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Did You Know … ?
- Hurricane David left approximately 80% of the population homeless (1979).
- Dominica is the only Caribbean island with a population of pre-Columbian Carib peoples.
- Dominica’s Eugenia Charles, granddaughter of slaves, served the longest of any female prime minister in the world (1980-1995).
- Dominica has three times the incidence of citizens reaching age 100 as the U.K. or the U.S.
- The word canoe comes from the Carib, or Kalinago, word canoua.
The Nature Island
Dominica is a Caribbean island distinguished by an extraordinary variety in terrain and scenery — especially extraordinary considering its size (289 square miles).
Volcanic mountains, which rise quickly to more than 4,500 feet above sea level, stretch across the island’s 29-mile north-to-south length. The rain forests, cloud forests, waterfalls, lakes, hot springs and more than 300 rivers, nourished with abundant rains, are the stuff of a lush tropical wilderness.
The topography promises the kinds of diversions that appeal to active vacationers — canyoning, hiking, mountain biking, ziplining, plus kayaking, tubing or swimming in the rivers. There are black-sand beaches on the west coast, but rugged cliffs and ridges characterize much of Dominica’s 88-mile coastline.
The surrounding waters provide some of the Caribbean’s best scuba diving while offering opportunities for anglers to catch a big one during a day’s fishing. Marine life includes dolphins and whales, offering wildlife lovers a compelling spectacle, whether viewed from a boat or during a dive. The island also hosts about 200 bird species, and four of the seven species of sea turtles visit its shores.
Visitors can pause to soak in some of the country’s many natural hot springs or sign on for aromatherapy, massages, yoga and other wellness-focused programs. And they can relieve stress at one of Dominica’s narrow beaches.
Essentially, then, Dominica’s charms and diversions are in the outdoors. It is known as the Nature Island of the Caribbean.
Dominica also offers a unique cultural experience — the chance to interact with and learn the traditional ways of its pre-Colombian inhabitants. The island’s Caribs — correctly known as the Kalinago — live in Kalinago Territory on the country’s east coast. Their name for the island is Waitukubuli. When Europeans first arrived, the Kalinago fiercely defended their position, keeping Europeans off the island for more than 200 years. But today, they welcome outsiders for short visits or for homestays.
What Dominica does not have is a particularly lively nightlife, nor does it boast the large luxury resorts seen elsewhere in the Caribbean. English is the official language.
Things to do for Venturers
- Take the time to hike the 124-mile Waitukubuli National Trail that runs the length of Dominica, encompassing dense rain forest, mountain peaks, volcanic habitats and rugged coastlines, as well as villages and farms.
- Or, if time is somewhat limited, choose the six- to eight-hour hike to the Boiling Lake, a flooded volcanic fumarole inside the Morne Trois Pitons National Park. The trail takes hikers via the volcanically active Valley of Desolation and provides panoramic views from the summit of Morne Nicholls.
- Arrange a home stay in Kalinago Territory, where you can learn about traditional cooking methods and herbal remedies, among other practices.
- Rappel down a series of waterfalls in the TiTou Gorge. Wear a helmet-cam to record your moves.
- Dive in Dominica’s clear waters for the reefs rich in coral and fish as well as the adventure of its drop-offs and unusual hot and cold springs.
- Schedule your visit for Creole Week at the end of October. Events include Creole in the Park (music events in Botanical Gardens in Roseau, the capital) and the World Creole Music Festival (live music at the Windsor Park Sports Stadium).
Things to do for Centrics
- Have a massage or choose aromatherapy or other wellness treatments in or around the village of Wotten Waven. The area, at the head of the Roseau River valley, has many hot sulfur springs where visitors may soak.
- Don snorkel gear for below-the-water sightseeing in Soufriere Bay, at Cabrits National Park and at Champagne Reef, the latter so named because bubbles from an underwater spring turn the ocean into sparkling water.
- Take a guided tour of Kalinago Territory, visiting the contemporary Touna Village (Kalinago Touna Aute) and a model village, Kalinago Barana Aute. Learn about the customs of the Kalinago (widely known as Caribs). Buy handmade Kalinago basket ware,
- Fish for blue marlin, tuna or other such quarry in the waters around Dominica.
- Swim in the sea, or swim in one of the country’s many rivers, such as the Layou, the Pagua or the Taberi.
- Visit the remains of the 18th century British-built Fort Shirley Garrison in the Cabrits National Park. The garrison looks out over Prince Rupert Bay and the town of Portsmouth.
Things to do for Authentics
- Relax in Roseau’s serene Botanical Gardens. Follow a trail called Jack’s Walk to the summit of Morne Bruce, a hill behind the gardens, for great views of Roseau and the area.
- Do your whale and dolphin watching on a catamaran.
- Sightsee on foot in Roseau’s historic French Quarter, where points of interest include the Old Market, the Dominica Museum, the Roseau Cathedral, the Public Library and Fort Young, once a military garrison and now a top hotel.
- Attend a game of cricket.
- Between March and October, you may see nesting sea turtles on Rosalie Beach.
- Take a bird-watcher’s hike along the Syndicate Nature Trail, a protected parrot habitat in the foothills of Morne Diablotin.
For more information, consult the Discover Dominica Authority at www.discoverdominica.com