Exploring the Nature Island of the Caribbean
By Ringo Boitano
here it was in bold print: "Dominica is the only island Columbus
would recognize if he returned today. Im not sure how the
author managed to land that quotation, but even from the deck of my
arriving vessel, I could see that this tiny island nation of 70,000
was definitely an untouched paradise found. Located in the Eastern Caribbean,
Dominica (pronounced Doe-mi-Nee-kah) is blessed with dynamic rainforests,
undeveloped beaches, pristine rivers, cascading waterfalls, small coastal
villages and the highest mountain on any of the Caribbeans Islands.
It's also on the moviegoers map as well now that Walt Disney Pictures
shot the last two installments of "Pirates of the Caribbean"
on the island. Now back to this Columbus guy.
A Bit of History
Located between Guadeloupe to its north and Martinique
to its south, few places on earth exude the beauty of Dominica. The
youngest volcanic island of the Lesser Antilles, it first emerged from
the sea 26 million years ago. At the time of Columbus arrival
in November of 1493, Dominica was a stronghold of the Caribs
who are today the last indigenous people of the Caribbean. Throughout
its history, Dominicas fertile land has attracted settlers
and colonizers, and has been the subject of battles, primarily between
the Caribs, the French and the British. In 1660 the British and French
agreed to leave the Caribs in undisturbed possession, but French settlers
continued arriving, bringing enslaved Africans with them. The Africans
intermarried with the Caribs, which accounts for the islands Afro-Caribbean
ethnicity. Full independence was achieved in Dominica on November 3,
1978. Its languages are English and Creole. The official currency is
the EC dollar, but the U.S. dollar is widely accepted.
The Carib Territory
Situated high in the mountains, The Carib Territory
is a must-see destination in the northeast part of the country. It is
also where some of the most spectacular vistas of the island can be
found. With a population of 3,500, most of the villagers live in huts
that have changed little over the centuries. Unfairly categorized by
the first arriving Europeans as cannibals, these are a gentle and shy
people. Children would hide behind structures when my small group arrived
by van. Young men, who were carving coconuts, offered us fresh coconut
milk to drink. Today, income is derived primarily from crafts, fishing
and farming. Its a great place to purchase gifts or souvenirs
to help the local economy.
Dominica is literally a nation with one traffic light,
and that one traffic light is in the capital city of Roseau. This is
where your adventure will begin and end. Tourism is the nations
leading source of income and the locals are friendly and glad to help.
Remember, though, this is a true third-world nation and poverty is evidently
on display in the city. Watch your step when stroll, for there might
be a knee-deep pothole on the sidewalk. Roseau is a good place to make
your home base while exploring the island. Its also the best place
to arrange a tour. Just ask the folks at your hotel and they will recommend
one. Its safe and easy, too, to just approach one of the tour
drivers on the street. Tell them what you want and the amount of time
you have, and off you go. Make sure, though, you negotiate your price
before departure. Its fun and carefree way to explore the islands
endless attractions, and every one of your tours will be customized
to fite your needs and interests.
Hitting the Road
Dominica is a fantasy island of rainforest greenery,
nestling alongside rugged mountain peaks. Lush fern groves are overflowing
with orchids, birds of paradise and fragrant ginger lilies. Banana,
breadfruit and guava trees line the roadside. This is home for several
endemic species like the brightly plumed Sisserou Parrot, depicted in
Dominica's code of arms. No matter what you do, you cant go wrong.
A Few Tips
This hot springs lake is the second largest in
the world. Be warned, though, a full-day rigorous hike with a guide
is needed to visit this once-in-a-lifetime sight.
Dominica Aerial Tramway
A 4,600-foot-long Rainforest Aerial Tram will take
you on a spectacular one-hour journey over the magnificent rainforest,
where you can glide through the rainforest.
Located near the Carib Territory, there is no better
way to cool off than a swim in this tropical pool, complete with waterfall.
A two-hour hike that involves wading through a
river and walking down cliff steps built by escaped slaves.
(Morne Trois Pitons National Park): Two spectacular
waterfalls, Mother and Father, flow into a pool. On a hot day, this
is where you will find all the locals.
Valley of Desolation
(Morne Trois Pitons National Park): A moss and
lichen covered valley littered with brightly colored hot springs, boiling
mud and mini-geysers.
This English colonial fort is among the ruins found
at the Cabrits Historical and Marine Park, which preserves remnants
of the islands tumultuous history.
This museum highlights the island's cultural and
Hiking, mountain biking and kayaking offer intimate
ways to experience Dominica that you dont get to see by van or car.
Dominica is also categorized among the best diving locations in the Caribbean.
Still relatively undiscovered, this leads to uncrowded dive sites and
dive boats. The entire island is a photographers dream.
What to Eat
Nowhere in the Caribbean will you find such a
culinary assortment. The countrys cuisine is an intriguing blend
of African, Carib, French and Asian influences.
BULJOW: A genuine Creole dish of salt fish
with pepper, chives, tomatoes, boiled bananas and coconut.
CRAPAUD (or mountain chicken): A large frog,
either fried or stewed in a sauce.
FLYING FISH (or volan): A Creole breakfast
of fried fish served with fried bread.
FRESH FISH: Blue marlin, dolphin (or mahi-mahi),
grouper, kingfish, snapper and .
FRUIT: Barbadine, passion fruit, carambola,
tamarind, guava, soursop, gooseberry, paw paw, cherry, seamoss, sugar
cane, sorrel, banana, coconut, grapefruit, limes, tangerine, mandarin,
mangoe, pineapple and watermelon.
SAN COCHE: Codfish boiled in coconut milk,
served with dumpling and boiled green bananas.
VEGETABLES: Yams, dasheen and tannia, root
tubers that are filling staple foods.
Complement your meal with a cold Kubuli, Dominicas
Where to Stay
Roseau Valley Hotel is situated
deep in the greenery of Dominicas spectacular Roseau Valley. Located
just two-miles inland east of Roseau, this is the ideal spot to enjoy
the islands fresh mountain breezes and lush vegetation. Guests
can choose from deluxe rooms with private balconies. Amenities include
free Wi-Fi and VIP privileges at local natural spa. Roseau Valley Hotel
is within hiking distance of many of the most scenic spots in Dominica,
including the Fresh Water Lake, Trafalgar Falls, the Volcanic Hot Springs
and Boiling Lake. Call (767) 449 8176 or visit their website.
For further information about travel to Dominica, visit