Established in 1995 (Great Tobago) 1998 (Little Tobago) | Areas: 210 acres (Great Tobago) and 55 acres (Little Tobago)
At the north-western corner of the BVI chain lie the Tobago Cays, two islands surrounded by rugged cliffs, and whose sea beds slope dramatically to depths of 165 feet. The cays are an excellent habitat for seabird nesting, as Great Tobago is the only nesting site in the BVI for the magnificent frigate birds. East of this island, experienced divers can explore the waters around Mercurious Rock, where open ocean meets land and shoals of fish congregate.
National Parks Trust's Description:
The Tobago Cays are perched on the northwestern corner of the BVI chain, west of Jost Van Dyke and north of St. John, USVI. Rugged cliffs surround the islands, extending into the ocean where the seabed slopes dramatically to depths of up to 165 feet. Watson's Rock lies in the channel between the two islands, a warning of the hidden rocky pinnacles that are scattered around the cays.
Experienced divers can explore the waters around Mercurious Rock, east of Great Tobago where the open ocean meets land and shoals of fish congregate. On the south side of the island there is a complex system of shallow reefs, bank pavement and sand channels; however these sites are prone to swells and caution should be used at all times.
The stepps cliffs make the islands virtually inaccessible, thereby making them excellent habitats for seabirds nesting. Great Tobago is the only nesting site in the BVI for magnificent frigate birds (Fregata manificens). This is probably due to the wind currents that are funneled through the valley on the east sife of the island that enable the birds to that off easily. These seabirds never actually land on water since their plumage cannot get wet as this will prevent take off. This is linked to the fact that they have one of the largest wingspan vs. weight rations at 10 feet : 3lbs.
As magnificent frigate birds nest in trees, they risk habitat loss due to hurricanes or denudation by feral animals, such as goats. Fishing lines and hooks are also a threat, as birds follow fishing boats and get caught in the lines when searching for a free meal.