Dominica: The Nature Island
For Caribbean junkies, the island of Dominica is definitely a must visit destination. When I tell folks I have been to Dominica about half of them are confused. They think I am talking about the Dominican Republic, but the two destinations could not be imore different.
Let’s begin with the pronunciation of each – the island of Dominica is pronounced with the syllable stress on the second “I” versus the Dominican Republic with the stress on the first “I.”
Where Is Dominica?
Located between the French islands of Guadalupe and Martinique, Dominica is the youngest island in the Lesser Antilles and boasts 290 square miles of nature. There are 365 rivers and peaks that are as high as 5000 feet above sea level. Much of Dominica is protected since it is such a natural beauty; take for example the Morne Trois Piton (French for Three Peaks) National Park. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with rain-forests, one of the largest boiling lakes in the world, hot sulphur springs for mud baths, and the location of several of the 12 major waterfalls on the island.
You’ll definitely want to take advantage of the rain-forest experience. Sixty percent of the island is covered by rain-forest, and there has never been a better place to enjoy nature while hiking and bird watching.
One day I headed to Syndicate Nature Trail for a hike and bird watching adventure with Dr. Birdy Bertrand. He and I also visited Milton Falls, which is a 100-foot secluded falls at Syndicate. There are over 170 different types of birds on the island to be discovered. While on our hike we also stopped and admired the plants. Dominica is home to around 1000 flowering plants, so everywhere you turn you will see a new surprise.
Mountains and Water to Discover
A company called Cobra Tours took me on an Indian River and Secret Beach Boat Tour. During the boat tour I was shown an area where one of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies had been filmed. Some of the set was still up because it added to the atmosphere of the boat tour; imagine a few hanging skeletons here and there and some eerie sighting as I cruised down the river on a small boat that gave me the chance to experience the backwaters up close and personal.
While there are high mountains to discover in Dominica, if you are a diver you will also find that the water is deep and ideal for scuba diving. In fact, the depths are as deep 6,000 feet. If you are into whale watching you have come to the right place. For whale watchers the best time to visit is from November to May, when the majestic sperm whale or the humpbacks visit the island.
The original people of Dominica were the Kalinago Indians also called the Caribs by early settlers. Today you can still visit the area where they live in the Kalinago Territory. There are still about 3,500 Caribs living on the island and these are the descendants of the original people from the island. At the Kalinago Barana Aute or Carib Village by the Sea you will also get a first-hand look at how these people lived thousands of years ago.
Present day Dominica hosts a diverse group of inhabitants with a blend of English, French, African and Kalinago.
Best Way to See the Island
Many folks find that renting a Jeep for a few days while visiting the island is a great way to see the history, and explore the island. There is the city of Rosseau with lots of energy and vibration as well as the 100-year-old churches, quaint villages dotting the island and the Macoucherie Rum Factory, one of the oldest distilleries in the Caribbean.
Of course, it is the Caribbean and there is the ocean so you will want to take a day to unwind and enjoy the beach. Visitors to Dominica’s beaches can relax under a nice breeze with the sounds of the birds. And unlike other popular Caribbean destinations the beaches are overrun with tourists.
Check out the Wellness Retreat in Calibishie where owner Sybil Allen Jones will give you a great welcome and teach you how to cook some local cuisine like Avocado Papaya Salad, Tropical Hibiscus Salad and Cassava bread. Sybil’s husband Tom Jones might also be on hand for your visit and you can set up time to do some energy work with him. Both experiences at the Jones’ private house on the island is highly recommended.
As for the cuisine in Dominica, the recipes feature land and sea options, with plenty of fresh fruit on the menu. Try the Caribbean cherry juice or the fisherman’s fresh catch of the day, and you know you are tasting the real thing.
Where to stay
Pagua House is not far from the airport with sweeping views of the ocean in the distance and a diverse menu for dinner. The bungalows are designed to fit into the landscape and to give you a luxurious island experience.
Manicou River Resort sits in the trees high above the ocean. You will feel as if you are spending the night in a tree house. The number of birds in the area is astounding and you will get a good night’s sleep lulled by the sounds of nature just steps away.
Fort Young Hotel is a staple in the city of Roseau. With a history attached to the property the rooms are large and the atmosphere inviting.
After you experience the gentle waves, a relaxing massage and the stunning sunset, you might think you have finally found a paradise offering the entire package on Dominica.