Dominica has unique features not only in environmental terms but in social context as well. This is the only place in the East Caribbean where remnants of the original inhabitants have survived. The onslaught following the “discovery” of the islands by Columbus and his more business-minded followers or ideologically-inflexible sidekicks led to practical extermination of the locals through massacres, slave labour and deceases. Not that the rest of the Americas were spared but on the tiny islands the local populations must have been too vulnerable to be able to overcome the adversity and reproduce in sufficient numbers fast enough. In this context a visit to the Carib Territory is a must. This is an enclave along the lines of the Indian reservations in the US or Canada, where one can see people of pure native ancestry as well as a race that is a cross between African blacks and natives. This particular mixture proved to be the most troublesome from European point of view and the only more ”civilized’ solution the great powers could think of was to deport them thousands of miles away as the case of the Garifuna from St. Vincent testifies. The residents are barred from owning the land or selling it. So, with the few options left for business activity, they have opted to emphasise on the production of art in its more practical version. They mostly sell to tourists baskets woven from some wood derivative or masks made from tree bark. The prices along the road away from the official sales “camp” are ridiculously low and one can actually see the artists themselves in the houses where they live. One of the main points of interest in the area besides the shopping opportunity is the local church. It has a vast mural covering the whole front of the building depicting the arrival of the “Crusaders”. The intriguing moment is that while this is an accurate depiction of historical event, it is not immediately clear what its interpretation is. Are these foreigners supposed to be revered as messengers of God or feared as messengers of death? Or maybe there is no contradiction at all considering that the death and destruction that fell upon the infidels was well-deserved piece of justice delivered by self-righteous zealots for committing the sin of bowing to the wrong god or to no god altogether. Now that the cause and effect relationship has been clarified, you can have a church and as a concession to multiculturalism you are allowed to have the altar in the shape of a canoe.
Ti Tou Gorge is your initiation exercise into the Dominican wilderness. It is relatively easy on the senses but at the same time is certainly not for the fainthearted. Tucked away into the mountain crevasses on the lip of a monstrous hydro project it does not promise much at the beginning – one dark hole as it looks at first sight. Well, the first stage of this figurative journey into hell includes a cold water dip enough to bring your senses to realty. The second stage incorporates an effort to overwhelm your congenital fear of the dark and plunging into the unknown. If company is around this side effect might not be of a grave concern at all. The third trial comes in the shape of a spooky swim into the deep canyon waters with twisted rock formations hanging above barring the most of the life-giving light. At the end, the bravest of all swimmers push towards gusty falls trying not to be sucked under water in the process. The thought of escaping this ready-to-swallow-you “gorge” and the warm water shower at the entrance make exit planning set in fast. Mother Nature here has its artificial match in the face of a man-made pipe that delivers the transparent gold of Dominica to its masters. A pipe made entirely of wood just as an endless barrel constructed of wood planks fastened into position by rings. Considering the wealth of woods to pick from the technology makes perfect sense and increases its exotic appeal to the critics of harnessing the environment.
Scott’s Head is a picturesque location in the south-west corner of Dominica. It consists of a hill on a peninsula connected to the “mainland” by an elegant stretch of a sandy bar. It must have been appreciated for while by successive visitors since it still houses some piece of military equipment to fend off the belligerent admirers and defend the friendly ones. On a sunny day one can see all the way to the island’s capital, Roseau and relish into the vivid colors of the tropical sea juxtaposed to the lush greenery of the rugged land. To make things even more intriguing, nature offers some surprises in the form of quick rain showers which are followed by dry, sunny patches causing the magical appearance of rainbows. All of this beauty compounded with the quaint little villages, their multi-colored housing and obviously exotic inhabitants turns this corner of the island into postcard glamour.
Champagne Reef/Beach is probably the most unique natural wonder of Dominica. It is within a stone throw form the capital, Roseau and thus easily reached with the help of local transport. The location is well-cared for by some sort of wardens, there is a nominal fee for access and a change room/ restaurant outfit at the entrance. The “beach” is made of pebbles, so technically it is not a beach but its real charms are under the water. There are springs under the rocks of the sea bed which materialise in the shape of bubbles very much like the champagne ones, hence the name. The underwater environment includes some very colorful fishes going about their business amongst multi-shaped corals, dodging the bubbles and the human intruders on the way. The site is frequented by cruise ship crowds but they are miniscule in numbers (during the time of the visit that inspired this writing anyway). Probably, they were too drunk, were bogged down in the port shopping area or simply were carted off to a different “attraction”. After a certain hour, around noon, one has the place to himself. For maximum appreciation and photo brilliance sunny weather is the preferred option. This though could be tough to organize since Dominica is part of the Windward Islands group and as such it is on the path of lots of moisture coming from the equatorial regions of the planet. On contact with the high mountains of the islands it turns into rain and while divers have nothing to fear from it the overcast sky definitely clouds the underwater picture quite literally.
Carnival is a great time to be visiting Dominica. Known as "the real mas" and called Mas Domnik in Creole, an event that is sure to please all.
Click for carnival video
An excellent off the beaten path hiking trail, above the western coast village of Mahaut, in Campbell, Dominica. A guide is a must. A good contact for this trail would be Allyne (email@example.com ). He is one of three police officers who in their spare time lead hikes on this trail.
Click for Campbell Nature Trail video
Tia's Bamboo cottages offers rustic bamboo rooms in an incredible location.
The 3 cottages are set in a lush tropical garden with 2 hot sulfur pools bordering a fresh water stream. Each have a private terrace with a hammock and a small basic bathroom with a sink and toilet. The shower room is separate and common to all 3 rooms.
What the cottages lack in sophistication is made up by their location. It is a great base to explore the Roseau Valley, the Trafalgar Falls, and hike the many surrounding trails.
The village is famous for it's 'bubbling pots' but few visitors know the other hot water pools, springs or cascades. Tia's is the ideal place to discover them from!
We went to the Dominica Museum. It is on the second floor and was small but interesting, and didn't cost too much - it was $3 US each. It also allowed an opportunity to get out of the rain, and take some photos of the ship, harbor and market from the second floor.
The website says:
Housed in an old market house dating from 1810, the museum’s permanent exhibit provides a clear and interesting overview of the island’s geology, history, archaeology, economy, and culture. The displays on pre-Columbian peoples, the slave trade, and the Fighting Maroons—slaves who resisted their white slave owners and established their own communities—are particularly informative.
Photo 2 shows the pre-Columbian area, photo 3 shows a living room of a plantation owner, and photo 5 shows an ordinary person's house. Photo 4 is the septure of authority.
The circular trail of Galion/Morne Crabier/Scotts Head starts on the main coastal road between the village of Soufriere and Scotts Head, for me it was full of adventure. (I have provided a picture of the trail head to make it easier to find.) A very steep trail meanders its way up from the coastline to the village of Galion. Before reaching the top I stopped once to watch two men wrangling a large tree trunk with only a pulley and levers. It looked like extremely hard work and here I was happy just to have a reason to stop and catch my breath. At the top of the hill you'll find a wonderful view down to Soufriere (picture provided). Walking through the Village of Galion, a couple of men beckoned me to stop at their rum shack. My arm did not need twisting. Continuing on out of the village I passed ruins of a 1908 estate. Still on this road, a dog followed me, barking closely at my heals, until some children told it to stop. You will come to a hairpin turn on the road. At this point go right following a trail which splits several times. I managed to get myself lost but with the help of a farmer, who smiled at my predicament, I was once again on the right track. Another steep climb with frequent short breather stops brought me to the top of Morne Crabier. After passing through and reclosing a gate you will enter a mountain top pasture land complete with cattle, chickens and crops. I met the pasture's owner by way of his dogs barking alert. We shared a chat in which he told me about his pasture once being used as a film location. He pointed out where a helicopter would land bringing with it the film crew and supplies. After sampling some milk which he had recently pasteurized in a pot, I was once again on my way. At the end of the pasture, the trail spirals down and I followed the detailed instructions provided by my Brant travel guide to see me through to the coastal road again. At this point you could turn left to explore Scotts Head or right to follow the road back to your car. I went right, but before reaching my car I met a local out for an exercise walk and wound up joining him. We walked through the Village of Soufriere to the sulphur springs and back again. Mark and I had a lot in common including that our wives were both teachers of the same grade. On reaching my vehicle for the second time we bid our farewells. It had been yet another wonderful hike in Dominica.
Up to this point Morne Diaboltin has remained the most physically punishing trail that I have completed in Dominica. A combination of the trail's unrelenting climb, mud, and weaving your way through Kaklen branches and roots takes its toll on your body. Glimpses of spectacular views hinted at what might of been seen on a clearer day. At the top I rested for a snack on a rock amongst hardy low lying plants and was wind whipped by moisture laden air. Even on a hot day a chill was felt. I took a picture of a circular brass marker that was secured to rock which read INTER-AMERICAN GEODETIC SURVEY DO NOT DISTURB DIABLOTIN 1953. On the trek down, my water ran out and was quickly missed. The hike to the summit (elevation 4747 ft) and back, with a rest on top, took approximately 7 hours. I stayed in the area near the trail head for a couple of hours more observing parrots and other birds that flew by. The hike had been on my "to do" list for several years and I was glad to have completed it, but the bone-weariness felt does not place this hike high on my repeat list. Clearer views from the top may have changed this opinion. If you do take this hike I would recommend carrying plenty of water and pick a time where there has not been any recent heavy rainfalls which would increase the mud conditions. Be aware that when downward backtracking the trail is far harder to see compared to the trail going up. A couple of years yearlier I set out on this trail only to find, after 45 minutes of hiking, a large mass of naturally fallen debris blocking the trail. I suspect it was a small slide. I cautiously tried to walk around it but felt the surroundings too dense to risk losing the trail and decided to turn back instead. Although not the longer hike I expected, it did give me a taste of Morne Diablotin. It might be worth considering a combination hike of Syndicate trail, Milton Falls and a partial hike up Morne Diablotin. They are all in the same area and it could be easily accomplished.
Emerald Pool, worth the trip! Swim under a waterfall.
Iit's olny a short hike through a rain forest but the view is great and the water cool. Emerald Pool is on the road to Castle Bruce and Carib Territory the bus can be caught be in Roseau. Bus fare is EC$6.50 for adults and children EC$3.25 for children.
Entrance into the park is US$5.00 and is a short hike to the falls. It is rumored that if you swim in the Emerald Pool is will take 10 years off of your life.
Emerald Pool was the final stop on our trip, like Trafalgar Falls it is also located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park but the two are not close together as the park is quite huge. By the time we got there it was jammed with other cruise passengers and there was a line to get close enough to the pool so that you could take a quick dip in the cool water. Most of the people standing in line were merely taking pictures, very few of them got into the water. The water is certainly cold but after a long day of being out in the sun, the cool water felt good after your body got used to it.
It's listed in my guidebook as the most visited tourist attraction on the island and that is easy to believe based on the number of people there. There is a $5 fee to access the trail to get to the Emerald Pool, once again not included in the price of our tour. The walk to get there is 15-20 minutes, you can take a different trail back to the car park that goes by a view of the Atlantic Ocean.
If you stop here, you'll want to have a bathing suit (you can probably change at the office as I believe they had restrooms), towel and at least strapped sandals as you are climbing up and down to get to the pool.
Dominica is a volcanic island, there are several hot springs and sulfur springs around the island. I'm still a little perplexed at to why we stopped in Wotten Waven at the particular spot we did, the sulfur spring that we were shown was no bigger than a small hot tub, you could see that there was a larger spring in the distance from all the steam but what we saw was not at all impressive. As it's a sulfur spring, it smells like rotten eggs. Apparently there are tubs/spas in the area where you can pay to take a bath in the natural hot water but that wasn't on our itinerary. If you want to try that, ask your guide to include Screw's sulfur spa on the list of things to do that day.
Trafalgar Falls seems to be on every visitors list, fortunately our guide got us there shortly before all of the ship excursions started showing up. The falls, located in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, were just a 10 minute walk from where we parked, there is a $5 fee to enter the park that was not included in the price quoted for our tour. There are two falls here, the 125 foot tall Father and the wider 95 foot tall Mother. Those of us on a non ship excursion could walk down closer to the Falls, the ship passengers had to stop at the viewing platform. I read that you could go in the water but I didn't see anyone doing this and our guide didn't mention it.
The guidebook I was reading suggests you might want a to guide to get you to Trafalgar Falls but really you can just follow the herd of people if it's a cruise ship day. The walk was not terribly strenuous but you should at least have strapped sandals especially if you go past the viewing platform, those people I saw with flip flops were struggling a bit.
This was a quirky stop on our tour that people seemed to enjoy, Mr. Nice is a real character, he stands at a table cracking jokes and cutting up fruit for visitors to sample. There's no charge except for what you'd like to put in his coconut tip jar that hangs from the ceiling. Nothing terribly exotic here except a shredded coconut candy that was very yummy, he also had bananas, coconut, grapefruit and pineapple.
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