A Bit of Bliss at Beau Rive on Dominica`s East Coast: An Initimate Boutique Hotel with Countless Charms!

The view from my guest room at Beau Rive in Dominica is naturally soothing and entirely sensational.

The  Atlantic Ocean  view from my guest room at Beau Rive in Dominica is naturally soothing and completely sensational.

From any angle, this lovely plantation style inn is tucked in to natural surroundings.

From any angle, this lovely plantation style inn is tucked in to natural surroundings.

There are always so many things to do on Dominica, and the Creole-Independence season is no exception.  It had been a hectic and health-challenged couple of months since my return from Canada, and I felt that the best tonic for my recovery would be a little time away from the vibrant festivities.  So, instead of attending the 18th annual World Creole Music Festival, as I have for many years,  I decided I was deserving

Beau Rive Hotel is nestled into coastal forest and is surrounded by  lovely gardens on the property.

Beau Rive Hotel is nestled into coastal forest and is surrounded by lovely gardens on the property.

of a little down time at Beau Rive, a beautiful boutique hotel  near the village of Castle Bruce, on Dominica`s east coast.

I had spent some time here a few months earlier, and that brief respite aided me in my recovery from Chikungunya and helped me work through my grief from the loss of my beloved cat, Tia-pet.  I knew that another visit would lift my spirits and boost my immune system and I really looked forward to my next sojourn at Beau Rive.

From the moment I arrived, I could feel the  tension and stress melting away as I focused on the gorgeous gardens, stunning vistas and pounding surf as I settled into my cozy room.   I seated myself on the patio chair and meditated on the captivating view below me.  While the scene might seem the same to some, a careful study of the surf and terrain revealed different shades and hues of the rocks and the ocean`s multi-faceted moods at different times on different days.

From the dining room, I stare with fascination at this spellbinding scene.

From the dining room, I stared with fascination at this spellbinding scene.

I love to study this rocky outcrop and listen to the rhythmcial surf from my porch seat.

I love to study this rocky outcrop and listen to the rhythmical surf from my porch seat.

Then I  went back inside and lounged on the chaise longue as I read a few more chapters of an intriguing murder mystery, with settings in London, Toronto, Lisbon and Washington! ( I recommend Every Secret Thing by Canadian author Emma Cole, which I had borrowed from the Roseau Public Library).

Part of the healthy breakfast at Beau Rive included a fresh fruit bowl and a lime curd. Yum!

Part of the healthy breakfast at Beau Rive included a fresh fruit bowl from the garden, tangerine juice and a lime curd.  And there was more to come. Yum!

When I changed my view from distant to close-by, I had only to turn my head slightly to admire these beautiful flowers.

When I changed my view from distant to close-up, I had only to turn my head slightly to admire these beautiful flowers beside my room.

My pool  time before sunset enhanced my serene mood in this lovely locale.

My pool time before sunset enhanced my serene mood in this lovely locale.

Just before sunset, I  refreshed myself with a dip in the pool.  I had it all to myself as I swam back and forth several times to make sure that my appetite was at its peak for the delicious dinner I would enjoy a short while later.  Once again, I found myself in a hypnotic state as I gazed around me at the lush greenery and watched darling hummingbirds flitting to and fro as they sought one last floral drink before nightfall.

I had not yet seen Mark Steele, the proprietor  as he was overseas and would be arriving later that  first evening.  However, his friendly staff made sure that I was completely comfortable.  I had even been given advance notice about what I would have for my dinner – and I could hardly wait!  But the time passed quickly, and at 7 p.m. sharp, I was immediately delighted with the plates that were set before me.  I first savoured

Watercress Soup like no other - and it`s nutritious too!

Watercress Soup like no other – and it`s nutritious too!

mouth-watering watercress soup and garlic bread, and was tempted to ask for more.  However, that would not have been necessary,as the scrumptious California-style fish and chips with a  garden-fresh side salad were beyond compare.

California-style fish n chips - the taste was beyond compare!

California-style fish n chips – the taste was beyond compare!

I did not hesitate to tell the staff (and Mark the next day)that  the Beau Rive version of this popular Friday night dish was the best I had ever eaten!  The local fish Mahi-Mahi was sliced very thinly, fried very lightly and the potato chips were similarly cooked in  healthful coconut oil by Chef Anise.   I won`t soon forget that meal and I hope to have it again!  Needless to say that the other meals

Lime and ginger cheesecake - light and tangy - not overly sweet - just right!

Lime and ginger cheesecake – light and tangy – not overly sweet – just right!

were definitely delectable: homemade basil pesto on pasta the following evening; and yellow fin tuna (local) with fresh seasonings on my last night.  Homemade desserts always satisfied my sweet tooth.

Good thing I did a lot of walking on the hilly terrain around the property and along the quiet  main road. My exertions were entirely worth the reward of these fantastic dinners.

I certainly appreciated the horticultural efforts of Mark and his gardener.  Lovely flowers abounded all around Beau Rive.  I was amazed at the variety and I admired this additional aspect of simple, natural, elegant beauty on the hotel property.  I didn`t have to know their names, but I knew that the blooms, plants and trees gave me great delight and added to the serenity of my downtime at this quaint DSCF3294hotel.DSCF3300

Here is an array of the glorious offerings in the gardens around Beau Rive:DSCF3295

 

 

After my  active late morning-early afternoon forays along the east coast, (which will be described in forthcoming posts), I peacefully unwound in the tranquility and splendor which surrounded me at this casually elegant locale.  Mark and his staff, most of whom have been with him for many years have a knack for making guests feel right at home.  Their warm personalities, culinary talents and collective  desire to ensure that one`s stay is completely comfortable  add to the unforgettable experience of time spent well at Beau Rive.  If you don`t believe me, then check all the rave reviews on Trip Advisor    which confirm my own sentiments.

Frederick the frisky feline knew just what to do to make me laugh.

Frederick, Beau Rive`s frisky feline knew just what to do to make me laugh.

During my next visit to Beau Rive, I am going to spend time in this hammock located just off of the library.  Here, I am going to review some of the  books in the extensive collection right here.

During my next visit to Beau Rive, I am going to spend time in this hammock located just off of the library. I will review some of the books in the extensive house collection right here.

When visiting Dominica, or  in need  of a little escape from the rigors of everyday life, whether residing on-island or elsewhere, a little (or longer!) stay at Beau Rive is the perfect tonic for body, mind and soul.  It certainly works for me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Paradise Found’ in Dominica’s Papillote Tropical Gardens*

I was well in to Dominica’s 35th Independence celebrations when I decided that a morning away from the city would recharge my batteries and reconnect me with the healing wonders of the rainforest. My destination was another of my all time Nature Island favourites: Papillote Wilderness Retreat.  My foray was two-fold, in fact:  I had an appointment with German-trained physiotherapist Ariane Magloire and then I also wished to wander through the substantial four-acre tropical garden on the property.  The owner, Anne Jno Baptiste had recently upgraded the trails throughout the site and I was eager to check them out.

When I drove up the Roseau Valley and  arrived at Papillote (pronounced PAP-ee-yot) at  8:30 a.m., I realized that I even had enough time to revisit one of Dominica’s nearby magnificent wonders, the twin Trafalgar Falls. From the hotel, I walked up the steep ‘hill’ to the eco-site entrance in the pouring rain, without a soul in sight.  As I greeted the lone attendant at the Information Centre, she informed me that there would be no cruise ship in port that Friday, and at that time, no other visitors had arrived.  I had the place to myself!

As I trekked up the well-groomed trail, I was soaked to the skin and a little chilly .After about 15 minutes, I quickly forgot about my  mild discomfort as I stepped onto the sheltered viewing

The twin falls at Trafalgar are an incredible site to behold: the 'Father' is on the left and the 'Mother' is on the right.

The twin falls at Trafalgar are an incredible sight to behold, even in the rain! The ‘Father’ is on the left and the ‘Mother’ is on the right.

platform.  Before me was the most incredible portrait of nature: the twin Trafalgar Falls – two powerfully cascading torrents of clean water tumbling down the mountainside.  I lingered for a while and took photos through the mist as I inhaled the purest air found anywhere.  My dull headache immediately lifted and my spirits soared at this pristine place, which was all mine at that moment.  What a fabulous way to begin that restorative day!

I slowly walked away from this incredible view, and realized that I would have to return on a drier day to approach the Mother Fall (on the right) as the rocks beneath it would have been treacherous in very wet conditions.  After I informed the attendant of my safe return, I wandered back down the road to continue my stroll around the gardens at Papillote.

I still had some time before my ‘massage’ with Ariane, so I grabbed my camera and umbrella and headed  down some steps beside the dining room and directly entered into’ the garden’.  Despite the persistent inclement weather, it was obvious that all the plants were thriving in these highly humid conditions.  I forgot about my shivers as my gaze moved from one plant to the next.  Although I was not  able to readily identify all of them by name, I reveled in this appreciation for some of ‘God’s work’, enhanced with a little TLC from Anne!

Since the late 1960’s, Anne, the director of this establishment has toiled away at this ‘labour of love’ for the benefit of everyone.  Her efforts epitomize the Nature Island,  as she has assembled and tended an immense and diverse range of tropical plants in a protected area.  There are hundreds, some of which are endangered, rare, endemic to Dominica, indigenous to the Caribbean region or exotic transplants from other parts of the world.  You can find out more about this  amazing endeavor by clicking on the Papillote Tropical Gardens website.

It is easy to wander through Papillote's 4-acre garden on well constructed paths.

It is easy to wander through Papillote’s 4-acre garden on well constructed paths.

While I have no ‘green thumb’, I certainly acknowledge and pay tribute to her 45-year-old project, to date.  As I roamed and admired the ‘fruits’ of her labours,  I was now able to cover the terrain more quickly than before.  Anne had recently improved the walking trails on the premises, which will allow for easier meanders for people of any age or ability.  There are also plenty of tables, chairs  and benches scattered at scenic locations all over the property, which allow nature and garden enthusiasts plentiful opportunities to ‘smell the flowers’ and enjoy the views!

Here are some of the natural botanicals that I have had the pleasure to see at Papillote Tropical Gardens:

At the bottom of Papillote's Gardens, a lovely waterfall froms a backdrop for a hot and a cold mineral pool.

At the bottom of Papillote’s Gardens, a lovely waterfall forms a backdrop for both  a hot and a cold mineral pool.

This pretty flower is called  Solanaceae Brugmansia, commonly known as Angel's Trumpet.

This pretty flower is called Solanaceae Brugmansia, commonly known as Angel’s Trumpet.

This pretty flower is a bromeliad called, a Tillandsia cyanea

This dainty plant is a bromeliad called Tillandsia cyanea. It is contained in a pot on table with chairs in the middle of the Gardens!

This plant  is in the ginger family and is a costus barbata.

This plant is in the ginger family and is named costus barbata.

The long strappy leaves are Bromeliad and the leaves below are Taccaceae Tacca chantrieri (black bat flower)

The long strappy leaves are Bromeliad and the leaves below are Taccaceae Tacca chantrieri (black bat flower).

This is a beautiful  begonia.  I remember when my mother used to grow them in pots - although they never got that big!

This is a beautiful begonia. I remember when my mother used to grow them in pots – although they never got that big!

This colourful flower is a hybrid  bromeliad (an aechmea.

This colourful flower is a hybrid bromeliad (an aechmea).

'Forbidden fruits' in the Gardens of Papillote!

This uncommon edible fruit  is called a naranjilla.  It is part of the solanaceae family, which includes peppers,  potatoes and  tomatoes

Frances holds a bunch of dandelion leaves from the Papillote Garden.They can be made into a tea ti help detoxify the body.

Frances holds a bunch of dandelion leaves from the eclectic Papillote Garden.They can be made into a tea to help detoxify the body.

My time was getting a little short before my physiotherapy, so I headed back to the dining room to pick up my backpack and walk up to the  sheltered Birdwatchers’ Hut, where Ariane and her massage table are situated.  En route, I met up with Frances, one of the wonderfully warm  and friendly staff at Papillote.   She was picking a plant near the dining room and I asked her about it.  “Those are dandelion leaves,” she told me, ” They are helpful for cleansing the body of toxins.’  I was intrigued, because although the plant looked different from the North American variety, it has the same function!  It is well-known that thousands of medicinal plants are found on Dominica.  The elders swear by their effectiveness – perhaps more of the younger people should consider taking  their sage advice to complement conventional treatments!

I hadn’t seen Ariane for a while and my session was long overdue!  She manipulated tight tendons and

Ariane Magloire is a German-trained physiotherapist who is available for treatment sessions most Friday mornings at Papillote by advance reservation.

Ariane Magloire is a German-trained physiotherapist who has a very busy practice, but is available for treatment sessions most Friday mornings at Papillote by advance reservation –  (767) 448-2287.

massaged muscle spasms in my  upper back and neck that were causing persistent headaches.  Then she worked on areas of my body where toxins were most likely trapped and she gave my overworked feet a good rub-down too!  She doesn’t know this as I write, but I felt very relaxed and calm and pain-free after one hour on her table.

This is called the iguana pool because the hot water flows through the mouth of a sculpture resembling that large lizard.

This is called the Iguana Pool because the hot water flows through the mouth of a sculpture resembling that large lizard.

In fact, when I dipped into the ‘Iguana’ hot mineral pool immediately afterwards, I propped myself on one side and almost fell asleep.  For me, that state of relaxation is all-too-rare.  Thank you Ariane for a super massage session!!!

I was so content to just lie there in the pool as the rain pattered on the leaves, the wind gently whooshed through the gardens and birds chirped high in the tree-tops.  As for the vistas –

From the vantage points of any of the four hot mineral pools on the premises, there is garden and froest all about - a true wilderness experience without having to do a back-country trek!

From the vantage points of any of the four hot mineral pools on the premises, there is garden and forest all about – a true wilderness experience without having to do a strenuous  back-country trek!

I sheltered while I soaked in this covered pool which is only a few steps from Ariane's massage table in the Birdwatchers' Hut.

I sheltered while I soaked in this covered pool which is only a few steps from Ariane’s massage table in the Birdwatchers’ Hut.

well I hope the photos give you an idea of this particular paradise!

An hour or so later, I was well ‘pruned’ and hunger pangs were setting in.  After changing into dry clothes, I sauntered down  the steps  to the dining room where I  ordered my favourite meal at Papillote:  the Flying Fish Platter, accompanied by my second glass of spiced sorrel juice.  As I sipped on the refreshing beverage, I glanced into the garden area that was very close to my indoor table.  All of a sudden, I was startled out of my reveries: a hummingbird was plopped on a fern in a very awkward-looking position. It looked as if it were dead!

This Purp;e Throated carib hummingbird looks as if it is bent in the wrong direction.  It is actually taking in some sun on its breast!

This Purple Throated Carib hummingbird looks as if its head is bent in the wrong direction. It is actually taking in some sun on its breast!

That same little hummingbird (I think) is contently perched on a branch.

That same little hummingbird (I think) is contentedly perched on a branch.

I thought that it had hit something and had broken its neck.  It did not move for a long  few moments and I feared the worst.  Just as quickly, it reversed its  head position, flitted its tiny wings and was off.  Shortly afterwards, I saw it perched in a nearby tree.  When I mentioned this to Anne, she suspected that it was likely a juvenile with its’ home’  nearby and that it was having a ‘sun bath’!  I was astonished that it felt so safe and comfortable within close proximity to human activities.  Obviously, the food sources were plentiful for that Purple-Throated Carib, one of four species of hummingbirds that are found in Dominica.  Anne tells me that all four types are often  seen in the Gardens.

I always enjoy the Creole-inspired Flying Fish Platter at Papillote. The fish is covered in a flavourful onion-tomato Creole sauce, the hearty natural and organic salad and the 'puffs' are made from dasheen, a local ground provision vegetable.

I always enjoy the Creole-inspired Flying Fish Platter at Papillote. The fish is covered in a flavourful onion-tomato Creole sauce, the hearty local salad  is topped with shredded beets and the ‘puffs’ are made from dasheen, a local ground provision vegetable.

It looks look like a vase of violets to me but Anne informed me that the lighter lavender are cuphea hyssopifolia and the darker purple are ground orchids..spathoglottis unguiculata

It looked like a vase of violets to me but Anne informed me that the lighter lavender  flowers are cuphea hyssopifolia and the darker purple are ground orchids-spathoglottis unguiculata.  My sorrel juice never stays long in the glass!

Once my lunch was served, I concentrated on savoring every morsel.  I ate everything on the plate, and then felt even more drowsy.  If I didn’t leave soon, I would have to ask for a bed!  I paid my reasonable bill and departed, with a promise that I would be back by Christmas.  Now that’s a plan that I wish to realize above most others!

Proprietor Anne Jno Baptiste was awarded an honorary membership in the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association in November 2014.. Papillote is Dominica`s first true eco-inn and has followed ecological principles for several decades and is an international award-winning hotel! “She understood the magic of the product and stayed true to it…Papillote Wilderness Retreat is Dominica’s original ‘eco inn’ and remains one of the leading eco lodges in the region,” her citation reads.

Proprietor Anne Jno Baptiste was awarded an honorary membership in the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association in November 2014.
Papillote is Dominica`s first true eco-inn.It has followed ecological principles for several decades and is an international award-winning hotel!

*Many thanks to Anne Jno Baptiste, Founder and Director of Papillote Wilderness Retreat for creating this perfect paradise on the Nature Island, and for taking the time to help me with plant identification.  Her knowledge-base of tropical  horticulture is nothing short of amazing!

English Immersion on the Nature Island: French Students Learn about Dominica’s Flora and Fauna*

Students Carole (l), Victoria and Marie-Agnes from Ludicademi in Martinique demonstrated tremendous interest and keenly participated in class discussions.

Students Carole (l), Victoria,Marie-Agnes and Charles from Ludicademi in Martinique demonstrated tremendous interest and keenly participated in class discussions.

The Crapaud frog (aka Mountain Chicken) is critically endangered and is endemic to Dominica and Montserrat. Read about its plight and the exceptional efforts to save it here.

The Crapaud frog (aka Mountain Chicken) is critically endangered and is endemic to only Dominica and Montserrat. Read about its plight and the exceptional efforts to save it here.

During a class held at the University of  the West Indies Open Campus in June, the English immersion students from Ludicademi in Martinique grasped the significance of  relevant and meaningful vocabulary  that could be directly applied to plants and animals on the Nature Island. Over the course of three hours, they began to understand  the meaning of biodiversity, the importance of wildlife conservation, as well as how, why  and what endemic, migratory,  endangered and vulnerable species are found here.

By the amount of questions that they posed, it was clear they were tremendously interested in the less common  and threatened species that exist on Dominica. That afternoon,  renowned author and  Forestry and Wildlife Officer Arlington James (retired) would be taking them on an interpretive tour of the Syndicate Forest Nature Trail (located above Dublanc on the west coast, in the foothills of Morne Diablotin). I was assured that they would come away from this day’s topic with a great appreciation for and understanding of Dominica’s flora and fauna.

The Fragile’ Mountain Chicken’ Frog

They were particularly fascinated by the ‘Mountain Chicken’ frog (aka Crapaud), which is critically endangered (almost extinct!) due to a persistent fungal infection. It is a regional endemic, as a very  are few found on Dominica and Montserrat. Those that manage  to survive are being closely monitored by Forestry and Wildlife Division officers, with much appreciated assistance from specialists at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Birds, Birds, Birds!

The Imperial or Sisserou Parrot is endangered and is only found on Dominica.  This is a female.  Photo taken by Forestry Officer Stephen Durand.

The Imperial or Sisserou Parrot is endangered and is only found on Dominica. This is a female. Photo taken by Forestry Officer Stephen Durand.

I referred them to the classification system of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) where they would discover the survival status of specific species. They had no idea that Dominica’s two parrots, the Sisserou which is endangered and the Jaco which is vulnerable are only found on Dominica.  That means that they are endemic to this country alone!  However, some of the students wondered if they might have seen Jaco parrots on Martinique.  I could not confirm this, of course.  I do hope that they queried Mr. James.  The Jaco’s numbers are increasing and the distance between Dominica and Martinique is not great, so I wonder if it is possible…I will certainly check with my friend, Forestry Officer/Bird Specialist Bertrand ‘Dr. Birdy’ Jno Baptiste when I next see him!

Certainly, Dominica can be described as a bird enthusiast’s ‘heaven’.  Over 200 species of our feathered friends have been sighted here, although only about 50 are resident year-round (reference:birdlife.org).  Of course, the others are migratory.  The class was intrigued when I showed them a photo of a Blue-Headed Hummingbird, which is only found on Dominica and Martinique.  That means it is a ‘regional

The vibrant colouts of the male Blue-Headed Hummingbird are a sight to see. it is only found on Dominica and Martinique.

The vibrant colours of the male Blue-Headed Hummingbird are a sight to see. it is only found on Dominica and Martinique. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

endemic’!  I was very surprised that no one in the class had ever seen one on our sister island to the south.  I could only hope that they might catch a glimpse of one in the Syndicate area, as I had with ‘Dr. Birdy’.

Snakes and Lizards

Friends took me to see a nest of Boa Constrictors (locally called 'Tet-Chien' in Creole) on Canada day 2012.

Friends took me to see a nest of Boa Constrictors (locally called ‘Tete-Chien’ in Creole) on Canada Day 2012.

I showed the class a number of other photographs of animals on Dominica – at least my favourites!  They were really astonished by the possible length of the endemic species of Boa Constrictor snake – which can reach 10 feet!  I assured them that it was not poisonous, nor were the other three species that are found here.  While the confirmed numbers of this reptile are not exactly known, it is felt by some experts that they might be vulnerable, especially due to habitat loss and hunting.  They do play a vital role in keeping down the rat population.  I am always thrilled to come across one in the forest, which is not that often!

DSCF4538

The endangered Lesser Antillean Iguana (called Leza in Creole) is the largest lizard on Dominica. Recently some other types have colonized here from other countries.

The other reptile that I enjoy watching up close is the Lesser Antillean Iguana.  

Amazingly, the class had seen a bright green juvenile in the Botanical Gardens the previous day but didn’t know what it was!  It is the largest of about nine species that thrive on the Nature Island. Again, it has been suggested that  their numbers are in decline and that they are classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List.  However, on Dominica, these creatures are protected by law, so I hope they fare better here than on other islands.  I have seen them  in various locales along the west coast, including Champagne Beach, Mero Beach and  seaside at Coulibistrie.

This 'stick insect' is endemic to (only found on) Dominica!

This ‘stick insect’ is endemic to (only found on) Dominica!

Whales and Dolphins  and Other Mammals

Of course, I told them a little about the sea creatures as well, including a resident year-round pod of Sperm Whales, and plentiful dolphins.  A number of other types of whales are migratory and pass through Dominica’s waters annually.  Dominica is known as the ‘Whale Watch Capital of the Caribbean’, as the likelihood of spotting some cetaceans  on an excursion is very high.

Then we talked about  a few of the other 16 mammals that exist on Dominica:, including 12 species of bats, the rodent-like agouti, and manicou (opossum).  They are similar to, if not the same varieties on Martinique, according to some of the students.

Sea Turtles

There was a very lively discussion when I showed the class some video clips about the three types of endangered sea turtles that regularly nest on Dominica’s beaches (Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Green).  To see the females come in to  dig a nest and lay many eggs, or to watch hatchlings run into the sea are awesome sights.  As these animals are protected by law on Dominica, some students queried the balance between tradition and conservation.  Historically, turtle meat and eggs have been eaten by some people here.  There was  some concern  in the class about being denied one’s rights to eat a traditional food or to protect an endangered species.  It can be a delicate subject, but I urged the students to consider that if they were plentiful, and if there were no other food sources, I could understand the need to hunt them.  Most definitely, that is not the case these days, and anyone caught interfering with the turtles is arrested.  I also told the group that a number of community associations, especially on the east coast, patrol the beaches at night when the turtles come in.  They also offer turtle  watching tours!

Flora/Plants

There was so much to say about the flora and fauna found on Dominica that I ran out of time.  It was important to point out that the Smithsonian Institute In Washington D.C. has previously described Dominica as “a giant plant laboratory, unchanged for 10,000 years” (Fodor’s Caribbean, 1996).  I made sure to emphasize that there are over 1,000 flowering plants in Dominica, of which 11 species are only found here, and nowhere else!

These red and pink ginger lilies are called exotic plants because they were introduced to Dominica from sources in Malaysia.

These red and pink ginger lilies are called exotic plants because they were originally introduced to Dominica from sources in Malaysia.

These beautiful anthurium lilies belong to the monocotyledons class, of which tere are 186 species on the Nature Island

These beautiful anthurium lilies belong to the class of ‘monocotyledons’, of which there are 186 species on the Nature Island

Two species of heliconia flowers are only found on Dominica.

Two species of heliconia flowers are only found on Dominica.

Prolific Gommier Trees are indigenous to the caribbean region.  There are about 200 forest trees in Dominica.

Prolific Gommier Trees are indigenous to the Caribbean region. There are about 200 types of forest trees in Dominica.

I quickly showed them a few more photos of my favourites and then they were off for their excursion with retired forestry and wildlife expert Mr. Arlington James to learn more in the forest at the Syndicate Eco-site.

This "chicken of the forest' mushroom is edible, although there are other species on Dominica that are poisonous!

This “chicken of the forest’ mushroom is edible, although there are other species on Dominica that are poisonous!

I think they were truly amazed about the extraordinary amount of biodiversity on the tiny lush Nature Island!

* This mini English immersion programme was organized by Tina Alexander, Executive Director of Lifeline Ministries, Dominica.

Reference: Overview of the Flora and Fauna of Dominica [notes] prepared by Stephen Durand For Dominica State College Basic Skills Training Programme, October 2006.

Dominica`s Floral Splendor: The Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Show 2013

One of the most eye-catching floral arrangements was this map of Dominica, with its 10 parishes outlined in  yellow flowers.

One of the most eye-catching floral arrangements was this map of Dominica, with its 10 parishes outlined in yellow flowers.

It was such a delight to attend the recently resurrected Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Show, which formed  part of  Dominica`s Tourism Awareness

The annual Flower Show is held in May and is located in the heart of the village of Giraudel

The annual Flower Show is held in May and is located in the heart of the village of Giraudel.

Month. I am no gardener, but I do appreciate those who toil to grow plants for  both pleasure and purpose.  It appears that these two mountain villages (over 1,000 feet above sea level) have not only the right growing conditions, but also a dedicated group of people who make up the Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Growers Inc.  When I toured their site on the afternoon of Saturday May 25th, I was definitely impressed with their talents! About 1,000 others also took in the wonderful floral  exhibits during the previous week.  I hope that large numbers did attend the last two days  of the event after me ,before it closed on Sunday evening.

I did not expect a private guide, but as it was early in the afternoon and relatively quiet, Flower Grower member Susanne Blanc took me around the two and a half acre property.  Along with telling me something about almost every area on the site, she took the time to relay  its history and recent developments.

The Flower Show had not been around for the last nine years due to the destruction of the temporary building during heavy rains. But now they were overjoyed to have a permanent place, property, flower beds and a big greenhouse for cultivating their plants.  She noted that the Government of Dominica had played an integral role in assisting their organization to become fully operational.  As well, other international bodies such as the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), and the Community Management of Protected Areas (COMPACT) also came to their aid.

This corner of the Flower House paid tribute to the late Marvlyn Robinson, an active member of the Flower Growers`Group and staunch supporter of cultural activites in Dominica.  Portrait by Giraudel  artist Caesar Catin.

This corner of the Flower House paid tribute to the recently deceased Marvlyn Robinson, an active member of the Flower Growers`Group and staunch supporter of cultural activities in Dominica. Portrait by Giraudel artist Caesar Catin.

This joint community effort is certainly to be admired.  Both men and women from the two villages contributed to the success of the Flower Show in various ways.  Some people brought their flowers, others arranged them, administrative matters were managed, knowledgeable builders, farmers, tradespeople and home makers came together to proudly display their `claim to fame’`as the “Flower Basket“ of Dominica.

Giraudel`s new Flower Show building is beautifully adorned by village  artist Caesar Catin.

Giraudel`s new Flower Show building is beautifully adorned by village artist Caesar Catin.

Near the Flower Growers`Building, a wedding display portrays the potential of celebrating nuptials in such natural beauty!

Near the Flower Growers`Building, a wedding display portrays the potential of celebrating nuptials in such natural beauty!

While I am not proficient in recalling the names of most plants, Susanne did tell me about some of them more than once. She did kindly confirm some plant names for the pictures in this post.  However, any additional comments from knowledgeable gardeners or horticulturists are welcome!

There is nothing like a little garden appreciation time to lift one`s spirits. I felt rejuvenated after viewing these beautiful floral exhibits.

Susanne really did tell me the name of this pretty purple flower more than once.  If anyone can remind me via a comment, it would be very much appreciated!

This pretty purple flower is called Agapanthis or African Lily . Reference: Susanne Blanc.

I hope you will enjoy this sampling of some of the beautiful floral displays as much as I did!

Plentiful Nature Island bouquets welcomed me to the Giraudel-Eggleston Flower in May 2013.Show

Plentiful Nature Island bouquets welcomed me to the Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Show in May 2013.

Horticulturists and nature lovers should mark their calendars to come to Dominica for the annual Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Show, and partake of numerous other activities that are offered each May during Dominica`s Tourism Awareness Month, as well.  On this stunning island, nature, culture and adventure go hand in hand!

* Thanks to Susanne, for taking the time to tell me all about the Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Growers Inc. and for the detailed tour of the property.

** Giraudel is about a 20 minute drive south (and inland) from Roseau.  Ask your hotel for specific directions and information.

Anthurium lilies are my favourite flowers in Dominica.  I regularly buy bunches of them at the Roseau Market on Saturdays. they grow prolifically in the rainforest.

Anthurium lilies are my favourite flowers in Dominica. I regularly buy bunches of them at the Roseau Market on Saturdays. They grow prolifically in the rainforest.

Vibrant ginger lilies  are a common flower in Dominica.  They last well in a vase too!

Vibrant ginger lilies are a common flower in Dominica. They last well in a vase too!

Pretty Dahlias and other n`northern`flowers grow well in Giraudel`s cooler, moist climate.

Pretty Dahlias and other northern flowers grow well in Giraudel`s cooler, moist climate.

These flowers, called Alstromeria or Peruvian Lilies complement many arrangements.

These flowers, called Alstromeria or Peruvian Lilies complement many arrangements. Reference: Susanne Blanc.

Marvelous Heliconia - in reds, greens and yellows thrive in the rainforest.  Some of this species are endemic to Dominica.

Marvelous Heliconia – in reds, greens and yellows thrive in the rainforest. Some varieties of this species are endemic to Dominica.

Neat and tidy flowers beds were planted by Desmond`s Landscaping Plus of Eggleston : (767) 276-6774 or 614-2607.

Neat and tidy flower beds were planted by Desmond`s Landscaping Plus of Eggleston : (767) 276-6774 or 614-2607.

Queen Anee`s Lace grows very well around Giraudel.  It reminds of me of summer fields around my late parents`home in Canada.

Queen Anne`s Lace grows very well in Giraudel. It reminds of me of summer fields around my late parents`home in Canada.

Amazingly, cacti can thrive in the mountainous tropical climate, with proper tending and well drained soil.

Bromeliads  are at home in the rainforest, but the Flower Growers know how to care for  them too.

Delicate orchids are found in the rainforest.  They can be successfully cultivated with lots of TLC.

Delicate orchids are found in the rainforest. They can be successfully cultivated with lots of TLC.

Amazingly, cacti can thrive in the mountainous tropical climate, with proper tending and well drained soil.

Amazingly, cacti can thrive in the mountainous tropical climate, with proper tending and  soil with good drainage.

Another attractive flower bed by Desmond`s Landscaping Plus.

Another attractive flower bed by Desmond`s Landscaping Plus of Eggleston.

To lift one`s head above the flowers gives an appreciation for the mountainous terrain.  In this photo, a northerly view from Giraudel.

To lift one`s head above the flowers gives an appreciation for the mountainous terrain. In this photo, a northerly view from Giraudel.

So many different varieties of flowers thrive in the Giraudel-Eggleston area.

So many varieties of flowers thrive in the Giraudel-Eggleston area.

In my opinion, they all are!  Congratulations to the Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Growers Inc.  on a very successful show!

Yes indeed, Dominica is a natural beauty! Congratulations to the Giraudel-Eggleston Flower Growers Inc. on a very successful show!

‘Dr. Birdy’ and the Kachibona Lake Adventure on Dominica’s Waitukubuli National Trail*

The trail is well marked by prominent signs on every segment.

The trail is well-marked by prominent signs on every segment.

On Sunday April 14th, friends Wendy, Liz and I tagged along with tour guide extraordinaire Bertrand ‘ Dr. Birdy’ Jno Baptiste on a true Dominica adventure: a long  section of a hike  regarded by experts as extremely difficult and highly challenging on Segment 9 of  the Waitukubuli National Trail.  A few days later, I am proud to acknowledge that  I realized a dream that  I  had once thought impossible to achieve!

We set out early on a beautiful day in paradise with no rain in the forecast.  Birdy’s son Yuan drove us high above the village of Morne Raquette near Coulibistrie on

It took several hours to hike from the heights of Morne Raquette to Kachibona Lake, which is located a short distance off of Segment 9 of the Waitukubuli National Trail.

It took several hours to hike from the heights of Morne Raquette to Kachibona Lake, which is  about 3,000 feet above sea level.  It is located a short distance from Segment 9 of the Waitukubuli National Trail. The name of the lake is derived from a Kalinago word for escaped slaves/maroons.

a farm feeder road.  After about half an hour, he dropped us off a short distance from the actual trail.  We admired the stunning views all around us before disappearing into the cool and inviting rainforest.  Our objective was to hike for several hours until we met up with an intersecting trail that would take us to the intriguing Kachibona Lake.  We were curious to see the small body of water, which played a role in the island’s history.

In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s,  escaped slaves/maroons (called Negres Marons) hid in this area. Under the leadership of their chief named Pharcelle,  they supported Republican Frenchmen  during the French Revolution and  raided the British  who occupied the country at that time.  But then Pharcelle is also documented as having liaised with “British black rangers.”  Interestingly, his alliances were never consistent!

The views looking inland en route to the WNT Segment 9 junction above Morne Raquette.

This view of the south side of Morne Diablotin (Dominica’s highest mountain), was photographed from the southwest side of middle Morne Raquette Heights en route to the WNT Segment 9 junction.

Bridy (l), his son Yuan (our driver), Wendy and Liz relax for a moment before the big hike.

Dr. Birdy (l), his son Yuan (our driver), Wendy and Liz relax for a moment before the big hike.

Liz, Wendy, Gwendominica and Birdy are set to start on their adventurous trek.

Liz, Wendy, Gwendominica and Birdy are set to start on their adventurous trek.

We hadn’t been moving for too long before Dr.  Birdy, who is a forestry and wildlife officer by profession and a leading authority on

    Trees welcomed us on the farm track that took us to WNT Segment 9. It was a beautiful day for a hike!

Tall Gommier trees  that can grow up to 135′ welcomed us on the farm track that took us to the WNT Segment 9 trail. It was a beautiful day for a hike!

birds in Dominica (hence the nickname) stopped us in our tracks.  “Look, look up there -in that tall tree – by  the mistletoe plant -do you see it?” he asked excitedly.  After a few moments and some more patient pointers, we caught a fleeting glimpse of a pretty Antillean Euphonia with its ” blue hood and hind neck.”   Only a few minutes earlier, we had been blessed to see the female blue-headed hummingbird, which is only found on Dominica and Martinique – and we hadn’t even started the hike yet!

English: Blue-headed hummingbird photographed ...

Blue-headed hummingbird (male – which is more colourful than the female we saw!) photographed in its natural habitat in the Morne Diablotin National Park. Guide was local expert ‘Dr Birdy’ Bertrand Baptiste (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Birdy and I have been acquainted since 1997, when he was recommended to me as a superb and knowledgeable guide.  Over the years, he has taken me all over Dominica and I credit him with teaching me more about the Nature Island’s flora, fauna, geology and geography than anyone else.  From our first few steps on the trail that day , I knew that  another learning experience would form part of  this

adventure – and Liz and Wendy would no doubt benefit from it too!

Wendy photographs the pretty    flower, which was found on the way to the trail.  It matches her shirt!

Wendy photographs a pretty David’s orchid, which was found by the farm feeder road en route to the trail. It matches her shirt!

As we traversed the dense  jungle, plentiful endemic Jaco Parrots  screeched overhead and Ground (Zenaida) Doves plaintively

Bertrand Jno Baptiste (aka Birdy) always takes time on the trail to' show and tell' about fascinating flora and fauna that are found on the route.

Bertrand Jno Baptiste (aka Dr. Birdy) always takes time on the trail to’ show and tell’ about fascinating flora and fauna that are found on the route.

cooed in the distance.  For the first time, I actually saw the melodious Mountain Whistler, which usually perches high in the treetops – all thanks to Birdy’s exceptional visual and auditory acuity!  House Wrens, Brown Tremblers,Thrushes, Flycatchers and other birds  accompanied us  through the tropical rainforest and the higher elevations of montane forest.

Liverwort (centre of the rock) is said to have detoxifying properties.

Liverwort (centre of the rock) is said to have detoxifying properties.

There was so much to see – innumerable plants, trees, herbs, mosses and fungi held our fascination when we paused for a breather.

One could never really starve in the rainforest if one knows what is safe to eat, such as this 'Chicken of the Forest.'

One could never really starve in the rainforest if one knows what is safe to eat, such as this ‘Chicken of the Forest’ mushroom

Wendy and Liz study  the 'chicken of the forest' mushroom' that Birdy has described.

Wendy and Liz study the ‘chicken of the forest’ mushroom’ that Birdy has described.

This chatannye tree is being "choled" by a parasitic vine. Look at the rainforest canpy above it!

This chatannye (sha-ta-ney)tree is being “choked” by a parasitic vine. Look at the rainforest canopy above it!

Cat's Claw is an herb which is used to treat a wide range of health problems.

Cat’s Claw (on the leaf) is a plant  which is used to treat a range of health problems.

Gommier trees are tall and strong.  They have a sap (lighter areas) that is a waterproof resin used in teh building of canoes by the Kalinago indigenous people.

Gommier trees are tall and strong and can thrive for hundreds of years. They exude a waterproof resin (the white substance), which is used in the construction of dug-out canoes by the Kalinago indigenous people.

Massive chatannye (cha-ta-nay) trees have huge buttresses and love for hundreds of years.  This one is said to be one of the largest on the island.

Massive Gommier trees have huge buttresses and can live for hundreds of  years. This one has a circumference of 28 feet! It is said to be one of the largest on the island.

Along the way, we occupied ourselves with good-natured  banter and even broke into song several times.  The deep breathing seemed to help us climb and crawl up steep ravines, where at their pinnacles, we  welcomed respites of breezy ridges and relatively easy walking on level ground.    This is where Birdy gave us a break and  a good deal of nature instruction.  Most challenging were the severely steep descents to small river valleys, where we paused a few moments before climbing up the next steep incline.

The buttresses of the prolific Chatannye tree enable it to withstand hurricanes and remain firmly rooted in the soil.

The expansive buttresses of the prolific Chatannye (sha-ta-nay)tree enable it to withstand hurricanes and stay firmly rooted in the soil.

Wendy hangs on tightly to a supportive rope on a steep incline.  Liz follows a safe distance behind her.

Wendy hangs on tightly to a supportive rope on a steep incline. Liz is a safe distance behind her.

Fortunately, there were ropes placed at strategic locations to steady us in our precarious positions.  I was thankful for  a  dry day, because I think parts of this trail could be extremely treacherous when wet and muddy.

By the time we reached the junction of the trail with the track to Kachibona Lake, about 4 hours had elapsed.  It was time for lunch!

After about 20 minutes, we arrived at an oasis of complete serenity and stunning greenery. We seated ourselves on conveniently placed benches and admired the  verdant splendor of nature, as we rewarded ourselves with some sustenance for our gargantuan efforts to reach this intriguing goal.

Birdy takes a break at Kachibona Lake, after hours of patient instruction to his 'students' on the trail!

Dr.Birdy takes a break at Kachibona Lake, after hours of patient instruction to his ‘students’ on the trail!

The shades of green at Kachibona Lake are absolutely stunning.  It is hard to tell the land from the reflection!

The shades of green at Kachibona Lake are absolutely stunning. The plants are perfectly reflected in the clear, still water!

Once we were fortified, we hit the trail for the last lap before arriving at our destination, Savanne Gommier in Colihaut Heights, where Birdy’s son Yuan would pick us up.  While the terrain was drier in this area, we were faced with one last incredibly

Liz and Wendy tackle the final ascent towards the end of WNT Segment 9.

Liz and Wendy tackle the final ascent towards the end of WNT Segment 9 with hands and feet!

precipitous ascent.  It was definitely a final test of our stamina and we all passed with flying colours!  We were amazed that this area was once farmed extensively at this high elevation, as there were a number of ancient citrus trees that continued to thrive.

We enjoyed a southerly view after we emerged from the dense forest close to the conclusion of WNT Segment 9.

We enjoyed a southerly view towards Morne Trois Pitons (which may be the hazy mountain in the distance) after we emerged from the dense forest close to the conclusion of WNT Segment 9.

Exhausted but exhilarated after six and a half hours on the trail, we drove down the mountain with another objective in mind.

Birdy relaxes after a long day on WNT Segment 9 with Gwendominica, Wendy and Liz.

Birdy relaxes after a long, but fun-filled day on WNT Segment 9 with Gwendominica, Wendy and Liz.

After professing heartfelt thanks to Birdy for escorting us on this amazing “walk through the woods,” we headed for Mero Beach and soaked our sore muscles in the calm Caribbean as the sun sank slowly in the west.

A sunset swim on Mero Beach was a well-deserved reward after our challeging trek on the Waitukubuli national Trail.

A sunset swim on Mero Beach was a well-deserved reward after our challenging trek on the Waitukubuli National Trail.

We all agreed that we had passed that strenuous test and were now ready to take on Dominica’s annual Hike Fest, to be held a few weeks hence.

Stay tuned for our next  trekking adventures on the Nature Island!

* This post is dedicated to Brian, who recently departed this earth. We shared many fantastic intrepid adventures in Canada’s great outdoors. Happy  heavenly trails, Bri!

** Special thanks to Birdy for his endless enthusiasm, good humor and patience in assisting me with flora and fauna ID!

*** To contact Bertrand ‘ Dr. Birdy” Jno (pronounced John) Baptiste for an extraordinary hiking or birding experience on Dominica, email: drbirdy2@cwdom.dm or call (767) 245-4768 or (767) 446-6358.

**** DO NOT attempt this trail without a knowledgeable guide.  Use EXTREME CAUTION during inclement weather as  the trail can be very treacherous in wet conditions.

References:

Dominica’s Birds by Arlington James, Stephen Durand and Bertrand Jno Baptiste. (Produced by the Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division of Dominica in collaboration with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service’s Division of International Conservation, Wildlife Without Borders – Latin America & the Caribbean Program, and the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds) 2005.

Dominica (Other Places Travel Guide) by Anna McCanse (former Peace Corps volunteer). (Other Places Publishing) 2011.

The Dominica Story: A History of the Island by Lennox Honychurch. (London: MacMillan) 1995.

Plants of Dominica’s Southeast by Arlington James, in collaboration with the Southeast Environment & Tourism Development Committee. (La Plaine, Dominica). 2008.

Passing Time in the ‘Gardens’: Roseau Dominica`s Botanical Beauty

The stately trees in Dominica's Botannical Gardens line the roadway with shade and splendour.

The stately trees in Dominica’s Botanical Gardens line the roadway with shade and splendour.

When I recently met with friend Wendy for an impromptu picnic lunch in Roseau’s Botanical Gardens, I realized that too much time had passed since my previous rendez-vous in this lush locale.  While it’s only a short walk (and even shorter drive) from the city’s core, its gorgeous greenery, tall trees and somewhat secluded setting provide the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle nearby.

At the bottom of the historic “35 steps” of the “Jack’s Walk” trail, Wendy and I casually sat and chatted as we ate our snacks while accompanied by bird

The 35 steps at the bottom of Jack's Walk can provide a good warm up for the rougher part of the trail.

The 35 steps at the bottom of Jack’s Walk can give one a good warm up for the rougher part of the trail.

songs and the caress of gentle breezes blowing down from the mountains  above the Roseau Valley.

Although we were in a relaxed mode on this particular Friday afternoon, we expressed our enjoyment of the exercise work-out that “Jack’s” short but steep “Walk”  can offer.  In fact, I highly recommend it for anyone who has not been hiking recently and needs to prepare for one of Dominica’s longer treks. Admittedly, it’s a bit isolated and the terrain could be a bit tricky: in fact, it can be slippery on the loose soil near the top.  The ground is uneven and the steps (beyond the first 35!) are of varying heights.  It can take a work-out warrior 10 – 15 minutes to reach its high endpoint – where the reward is a spectacular bird’s-eye view of Roseau and the Caribbean Sea, with the  prominent Morne Bruce Cross and the distant peaks of the Roseau Valley at one’s back.  After a few rounds on this rugged little route, I daresay one is ready for Dominica’s big trails!

As you gaze over Roseau, Morne Micotrin and the Roseau Valley are behind you.

As you gaze over Roseau, Morne Micotrin and the Roseau Valley are behind you.

At the top of Jack's Walk, you will find the city of Roseau below you.

At the top of Jack’s Walk, you will find the city of Roseau below you.

The trail is well marked and easy to find once you are in the Botannical Gardens.

The trail is well-marked and easy to find once you are in the Botanical Gardens.

DSCF4579These lovely gardens have been appreciated by residents and visitors alike for more than a century.  Even HRH Queen Elizabeth II and her husband PrinceDSCF5422 Phillip have twice graced these gorgeous grounds with their presence. At one time, there were about 500 species of plants and trees.  However, Hurricane David, a Category 4 cyclone which pounded the island

This bus was crushed under a massive baobab tree during Hurricane David in 1979.  Fortunately, no one was in it!

This bus was crushed under a massive baobab tree during Hurricane David in 1979. Fortunately, no one was in it!

until it was a veritable wasteland in August 1979 put an end to the proliferation of greenery.  After that devastation, the Gardens’ exhibits were reduced to smaller numbers. Nonetheless, there are at least 50 different types of plants today (both indigenous and exotic), many of which are ornamental and flower at different times of the year.  With its large  shade trees, it’s an ideal place for a stroll, a work-out, a meditation, a snack or a little break from the intense heat of Roseau.

DSCF5438

Dominica’s crapaud frog is all but extinct because of a prevalent fungal infection. However, a few continue to thrive and current research is focused on ensuring a means for their survival.

As well as being a much appreciated ‘green space’, the ‘Gardens’ have always functioned as a research base for both plants and animals.  It forms part of the Government of Dominica’s Forestry and Wildlife Division.   Active stations on the site include the study of Dominica’s two rare DSCF5421endemic parrots, the Sisserou and the Jaco.  As well, there is a facility for  the ongoing examination of the critically endangered crapaud (mountain chicken) frog.

DSCF5461

One can take in a little local cricket action most weekends of the year.

This 40 acre ‘Garden’ is also well-known for hosting lively outdoor events such as local cricket matches, the annual Creole in the Park  festivities in late October and other celebratory occasions, including weddings!

No matter what is going on, it’s always possible to find a quiet spot, if one so desires.  There are also picnic tables and benches scattered throughout. Roseau’s Botanical Gardens offer natural beauty and moments of  tranquility near the big city. It should not be overlooked when taking in the diversity of sites on the Nature Isle.  I absolutely love to spend some time in this beautiful place.  It’s the perfect urban escape!

The Gardens' Greenery is always cool and inviting!

The Gardens’ Greenery is always refreshing and inviting!

Even the hedges get a special trim!

Even the shrubs get a special trim!