A Warm Welcome in Wotten Waven, Dominica’s ‘Natural Spa’ Village

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It’s a pretty 15 minute drive through the forest from Roseau to Wotten Waven.  Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Over the past weekend,  cool rain showers and bleak overcast skies kept me indoors despite my desire to spend some healing time in the Nature Island’s interior.  It was not a complete loss – other ‘to-do’ projects got done.  So when Monday morning dawned bright and clear, I  turned off my lap-top, packed my bathing suit and towel, pulled out my walking stick-umbrella, donned my all-terrain sandals and headed up the Roseau Valley to the ‘spa’ village of Wotten Waven.

Geo-thermal activity is abundant in the Wotten Waven area.

Geo-thermal activity is abundant in the Wotten Waven area. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

I did have a bit of a plan: I wanted to walk up to the ‘top’ of the village and check in on a few establishments that I had not frequented for some time.  It was a quiet morning – the cruise shippers were yet to appear  and I had the place practically to myself.  This area is very popular with both residents and visitors, as a number of ‘natural spas’ are in close proximity.  They are all designed differently, but each one offers opportunities to soak in hot, warm or cool  sulphurous mineral pools that are reputed to have healing properties and restorative benefits. In my experience, I have always felt better, had less muscular pain and am more relaxed after a little time in these ‘waters’.  I have previously written about the popular, award-winning Screw’s Sulphur Spa.  You can read about it here.

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The Trail-Head for Segment 4 of the Waitukubuli National Trail is easily found at Wotten Waven.

Tia's has natural bamboo cottages and a restaurant above the pools complete the natural spa experience.

Tia’s Bamboo Cottages and  restaurant above the pools complete the natural spa experience.

As I began my little foray, I paused for a moment by the sign for Segment 4 of the Waitukubuli National Trail and recalled my adventures on the day that  I and a number of other intrepids tackled it in reverse from Pond Casse to Middleham Falls as part of Dominica’s annual Hike Fest.  We didn’t make it to this sign, but I assure you we had gone most of the distance of that lengthy and challenging trail, which you can read about here.

Before I walked up the road, I passed by Tia’s Bamboo Cottages to make sure that the friendly Rastafarian was opening his pools on that quiet Monday.  I hadn’t seen him for a while and we greeted each other warmly.  He assured me that the sulphur pools were always there for me – any time.  Wow!  Did I feel special as a longtime client of his unique business.  That certainly put the first smile of the day on my face.  I told him that I was about to take a walk up to  the heights of the village and would return later.

Just before I started my walk in earnest, I met Brenda in front of her shop, which is strategically located at the junction of the

Brenda's is a popular tourist stop for a drink or some home-made chips.

Brenda’s is a popular tourist stop for a drink or some home-made plantain chips.

main roads in Wotten Waven.  When she saw me, she hugged me like an old friend.  Although I have only seen her occasionally over the years, she has never forgotten me and always takes time to talk to me.  We caught up on a little news and then she handed me a packet of her homemade plantain chips – for the road.  They would serve me well a little later.  Many of the tour buses stop at her place for drinks and light snacks and I hope I didn’t deprive a tourist of this special treat!

I was reminded of my real goal on this morning’s walk by a sign located opposite Brenda’s shop.  I had been to the

Dominican Artist David Burton and his sons display their paintings in a gallery surrounded by flowers and beautiful vistas.

Dominican Artist David Burton and his sons display their amazing paintings in a gallery surrounded by  his cultivated flowers and beautiful mountain vistas.

Paradise Art Gallery and Floral Gardens only once before and it was my intention to check it out when I got a little further up the  road. This was not a day for an intense work-out: people chatting along the sides of the road or walking down to the Roseau bus-stop smiled and called out cheery ‘hello’s’ as I responded in kind while gazing at the lovely vistas in the distance.

Fresh mountain breezes carried an occasional hint of sulphur and shimmering leaves loudly rustled in the quiet morning atmosphere.  I inhaled deeply and could feel my sinuses clearing  as I continued up the road.  I noticed a woman working on a flower bed who seemed vaguely familiar.  When she turned around and noticed me, she rushed towards me with the biggest smile and open arms.  I delighted in hugging my ‘flower lady’ , who sells beautiful anthurium lilies at the Roseau Market on Saturdays.  For some reason, she has always spoiled me with big bunches and even  occasional freebies.  I really appreciate her generosity.  To me, she is one of the wonderful Dominicans who lives in Wotten Waven!

While we chatted, I noticed our proximity to the trail-end of Segment 3 of the Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT).  As with Segment 4, I recalled that arduous trek from Bellevue Chopin in a thunder and lightning storm, up and over the muddy mountains at Giraudel, down the precipitous river valley and way back up to Morne Prosper and then gently descending to Wotten Waven, where some rewards awaited Hike Fest participants.  (Note: I have already detailed this hiking adventure here).

Le Petit Paradis in the perfect place to relax before/after a hike, or to connect with nature or to visit  nearby hot pools!

Le Petit Paradis is the perfect place to relax before/after a hike, or to connect with nature or to visit nearby hot pools!

As I positioned the camera for a shot of Segment 3’s end-point, I recognized the voice of a lady coming up behind me.  Lo and behold, it was none

The end of Segment 3 of the Waitukubuli National Trail gently welcomes you to Wotten Waven!

The end of Segment 3 of the Waitukubuli National Trail gently welcomes you to Wotten Waven!

other than Joan, owner of Le Petit Paradis guest house and restaurant, which is directly across from the Segment 3 trail’s end!  I chuckled when we greeted each other, as we recalled the time I was at her establishment, along with 40+ other damp and dirty hikers.  She had prepared huge pots of hot,  hearty Dominican cuisine to satisfy our enormous appetites after that highly strenuous trail work-out.  Everything was delicious and we left nothing behind!

Her cozy establishment is a great place to end the Segment 3 hike, rest overnight and awake refreshed to tackle Segment 4 next day!  We spoke for a few minutes, and then Joan went back to tidy up for her next set of guests while I continued on my leisurely jaunt.

A few minutes later, I was standing in front of the sign for another popular natural spa: Ti Kwen Glo Cho. I had last spent a pleasant hour or more soaking in the big pool with other hikers after the above-described trek.  That therapeutic down-time had saved me from enduring a lot of sore muscles the next day. I am forever grateful!

As luck would have it, I met up with that spa’s owner, Henry George a few minutes later, when I entered the porch of the Paradise Art Gallery and Floral Gardens. As I approached, I noticed that he and artist David Burton were deep in conversation.  Once they saw me, I was greeted in typical Wotten Waven fashion –  with warm smiles and welcoming words.

There are hundreds of cultivated flowers at Paradise Floral Gardens.

There are hundreds of cultivated flowers at Paradise Floral Gardens.

We spoke together for a few minutes.  While they did not recall my face, they acknowledged that I was no stranger to their places.  Henry left to attend to his business and David stopped working on his floral garden to show me around the art gallery.  He and his sons are all talented artists with slightly different styles.  Their works really capture the essence of Dominica through nature scenes and cultural representations.

The Burton family captures Dominican culture on canvas.

The Burton family captures Dominican life on canvas.

David Burton and his sons are well-known Dominican artists.

David Burton and his sons are well-known Dominican artists.

The massif, Morne Macaque (Micotrin) at the top of the Roseau Valley as seen through the 'scrim' around one of David Burton's flower gardens.

The massif, Morne Watt at the top of the Roseau Valley as seen through the ‘net’ around one of David Burton’s flower gardens.

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Strictly Itals café forms part of the Paradise Art Gallery and is operated by artist David Burton’s wife. Her creative talent is in the kitchen!

He gave me an update on his industrious and creative family, and then described his plans to  further develop the flower gardens.  He also showed me his  colourful fish pond and the new kitchen for his wife’s delectable and wholesome vegetarian meals and beverages. They can  soon be enjoyed right on the site.

Although he had many other things to do, we did speak at length on a whole range of subjects – from his farm on Paradise Estate, which is a little higher up the mountain to meetings about the proposed geothermal plant in the area to life on Dominica to my experiences as an expatriate.

After a time, I thanked him for his hospitality and informed him that it was time for me to walk back down to the bottom of the village for my soak at Tia’s Bamboo Cottages and Sulphur Pools/Spa. Of course, I promised to return another day to experience his wife’s wonderful cooking.

I checked in at Tia’s restaurant where I was bestowed the biggest welcome of all.  Bernadette, Tia’s wife emphatically expressed her delight at seeing me, as it had been a while. She professed that she had even recently asked her husband if I was still on-island, as she had not seen me for so long.  Her sincerity really made me feel like an old friend who had been truly missed.

Tia's 'natural spa' has some private enclosed pools, one of which has wheelchair access.

Tia’s ‘natural spa’ has some private enclosed pools, one of which has wheelchair access.

At that time, I had the place to myself.  There are some enclosed pools, if one prefers privacy, but I opted for the outdoor variety so that I could gaze at the greenery and soak up a little sun as well.  As I moved between pools, I took  a little time to stand under the natural hot water shower.  I situated myself so that the torrent could pummel some sore spots on my neck and shoulders.  After about 10 minutes, the pain was gone.  I lingered a while longer in this exquisite and intimate setting.  Then  visiting British couple Madeleine and Tony joined me and we talked about Dominica and shared some experiences, along with our favourite places.  Madeleine had a tender shoulder, so I suggested that she try the natural ‘shiatsu’ shower.  After several minutes, she declared that it felt better.  I was thrilled that the natural spa treatment worked for her too.

This forceful natural hot water shower at Tia's provides a strong massage for sore muscles

This forceful natural hot water shower at Tia’s provides a strong massage for sore muscles

By then, I’d spent about four hours in Wotten Waven.  It was time to return home and I reluctantly declined an invitation to join the friendly pair for lunch at Papillote Wilderness Retreat    near Trafalgar Falls. I assured them that they would enjoy it immensely!  I wished them a pleasant stay on the Nature Isle and then climbed up the steps to bid Bernadette good-bye for now and declare that I would definitely be back again very soon!

Then I promised myself that when I am feeling a little out-of-sorts, a short trip to  the warm, friendly ‘natural spa’ village of Wotten Waven would be my cure!

Tia's Bamboo Cottages overlook the pools.  They are surrounded by many trees, including nutmeg and cocoa.

Tia’s Bamboo Cottages overlook the pools. They are surrounded by many trees, including nutmeg and cocoa.

The pools at Tia's have different temperatures for your personal preferences.

The  cozy pools at Tia’s have different temperatures to suit your personal preferences.

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