Meeting friends and making connections in Dominica

(Photo by Sandy Irle) On our walk, we met a man selling coconuts. “Warren” cut one open for us with a machete and told us about his life in this small fishing village.

(Photo by Sandy Irle)
On our walk, we met a man selling coconuts. “Warren” cut one open for us with a machete and told us about his life in this small fishing village.

By SANDY IRLE

Dominica is a Caribbean destination unlike any other. Located between Guadeloupe and Martinique, the “Nature Island” is the perfect place for nature lovers and hikers with some good diving options, too.

Sandy Irle

Sandy Irle

Located on the Northeast coast overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Calibishie is a good first stop to get a taste of life on the island. Village life is relaxed, and you’ll find markets, food stalls and a few beach bars to entice you. Relax in the sun, breathe the clean, salty air and watch the ever-present, magnificent frigatebirds flying overhead.

As you make your way out to drive the narrow, winding roads (with the additional excitement of driving on the left) you’ll learn to dodge large trucks, plus the occasional goat, cow, chicken or land crab. Although it’s virtually impossible to get lost, it’s also very difficult to find what you’re looking for as road signs are practically nonexistent. Fortunately, the people are very friendly and happy to give directions.

Drive south along the East Coast and pass through Marigot. This village has a large fish market that supplies the East Coast of the island. We picked up a fisherman walking on the road and he took us to the market and showed us how to buy fresh spiny lobster and whatever fish is available. Picking up locals walking the steep hills is a great way to get to know them, plus they’re happy to give you suggestions and directions.

Continuing south, the road winds down toward Pagua Bay, a lovely sight with the crashing waves of the Atlantic beating the rocky East Coast. High above the bay sits the Pagua Bay Hotel, a modern, luxurious restaurant surrounded by a set of individual private rooms and suites, set apart and each with its own distinct personality.

We stepped into the lobby, ordered a rum punch and made our way to the comfortable couches arranged around a concrete coffee table. Soon we fell into conversation with some French travelers and spent a wonderful afternoon learning about their home and life.

Traverse the island through the Central Forest Reserve to the west side of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, and stay at Crescent Moon Cabins – a respite in the rainforest. At 1,800 feet, these lofty cabins look out over the Caribbean in the distance with the rainforest canopy below your hammock on the deck.

This is one of a few eco-lodges in the Central region. Here they grow their own fresh produce, make their own chocolate and cheese and roast their own coffee, all of which the chef/owner uses to create sumptuous meals. We had the rare opportunity to see a lunar rainbow during our stay.

From here, hike the nearby Valley of Desolation and to Boiling Lake, the second largest hot spring in the world. You’ll want a guide to take you to Boiling Lake, but there are many waterfalls, sulfur springs and beautiful rugged trails within an easy drive or hike.

To the west, you’ll find the capital city of Roseau on the Southwest Caribbean coast. With a small population of more than 16,000, this little port city is an interesting day trip. Walking the narrow, crowded streets, you’ll rub shoulders with the locals as you navigate toward the large indoor/outdoor farmers market, shops and wonderful roadside eateries. Don’t miss Le Petit Paris Bakery for their wood-fired pizza, near the Botanical Garden.

The Botanical Garden is central to everything. Previous to Hurricane David in 1979, this was said to be one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the West Indies. The most photographed site is a bus crushed during the hurricane under a Baobab Tree, reminding you that you are on an island, vulnerable to tropical summer storms.

Take a day trip to Scotts Head at the southern tip of the island, on the Martinique Channel. Walk along the peninsula and climb the hill to see the magnificent view of Soufriere Bay, a popular spot for snorkeling and diving. On our walk, we met a man selling coconuts. “Warren” cut one open for us with a machete and told us about his life in this small fishing village.

Next, drive north up the West Coast to Mero, a tiny village on the Caribbean with a wonderful black sand beach. Here you can swim, sunbathe, play sand volleyball or dine in one of the beachfront cabanas. Romance Café is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, with its charming art-covered tables, the open-air view of the sea and the delightful meals created by the French owner/chef.

It is a scenic drive north to Picard Beach on Prince Rupert Bay near Portsmouth. We stayed in the Picard Beach Front Cottages just a few steps from the Caribbean Sea. Once a coconut plantation, this is the island’s longest golden sand beach. The water is calm, the pace is laid back and it’s not crowded. If I were going for a week, I could easily stay at Picard Beach and venture out from there.

We finished our trip at Red Rocks Villa. A gorgeous spot high above the crashing waves of the Atlantic with a private beach and infinity pool, this is a great place to relax. I was fortunate enough to find a friend in Elaine, a very special person who oversees the villa and made our stay carefree. She made me wish I could stay and join her for Carnival, an island-wide celebration that takes place in February.

In the end, the people we met on Dominica made this trip very special. We were greeted with a wave and a smile around every corner and made friends with whom we still keep in contact. We even made friends with the French couple we met at Pagua Bay, meeting again for dinner the evening before they left for home. They invited us to visit them on their farm in France, and we’re keeping in touch.

One trip just seems to lead to another!

Sandy Irle is a travel journalist and digitalBURG contributor. You can read more of Sandy’s work at iplanetrip.com.

Posted by on February 27, 2014. Filed under Columns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

14 Responses to Meeting friends and making connections in Dominica

  1. Forest Martin Reply

    February 27, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Great article Sandy, Dominica definitely sounds like my kind of place. Your advice to give rides to locals is a good one, especially if it gets you an inside scoop or two. Regarding Boiling Lake – is it a place with developed hot springs or is it more of a series of natural, undeveloped springs suitable for soaking?

    Hot Springs Guide),

    • Dominican Reply

      February 28, 2014 at 9:48 am

      The boiling lake is all natural. You can take a dip in it but please be very careful and consult your tour guide.

      • Jojo Reply

        February 28, 2014 at 12:28 pm

        You mean the sulphur springs, the boiling lake actually boils. Definitely not for soaking.

      • Wil Reply

        March 1, 2014 at 9:18 am

        I wouldn’t advise anyone to dip in the Boiling Lake. As the name suggests it boils-very hot most of the time. If you want to soak in warm and hot water you can do that at Screw spar, and other similar places that utilizes natural warm water.

    • Sandy Irle Reply

      February 28, 2014 at 10:39 am

      Hi. The other comments are correct. It is a natural area and a fairly difficult hike, but well worth it! There are other hot springs (and sulfur springs) on the island that you can soak in if that’s your goal. It’s a beautiful, unspoiled place. Enjoy your trip!

      • Sandy Irle Reply

        February 28, 2014 at 10:44 am

        To add to my previous comment…our guide explained that it depended the boiling lake is in general too hot to soak in. Even the springs that you will cross to get there can be almost too hot to walk in if it hasn’t rained in a while. Try Screws Sulfur Spa for a soaking experience! It’s a natural area too, but more suitable for the hot soak experience.

        • Forest Martin Reply

          March 2, 2014 at 12:48 am

          Thank you Sandi, Wil, Jojo and Dominican for taking the time to answer my Hot Springs question! I hope to be able to take a trip there in the next few years… and when I do I will definitely check out the hot springs.

          I think Hot Springs are pretty cool.

    • Jeanno Reply

      March 5, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      I think that the person who advised you that the Boiling Lake is a place to take a dip is not too familiar with Dominica. You most certainly want to forget that thought. To begin with, you have to climb down to the lake and it is a very perilous climb. Ask the guy who a few years ago tried to retrieve a camera that had fallen close to the lake. He has the burns on his body to show. He had to be air ambulanced to Martinique because of the severity of the burns that he had sustained.
      Does one think of taking a dip at Yellowstone?

      • Forest Martin Reply

        March 7, 2014 at 6:37 pm

        Thanks Jeanno.

        I have been to Yellowstone and you are right – there is NO way I would even think about putting any portion of my person into those pools or mudpots. Fascinating to watch (and smell!) though.

  2. nature Reply

    February 28, 2014 at 7:51 am

    thank you for visiting my wonderful country, happy to know that you stay on the island was a memorable one. do come again

  3. TRUTH Reply

    February 28, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Thanks Sandy for the comments on our beautiful country, we invite everyone to come visit and experience nature at its best.

  4. Dominican Reply

    February 28, 2014 at 9:50 am

    I think this article captures the real and underlying beauty of my country very realistically.I applaud you on your article and your Dominican experience. You have even been to places that I haven’t.

  5. pedro. Reply

    March 2, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Thank you I just completed my house, I will be home soon I live in southern California just retired, thank for the publication. oh did you check out the open air market?

  6. Dominican in the Diaspora Reply

    March 5, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Makes me miss Dominica. I am glad that I took the time to explore my beautiful Island before migrating. Thanks for a great article!

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