guessed, the fish was named after him. While in Trinidad, he married Alice Rostant — the daughter of local planters descended from French aristocrats who had fled to Trinidad during the French Revolution. Guppy died in San Fernando.

Glass-bottom boats anchor at the Nylon Pool in Tobago

Glass-bottom boats anchor at the Nylon Pool in Tobago. Photo courtesy Radical Sports Tobago

About the Nylon Pool…

The Nylon Pool’s name is said to have come from Princess Margaret, who claimed the water was as clear as her nylon stockings. We’ll also bet money that when you take a tour to Buccoo Reef and the Nylon Pool, your tour guide will tell you tales about the power of the waters to keep couples in love forever, to help you find your soul mate, and to heal the sick. Which certainly can’t hurt, can it?

The finest cocoa

Trinidad & Tobago’s fine flavour cocoa is some of the best in the world. It won first prize in the category of “spicy” in the prestigious Salut du Chocolat in Paris, France, in 2011. Entrepreneurs, particularly in Tobago, have been working on creating delicious, locally branded chocolate from cocoa grown right here.

Gingerbread houses

The recently refurbished George Brown House and Gingerbread House (near All Saints’ Church) have delicate wooden filigree, jalousie windows, peaked roofs, dormers and a gallery. George Brown, a Scottish architect who came to Trinidad in 1880, created the “gingerbread style”, which can be found across the island, in remnants of stately mansions once owned by planters and merchants, as well as the cottages of the poor.

Angostura's Evening Clencher (left) and Trini breakfast (right)

Angostura’s Evening Clencher (left) and Trini breakfast (right)

Home of the world-famous Angostura Bitters

The world-renowned Angostura Bitters, while first formulated by Dr JGB Siegert in Venezuela, has been manufactured in and exported from Trinidad since 1875. Siegert and his family — and the family business — migrated to the island around that time. The Port of Spain company, the House of Angostura, has kept their legendary recipe a secret since 1824.

Iere vibes

Some say the name originally given to Trinidad by the First People was “Iere”; others say it was “Kairi”. Some say the original name for the island meant “Land of the Hummingbird”. There are 19 species on the islands (two discovered since just 2015), and Trinidad and Tobago remains a prime destination for bird watchers.

Petrochemical titan

Trinidad & Tobago has an impressive record in the petrochemical industry. The largest oil and natural gas producer in the Caribbean, with one of the largest natural gas processing facilities in the western hemisphere, T&T was identified as the world’s sixth largest LNG (liquefied natural gas) exporter (BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2015), and was the largest exporter of LNG to the USA, accounting for 71% of their LNG imports. The country also was, for many years, the world’s largest exporter of ammonia and the second largest exporter of methanol (IHS Global Insight 2013). While this industrial strength had made T&T the wealthiest nation in the Caribbean, and the third richest in the Americas after the US and Canada (by GDP per capita), emphasis on oil and gas production and consumption also made the nation the second highest per capita producer of greenhouse emissions (after Qatar), and the second highest producer per unit of GDP (after Uzbekistan).

“Marisa’s Move” — into the gymnastics history books

An 18-year-old Trini-Canadian gymnast Marisa Dick, who was representing team Trinidad & Tobago in international competition (and became the first local gymnast to represent T&T, albeit under controversial circumstances), debuted a mount on to the balance beam at the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow, Scotland that had never been done before. The move bearing her name gained became part of the official Code of Points, which governs the scoring systems at each level of competition in gymnastics.

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  1. Marc Gaston-Johnston 17 April, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Very cool article. More pictures would be a nice addition


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