One of my favourite places in Dominica has always been the area called Rosalie on the southeast coast. It has everything an environmentally aware nature lover could want: strong Atlantic surf; beautiful beaches; marine-life conservation; abundant healthy rivers; magnificent rainforest; plentiful hiking trails in close proximity;ecological accommodations; and eco-conscious people who have built environmentally sustainable private homes.
If Rosalie were not such a long, lonely, winding drive down (and up) rocky back-roads and then through the central mountains to Roseau, I might consider a move there. Who knows – I still might do it one day!
I am presently inspired by an American couple that I recently met who did just that. Neil and Victoria are loving every minute of their environmentally sustainable lifestyle by a river deep in the forest near Rosalie. While it’s only a mile by a rough (but motorable) track to the main road, there are times when the plentiful rivers around them can overflow their banks. Then they have to don rubber boots and slog their way out of the wilderness. But it’s all worth it, they say!
The intrepid pair didn’t just land on the Nature Island and impulsively decide to pursue ecological interests . When Neil opted for early retirement from his position of events production coordinator at the University of Texas in Austin, he and Victoria, who was a stage manager, felt that they wanted to do something completely different from their urban way-of-life.
They carefully considered affordable relocation expenses, reasonable cost-of-living, as well as the type of terrain for building and the friendliness of the people in several different tropical countries. As it turned out, Dominica got top marks in every category! And when they found their present property on Dominica’s southeast coast, the decision was instantaneous. “We just fell in love with it!” exclaimed Victoria. So they loaded a container with their most prized personal possessions, placed their two adopted ‘rescue’ cats in airline kennel carriers, and they were off!
For two years, they actually lived in a tent on a platform by the river. Meanwhile, Neil arranged the solar set-up for a pump for water and electricity, in addition to preparing proper drainage for waste water and the septic system. Then they built a concrete foundation and took it step-by-step from there. While Neil organized, planned and ordered the building materials, local trades-people and workers laboured hard to get the place up and running. The sturdy wood and stone structure is carefully designed to let enough natural light and wind flow through the house. It is set well away from the river bank and has an expansive porch that permits spectacular views in three directions. An underground spring close-by provides them with pure drinking water. Their only concession to conventional technology is internet and phone connection. Fortunately, a neighbouring property had a line so it was not extremely difficult or expensive to extend the cable a bit further to their residence. They considered this inclusion as a necessity, as mobile phones do not work in their secluded location and while they are very remote, some contact with the outside world could be helpful in many respects.
Of course, there is an organic garden in the making and plentiful fruit trees surround the property: mango; grapefruit;banana; and avocado. Work is still ongoing as Neil continues to develop the lower level of the house with a guest en suite and Victoria applies her artistic talents to a beautiful tile mosaic pattern in the upstairs bathroom.
I was completely taken with Neil and Victoria’s determination to realize their dream and live in harmony with nature, as well as the surrounding communities. Despite their somewhat isolated site, they do feel safe and Dominicans who live and farm in the area do watch out for them. Their quiet, peaceful and warm demeanor seemed to me a perfect complement to an ideal life on the Nature Island.
The stunning views from their porch occasionally distracted me from conversation and I longed for a lie-down in their inviting hammock in these restful surroundings. However, when I glanced at my watch, it was suddenly lunch-time. We agreed that we would make the trip (with 4 wheel-drive vehicles!) across the rivers (there are bridges over some) and out of the woods for an ocean-side meal at an award-winning environmentally sustainable hotel: the Rosalie Bay Resort.
My friend Sarah, who had previously introduced me to Neil in Roseau had kindly taken me in her “jeep” to this back-country locale and I was grateful for her generosity and enthusiasm. My little car could not have endured the rugged terrain! While she drove us out of the forest, I admired the amazing scenery and the coursing rivers, which did actually flow over the road in a couple of places on this dry day in paradise.
I had not been to Rosalie Bay Resort since I toured the premises just after they opened a couple of years ago.I was very excited about my first lunch in this environmentally friendly place by the Atlantic Ocean. When we arrived at the complex, we were directed to the parking lot. Then we walked on well-marked pathways through the beautifully manicured grounds to the Zamaan Restaurant. This big airy building is near the beach, with views of the pounding surf on its east side and the mouth of the Rosalie River prominent in the northerly direction.
The restaurant was tastefully decorated for the Christmas season and soft music played in the background. We all seemed to be in the mood for fish (I am sure I don’t know why!). Neil and I selected the delectable local tuna burger, with a huge organic salad on the side. Victoria chose blackened tuna on a mountainous bed of locally grown greens and Sarah opted for the mahi-mahi in an exotic home-made sauce. I like to sample sorrel juice, which is a ubiquitous refreshment at dining establishments during the yule-tide season. While the bright red drink is usually heavily seasoned with spices and sweetened with lots of sugar, I enjoyed their version: mildly spicy and not too sweet!
However, I made up for the healthy meal by indulging in a slice of lava-volcano cake with ice cream on the side. I confess that I was the only one who gave in to temptation for dessert! Be assured that I do not regret it. The chocolate concoction was divine!
And yes, between mouthfuls, our conversation did continue on an environmental bent for some time, which then segued into exchanges about life as expatriates on the Nature Island and various adventures in our adopted country.
We did certainly linger over this delightful repast in such a tranquil setting. Around 3 p.m., we sensed that the staff wished to clean up the lunch tables in preparation for the supper hour. Admittedly, they never rushed us, nor did they disturb us in any way. I was impressed with their pleasant personalities, prompt service and willingness to help, if needed.
As we wandered back to the parking lot, we admired the carefully constructed cottages, the natural swimming pool and the energy-generating wind turbine in the distance. If I were on vacation, I would definitely want to spend some time here!
Sarah and I said our good-byes to Neil and Victoria, with assurances that we would meet again soon. It was certainly a pleasure to spend time with this lovely couple. I wish them well with their continued sustainable living practices!
* Special thanks to friend Sarah for sharing this adventure and taking me safely to and from Rosalie and the back-country!