The Commonwealth of DOMINICA (pronounced Domineeca) should not be confused with the Spanish speaking Dominican Republic. The official language is ENGLISH. Dominica is nestled between the French Islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean’s eastern Antilles. It is one of the Windward Isles, having gained full independence from the United Kingdom in 1978 and inherited a Westminster style multi-party democracy and legal system. The principal laguage is English, though Creole is also spoken widely. Lush vegetation and indigenous forest cloak the island’s mountainous terrain, several peaks of which exceed 4,000 ft. in height, whilst 365 rivers and streams wind their way through ravines and gorges to cascade over countless waterfalls, providing the island’s cooling system and many opportunities to take a refreshing bathe in crystal clear waters. Tree ferns, orchids, heliconia and anthurium lilies decorate the forest floor whilst 175 species of birds, green iguanas, geckoes, tree lizards, aguti, manicou, beautiful butterflies and a multitude of colourful flora can be enjoyed throughout an island where nature trails abound.
Most of the country’s tiny population of around 70,000 farm bananas, citrus and other tropical fruit on the picturesque mountain slopes. Crime is scarce and should not inhibit ones sense of freedom and total enjoyment. There are no self contained ‘mega-resorts’ in Dominica, in fact, the island’s largest and most prestigious hotel has only 73 rooms – this is the Fort Young Hotel, situated on the waterfront in one of the quieter parts of our tiny capital, Roseau.
Dominica is the only Caribbean island to have a surviving population of Carib Indians. After the Arawaks, these migrants from South America dominated the region for a long period, before being decimated by the colonizing forces of Europe. In the north east of the island, the Carib Territory is an area where their culture is preserved and protected. A traditional Carib Village has been recreated for the visitor and throughout this region, local handicrafts such as carving and basket weaving may be purchased from roadside kiosks.
The Morne Trois Pitons National Park enjoys the status of World Heritage Site and contains nature trails to many of the island’s popular attractions, such as the Emerald Pool & waterfall, the twin Trafalgar Falls, Sari Sari Falls and Victoria Falls on the White River, flowing south eastwards from the Boiling Lake. Take an all day guided hike via Titou Gorge, Breakfast River and through the Valley of Desolation to the Boiling Lake, one of the world’s largest. Visit Freshwater Lake at 2,500ft, Boerie Lake at 3,000ft, the picturesque 300ft Middleham Falls, accessed from both Laudat and Cochrane, or climb to the summit of Morne Trois Pitons (4,550ft).
The forested slopes of our highest mountain, Morne Diablotin (4,747ft), protected within the Morne Diablotin National Park and the Northern Forest Reserve, provide habitat for the Sisserou and Jacquot parrots, native only to Dominica. The Cabrits National Park is a peninsular a little north of Portsmouth, containing the well preserved remains of Fort Shirley and nature trails through ‘dry’ forest to two hilltop lookout points. For just EC$20, a guide will row you up the tranquil Indian River to a bush bar in the forest, where you may stop for refreshments before returning. Take an afternoon whale watch boat trip, go snorkelling or scuba diving – Dominica is rated among the top five dive sites in the whole of the Caribbean and is well catered for by Dive Centres scattered along the sheltered west coast, where 2 marine reserves may be found – at Scotts Head/ Soufriere Bay in the south, a sunken volcano where, in places, streams of tiny bubbles betray undersea hot springs – and Prince Edwards Bay in the north, partly bordering the Cabrits peninsular.
Dominica is a mere 29 miles long x 16 miles wide, thouh it feels much larger. The currency is the East Caribbean Dollar, used also in Anguilla, St. Christopher & Nevis, Antigua & Barbuda, Monserrat, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Grenada. It is tied to the United States dollar at EC$2.70 = US$1.00, also exchanged at around EC$5.00 = £1.00 or EC$3.30 = €1.00. English is the official language, driving is on the left and the cost of petrol is much cheaper than in Europe or the UK. The time in Dominica is 1 hour ahead of USA eastern time (4 hours behind GMT). Car hire can easily be arranged and the island-wide minibus passenger services are cheap to use and frequent along the west coast between the capital Roseau in the south and Portsmouth in the north, though less frequent on other routes.
For more information about Dominica go to www.natureisland.com.
Sorce of information: www.natureisland.com.