Strangers in Paradise: A Canadian Family Spends an Unforgettable Day in Dominica!*

A Family of Friendlly Maritime 'Strangers" enjoyed a recent visit to Dominica and a long chat with me!

A family of friendly  Canadian Maritime ‘Strangers” enjoyed a recent visit to Dominica and a long chat with me!

When my longtime Canadian friend, affectionately known as Jude advised me by email that “Company is Coming” to Dominica, I initially thought that I might finally see her after almost 18 years! However, that was not to be this time round, but the visitors who arrived on the Nature Island were definitely the next best thing to seeing my dear old Maritime buddy! Jude’s son Ben and his wife Raquel travelled with  her parents and a sister and brother-in-law to make up a group of six. They were ready to take in

I watched the Celebrity Summit mooring at the Roseau Cruise Ship Pier from my back porch.

From my back porch, I watched the Celebrity Summit mooring at the Roseau Cruise Ship Pier on Tuesday March 3, 2015.

some of the spectacular sites on the Nature Island as I had given these strangers a few suggestions in advance via correspondence with Jude.

When I watched the Celebrity Summit cruise ship dock along the pier on the Bayfront in Roseau, I knew that this lovely family would experience the verdant rainforest on a drizzly day in paradise.   As they were also cruising to other islands, I urged them to take to the mountains of Dominica, as they would not see anything like them anywhere else during their week-long voyage!

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Some of my favourite fruits: from top, clockwise: coconuts; guava cherries; cacao pods; avocado pear; pineapple.

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The Emerald Pool is a popular tourist attraction and is easily accessible.

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When my new-found friends took a dip in the Emerald Pool, they had it all to themselves!

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Even in the rain, the twin Trafalgar Falls are well worth some appreciative looks from the sheltered viewing platform.

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The mother fall of the Trafalgar Falls (on the right) is accessible and can be viewed close up in drier weather, although the rocks can be slippery.

When I met the friendly ‘strangers’ at 2 p.m., they had truly sampled the essence of the Nature Island: the rainforest.  I delighted to hear them recount their experiences in the mountainous interior of the Nature Island, as organized by Dominica’s Whitchurch Tours.  When they arrived at the renowned Emerald Pool, they were drawn to the cool basin at its base and were compelled to take a dip, despite the prevalent dampness of the day.  While the twisting and turning inland roads kept them on the edge of their seats, they seemed to be spellbound by the natural beauty all around them.  Trafalgar Falls was a bit of trek in the wet, but of course, one doesn’t get to admire twin waterfalls very often in the Maritimes! I could have learned a thing or two from my new friends, but the names of the inedible fruits they mentioned to me were unfamiliar.  There are so many natural sweet treats on the Nature Island that I guess I have ignored those that I cannot personally enjoy.

The 12,000 seat cricket stadium is a prominent site when looking over Roseau from Morne Bruce.

The 12,000 seat cricket stadium is a prominent site when looking over Roseau from Morne Bruce.

They also told me about their excursion to the look-off point at Morne Bruce over Roseau, but I got an impression

This ancient cannon on Morne Bruce is a reminder of earlier centuries when French and England were battling for possessino of the Nature Island!

This ancient cannon on Morne Bruce is a reminder of earlier centuries when French and England were battling for possession of the Nature Island!

that it was raining hard at that time, so some of the lovely view was lost in the mist. They were in awe of the 12,000 seat cricket stadium below then and they admired the cheery blue and yellow of the Astaphans Department Store. They also passed through the Botanical Gardens, but in the inclement weather and  with hunger pangs setting in, they did not  have energy to venture out of the bus.  Instead, they contented themselves with the lushness of the place and the reminder of the devastation of Hurricane David in 1979:  the squashed school bus under the baobab tree! 

The lush Botanical Gardens offer peace and tranquility to all who spend time there.

The lush Botanical Gardens offer peace and tranquility to all who spend time there.

No one was in this bus in the Botannical Gardens when it was crushed during Hurricane David in 1979

No one was in this bus in the Botanical Gardens when it was crushed during Hurricane David in 1979

The adventurous family  really did

A Reaerch Facility for the critically endangered Crapaud (mountain chicken) frog is located in the Botanical Gardens.  You can read an earlier post about it here.

A Research Facility for the critically endangered Crapaud (mountain chicken) frog is located in the Botanical Gardens. You can read an earlier post about it here.

enjoy their extensive rainforest tour . They were intrigued that Dominica, the Nature Island is noted for longevity and has one of the highest number of centenarians of any country in the world.  Of course, they heard about ‘Ma Pampo’, Dominica’s late grand lady who is reputed to have lived 128 years.  You can read about my findings here.

Then I had to gasp when  Gordon, the dad of the group remarked that they were told there were six women to every man on Dominica! I impulsively declared that this was a gross exaggeration.  They were puzzled  by that ‘fact’ because they noticed more men than women during their tour.  I will leave that part to speculation, however, I have confirmed on numerous  official sources online that there are in fact slightly more men than women in all age groups on the Nature Island, with the exception of those over 65.  Perhaps the guide’s comment was intended  to keep the visitors on their toes!!

These lovely cruise-shippers and I also conversed for a while about my life on Dominica and I did attempt to give them a quick overall picture as I sipped on a coffee with them gathered around me on the boardwalk terrace of the Fort Young Hotel.  As it has been 18 years since I first arrived here, I have  had many adventures, some of which are outlined throughout my Ti Domnik Tales blog.  I will not repeat what I’ve already posted, but if you are curious, you might wish to refer to this interview that I posted in 2014 on the popular global Expats Blog at their invitation.

The Roseau Public Library is a popular place for traditional bibliophiles!

The Roseau Public Library is a popular place for traditional bibliophiles!

As the afternoon wore on, I could see that the group’s rainforest meanderings had given way to a healthy

The Fort Young Hotel is a great place to meet friends, have a meal and/or spend the night!

The Fort Young Hotel is a great place to meet friends, have a meal and/or spend the night!

drowsiness.  They soon had to get back on the ship, so I proposed a little walk  around the front of the stately Fort Young Hotel, so that I could show them a couple of historic sites, as well as point to the hilly suburban area where I live just south of Roseau.  I delighted in showing them the Roseau Public Library, which was built with funds from American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1906. My friend and fellow librarian Jude would have been thrilled to see this century+ building and its contents.  I am so glad that her family was able to have a peek.  It’s one of my favourite places to go in Roseau and I am a proud and faithful borrower of  books from its fascinating collection!

We walked slowly back to the cruise ship pier, and I wished my new

Gwendominica (centre) wore a Canadian Maritime T-shirt when she met momentary strangers during their day trip to Dominica. We poseted for this pic just before I said farewell and they boarded the ship!

Gwendominica (centre) wore a Canadian Maritime T-shirt when she met momentary strangers during their day trip to Dominica. We posed for this pic just before I said farewell and they boarded the ship on the Roseau Bayfront!

friends a wonderful continuation of their Caribbean cruise.  It was such a pleasure to meet them and I expect I’ll see them again. As mum Debra is from the Annapolis Valley, I really will smile if I see members of this group next summer when I venture to Nova Scotia to visit my own relations in that area.  Of course, I do hope they will come back to Dominica too.  I trust their day trip has left them with lasting impressions of paradise:the Nature Island!

* Hey Jude – this one’s for you!  One can never be a stranger when we live “under the same moon.” XO

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‘Living a Healthy Life on the Nature Island’ featured on ‘Retirement and Good Living’ Web Site

Gwendominica is thrilled to hear Carimi (a Haitian Compas Band) warm-up before the start of the SUnday night show at the 17th annual WCMF.  Photo taken by Kim.

Gwendominica is thrilled to hear Carimi (a Haitian Band) warm-up before the Sunday night show at the internationally renowned World Creole Music Festival. Photo taken by Kim.

The folks at the Retirement and Good Living  website asked me to write a post about ‘retirement’ on   Dominica from my perspective.  I

Dominica is called the Nature Island for good reason - pristine rainforests, majestic mountains and beautiful rainbows are just part of the attractions!

Dominica is called the Nature Island for good reason – pristine rainforests, majestic mountains and beautiful rainbows are just some of the attractions!

was delighted to do so, of course! You will find it here!

Gwendominica at Titou Gorge which is the start of the Boiling Lake Trail near Laudat.  Photo taken by fellow 50+ hiking enthusiast, Liz.

Gwendominica at Titou Gorge which is the start of the famous and challenging Boiling Lake Trail near Laudat. Photo taken by fellow 50+ hiking enthusiast, Liz.

It is a pleasure

to contribute this article about my perspectives on  Dominica to  Retirement and Good Living.   This web site covers a range of important and relevant topics for those of us in what I call the “50+” category of life.  Subjects include travel, retirement locations, health, exercise, the latest news of interest to the older and wiser crowd, and more!  I’ve really enjoyed reading many fascinating and well-written pieces on their site.  Check it out!

Gwendominica really enjoys Creole Day . Photo taken by Izzy of Images Dominica.

Gwendominica really enjoys Creole Day . Photo taken by Izzy of Images Dominica.

Interested readers who might like  further information about  visiting or relocating to Dominica can  also refer to the following web sites for information: the Discover Dominica Authority; the Invest Dominica Authority Expat Blog Dominica ; Escape Artist Dominica ; and the Government of Dominica  web portal.

Who knows – maybe we’ll meet one day on the Nature Isle!

Gwendominica takes a 'sea bath' at Coconut Beach near Portsmouth.  Photo taken by Edwin.

Gwendominica takes a relaxing ‘sea bath’  in the calm Caribbean Sea at Coconut Beach near Portsmouth. Photo taken by Edwin.

Ti Domnik Tales is One Year Old!: the top 12 posts of the past 12 months

Gwendominica is abundantly thankful to her readers and supporters of Ti Domnik Tales.  Photo taken by Laasting Images Photo Studio, Roseau Dominica on Creole Day, October 26, 2012.

Gwendominica is abundantly thankful to her readers and supporters of Ti Domnik Tales. Photo taken by Lasting Images Photo Studio, Roseau Dominica on Creole Day, October 26, 2012.

March marks the first anniversary of my blog about Dominica, called Ti Domnik Tales. Coincidentally, this month also means that I am beginning the 16th year that I have lived on the Nature Isle. I am delighted to have published 50 posts and to have received more than 10,000 visits during the first year of this blog’s existence.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has referred to this website for information, curiosity or interest in some of my published experiences about Dominica. I am especially grateful to author Susan Toy for her encouragement, as well as website designers Carrie Mumford and Wendy Walsh for their technical assistance in getting the blog “up and running.”  My loyal family and friends, as well as faithful “followers” and those who “like” me make this literary experience even more rewarding and gratifying.

I will definitely “keep ’em coming,” with an aim for  a total of 100 posts over the next year.

Thanks again for checking into some of  the places, adventures and personalities that have enriched my life on the Nature Isle! I hope you will continue to enjoy Ti Domnik Tales.

Apart from a heavily consulted archives, here are the top twelve posts of the past year:

1. Spending a Spa Day at Papillote Wilderness Retreat

2. Dominica’s Antony Agar : Australian Ringer, Caribbean Sea-Captain, Schooner Builder, Author

3. Dominica’s Hike Fest: It’s “the best!”

4. Dominica’s Carnival Celebrations: Original, Traditional, Fun!

5. The Voice of Ti Domnik Tales

6. Roseau Dominica: Charming Caribbean Capital: Part 1

7. A Morning on Mero Beach

8. ‘Ma Pampo’ and the Centenarians of Dominica

9. Roseau Dominica: Charming Caribbean Capital; Part 2

10. Celebrating ‘Canada Day’ in Dominica with Yoga, Friends and Snakes!

11. Colour, Tradition and Spectacle: Dominica’s Carnival Monday ‘Ole Mas’ and Youth Parade 2013

12. The Voice of Ti Domnik Tales

If you have a moment and/or a thought to spare: PLEASE TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT TI DOMNIK TALES. 

Thanks for your interest in Ti Domnik Tales!

Thanks for your interest in Ti Domnik Tales!

My burning question is:

SHOULD I TURN TI DOMNIK TALES INTO AN E-BOOK AFTER I HAVE REACHED 100 POSTS?

Your input would be most appreciated, dear reader!  Please leave your comment in the reply box below.

Sincerely,

Gwendominica

Calling All Sailors: Drop Anchor at Dominica!*

Ships, Yachts, Sailboats and Cruisers drop anchor at Roseau

Ships, Yachts, Sailboats and Cruisers drop anchor at Roseau.

When sailing through the Caribbean, be sure to set your sights on Dominica, the English-speaking island located between Guadeloupe and Martinique.  Nature lovers and adventure seekers would be remiss if they did not drop anchor at Dominica!

Sailors approaching Dominica will easily understand why the Kalinago people called her 'Waitukubuli', which means "Tall is her body."

Sailors approaching Dominica will easily understand why the Kalinago people called her ‘Waitukubuli’, which means “Tall is her body.”

For centuries, Dominica has impressed many sailors with its lush green mountains rising right out of the sea.  When the Kalinago people (Carib Indians) first paddled up here from South America over a thousand years ago, they called her Waitukubuli, which means “tall is her body.” It was on a Sunday during Columbus’s second journey in 1493 that he named the island ‘Dominica’ for the day of his personal ‘discovery’. (Note: He did not set foot on the Nature Island, but it is said that he was in awe of her rugged terrain!)  And some people feel that if the great explorer  were return to the Caribbean today, Dominica would be the only island that would look familiar!

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L’Express des Iles ferry (red and white) frequently drops people from Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Lucia on Dominica!

Within its terrain are four mountains rising above 4,000 feet.  Over 30 waterfalls nd gorges, innumerable rivers (some say one for every day of the year!) and a rainforest considered the finest in the region beckon the seafarer to step ashore and spend some time on this island paradise.  Of course, if diving is your delight, you won’t be disappointed either.  The Nature Island’s amazing underwater terrain ranks among the best in the world.

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These moorings are close to the Anchorage Hotel, a mile south of Roseau. They can organize your shore, dive and whale watch tours right from their dock!

Once ashore, go to Roseau, the capital city, and visit the Dominica Museum, as well as the Tourist Information Office  They are located on the Bay Front, directly opposite the cruise ship pier.  The museum will give you a very good overview of the country’s history, culture and anthropology through its wonderful exhibits and displays.  As the Tourist Information Office is downstairs, you can get information about various attractions and adventure activities, as well as securing names of certified taxi operators and tour guides.

In order to fully experience the magnificence of Dominica’s rainforest, a visit or two to Morne Trois Pitons National Park near Laudat would be most worthwhile.  In 1997, UNESCO proclaimed this 17,000 acre park as a World Heritage Site because of its biodiversity, natural features and uniqueness within the region.  There are four hiking trails within the park, including the challenging day-long return journey to the world-famous Boiling Lake.  This is the most arduous track, which requires assistance from a certified guide.  At the trail-head to the Boiling Lake, the Titou Gorge offers a refreshing but challenging swim into its interior and a natural hot shower at its mouth.  (You might want to save that for your reward when you finish this challenging hike). The other trails to Middleham Falls, Freshwater Lake and Boeri Lake also give the intrepid sailor plentiful opportunities for a good landlubber workout amidst pristine  wilderness surroundings.

The Freshwater Lake Trail in Morne Trois Pitons National Park has spectacular views of the east coast. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

The Freshwater Lake Trail in Morne Trois Pitons National Park has spectacular views of the east coast. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

If it’s your intention to stay on land for more than a day or so, then you should also experience a segment or two of the recently opened Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT).  One hundred and fifteen miles of track are broken up into 14 segments which traverse the island from Scott’s Head in the south to the Cabrits in the north.  The sections vary in length, difficulty and type of terrain but it is reasonable to estimate a full day of hiking on each segment in most cases.  If you take along a certified trail guide, your wilderness workout will be further enhanced.

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I dare you to take a dip in the cool Emerald Pool in Morne Trois Pitons National Park!

There are many other ways to experience nature at its finest  in Dominica.  The Papillote Wilderness Retreat in Trafalgar features a four-acre tropical garden which has a number of rare plants and some hot and cold mineral pools. Nearby are the stunning twin falls of Trafalgar, which can be  observed from a  sheltered viewing platform. Another easily accessible waterfall is the Emerald Pool, just off the road to Castle Bruce in the island’s interior.  The bountiful shades of green make it a photographer’s delight.  This and the Trafalgar Falls trail  are relatively short and well maintained, but if you don’t care for crowds, it is best to experience them on a day when there are no cruise ships in port.

After spending some time at and perhaps even swimming in the Emerald Pool, you should head in an easterly direction to Castle Bruce and then turn in a northerly direction so that you can visit the Carib Territory.  This area of Dominica is home to about 3,000 Kalinago people who live in eight villages scattered throughout this reserve.  These indigenous people are renowned for their wonderful  hand-woven baskets made from local grasses and they bake a very delicious bread from the root of the cassava plant. In order to further appreciate their history and culture, a stop at Kalinago Barana Aute (Carib Model Village) is a must.  Here, you can take a guided tour, watch traditional dances, observe the making of ancient crafts and carving of traditional dug-out canoes and sample some of that mouth-watering cassava bread! While in the area, you might  like to make another side-trip for an hour or so and take the  L’Escalier Tete Chien trail down to the Atlantic.  This natural stairway to the  ocean is said to resemble a boa constrictor. Ask your guide about the intriguing legend of this area.

The walk down (and then back up) L'Escalier Tete Chien in the Carib Reserve is not for the faint of heart!

The walk down (and then back up) L’Escalier Tete Chien in the Carib Territory is not for the faint of heart!

Prince Rupert's Bay at Portsmouth has numerous moorings.  It is the most popular anchorage in Dominica.

Prince Rupert’s Bay at Portsmouth has numerous secure moorings. It is a popular anchorage in Dominica.

On another day, you can also drop anchor at Portsmouth, or take an hour’s drive up the coast from Roseau to enjoy the interpretive path at Syndicate, located inland from Dublanc in the Northern Forest Reserve.  This one hour loop is popular for parrot watching.  The endangered Sisserou  and the vulnerable Jacquot (Jaco) are endemic to Dominica and thrive in this area. A knowledgeable guide and forestry officer, such as Bertrand (Dr. Birdy) Jno Baptiste (drbirdy2@cwdom.dm)  can tell you more about these and other birds, as well as the flora and fauna around the trail. More intrepid hikers might like to tackle Dominica’s highest peak, Morne Diablotin, as you are in near the trail-head.  You could also pick up the Waitukubuli National Trail Segments 10 and/or 11, which traverse this part of the Nature Island.

If you’d rather sit for a while after all that ‘walking’, you could take a scenic boat-ride up the Indian River, just south of Portsmouth.  Trained guides will row you up the bwa mang tree-lined river (which was featured in Pirates of the Caribbean – but I forget whether it was in # 2 or 3!)), while explaining the local history  and pointing out areas and creatures of interest in this enchanting locale.  The stop at the remote Bush Bar may (or may not!)  be memorable!

For those who choose not to hike up mighty Morne Diablotin, you could spend a restful day having a picnic and admiring it from a distance at Fort Shirley in the Cabrits National Park.  The fort is presently being restored and there are many interpretive signs, displays and well-marked meandering trails on the site.  Segment 14 of the Waitukubuli National Trail, which follows the rocky coastline from Capuchin in the north, also passes through the park and terminates near its entrance.  Then again, you could ride a horse  from a stable just east of Portsmouth and move through the rain forest on a saddle instead of your feet.

If you’d like to spend some down time on a beach, you’ll have plenty of choices.  While there are no five-mile long stretches filled with hundreds of tourists, you’ll find some quiet strips of sand or

Coconut Beach, just south of Portsmouth is a great place to relax and have aswim. The Cabrits National Park (the two humps) can be seen in teh distance. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Coconut Beach, just south of Portsmouth is a great place to relax and have a swim. The Cabrits National Park (the two humps) can be seen in the distance. Historic Fort Shirley is found there.  Photo by Edwin Whitford.

pebbles all along the west and northeast coasts.  While a secluded cove may seem appealing, I would discourage anyone from venturing too far without a tour guide or taxi driver, just to be on the safe side (as you would anywhere in the world!).

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The Soufriere-Scott’s Head Marine Reserve in the south of the island is a protected site. At Soufriere Bay,Scott’s Head is the promontory in the distance. Photo by Edwin Whitford

Water-sports enthusiasts can partake of their favourite pass-times in Dominica too.  Various companies offer kayaking, tubing, rafting, river hiking, windsurfing, fishing, whale watching, snorkeling, and of course, spectacular scuba diving for which Dominica is famous.  A number of licensed dive operators are located along the west coast of the island.  There are many sites from which to take the plunge, including L’Abym along the southwest coast which descends to 1,500 feet.  Snorkelers will delight in the variety of sea life found on the  abundant, healthy coral reefs.  Champagne Beach in the northern part of the Soufriere-Scott’s Head Marine Reserve is exceptional for rising bubbles composed of volcanic gasses formed beneath the sea.

Dominica is renowned for its nature and adventure, but you would be missing out on a big part of it if you overlooked its unique culture.  Festivities, such as the annual World Creole Music Festival can really attract a huge crowd.  It takes place every October, just before the country’s Independence celebrations and draws thousands from around the world. Carnival season is a perennial favourite from January to March with its pageants, parades, calypso competitions and street jump-ups. On a weekly basis, a number of hotels, bars and clubs offer happy hours and special events. The tourist information office or a hotel can give you more details.

And don’t forget to sample some local fare!  Put your taste buds to the test – try some stuffed bakes, black pudding, souse,  goat-water, crab-backs (in season) or callaloo soup, to name a few.

Only slip-shod sailors would be content to admire Dominica’s topography from a distance.  So drop anchor and experience the sensational Nature Island, Dominica!DSCF5176

*Comprehensive information about Dominica is found on these web sites:  Discover Dominica Authority and A Virtual Dominica.

** This piece was originally published in Caribbean Compass January 2004 and has since been substantially modified.

Discovering Dominica’s Delights*

Northwestern Coastline of Dominica from Coconut Beach on Prince Rupert Bay (Picard area of Portsmouth in the distance, Morne au Diable in background). Photo by Edwin Whitford

When I first sailed along the west coast of Dominica and marveled at its green forests and majestic peaks, I understood how Columbus must have felt when he first glimpsed the island on his second voyage in 1493.  Dominicans proudly exclaim that if this great explorer were to return to the Caribbean today, this country would probably be the only one he would still recognize.

That is because the self-proclaimed “Nature Island,” located between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique is not overly developed.  Hotels are cozy  and intimate, people are friendly and there are no crowded beaches in this English-speaking land.

Above all, visitors will find  unique  natural attractions which can be seen either on a drive around the country or by taking a hike on any number of trails that crisscross the island.  The recently opened Waitukubuli National Trail  is  one-of-a-kind in the Caribbean.  It consists of 14 segments of varying degrees of difficulty and lengths that traverse the island from north to south over a total of 184 kilometers (115 miles).

Freshwater Lake. Photo by Edwin Whitford

Morne Trois Pitons National Park in the island’s interior became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Its unspoiled features will appeal to nature lovers and adventure seekers of all ages and abilities.  Within the park’s boundaries are five major mountains which are almost 5,000 feet high, one of which is named Morne Trois Pitons.  As well, the Boeri and Freshwater Lakes are found at higher elevations, as are some towering waterfalls, the spectacular Valley of Desolation, the second largest Boiling Lake in the world and other geothermal areas.  The Smithsonian Institute has previously described Dominica as “a giant plant laboratory, unchanged for 10,000 years” (Fodor’s Caribbean, 1996).  You will understand why when you see the pristine forests and vegetation, uncommon wildlife and 360 degree breathtaking vistas.

Springfield is now a research centre which is nestled in the mountains on the edge of the rainforest.

It would take many days, perhaps even months (and possibly years!) to discover all of Dominica’s ecological delights.  During my first few years in Dominica, I explored the island by foot and transport from my home base at the serene Springfield Guest House, a former plantation  nestled on the edge of the rainforest.  Right away, I admired the fascinating terrain and gained insights into my adopted country’s culture.

Dominica is known for its underwater sites, as well as the above-ground ones and is know as a diver’s delight.  I do not dive, but I enjoy looking just beneath the surface of the sea.  For a bit of easy snorkeling, I traveled to Scott’s Head, a point of land on the southern coast of the island.  From only a few feet offshore, I floated above dozens of flashy tropical fishes.  As I was on my own in the water and not a deep-sea diver,  I did not venture out to the steep cliff, which drops off along the face of an eroded volcano.

Soufriere Bay, with Scott’s Head in the distance. Photo by Edwin Whitford

The taxi trip there and back along the southwest coast was also awesome. Between Pointe Michel and Champagne Beach, we drove between barren gray cliffs and the calm Caribbean Sea on a very narrow road.  The scenes constantly changed as we journeyed through seemingly mystical forests (where some episodes from Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 were filmed in 2005).

Gwendominica soaking in the large pool at Soufriere Sulphur Springs. Photo by Edwin Whitford

While I was in the southwesterly part of Dominica, I totally relaxed myself by taking a long hot soak in the large mineral pool at the Soufriere Sulphur Springs Eco-Site.  The mild smell was not overwhelming.  I was so relaxed that I fell asleep in the taxi on the way back to Springfield!

Next morning, I awoke refreshed and enthusiastically donned my hiking boots for the lengthy trek to Middleham Falls in Morne Trois Pitons National Park.  It would take about five leisurely hours (round trip) on foot from Springfield via the  Cochrane village route , but I was not in any rush. I was now on island time!

A certified guide told me much about the flora and fauna of the area as we moved deeper into the rainforest.  I saw a cuckoo and the elusive rodent called an agouti.  I also heard the plaintive call of the mountain whistler who hides high in the treetops. Gigantic tropical plants such as palms and ferns shaded the track.

Gwendominica crossing one of the rivulets en route to Middleham Falls. Photo by Edwin Whitford

Although I was in reasonably good shape,  the biggest challenge for me was fording several mountain streams while keeping my boots dry.  A little coaching from my guide and some new-found confidence on my part enabled me to cross the running rivers by hopping from rock to rock.  I was soaked with sweat and weary from exertion when I first glimpsed Middleham Falls.  It literally took my breath away! This powerful cascade plummeted several

Middleham Falls Pool. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

hundred feet into a sparkling pool at its base.  It was a shock to the system to plunge into that seemingly frigid water beneath the falls, but I soon warmed up on the surrounding rocks in the brilliant sunshine. In a short while, I was refreshed enough to begin the return journey.  Since that first expedition, my love affair with hiking in Dominica continues to thrive!

Another day trip took me inland through the Carib Territory where about three thousand Kalinagos live on 3,700 acres of land on the northeast side of the island.  These indigenous people are said to be the last of their kind in the world.  They continue to practise traditional skills such as farming, weaving and the building of ocean-going dug-out canoes for fishing.  (There is now a model village called Kalinago Barana Aute which offers tours, craft demonstrations and traditional performances to the public).  There were also many opportunities to buy beautifully crafted pieces, such as baskets from these friendly folks.

Northeastern coastline from the bottom of L’escalier Tete Chien, Sineku, Carib Territory

On the Atlantic coast, the view was spellbinding from the top of L’escalier Tete Chien (‘The Snake’s Staircase’ – there is a Kalinago legend about this site) at Sineku.  This hardened lava flow looks like a serpent’s head crawling up from the ocean. It looks like a natural staircase down to the sea.  I did not attempt it that day (I have a couple of times since), but I admired others who maneuvered the sometimes slippery steps.

As we headed back to home base, we passed through banana groves, flower gardens and endless panoramas in every direction. The small, winding road blended into the greenery, giving a sense of intimacy with nature.  My reward near the end of the day was a dip in the Emerald Pool, an easy 15 minute walk on a groomed trail from the parking lot.  In the slanting rays of the afternoon sun, the waters did glisten like a jewel.  As there was no one else by the pretty waterfall, I felt as if I had captured a piece of this pristine beauty for myself, at least for a few moments.

Emerald Pool

The Nature Island has many earthly treasures.  Dominica is definitely – and naturally – delightful!

* An earlier version of this article was published in Caribbean Compass, January 1999, page 19.

The adventures described here represent some of my very first impressions of Dominica.  I can assure you that they are definitely lasting! Many of the pictures here were taken on later excursions than the above-described.  My brother’s photos are much appreciated. He’s been to Dominica three times!

If you wish to visit any of the sites or go exploring while visiting Dominica, I strongly urge you to take a certified taxi or hire a qualified guide.  Not only will you be more secure, but you will gain tremendous knowledge and insights about the Nature Island from these informative professionals.