Tobago / Special Interests / Carnivals & Festivals
Tobago offers a varied roll-call of activities with music and heritage festivals, but one of the most unusual events is its annual goat-racing festival. The island’s carnival can’t really compete with the world-famous festivities over at Trinidad next door, but it is a fun event in its own right.
Carnival - Carnival in Tobago is not as big as in Trinidad (one of the biggest in the world), but if you are on island at the beginning of Lent when it takes place, then it is lively and well worth attending, even during the run-up to the main event. Two things well worth looking out for before the main festivities are the panyards, which are practising in January and February, and the calypso tents. See an article about steel pan in Trinidad.
The main festivities in Tobago begin on the weekend before Mardi Gras. There are Kings and Queens of the Bands shows (the Kings and Queens are the huge mannequins that are the centrepieces of each of the carnival “bands” in the parade). Then, early on Monday, at about 4am or 5am, the dancing starts. The crowds spill out of the parties on to the streets of Scarborough for j’ouvert. Then for the next two days the revellers “chip” through the streets of Scarborough in their carnival bands, led by musical bands on trucks. It all culminates on Tuesday at midnight.
If you notice an influx of exhausted-looking people arriving in Tobago on the Wednesday after Carnival, they have probably come over from Trinidad to relax after four days of non-stop dancing at carnival in Port of Spain.
There are also carnival-like festivities (a J’ouvert morning at least) in Plymouth during the Tobago Heritage Festival in July and Tobago Fest in September.
Buccoo Goat Race Festival - One of Tobago’s more novel activities, and one that you’ll be unlikely to find on the other islands, is goat racing which takes place at Tobago’s new Goat Racing Stadium in Buccoo around Easter. There’s also crab racing and other recreational activities,
Annual Tobago Jazz Experience - Held in April, with performances at picturesque settings across the island over four days. Performers have included Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan and Randy Crawford.
Tobago Heritage Festival - Two weeks of cultural displays of music, storytelling, dance, food and local traditions held in July.
Read Carnivals & Festivals articles
A look at the wonder of Trinidad Carnival, including the venues, dances and all important costumes.
What makes up a typical week over Trinidad Carnival?
The Greatest Party On Earth - Trinidad carnival pictures of costumes, bands and people
For those who are feeling a little jaded about the oncoming Christmas festivities and are harbouring a belief that the magic has all but gone, maybe a trip to the Caribbean is just the ticket …
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Looking for inspiration?
- Visit the oldest protected rainforest in the Western Hemisphere
- Head to Buccoo for some Goat Racing and the Sunday School street party
- Scuba dive around Speyside and maybe spot a manta ray or whale shark
- Try your hand at a day's sport fishing for the whopping Blue Marlin
- Learn about Tobago's history at Fort King George, Scarborough