Anchor behind a tropical reef at Tobago Cays

The Tobago Keys are a group of small, uninhabited islands protected from the sea by a Horseshoe Reef. The water and reef colors are a kaleidoscope of gold, brown, blue, turquoise and green. Small beaches of white sand blend into luminous clear water. On cloudless nights, the stars are cast across the sky like wedding confetti thrown in an excessive gesture of bonhomie. Even squalls can be dramatically beautiful as they approach from afar. The anchorage is, however, open to the full force of the ocean winds, which are sometimes strong.

Tobago Keys Map

The best approach is between Mayreau and Baleine Rocks, staying south of One Fathom Bank. Black-and-white day markers help you get the approach right. Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau look like one island for most of the approach. Don't cut corners, lest you land on a coral head.

You can anchor just west of Petit Rameau, in the cut between Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau, to the north or south of Baradel, or between Baradel and the other islands. Shallow-draft yachts can anchor to the east of Baradel. Moorings are available in the Cays for $45 EC a night, but are neither compulsory nor always reliable, so check. The mainly surround the turtle-watching area. Do not anchor between the moorings and the turtle watching area. There are strong currents in the cut anchorage, so using a mooring is good.

Tobago Keys Anchorage

When heading south from the Cays, it is safest to pass round the lee of Mayreau, though the Cays do have a southern channel (South Exit) that is okay for the experienced when the light is good. Avoid using this southern route as an entrance, as it is hard to find, and many charter yachts have gone aground in the attempt.


Tobago Cays is a national park. Park fees are currently $10 EC per day per person, which rangers come to collect. Moorings are available for $45 a night. Superyachts should call in advance for advice on where to anchor. While Mayreau is included in the park, no fees are collected in Mayreau anchorages, but diving regulations apply. Yachts are asked to use holding tanks, as this will keep the water clean for swimmers in what can be a crowded area.

This magnificent park offers the most spectacular anchoring in the Eastern Caribbean. Enjoy, and help others to do so, by obeying regulations and being considerate.

A 6-knot speed limit is in effect in the Tobago Cays. This applies to all vessels, dinghies, water taxis and sailing boats. Please obey it and keep a good look out for swimmers. People swim throughout the anchored yachts to the reef, and to the islands. The speed limit precludes water skiing ans many water sports. Sail and kite boarders may exceed the speed limit, but only in the area north of Petit Rameau.

Enjoy snorkeling and looking at the fish and turtles. They are abundant, because this is a coversation area and no fishing is allowed. You may not collect or harm any kind of sea creature, including the corals. Do not take souvenirs of any kind, not even shells or rocks.

Tobago Keys Turtle

A turtle watching area has been established around the beach in Baradel. It is marked by a series of linked byoys. If you wish to snorkel here, either anchor your dinghy outside or take it directly (and very slowly) into the beach and pull it up on the sand. No anchoring or drifting with your dinghy is allowed, and you should not run your dinghy through this area except to go to and from the beach. Approach turtles slowly, and go no closer than 6 feet (if you are still, and they come closer, that is fine). Though they look calm and peaceful, they are easily frightened if you chase or try to touch them.

No fires may be made on the beaches, and the vegetation ashore is part of the park and should be left alone.

Do not discharge any oil, chemicals, or other waste into the water or pump your bilges in the park. Avoid using bleach and strong cleaners that get flushed overboard.

Tobago Keys Beach

Those wishing to scuba dive in the park may only do so with a local dive shop.

Some people get so excited at the beauty of the Tobago Cays that they think the way to complete the experience is to play their favorite music at top volume for the whole anchorage to hear.Cathartic as this might be for them, it may not be what others want. Keep any noice you make on your boat from music, generators, and windmills low enough that your neighbor cannot hear it.

Anchoring is permitted behind Horseshoe Reef and around the islands in sand only. Adventurous and experienced skippers could sail outside Horseshoe Reef (the approach is easiest from the south exit) and find temporary anchorage in Petit Tabac on sand botton only. This is strictly eyeball navigation and for calm weather. Even so, it is small and rolly. Yachts should not anchor among any of the reefs between Petit Rameau and Mayreau, except in the anchorage we show directly east of Mayreau.

Text and map courtesy of Doyle Guides. Get the full pilot guide guide at