Dominica

The Caribbean’s Coma-inducing Nature Island, One Offering A Reprieve From The Resort & Palm Tree-Heavy Caribbean Norm


Boiling Lake, Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica. June 11, 2015

Dominica (June 9-13 2015)

dominica_fluttering_flag_256From experiencing the sincerity of the hum of the thick Dominica foliage while cooped up in a hillside bungalow to hiking through the UNESCO-listed volcanic interior of the island to a real boiling lake. A pictorial look at a visit to the Caribbean island of Dominica, the Caribbean’s coma-inducing Nature Island and one that offers a reprieve from the beach resort & palm tree-heavy Caribbean norm.

Commonwealth of Dominica

Dominica was christened such by Columbus after the day of the week, Sunday (Domenica in Italian), on which he spotted it in November 1493. Largely ignored by the colonializing Spanish, who were more interested in the larger islands of the Greater Antilles further west (Cuba, Hispaniola & Puerto Rico), the French claimed the island it in 1635 making it the last of the many Caribbean islands to succumb to a colonial European power. The British skirmished with the French over Dominica throughout the 18th century & when the French upped sticks and left in 1805 the Brits duly took over, hence the reason the island speaks English to this day. It wasn’t until 1967 that the island gained some semblance of autonomy from London, followed by all-out independence on November 3rd, 1978, the 485th anniversary of Columbus’ ‘discovery’. Today the island, officially the Commonwealth of Dominica & with a population of over 70,000, is in many ways the non-conforming Caribbean island – it has been spared the mass tourism of neighbouring islands in large part because of its lack of the prototypical Caribbean tourist magnets of sandy beaches, flashy, mega resorts and direct international flights. Blanketed by dense & untamed rainforest & with an active volcanic centre, this is the region’s Nature Island, the Caribbean island for escaping the Caribbean itself, or at the very least for putting it on hold as you pass through the region on a north-south or south-north island hop. Either way don’t miss it.

Read all postings from the road in chronological order or jump to specific postings using these links.

Arrival & First Impressions || Roseau || Morne Trois Pitons National Park & Boiling Lake || Soufriere & Bubble Beach

Posts From The Road (In Chronological Order)

ARRIVAL & FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Date ||June 9, 2015
Location || Hibiscus Valley Inn, Marigot, Dominica (map-pointer-icon)

And now for something a little different. Something untouched. There are no Puerto Rican style traffic jams here on Dominica, no mega, gated All-Inclusive resorts, no large cruise ship terminals, no deafening overhead jets, & no bass-pumping, every-hour-is-happy-hour bars. Things are a little more sedate here, a 50 by 25 kilometre island with no direct flights from any major overseas destination meaning making the effort to come here assures tranquility, the sort of serenity I haven’t experienced in the Caribbean thus far. Of course I’m still in the Caribbean but I feel here in Dominica that I’m escaping it at the same time. Yes, I know that’s a rather daft thing to say about travelling through one of the most unrushed, laid-back regions on planet earth, but it is what it is.

My jungle digs. Bungalow 5 at Hibiscus Valley Inn, home for my 4 nights on the island. It’s the perfect place to wait off a hangover, not that you’re likely to get one here. Most likely you'll need to, like me, you bring it with you from a neighbouring island - I met some good people on Sint Maarten and we had a good night last night. Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 9, 2015.

My jungle digs. Bungalow 5 at Hibiscus Valley Inn, home for my 4 nights on the island. It’s the perfect place to wait off a hangover, not that you’re likely to get one here. Most likely you’ll need to, & as I did, bring it with you from a neighbouring island – I met some good people on Saint Martin / Sint Maarten and we had a good night last night. Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 9, 2015.

Dominica is all about nature – it brands itself as The Nature Island – & if you do want to do something when here other than nothing then hiking in the mountainous interior is the island’s must-do activity – the island boasts the tallest peak in the Lesser Antilles & its compact area of 750 km² is full of lush green mountain valleys, waterfalls & 365 rivers, one for every day of the year being the lofty claim. I’ll get around to embarking on a hike eventually – & I’ll try get myself to the capital, Roseau, too – but for now I’m happy to relax in my airy bungalow on the outskirts of the northeastern village of Marigot listening to the soothing hum of the jungle all around me. I normally listen to music when I’m typing up stuff like this for my blog but drowning out the ever-present cacophony of whatever’s surrounding me right now would be wrong. Just oh so wrong.

ROSEAU

Date ||June 12, 2015
Location || Hibiscus Valley Inn, Marigot, Dominica (map-pointer-icon)

The customs official in Douglas-Charles Airport told me this would happen. When arriving on Tuesday last (today is Friday) he slipped into jovial conversation a warning about how I wouldn’t want to leave Dominica when the time came. He was right. I’m not quite there yet – I’ve one sleep to go – but when the time to leave does come in the morning, when I’m boarding the next rickety twin-prop for the short hop south to St. Lucia, I will indeed be sad to leave the Caribbean’s Nature Island. You would be too.

A boat offshore of Roseau, Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 12, 2015.

A boat offshore of Roseau, Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 12, 2015.

Needless to say it has been a pretty stress-free few days: I took a few minibus trips across the centre of the island to the colourful island capital of Roseau (getting there was an adventure, riding the minibus with the locals on the twisting, up and down, up and down, & up and down again roller coaster-esque roads); I hiked to the otherworldly Boiling Lake in the UNESCO-listed Morne Trios Pitons National Park; and I hung out in my bungalow listening to the soundtrack of whatever creepy crawlies call the foliage surrounding me home – I’d sometimes turn up the volume by leaving the bungalow door open.

Roseau

The Dominican capital is a colourful place, the first thing that struck me about the small port town.

Colourful stone-&-wooden buildings in Roseau, Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 10, 2015.

A busy enough place, at least during the day, & with a very visible Rasta culture & olde worlde feel, Roseau is laid out on a grid system with one street of colourful vintage stone-and-wooden buildings after another, the definite highlight of the town for me. Roseau, Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 10, 2015.

Wee be jammin. Old Market, Roseau, Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 10, 2015.

Wee be jammin. There’s colour everywhere in Roseau and especially here in Old Market. Once the historic centre of the town, Old Market is now a small cobbled space given over to numerous souvenir stalls all catering to the cruise ship hordes who disembark mere yards away and spend a few hours looking around before moving on again. Roseau, Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 10, 2015.

Boiling Lake & Morne Trois Pitons National Park

Boiling Lake & Morne Trois Pitons National Park

I knew Dominica was different, & yes I had read about its fiery interior somewhat, but I was still pleasantly surprised to find a sulphur-smelling volcanic region, with an active otherworldly boiling lake, in the middle of a 17,000 acre UNESCO-listed National Park, most of it dense, untouched rainforest. The only problem, which wasn’t really a problem at all, was getting there, & in doing so – while in the company of my guide, Franklin – I was to ensure my second full day on the island wasn’t exactly a day of rest.

Hiking in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 11, 2015.

Some thirteen kilometres in total and with many a strenuous up & down through dense rainforest, along narrow ridges & through volcanic valleys. That, in a nutshell, is the Boiling Lake Trek, Dominica’s preeminent amble. This picture was taken at the highest point of the trek, about 90 minutes in, when you rise above the rainforest cover that had been sheltering you up to this point. The view of the surrounding jungle and of Dominica’s mountainous interior is amazing & if walking through the untouched rainforest, save for the well-worn path, to get here wasn’t proof enough of Dominica’s inaccessible & largely untouched interior then the view from here would leave it in no doubt. Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 11, 2015.

Luxuriant natural tropical forest blends with scenic volcanic features of great scientific interest in this national park centred on the 1,342-m-high volcano known as Morne Trois Pitons. With its precipitous slopes and deeply incised valleys, 50 fumaroles, hot springs, three freshwater lakes, a ‘boiling lake’ and five volcanoes, located on the park’s nearly 7,000 ha, together with the richest biodiversity in the Lesser Antilles, Morne Trois Pitons National Park presents a rare combination of natural features of World Heritage value.

– UNESCO commenting on Morne Trois Pitons National Park

In the steamy Valley of Desolation, Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 11, 2015.

Hikers tackling the Valley of Desolation. From the highest point in the trek it was down, down, down into the so-called Valley of Desolation, an area of the park destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1880. Today the photographic valley is alive with sulphur rivers & belching steam vents with the strong, ever-present hissing & sulphur-heavy air a constant reminder of the dangers lurking beneath. Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 11, 2015.

Overlooking a bubbling Boiling Lake in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 11, 2015.

Boiling Lake, the end of the trek which is really only the half way point, 6.5 kilometres in & after some 150 minutes of walking. Evoking the feeling of being on another world, the 60 metre-wide lake is said to be a flooded fumarole, a fissure in the earth’s surface allowing gases to escape from the molten lava below. Looking like a large witch’s cauldron, it’s quite the sight sitting as it does in a deep basin with steam rising from the bubbling & swirling grey water. I didn’t hang around long, just long enough to get a few pictures before Franklin & I retraced our steps back whence we came. Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 11, 2015.

Soufriere & Bubble Beach

Soufriere & Bubble Beach

Dominica, the Caribbean black sheep, the regional anomaly, doesn’t do beaches but this quaint little stone beach, Bubble Beach, does its best to welcome those who make the effort to get here for a dip, going so far as to provide a photo prop to mark your visit. How cute.

Bubble Beach, Soufriere, Dominica. June 11, 2015.

Bubble Beach, complete with a colourful & rustic garden shed-esque bar, massage room & rocked-off wading pool, is located in the southern village of Soufriere. Near the extreme south of the island, it nestles on stunning Soufriere Bay, the rim of a massive sunken volcanic crater. Bubble Beach, Soufriere, Dominica. June 11, 2015.

Soufriere Bay, southern Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 11, 2015.

Soufriere Bay, southern Dominica, Lesser Antilles. June 11, 2015.

Hopping On
There are more than a few islands in this part of the world so when embarking on an island hop one has more than a few choices, assuming you don’t have the enviable time & money to do them all. I stopped off on Dominica because it was labelled as different, a break from the Caribbean norm; I’d seen enough of the Caribbean prior to arrival to know the norm. I’m glad I did – stop off that is – and yes the customs guy was right, I don’t want to leave. But I will & I’ll pine for Dominica in St Lucia, a similar sized island not too far south and that bit closer to South America. Seemingly there are tourists, beaches, bars & resorts on St Lucia. So I guess after a 4-day sojourn it’ll be back to the tourist-brochure Caribbean.

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