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Last updated on July 14, 2022
The Tobago Cays are a group of 5 islets sheltered by a horseshoe-shaped coral reef located in the Grenadines archipelago. Their white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters make them one of the most enjoyable ports of call in the Caribbean. As they are protected by a Marine Park, the Tobago Cays also are a paradise for snorkelers. They are especially notorious for the green sea turtles that gather in great numbers right under the water surface.
The Tobago Cays can only be accessed by boat. Many companies offer day tours from Saint-Vincent and the main Grenadines islands (including Union, Bequia and Canouan). Tours usually include drinks, a barbecue on the beach and provide snorkeling gear.
The Tobago Cays can also be reached by water taxi, mainly from Mayreau island (this is the cheapest and fastest way, as Mayreau is located only 3km west of the Cays), but also from Union and Canouan islands.
Once the boat drops you at the main island of Petit Bateau, you can still book a snorkeling tour or ask to be taken to Baradal island (more information further down). Lastly, if you happen to visit the Grenadines during a cruise, Tobago Cays are a must-see and no boat forgets to stop here.
If you want to encounter sea turtles, we recommend entering the water from the small beach located at Baradal island’s southern tip. This beach faces a swimming area marked by buoys and forbidden to boats, that turtles like a lot (zone 1 on the map). Some guides will drive their boats directly to this area.
To explore the Horseshoe Reef coral seabed (zone 2 on the map), you must enter the water from a boat. Swimming to the reef from Baradal island is not recommended.
There are two main snorkeling areas in the Tobago Cays:
1. The sand and seagrass meadows area extending off Baradal island’s west coast (zone 1). This place is simply one of the best in the whole Caribbean area to snorkel with green sea turtles. Once in the water, you probably won’t have to search for long: turtles are so numerous around the islet that you’re certain to spot them during your snorkeling.
They are often seen grazing on seagrass or taking a rest on the sand (↕6-12ft/2-4 m). Turtles can even sometimes be seen sunbathing right under the surface of the sea. As usual when observing sea turtles, follow one simple rule: wherever you spot them, do not touch them.
2. The horseshoe reef, a half-circle shaped coral reef surrounding 4 of the 5 Tobago Cays islands (zone 2). The shallow and sheltered inside of this several kilometer-long barrier is perfect for snorkeling. As it is very preserved, it is also a great place for discovering reef sea life. The seabed is covered with coral and sea fans attracting parrotfish, boxfish, surgeonfish, schools of grunts and even a few small barracudas.
There are two restaurants on Petit Bateau island (Alphonso’s Lobster BBQ and Romeo’s Beach BBQ). Those are the only food options onsite since Tobago Cays are uninhabited. However, refreshments, snacks, and a barbecue are included in most day excursions. Make sure of this when booking.
Sea turtles are a very familiar sight in the Tobago Cays. In order to be a responsible snorkeler, be sure to respect the following rules when observing them:
These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.
This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Shallow lagoon with colorful fish
Fringing reef with colorful fish and sea stars
Free shore access
Cliffs and reef drop off with colorful fish
Free shore access
Concrete structures supporting dense reef life
Shallow seagrass beds and coral patches
Shallow reef with coral and fish