Dominica has, most probably, the most potential of any country in the Caribbean. Her people are kind, friendly and extremely honest. Her terrain is by far the most ecologically interesting in that there is a river for every day of the year, 68 species of birds, 90 species of orchids, great variations in bananas and just about every edible tropical fruit on the planet. Dominica supplied most of the bananas in the Western World until the United States and Europe cut her off, in a very political anti-Caribbean move, and awarded the contract to Chicata in Costa Rica. But that is another story.
It is also one of the economically poor countries – fortunately, for us all, that is now in a process of great change. The island now has the potential to become one of the leading eco-tourist destinations in the Western Hemisphere. They now cater to cruise ships, having their own separate dock from town – a very sensible solution when you see how the cruise ship docks with taxis etc. have ruined the other islands. They offer nothing but eco-tours which are fascinating.
I took the tour that went to the Botanical Gardens, some 80 acres of plush vegetation, flowers, birds and historic ruins. We then went to the rain forest where we were given a demonstration on coconuts and treated to a local coconut, cashew, coco bean and sugar desert which ranks among the best I have ever tasted. We ended our tour at the Emerald Pool, which is a gorgeous pool and waterfall, one of the many, on the island. This is when we were anchored, stern to, about a mile outside of the capital, Roseau, in a very quiet area with other boats. A nice Australian couple, with two children, were next to us. They have bought a Beneteau in St. Martin and were cruising before they headed back.
We then cruised the western side of the island and anchored in Portsmouth for several days. We were really lucky here as Washburn, a friend from the BVI, had told us to take a River Trip with Martin from Providence, which we did. This turned out to be quiet a piece of luck, both for us and for Martin, who became a great friend and will probably write for All At Sea. He is a beautiful Dominican young man, 39, who is just lovely and highly informed about his island. In fact he gave us an excellent tour and helped both Dave and me out in several areas. I am writing an article on him and the River Tour Guides, of which he is President, for the July issue of AAS.
I took some great pictures of the buttresses of the bloodroot trees and had an afternoon of fun making art-deco photos of them for my website. I finally became knowledgeable about Paint Shop Pro. We also made friends with another Australian couple Graeme and Rachael who saw Swan Song enter the harbour and rushed over. They have been looking at her sister ship, another Roughwater ’58, and were making a bid on it. We showed them the boat and, of course, they loved it. We then saw him several more times. We also ran into Karen and Vladimir from Dagmar. I spent Sunday afternoon with them at Big Papa’s on the beach.
We spent three lovely days here and fell in love with the small town, the slow and friendly ways of her people and the food. I bought every conceivable fruit and vegetable known to the area – each being more delicious than the last.
We left early in the morning, after a week’s stay, and crossed the channel, a six hour crossing that was much easier than the last one. The only thing I don’t care for in cruising is these damned channel crossings. They are so rough on me, Dave, Swan Song and poor Leda, who is being towed the entire way.
All At Sea - The Caribbean's Waterfront Magazine
Nancy Terrell -- June 2007 Issue
Getting Back to Nature on Dominica
Recently I had the opportunity to get back to nature and the beauty of it all on Dominica for eight days divided between Roseau, on the southern shore, and Portsmouth on the northern shore. I explored the terrain with several eco-tours through this beautiful, lush paradise situated approximately in the middle of the Caribbean island chain.
There is not time or space to devote to the beauties of Dominica here but I want to tell AAS readers not to miss the Indian River Tour out of Portsmouth. Dave and I were lucky enough to have Martin Carriere as our guide. Martin is highly-trained by the Nature and Conservancy Department and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and has been the President of the Indian River Tour Guide Association for the past three years and meets monthly with some thirty guides to discuss opportunities for developing eco-tourism in Portsmouth, the second largest city in Dominica.
“I have been in the association for 15 years,” says Carriere. “Although we have a strong season for six months out of the year, tourism among sailors has dropped off since 9/11. Tourists are spending more but there are fewer.” When asked about qualifications, he says, “A guide has to be trained by the association, which includes CPR and First Aid; these sessions are intensive and are taken in Roseau, our capital. Each guide also has to be fully educated as to the 90 species of orchids, 188 species of fern, 18 species of bromeliad and a huge variety of palms as well as numerous other species of foliage. The seminars are taught by the heads of the National Development Organization who work in conjunction with the Botanical Garden, which occupies some 80 acres.”
Each river tour guide owns his own Dominican boat, built from White Cedar. “They row these boats up the Indian River, because of the beauty of silence, so that the tourist can hear all of the many river sounds.” Each guide also gives a local history of the area, including indigenous flora and fauna. They especially emphasize the birds, Carriere says. “We have some 365 rivers in Dominica, one for each day of the year, and about 166 species of birds, including the blue-headed hummingbird and the Searou Parrot, both of which are regionally endemic.”
The island is sparsely populated with around 70,000 people inhabiting its 289.5 square miles. Tropical forests cover two thirds of Dominica which nourishes approximately 1,200 various plant species. Rivers, lakes, streams, and waterfalls abound, fed by the island’s high annual rainfall, which varies according to the topography. The National Park Service of Dominica governs eight eco-sites throughout the country. It has a small governing board who report to the Minister of Agriculture - the largest governmental department with offices in the Botanical Garden.
I had the opportunity to visit the Emerald Pool on this trip, and the last time I visited, I saw Trafalgar Falls, both located within Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which was the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the eastern Caribbean.
Dominica is one of only a couple of islands in the Caribbean still inhabited with descendants of the pre-Columbian Carib Indians. I know of their talents, having followed the adventures of Gli-Gli, a Dominica-built Carib Gomier canoe housed on Tortola.
Include Dominica in your summer travel plans—the island is cool, lush, and gorgeous. The people are friendly and helpful—just the right introduction to a perfect Caribbean summer.
Nancy Terrell is a freelance writer who has lived in the Caribbean for 21 years. She holds an MA Degree in Literature and is currently cruising on her trawler, Swan Song, throughout the Caribbean