Nestled on a private bay in Speyside, about as far from the airport on Tobago as you can get, stands Blue Waters Inn.
The history of the site begins in 1830 with the purchase of the land by English born naturalist, William Sanger Tucker. The 46-acre estate went through many transformations- sugar plantation, animal sanctuary, bird watching hotel (The original Bird of Paradise Inn), Spearfishing school (Camp Crusoe), Boy Scout’s camp. It also changed hands many times, mostly an asset of the Tucker descendants, but spending a brief stint in the hands of the famous Guinness family dynasty. Dotted around the resort you can find personal tokens to current family members and in that regard, the resort feels like it is still very much family owned and run.
The resort is made up of a variety of accommodation types: bungalows, beachfront room and deluxe beachfront rooms which have their own catering facilities. The beachfront rooms are housed in one of two two storey blocks just off the main part of the hotel – between the restaurant and bar and the dive shop. The bungalows are at the opposite end of the resort, to the side of the swimming pool.
Courtesy of a social media promotion the hotel was running, we had managed a free upgrade for the time we were there – upgrading us from a superior beachfront room to a deluxe beachfront room. Happy days.
Flying in on the direct, 11 hour, BA flight (well, via a tiny stop in Antigua) we landed at late afternoon. Having provided the hotel with our flight details we’d arranged a transfer with them directly and were told our driver would be waiting for us. An hour of waiting around and two increasingly irritated calls to the hotel and finally he arrived, explaining he’d taken a customer to the chocolate shop first….did I mention it was an 11 hour flight, and 28ish degrees when we landed and there was nowhere to wait and that the drive was 2 hours…? The driver, although apologetic did proceed to ask us if we wanted to stop for beers, food etc….I think he’d missed the point of turning up on time as we might have been more inclined to pick up a couple of cold ones had he been there at the appointed time.
After a very windy drive (not for the faint hearted or those who get travel sick) we arrived at the resort. Check in was efficient yet there was noone to help us with our bags. A walk up to our room (including stairs) we were left. It didn’t look much like the deluxe room in the photos, but by this point we were both so tired and hungry that I didn’t pay much attention. We did a rapid bit of unpacking and changed and headed for the only sensible place, the bar.
The hotel was quiet when we were there at the end of September and definitely not full, although we did have a couple of friends there who had rented their own vehicle (NB: I’d highly recommend this).
The following morning the sun was shining and following breakfast we made our way to the dive shop, Blue Waters Dive’N to sign up, grab some kit and figure out how soon we could get out underwater. The staff were great, Kiki, Joel Tian and the team are experienced, professional yet laid back and relaxed in that Caribbean way. Being an AOW diver I was easy to sign up – grab some kit, throw it in a box and I was ready to go the following day. My friend, wanting to get his OW licence, had already done the theory and pool sessions in the UK and had a little bit of paperwork and logistics to navigate but he was processed quickly. Tian, the dive center manager, who also masquerades as one of the three hotel managers, would be taking him on a 1 on 1 OW course.
That evening, being rainy season, it rained. Properly. Happily we were sat in the bar / restaurant and it didn’t affect us The bar staff were great and with sports on tv and a range of games in the games room, the rain kept away the mozzies and life was generally good. On getting back to the room there was a large puddle on the floor. Slightly bemused I originally thought it was from the AC, until it started raining again and I realised the roof was leaking….after some slightly dismissive comments from the reception staff when I pointed this out, I did some digging on whether we were in the right room. Lo and behold, the following day we were moved and put in what should have been our original room.
The diving from the resort really is the best part about it. Two dives per day see qualified divers visit sites from the beginners Angel Reef, to intermediate and advanced drift dives such as Japanese Gardens, London Bridge and Blackjack Hole. The sites on the north and west of the island really are weather dependent as the swell can be rather large and intimidating. The dive staff always ran a proper briefing on the site and the conditions, although through some slightly stubborn divers, some of the dives were cut short for some. I know my friend really loved the five open water dives that he had to do to get his licence and was chuffed when they finally let him out with the rest of us. Sea life is plentiful – stingrays and graceful eagle rays, turtles, sharks, stonefish, nudibranchs, moray eels, octopuses…the staff can be influenced if there is a site you want to do (provided that all customers can be catered for).
Feeling like we had slight cabin fever after not leaving the resort for a couple of days, we hired a car from midweek and arranged to drop it back at the airport. This meant we could escape to the local village for food as well as spend the afternoons seeing more of the island. The island is home to only about 50,000 people and is easily navigable in a day or two being approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) long and 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) wide. This doesn’t mean the roads are all as well maintained as others and many are very windy. We explored out to Charlottesville (eat at the Suckhole – the food and beers are cheap and plentiful), Englishman’s Bay and Castara as well as the local Speyside restaurants. Jemmas and Birdwatchers are the well known one, but there are a couple on the main road which although perhaps don’t look open, by stopping outside will cause the owner to run overt the road and explain what is on the menu of the day. Try Redman’s – there’s no liquor licence here, but you can take your own. If you want the local delicacy of crab and dumplings then here is the tavern to place an advance order and come back. Truly delicious and exceptionally friendly.
Escaping and eating elsewhere certainly showed us that the food in the hotel, whilst of good enough quality, was slow and expensive. The menu probably needs pruning back and in the low season, they probably need a couple more staff so that you’re not left waiting for hours. On one day my friend had been out fishing and had brought back 4 large tuna fillets. We had one for lunch that day and asked that the rest be put into the fridge and used if other guests asked. When we went back that night and thought sushi would be nice for a light dinner, the fish had disappeared, never to be seen again. Given the low numbers of staff around we can only guess where this went.
This hotel does come up on a variety of holiday company lists. I’m sure that in high season when the staff are up to full complement, then this hotel runs well, however, in low season, it feels like it needs a bit of a shake. The diving is really the high point of this hotel. The rooms are hit and miss and need some TLC to fix lighting, missing items and dodgy door locks. Many rooms also are missing a safety deposit box. My comments on the restaurant are above. The road down to the hotel is steep and single track and I’d not feel comfortable walking up here in the dark until they fix the street-lighting. My biggest grievance is the state of the beach. Given that this beach is private there should be no excuse for the amount of litter, especially plastic, that you see. I was met with bemusement when I asked the reception one lunchtime for a rubbish bag so that I could pick up the litter. An hour later I’d picked up most of the plastic and filled two bags….this prompted two gardeners to rake up the debris on the beach (mainly palm fronds and coconuts) and pick it up, slightly missing the point, but a start nonetheless. There are signs that some of the staff are trying, but whether it will work with the attitudes of some of the others remains to be seen.