Tobago Buccoo Reef - Coral Reefs In Tobago

The coastal waters of Trinidad and Tobago abound with coral reefs. There are about 735 species of reef-building or hermatypic corals the world over of which 39 are known to exist in the waters around Trinidad and Tobago. The reefs are as fragile as they are beautiful and visitors must take care not to break off bits of coral as they pass by. In Tobago, coral reef-associated tourism and recreation and shoreline protection services in particular make a significant contribution to the island’s economy when compared to GDP.
Trinidad and Tobago abound with coral reefs
The most famous of these is the spectacular Buccoo Reef, situated in the Southwest of Tobago which is built from more than ten thousand years of coralline growth and reef formation. Visitors to Buccoo Reef can view this under-water haven through glass-bottomed boats. Those skilled in snorkelling and scuba diving can enjoy a closer look. Buccoo Reef is an over populated area of snorkels and glass bottomed boats, a human aquarium with corals that have deteriorated as this end of the island. Buccoo Bay is very touristy.

Even more aesthetically-pleasing reefs are to be found at Speyside and Man-of-War Bay in Tobago. At Speyside the Speyside Bay Reef, Big Reef and Bad Weather Rocks Reef are excellent dive locations for those with diving skills. The Charlotteville Alcyonarian Reef provides an opportunity to examine a type of reef that is peculiar only to the Caribbean region.

The enchanting, rainbow-coloured underwater world owes much to the corals which are themselves brightly coloured ranging from red through orange to greyish-white. They are inhabited by swarms of countless, multi coloured fish and other fascinating marine creatures. The coral reef habitat in Buccoo and Speyside Reefs for example boast an array of brilliantly coloured fish including parrot fish, butterfly fish, toadfish, and angel fish. It abounds with flamboyant sea whips, fans, basket stars, molluscs, sea eggs, sea anemones and sponges and various marine algae. The Brain Coral found in the waters at Speyside are among the largest in the world.

The waters around Trinidad has numerous reef communities on the north and east coasts but only one reef formation because they are less salty and more heavily silt laden. Located in Salybia on the North Coast near Toco, it is a fringing Reef like those at Speyside in Tobago. It is inhabited by a large number of lobsters.

Coral reefs are an important attraction for tourists visiting Tobago, with over half of all international tourists visiting the Buccoo Reef and many engaging in diving and snorkeling on many of the island’s reefs. Visiting white sand beaches of coralline origin is also popular with both visitors to the island and local residents.

Buccoo Reef receives an estimated 45,000 visitors every year. Glass-bottom-boat tours of Buccoo Reef typically include a stop at Coral Gardens, where the boat anchors on sand adjacent to the coral formations to allow passengers to snorkel over the Coral Gardens. Start at the sandy shores of Pigeon Point and board a glass bottom boat to travel gracefully to the Buccoo Reef. Swim in the crystal clear waters of the nylon pool, snorkel amongst the beautiful fish and view the enchanting coral gardens.

The Coral Gardens can be found inside the Bucco Lagoon which is formed by the coral reef running around the Bon Accord Lagoon at Pigeon Point heritage Park - there are glass bottom boat trips everyday from the Pigeon Point Jetty. It is recommended that you look to spend the day here swimming sunning and snorkeling.

Buccoo Reef is a protected marine park between Pigeon Point and Buccoo Point. Daily tours by glass-bottomed boats allow even non-swimmers to view the reef. When snorkeling, be careful not to step on, touch or break the coral formations.

Coral reefs play a vital role protecting this shoreline from both routine waves as well as the harsher conditions associated with storms. About 50 percent of Tobago’s shoreline is protected by coral reefs. (Reef protected shoreline is shown as magenta and purple lines in the map below).
Tobago’s shoreline protection by Coral reefs In Tobago.

  • Tours to the reefs can made by contacting the following tour operators:

    • Check Association of Tobago Dive Operators -

      ATDO Certified Full and Allied Members Dive Shops, Scuba Diving Operators and Diver Training Centers

    • Tobago Coral Reef Operators:

      Recently Tobago Coral Reef Operators Limited at the Store Bay Beach Facilities has been lauched. The company comprise boat operators who ferry visitors to the world famous Buccoo Reef from Store Bay and the Pigeon Point Heritage Park on a daily basis. The operators have come together to standardise their service.

      There's now just one central location for puchasing tickets to visit Buccoo Reef, Coral Gardens & the Nylon Pool. Booth #15 at Store Bay. Under the new system hustlers will no longer be permitted at the entrances to Store Bay to harass would be visitors to the reef. Tickets will be sold at Booth No 15 and visitors will be taken to the loading area by ushers employed by the Tourism Division. The return voyage to the reef will now cost $90 for an adult and $45 for a child to go to the world famous Buccoo Reef.
      Skill Level: Beginner

    • Tobago Tour Guides

      Anyone can call him/herself a tour guide. Here's a list of knowledgeable and environmentally sensitive guides:

      • David Rooks - P. O. Box 348, Scarborough, Tobago, West Indies (868) 639-4276 (speciality: birds)
      • Pioneer Journeys - Pat Turpin, Charlotteville, Tobago, West Indies (868) 660-4327
      • Renson Jack - Delaford, Tobago, West Indies (868) 660-5175 (speciality: plants)
      • William Trim - Goldsborough, c/o Goodwood Post Office, Tobago, West Indies (868) 660-5529
      • Newton George - (868) 660-5463 (specialty: birds)

      This list is far from comprehensive. We presently have no mechanism by which to evaluate tour guides. The above guides are known to us or have been recommended to us. More details about this list visit: Environment TOBAGO (ET)

    • Trinidad and Tobago Tourism Industry Certification (TTTIC) certified tour guide
    • Visit: TRINIDAD & TOBAGO IN BRIEF - Here you will find official tourism service providers list to find out reliable environment friendly Trinidad & Tobago Tour Operators
    • Palmhaven Villa and Some reliable tour guides to arrange an activity/tour or service
    • Tobago Ecological Conservation Organizations
    • Eco Adventure Tour Operators In Trinidad
    • Cruising Guide to Trinidad & Tobago
    • Here are some more tour operators you may check:
      Hews-Tours
      53 Coral Lane,
      Coral Garden Buccoo, Tobago, West Indies
      Phone: 1 868 639 9058
      http://www.hews-tours.com/

      Scuba Adventure Safari - Dive Tobago
      Pigeon Pt., Tobago, W.I., Rex Turtle Beach Hotel, Plymouth, Tobago, W.I.
      Phone: (868) 660-PROS (7767) CELL (868) 620-9285 or (868) 639 (DIVE) 3483, (868) 660-REEF (7333)
      Email: i...@divetobago.com
      http://www.divetobago.com/

      Charlotteville Shark Shacks and Adventure Dive Center - Formerly Man Friday Dive Centre
      Address: Northside Road, Campbleton, Charlotteville
      Telephone No: (868) 757-3666
      Cellphone: (868) 730 1852
      e-mail: shar...@hotmail.com , dive...@hotmail.com
      Website: http://www.shark-shacks.com/

      A.J.M. Tours Ltd.
      Offer Argyle Falls, Main Ridge Forest Reserve, Buccoo Reef, Little Tobago, bird watching tour
      Crown Point Airport, Crown Point, Tobago
      Postal Address: P.O. Box 471, Port of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies
      Tel/Fax: (868) 625-3732
      Tel: (868) 639-0610
      Fax: (868) 639-8918
      E-mail: ajmt...@trinidad.net

      Teds Sunshine Enterprises Tobago

      Frankie Tours & Rentals
      Mt. Irvine Beach Facilities Car Park, Tobago- West Indies
      Phone: (1 868)631-0369, 394-4553, 681-3717
      http://www.frankietours.com/

      Zoe Reef & Snorkelling Tours on the bays of Tobago
      Phone: (868) 639 1710
      e-mail: pet...@zoe-tobago.com
      http://www.zoe-tobago.com/

      King David Tours
      Offeers Fishing, Snorkelling, Reef Tours, Rainforest Tours, Birdwatching, Hiking, Fishing, Tankfree Diving
      Contact - David Williams
      Bay Road, in the fishing village of Castara, midway along the North-Western coast of Tobago
      Phone: 868-660-7906
      Mobile: 868-351-6552, 763 4080
      Email:kingbago100@yahoo.com , flog...@tstt.net.tt
      Website: http://www.kingdavidcastaratobago.com/

Tobago Buccoo Coral Reef Conservation Tips

Never touch coral. The coral polyps can be killed or damaged by the lightest touch of your body or equipment. If you must grab hold of something, make sure it is only exposed rock or dead coral. Apart from conservation, think about your own health. Scratches from coral can lead to highly painful infectious wounds that can ruin a holiday.

Only use gentle fin strokes when near the reef or close to the bottom. If you feel something with your fins, don’t panic or start kicking all the harder, just swim away gently. The surge from heavy strokes can damage the reef or kick up clouds of sand which can smother delicate organisms.

Don’t collect coral or shells, even if they are dead and discarded. They are all part of the wonderful underwater landscape that you have come to Tobago to enjoy and even what you may consider to be dead has an integral part of this finely balanced ecosystem.

Do not buy coral or sea shells from shops or itinerant beach traders. By doing so, you are encouraging the suppliers to plunder Tobago’s resources. If you are concerned about your own diving skills or your impact on the environment, then you should consider further training, like PADI’s advanced course Peak Performance Buoyancy or Underwater Naturalist.

Please help to preserve Tobago's reefs:

  • Do not walk on reefs - even if offered plastic shoes by reef tour operators.
  • When snorkeling or scuba diving do not touch anything.
  • Mind your fins - corals are very delicate.
  • Some of Tobago's sites are for experienced divers only - so dive with a registered operator who will know which area suits you best.
  • Spear fishing is strongly discouraged
  • Please do not drop anchor on coral reefs - anchor on sand or use a mooring
  • Finally, make sure you use a biodegradable sun screen like Ultrasun.

Ask around, some tour operators are environmentally responsible, some are not. If you select a tour operator who follows the Buccoo Reef Trust guidelines for sustainable reef tourism, you'll know you're getting the best.