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January 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 29, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Manta Lodge / World of Watersports, Tobago

a tiny isle with some of the Caribbean’s best diving

from the January, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

When I told Ben Davison I was headed to Tobago -- that tiny partner of Trinidad, just 50 miles off of Venezuela's coast -- and would do a story on the diving there, he got grumpy. Having been there a couple times, he considered it one of the great Caribbean dive spots, and he loved the island as well. He wanted to return and write an article himself, but there were too many other spots on his wish list; however, Undercurrent readers ought to know about Tobago. "Oh, go ahead, damn it," he told me.

Back-rolling off the 32-foot dive vessel Another into the Coral Gardens at Kelleston Drain, I was in a bubbly mush of seawater caused by an active ocean. But a few feet down, with no current, the vista opened up to a seascape of dozens of large azure vase sponges, up to five feet tall. The dense coral coverage showcased large numbers of colorful tropical fish, as well as the largest brain coral in the world (so they say) that is several centuries old, and 10 feet tall by 16 feet wide -- impressive and incredible! A spotted eagle ray cruised by. Queen, French and gray angelfish abounded in the 84-degree water. Ben was right.

Manta Lodge's AnotherWith luggage in hand, I exited the small Tobago terminal on a balmy September night at 11:30 p.m. Clyde Robinson was holding a sign with my name. Ninety minutes and 26 miles later, over winding and potholed roads, I arrived at Manta Lodge in Speyside, a tiny village on the Atlantic side of the island with a few restaurants, sheep, and a high school. The lodge is base for Sean Robinson's Tobago Dive Experience, and he also operates World of Water Sports on the southern end of the island. Teaching diving at the International School in Trinidad (for free) consumes a lot of his time. Sean's counterpart is his father, Clyde, who has a more practical approach to business, while his son's passion is all things diving. They are both characters of the first order.

Manta Lodge / World of Watersports, TobagoOnly the next morning did I see across the road the beautiful views of Goat Island and Little Tobago Island. In the flowering trees and bushes, hummingbirds zipped crazily. Manta Lodge exudes gracious Caribbean charm and the wear of a salty environment. There is a small pool at the lodge, doubling for training divers and cooling off. With no doors to hinder entry to the reception, dining room and bar area, the openness is welcoming. A mother pooch and her two teenage pups eagerly greet visitors; so does Clyde, who has a ready wave and smile. From Clyde's numerous stories, I gather that the 90s was the heyday for the 22-room lodge, with laughing guests ready to enjoy world-class diving or birding, and recapping their day at the Lodge's Moray Eel bar. In contrast, I was the only guest for four of my fivenight low-season stay. In the middle of the night when the wind blew open my patio door, I felt the lodge's emptiness. However, the soothing sounds of waves gently crashing, birds calling and frogs singing lulled me back to sleep. All rooms face the ocean, and back onto the rainforest. My room was clean and comfortable, with a king and single bed, desk, lounge chair, air conditioner, ceiling fan and plenty of hot water. The lodge needs a lot of repairs and updating, but it has that certain Caribbean charm....

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