Dominica: Natural Choice for
R. & Deborah A. Fletcher
Verdant rainforests, plunging waterfalls, rainbows, rugged mountains and
jagged Atlantic shoreline define
(pronounced “dom in eek a”). Aptly,
she’s called the “
.” Located midway down the arc of
Caribbean islands stretching from Puerto Rico to
is an English-speaking island nation squeezed between two French-speaking
islands; Guadeloupe and
Steep mountains soar nearly 5,000 feet on this largest and most
mountainous of the Windward Islands, presenting some of the most rewarding
hiking in the
. Twenty-six miles long and sixteen
miles wide, at its widest,
has plenty of terrain to explore. A
population of 71,000 is scattered about the island’s 290 square miles.
—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—encompassing
17,000 acres, features some of the island’s most stunning scenery.
and Emerald Pool are two special attractions in this park.
Birders will be delighted to know 176 bird species have been cataloged on
. The island boasts of having “a
river for every day of the year,” claiming 365 rivers slicing through the
mountainous terrain. Though water is
abundant, many of the “rivers” are little more than creeks.
surf on the Atlantic (eastern) side of the island provides some dramatic
scenery, if unsafe swimming conditions. Any
swimming should be done on the Caribbean side of the island around
, where the seas are calm. Beaches
are not the primary attraction in
. Nature is.
has a trail suited to most any skill level.
Hike for an hour or hike for a day, your choice.
Tour guides in
offer cruise passengers ½ and full day excursion packages.
There’s room for price negotiation when no ships are in port.
Trafalgar Falls Trail, located four miles northwest of
, is an
easy hike but visually rewarding. The
trail opens to expansive views of the huge falls tumbling down the green
mountain. Cool and refreshing is the
first thought to come to mind. Plunging
into the water, we discovered the water wasn’t cool and refreshing, it was
hot. It seems the source for the
easy hike is the Emerald Pool Trail, located eight miles northeast of
. A short trail leads to a cool,
lush green grotto where the waterfall plunges 40 feet into an emerald pool.
Though quite popular, there are times when a couple can have the pool to
themselves. For a bit of romance,
take a picnic lunch mid-day—on a day no cruise ships are in port—and you may
have the place to yourselves.
Boiling Lake Trail is a demanding—six hour minimum—hike.
Prepare to get wet and muddy on this difficult trail.
The reward is seeing the
, one of very few in the world. The
lake boils because it is situated on an active volcano.
Sulfurous gases ensure one smells the lake long before one sees it.
For the most serious hikers there’s the Morne Diablotin Trail, a
demanding, all day hike leading to the island’s highest
”) at 4,747 feet.
English is the official language, one must listen very closely, as a French
Creole patois is spoken by the population of mostly African descent.
The language is reflective of the island’s history of changing hands
from the Spanish to the French to the English and back again several times down
through the centuries.
achieved independence November 3, 1978—the 485th anniversary of
’ “discovery” of the island in 1493. The
Eastern Caribbean Dollar is the official currency, though US Dollars are readily
accepted. The best exchange rates,
however, are to be found at island banks, not from the shops and vendors.
is home to the last remnants of the indigenous
Carib Indians, who once dominated the
. The Caribs were the first known
. Set aside in 1903, the
covers some 3,782 acres on the eastern shore of the island and is home to about
3,000 tribe members, gathered in eight villages.
were unfamiliar with the island, until 1987 when our church was preparing to be
part of a denominational mission trip to
. The island seemed a bit of an
undiscovered paradise of nature back then. Tourist
traffic was practically nonexistent (we may have saw ten tourists over a two
week period). The introduction of
cruise ship docks has changed all that. Now
there’s a steady flow of tourists to the island.
thing that doesn’t seem to have changed is the narrow one-lane roads (used as
two-lanes) that snake their way through
’s steep mountains. Adrenaline
flows as a tour bus driver takes a hairpin turn that requires backing up to
negotiate the turn. We look over the
precipice; it’s a long, long way to the bottom. In
fact, we can’t see the bottom. Our
only comfort is that the driver seems to know what he’s doing, and the horn
works. He constantly honks as we
approach each blind curve—and there are many—to warn oncoming traffic of our
rains frequently in
—July through November being the wettest months.
Not enough to ruin a vacation, but enough to thoroughly soak you if
you’re caught outside—so carry rain gear while hiking if you plan to stay
dry. It often comes in brief,
drenching downpours. One such
downpour in July 1987 had us repainting a building we’d just painted.
At the time we were using a water-based paint that was little more than a
white-wash with color added. Our
crew had just finished painting a structure in the
when the sky seemed to burst. The
pounding rain probably didn’t last five minutes, but it was enough to wash
away the paint we’d just applied.
is one of the “windward” or “banana”
islands. Called a “banana”
island because the windward location ensures the island flourishes under an
abundance of rain, sautéed in bright
sunshine, creating near perfect banana growing conditions.
Bananas are one of the island’s primary exports, as are coconuts which
do equally well in these sunny, wet conditions.
Trade restrictions limited
’s income from bananas and coconuts and something had to fill the void.
bevy of businesses have grown up around the new influx of cash brought by the
cruise passengers; markets offering everything from trinkets to fine art, hiking
tours, and garden tours. This influx
of tourism dollars has brought economic opportunity to many and prosperity to
some. It has made mean bums out of
others, and revealed tourism to be a double-edged sword.
saw a large man, affecting the look of a Rastafarian, with fierce piercing eyes
banging a bongo in the market in
. His long dreadlocks swung as he
wheeled his angry gaze upon an unsuspecting tourist.
me money,” he demanded, fixing his cold, angry stare on his latest victim.
He was definitely an aggressive panhandler.
Several tourists quickly shoved some change or a few dollars into the
bucket he thrust before them, before quickly moving away from his threatening
facilities are being developed to handle even more tourists.
The once pristine and relatively empty trails are now being trampled by
the cruise ship hordes. Seven major
cruise lines now stop in
, bringing 350,000 passengers annually. The ships pull into three locations:
(a five minute drive north of
) and Cabrits Cruise Ship Berth on the north side of the island.
There’s a loss of innocence since the 1987-Dominica.
Even so, Progress must be made.
features some of the best hiking and adventuring
left in the
today. The island has
preserved much of her natural beauty in her national parks for future
generations. We recommend you see it soon, before even more tourism
infrastructure is put in place. The
rustic, laid-back quality has its own appeal.
Stock photography by Thomas R. Fletcher at Alamy
If You Go:
electrical system is like that of Europe, operating on 220/240 volts 50 cycles,
so take along your adapters for hair dryers, electric razors, or other
electrical appliances. There is a
departure tax of $18 US per person.
is the island’s capital and largest city, with a population of 25,000.
The island is served by two airports: Canefield, located three miles from
and Melville Hall in the northeast, 32 miles from
. Connections are available through