Located in the West Indies of the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago comprises two main islands – Trinidad and Tobago – and a handful of smaller islands. This twin-island republic boasts everything you expect from a Caribbean island – palm-fringed sugar-soft beaches, staggering biodiversity and year-round sunshine. Considering heading here for some winter sunshine? We’ll wager there are quite a few things you don’t know about the idyllic nation-state. From the world’s hottest chilli-pepper to the first black Miss Universe, here are a few interesting facts about Trinidad and Tobago that might surprise you.
Interesting facts about Trinidad and Tobago
1. It’s home to the world’s hottest chilli pepper.
The Moruga Scorpion pepper has a heat rating of 1.2 million Scoville heat units (SHUs). According to the experts (New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute), that makes it the hottest chilli pepper in the world.It contains the same amount of capsaicin — the chemical compound in peppers that makes them burn by activating heat receptors in human nerve endings — as a shot glass full of law enforcement-grade pepper spray. Intrigued to see what eating one will do to you? Save yourself the pain and watch the Pepper Heads try it first.
The pepper takes its name from the place it was first grown, in the southern village of Moruga. It’s also credited with being the landing place of Christopher Columbus.
2 We have Trinidad and Tobago to thank for the limbo
Beloved by both excitable tweens and drink-fuelled middle-aged party goers, the limbo is a party classic. But did you know that it originated in Trinidad and Tobago? It’s rooted in the country’s African heritage and would see dancers cross beneath a stick, occasionally set on fire, to as little as 22 cm above the ground.
3. Trinidad and Tobago is home to the world’s largest natural deposit of asphalt
The La Brea Pitch Lake, located in southwest Trinidad, holds around 10 million tons of asphalt. Informally recognised as the eighth natural wonder of the world, the lake is also one of the world’s only three known asphalt deposits. Spanning some 109 acres, visitors can even walk over the surface as it hisses and bubbles. The asphalt is used to create pavements and runways across the world, including the walkway to Buckingham Palace and the Lincoln Tunnel. Recent research found living microbes beneath the surface too. During the rainy season, some claim that the small pools of water that form on the surface are healing due to their high levels of sulfur.
Native Americans believed the gods created the lake as a punishment. The story tells that the lake swallowed an entire tribe after they ate hummingbirds, which were believed to be the souls of their departed ancestors. Experts have found numerous artefacts on the site.
4. It’s home to astonishing biodiversity
Trinidad and Tobago is a haven for wildlife watchers, home to an estimated 2,200 species of flowering plants, 400 species of birds, 100 species of mammals, 85 species of reptiles, as well as 30 species of amphibians. It’s also home to the highest number of bird species per square mile too, including 17 kinds of hummingbirds. Trinidad’s Grande Riviere beach is home to the second-largest turtle nesting in the world, with turtles arriving between March and September to lay their eggs. Sadly, thousands of baby turtles died during botched construction work in 2012.
There’s action underwater too. Trinidad and Tobago is home to the world’s largest brand coral, the Kelleston Drain, which measures a phenomenal 4.9 metres wide. While most people head to Trinidad for the best wildlife watching, Tobago is brimming with opportunities too. The Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve, founded in 1776, is the oldest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere.
5. Trinidad and Tobago invented the only new musical instrument in the 20th century
Made from metal parts such as paint pots, oil drums and biscuit tins, the steel pan is the only new acoustic instrument that emerged in the 20th century. Drumming has always played an important role in local culture, particularly during Carnival and Canboulay. Fearing they might be used to encourage protests after slavery was abolished, the ruling classes banned drums. In the 1930s, people started experimenting with garbage lids and beating biscuit tins and the steel pan was born. The pan continued to develop — particularly with the proliferation of oil drums in the 1940s — and today it is a national instrument.
6. The first black winner of Miss Universe is from Trinidad and Tobago
In 1977, a then 24-year old called Janelle Commissiong won the title of Miss Universe.
Trinidad and Tobago has produced a number of world-famous athletes, musicians and politicians too. The legendary cricketer Brian Lara, widely considered one of the world’s greatest batsmen, is also from Trinidad and Tobago. Pop sensation Nicki Minaj was born in Trinidad and Tobago too but moved to the USA when she was five years old.
7. Its’s one of the wealthiest Caribbean islands but it has the highest murder rates
Trinidad and Tobago has huge reserves of oil and natural gas. Much of the economy is dependent on petroleum and petrochemicals. The World Bank recognises it as a high-income economy; it’s the third wealthiest in the Caribbean and the fifth-richest by GDP (PPP) per capita in the Americas. As well as oil and gas, the country is home to 1.94 tonnes of gold reserves, the fourth-largest in the Caribbean.
However, it also has the tenth highest murder rate in the world. In 2015 the murder rate was 30.9 homicides per 100,000 people making it the 10th highest in the world.