Christopher Columbus had nearly run out of drinking water when, on July 31, 1498, he sighted the three peaks of the Trinity Hills, which are said to have inspired him to name the island Trinidad. He landed near present-day Moruga, where he gathered fresh water from the river. His crew reported seeing fishing implements that had clearly been abandoned in haste, and realized that they had arrived in a region that was already well populated. In fact, there were some 35,000 Amerindians (from the Arawak, Shebaio, Nepoio, Carinepagoto and Yao peoples) then living on the island that they called “Ieri”, the land of the hummingbird.

Columbus sailed west and encountered the island’s residents the next day while anchored off Icacos Point. Twenty-four Amerindians armed with bows and arrows set off in a large canoe to investigate the foreign ship; upon sighting them, Columbus ordered a drum to be played and the sailors to dance, believing the indigenous population would be entertained by this spectacle. However, the Amerindians mistook it for a war dance and rained arrows on the Spaniards; as the latter returned fire, the Amerindians fled. That night, Columbus had little sleep as strong currents here tossed the ship, rocking it so violently that the anchor broke. Bewildered and fearful, Columbus swiftly sailed on, though not before bestowing the name “Serpent’s Mouth” for the treacherous waters between Trinidad and Venezuela.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Trinidad & Tobago features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Trinidad or Tobago – which island is right for you?

Trinidad or Tobago – which island is right for you?

The islands of Trinidad and Tobago both have tropical beaches, steamy rainforest and amazing wildlife but are far from identical twins. Here we look at which…

06 Sep 2016 • Andy Turner insert_drive_file Article
Cocoa loco: a guide to chocolate tourism in Trinidad and Tobago

Cocoa loco: a guide to chocolate tourism in Trinidad and Tobago

Our authors have travelled the length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago, shimmying through the streets at Carnival, body-surfing at the beaches and gorging on …

23 Nov 2015 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
Around the world in 20 dances

Around the world in 20 dances

Square Dance, USA The "square" tag has nothing to do with naffness (now why would anyone think that?) but rather to do with the arrangement of the four coup…

16 Oct 2014 • Neil McQuillian camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook