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.

Winter Solstice on Dominica: Experiencing the Essence of the Nature Island

Even in Dominica, the hype about December 21st and the hubbub of the approaching yule-tide were having less than desired effects on me. Fortunately, I had already decided that that particular Friday was a day to escape to “the country” (that is, away from Roseau, the capital!) if the world hadn’t ended by then.

I headed off to somewhat familiar territory, my destination being the wonderful Papillote Wilderness Retreat at Trafalgar in the Roseau Valley.  I ‘d already booked my massage with physiotherapist Ariane Magloire and was looking forward to soaking in the hot pools after my session with her. As there was no cruise ship in port, I decided to go early and explore the very popular Trafalgar Falls eco-site, which can be very crowded when hundreds of people are on-island for a few hours.

The trail to the viewing platform passes through dense forest that is filled with birdsong.

The trail to the viewing platform passes through dense forest that is filled with birdsong.

It was a beautiful day in paradise and that is no exaggeration! Brilliant sunshine, nary a cloud in sight and slightly cooler temperatures were ideal conditions for my little hike from Papillote up the hill to the twin falls at Trafalgar. As I approached the Visitor Centre, I was completely surprised that there were no visitors or tour buses in sight.  I spoke to the forestry officer and the attendant on duty and informed them of my plan to work my way up to what is called the “mother” fall which is more readily accessible than the “father” fall.  We chatted for a few moments and then I headed off on the well marked  and groomed trail to the viewing platform, about 15 minutes along the route.

So many shades of green on the approach to the "mother" fall at Trafalgar.

So many shades of green on the approach to the “mother” fall at Trafalgar.

A mountain whistler (rufus-throated solitaire) high up in the tree-tops  cheerily accompanied me with its melodious trills. Antillean bull finches and peewees flitted about the lower limbs of the trees, capturing my attention now and then as I paused to look at pretty plants along the path. I marvelled at so many shades of green all about me in the dense forest.  I could sense my breathing becoming deeper and more even as I steadily walked up a gradual incline.  After about 10 minutes, I arrived at the sturdy wooden platform and gasped with delight at the sights before me.

The higher  "father" fall at Trafalgar is more remote and inaccessible

The higher “father” fall at Trafalgar is more remote and inaccessible

To my left, the taller and slimmer “father” fall glistened in the shadowy sunlight.  Its seemingly remote location added to the intrigue.  I did recall a time many years ago when I did actually work my way over treacherous boulders and slippery stones (with the assistance of a guide).  But a landslide changed all that and I was content with the memory of soaking a bruised leg under a man-made bamboo shower of natural hot mineral water.  Now that area is off-limits to visitors.

My only choice was to head  further along the track to the majestic and stately “mother” fall. I was happy to snap shots of the twin cascades from different angles as I followed the trail to the right.  It had been many years since I ventured beyond the platform, mainly because there were always too many people on the trail for my tastes.  Admittedly, I did meet three young men just as I left the viewing point.  They were heading out and now I was completely alone!

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The cascade of the “mother” fall at Trafalgar is powerfully hypnotic!

The “mother” falls’ persistent roar drew me towards her base, over big rocks, a coursing stream of hot water and some huge tree roots. As I was on my own, I decided to stop a bit of a distance away from her as the boulders can be extremely slippery when wet.  I realized that with no-one else around, personal safety was a priority.  I sat on a damp boulder and gazed all around me.  By now, after only 10 minutes beyond the view-point, sweat trickled down my back and my face was wet from the mild exertion. A damp mist from the cascade blew over me and I breathed deeply and slowly for some time.  I stared at the tumbling waters as if in a trance, while recalling its pristine source higher in the mountains in Morne Trois Pitons National Park. 

After a short while, I glanced at my watch and realized that it was time to make my way back to Papillote for my appointment.  As I carefully turned myself around on the over-sized boulder, I cast a backward glance at the “mother.”  Although I had only spent a short time near her torrents, I felt completely invigorated, re-energized and refreshed.  Any stress that I had carried into this spectacular wilderness eco-site had quickly vanished. I was now ready to celebrate the holiday season in the best of spirits!

DSCF5145My few moments of solitude reminded me that nature is indeed a tonic for the mind, body and soul.  I highly recommend it, and urge you to spend a little time in the great outdoors, as well as with family and friends this holiday season –  where-ever you live.  Peace and goodwill to all!

A Walk Around Freshwater Lake in Dominica’s Morne Trois Pitons National Park

Dominica’s Freshwater Lake is found in Morne Trois Pitons National Park. This protected area became the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Eastern Caribbean in 1997. The Visitor Reception Centre and parking lot can be seen in the distance. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

There are several weeks to go this hurricane/rainy season, so my hiking forays throughout Dominica are still on hold. In the mean time, I do like to reflect on my favourite  hikes on the Nature Island.  One of them is the well maintained trail which goes completely around Freshwater Lake, and is located near the village of Laudat in Dominica’s interior. This body of water forms part of Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It’s the largest lake on the island, and the second deepest after nearby Boeri Lake.  Of course, you can also trek to Boeri Lake from  the trail-head on the northeastern side of Freshwater Lake (look for the signs on the road). It takes about 45 minutes (one way) and  can be a bit challenging as it crosses a section of Morne Macaque, also called Micotrin, the highest mountain in the Roseau Valley.

However, the circuitous groomed track around Freshwater  Lake takes an hour on average, or more if you wish to admire the circumferential views and/or catch your breath!  I’ve been up there (meaning at the very top of the Roseau Valley!) a number of times over the past 15 years.  I could never be bored with this morning or afternoon outing because the weather conditions have been vastly different every time!  I do confess I only ever came upon Boeri Lake on a clear fine day one time many years ago. It’s the highest lake in the country at 2,800 feet.  I actually took a dip in the deep, cool, clear waters.  I hadn’t been in Dominica very long, so I could tolerate it.  I assure you that I couldn’t do it now!

Freshwater Lake seems to be shrouded in mystery as low clouds create an eerie aura. Maybe a monster really lurks in its depths! Photo by Edwin Whitford

 To get to these inland lakes, it’s an easy  half hour drive up the Roseau Valley on a newly rebuilt road from Roseau. After having left the intense heat of the town and arriving at the parking lot near the shore of Freshwater Lake, the change in climate, terrain and atmosphere can be very dramatic: low lying clouds; a chilly and penetrating mist; a bracing breeze; and poor visibility around the large lake make it easy to imagine why there is a myth about a monster  there!

Before I head off on the trail, I like to have a cup of cocoa tea in the snackette at the Reception Centre to energize and (sometimes) warm myself before the initial uphill climb.  The friendly staff at Caldera’s Dining and Aquatic Sports (tablatie@hotmail.com; 245-7061) offer hearty snacks and sandwiches most days (9 am – 5 pm) during the tourist season (October to April) and most weekends during the other months of the year.  You can also rent a kayak or rowboat from them if you’d like to spend a little time on the water searching for that monster!

Majestic Morne Watt can be seen by looking in a southerly direction a short distance from the Reception Centre. It is named after one of the men who trekked to the Boiling Lake in the late 19th century and then told the world about his experiences.

After my refreshment, I wend my way towards the path by the hydro-electric building (to the right of the Reception Centre when facing the lake).  I take a few moments to wander in a southerly direction to admire Majestic Morne Watt and realize that the famous Boiling Lake is over that way too.  A few minutes further along, I  plant my feet on carefully constructed steps as I make my way to the top of the ridge on the eastern side of the lake. I am usually soaking wet fairly soon – but whether it’s from my exertions or the persistent mist, I am never sure.  Most likely, it’s the result of both!

The track can be a bit slippery in the persistent moist conditions. I always recommend a walking stick and keeping close to the ground whenever necessary! Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Gwendominica stops to catch her breath and patiently waits for a break in the clouds. Photo by Edwin Whitford

As I make my way along the ridge, I admire the views of the lake, abundant wildflowers, verdant precipices and the mighty Atlantic in the distance, whenever there is a break in the clouds.

When the clouds lift, the reward is this sensational view to Rosalie Bay on the Atlantic coast and the village of Grand Fond above it. The Chemin Letang trail passes through these mountains from Freshwater Lake to Grand Fond. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

I especially adore the vistas of Rosalie Bay and the village of Grand Fond.  There is a wonderful inland trail, called Chemin Letang which traverses the mountains between Freshwater Lake and Grand Fond.  It’s about 2 1/2 hours to hike it one way or five hours plus for a return trip.  There is a trailhead maker on the eastern side of the Freshwater Lake trail.  On the Grand Fond side, a villager, or  a certified guide can direct you to its starting point and give you some fascinating details about this historic track.  I’ve done it twice from both sides.  While I am slipping and sliding on the often slick track, I am in awe of the many Dominicans who used this well worn path before there were roads to the southeastern side of the island.  They would carry their produce and wares from the east coast to Laudat on one day, and then continue on to the Roseau market to sell their goods the next day, and then do the return journey after that!  No wonder there are so many centenarians and  physically fit seniors on this island!

Freshwater Lake as viewed from a northeasterly point above it. Morne Nicholls (left) and Morne Watt (right) feature in the distance. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

As I continue along in a northerly direction,  the path begins to descend and soon I am surrounded in forest before emerging along the western shoreline of the lake. In the pristine air and lush surroundings, I have definitely worked up an appetite during my hour-long vigorous foray on the Freshwater Lake track.  I head back to Caldera’s Dining kiosk and partake of a hearty cheese, tomato and lettuce sandwich on a whole wheat bun.  Of course, I can’t resist another cup of cocoa tea.  I deserve it, I think.

Stunning views of the Roseau Valley down to Roseau are plentiful on the road to/from Freshwater Lake, just beyond the junction to the village of Laudat. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Before departing this lovely locale, I take some time to view the room of exhibits of the geological formations in this area, which add greatly to my understanding of this abundantly volcanic Nature Island.  As  I drive out of the parking lot, I content myself with the knowledge that I’ll be exploring more of Dominica’s unique Morne Trois Pitons National Park  very soon.

A Visit to the Spa – Dominican Style

Screw’s Spa is designed to blend into the natural environment

The waters look murky but they’re naturally filled with healthful minerals!

As part of my ongoing treatment for lower back pain and arthritis, my physiotherapist Martine Varlet (see A Morning on Mero Beach) prescribed a soak in a hot mineral bath.

On a quiet Friday morning with no cruise ship in port, I decided to drive to the village of Wotten Waven in the Roseau Valley for a little ‘spa-time’.

There are a number of establishments that offer therapeutic’ hot spring’ baths in the Wotten Waven area and they are all  different in design but equally enjoyable for a little relaxation and restoration.  Some isolated hot springs are found in several places in the area and should be strictly admired from a distance as they do reach the boiling point! I’ll write about Dominica’s famous Boiling Lake another time.

Steam rises from a boiling hot fumerole along a river in Wotten Waven. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Dominica is blessed with numerous natural attributes, one of them being underground volcanic (geothermal) activity, which heats some spring waters and provides the mild sulphur smell.  In fact, there are NINE (9) potentially active (!) but presently dormant (!) volcanoes on the island, which is more than any other country in the world!But rest assured that there are no active volcanoes at this time.

Screw‘  was my choice du jour because this spa offers a number of pools of varying temperatures – from hot to very warm to warm to cool to cold! They are also quite large and there is plenty of room to swim or walk on little paths between them.

It was 10:00 a.m. when I arrived at Screw’s Spa and I was the first guest of the day! I relished the tranquility and requested that there be no amplified music while I was alone.  The friendly attendant kindly complied.

I luxuriated in the warm water for some time and perched my back beneath a little waterfall within the pool.  Then I moved between the hot and cold, and after an hour,  I was hardly feeling any pain!

The smell of sulphur is not too strong and it’s one of many minerals in the waters – including magnesium and calcium and a whole host of others. A laboratory analysis report is available at ‘Screw’s‘ so it’s easy to know  exactly what you’re getting yourself into!

Plentiful plants surround the spa’s natural setting.

It was also restorative to gaze around at the verdant rainforest foliage and admire the skillfully constructed pools of stone and wood which complement the environs perfectly. And to think I had to whole place to myself!

Then some other guests appeared and as I was ‘well-pruned’, I slowly hauled myself out. Before I departed, I enjoyed some complimentary coconut chunks, orange sections and a whole banana on the premises before heading back to reality.  And my back felt SO MUCH better!

Take a soak in the mineral pool of your choice.

Now before I sign off,  I should explain something about ‘Screw‘ to you.  He is a popular Rastafarian with a very holistic outlook and a willingness to share his spa at a reasonable price for the better health of all.  His friendly personality and dedication to his product have earned him national awards and outstanding online reviews.  And as for the origins of his name, I’ll leave it for you to ask him when you’re here!

I can’t wait for my next rendezvous at Screw’s Sulphur Spa.  They also offer mud wraps, so I think I’ll put that on my never-ending list of things to do on the Nature Isle!

An Afternoon in the Rainforest

gwendominica on the suspension bridge over the Breakfast River Gorge 300 feet below.

UPDATE: MAY 30, 2012.

Dominica’s Rainforest Aerial Tram has ceased operations.  This is a very sad day for the tourism industry in Dominica.  I wish all the staff the best of luck and thank them for providing an excellent tourism product.  For further information, consult:

http://dominicanewsonline.com/news/homepage/news/business/sixty-six-jobless-as-aerial-tram-shuts-down/  and

http://dominicanewsonline.com/news/homepage/news/business/aerial-tram-dominica-explains-shut-down/

On a cool and drizzly Sunday afternoon, I accepted a friend’s invitation to join her and members of the Dominican Welfare and Hospital Aid Scheme on an outing to Laudat in Dominica’s interior .  In this lush location, we took a tour on the Rainforest Aerial Tram. (http://www.rainforestadventure.com/)

I had not been back to take another Tram tour since it first opened in 2003!  I wasn’t really sure what to expect after all those years.  When we arrived, we had to wait for some time, as a number of groups from a cruise ship were preparing to board the gondolas which could each only hold 8 guests and a guide. In the mean time, there was delectable Dominican coffee to drink, sheltered picnic tables upon which to sit and spectacular scenery to admire at the ‘ground level’.

After about half an hour, we were asked to assemble in an orderly  fashion and we quickly  boarded several of the 22 gondolas in preparation for our above-ground tour.  Our ascent would begin at about 2,000 feet above sea level.  We would climb to 2,500 feet (the upper limit of the rainforest) where we would disembark for a brief walking tour.  Then we  would descend on another cable line that would keep us above the tree-tops for most  of the return journey.

Our friendly guide, Craig Johnson  incessantly plied us with piles of  fascinating facts about the flora, fauna, geology and history  of Dominica for more than one hour. My only regret is that I was not carrying a notebook .There was so much to remember!

A friendly ‘Parasite’ forms a symbiotic relationship with a tree

Craig told us about the four levels of the rainforest and its abundant foliage. There seemed to be endless plants, trees, flowers and birds thriving in this moist and fertile terrain.  He especially amazed us with his in-depth knowledge of plants and their scientific names, as well as their English and Creole versions.  I was further impressed with his understanding of the medicinal and traditional uses of a number of  plants. It seemed that a remedy for almost every ailment can be found in the rainforest.  We saw plants that could alleviate migraines, reduce hypertension, soothe sores and enhance sexual vitality, among other things.  We all  agreed that nature’s pharmacy is obviously found on the Nature Isle.

The plaintive calls of thrushes and the melodious trills of the elusive mountain whistler accompanied us as we  slowly moved along while admiring all of the stunning sights. “Rider,” a bold little Bullfinch hopped on board for part of our excursion as he searched hopefully for a crumb or two.  We were certainly completely immersed in our rainforest experience!

While we oooed and aaahed at this ‘heaven on earth’, Craig  reminded us that there are frighteningly few rainforests and that they only cover  about 6 % of the entire planet.  These precious portions of land are too vital to our survival  to ever be destroyed again.

As an avid hiker, I also paid strict attention to which plants could provide food and water in case I were ever lost  in Dominica’s  dense  jungle.

But next time, I’ll be sure to bring that notebook!

Magnificent buttresses of the Chatannye (pronounced Sha-tah-nay)tree.They are a prominent and spectacular sight in Dominica’s rainforest areas.

The rainforest here is dense and lush with hundreds of plants and trees, which have regenerated since Category 4 Hurricane David wiped most of them out in 1979.

Look out below! The depths of the Breakfast River Gorge 300′ below the suspension bridge. It flows into the ‘mother’ or female cascade at the twin Trafalgar Falls.

Mighty Morne Macaque (French) Micotrin (Carib) which means monkey in English is one of Dominica’s highest mountains at 4,006 as seen from the upper descending gondola line’. There are no monkeys on the Nature Isle, but you would have to be one to climb it!