Dominica, nicknamed the ‘Nature Isle of the Caribbean’, is the youngest and most untouched island in the Lesser Antilles. This snug little island, which is still being shaped by volcanic activity, has the world’s second-largest boiling lake, lush tropical forest, gorgeous beaches and a plethora of nature activities.
Dominica was named after the latin for ‘Sunday’, as this was the day the island was spotted by Christopher Columbus. Its discovery by the European world led to a rich British and French heritage. Rosseau and Portsmouth are the two main towns on the island.
Citizens are eager to preserve their natural heritage, and tourists are encouraged to explore the natural wonders:
Scuba-diving: This industry is thriving in Dominica. The lack of sandy tourist beaches has meant that the water is almost entirely free for explorers, rather than the sunseekers who flock to nearby islands. Some of the best spots to dive include Champagne Reef in the south of the island, where an underwater hot spring produces its eponymous bubbles; Scott’s Head Pinnacle, an underwater pinnacle and fascinating underwater landscape housed in a marine reserve area, also in the south; in the north is Rodney’s Rock, which is home to an immense variety of sea creatures and quite a shallow dive or the Toucari Marine Park. Scott’s Head and Champagne are reachable by public transport from Rosseau, for the budget-conscious.
Morne Trois Pitous National Park: exploring this tropical forest, which has volcanic features and since April 1995 is a World Heritage Site, can be an adventure. The park is home to magnificent waterfalls, hot springs, boiling mud and geysers, and the hauntingly atmospheric, lichen-covered Valley of Desolation is a perfect place to head. Hardy travellers should also trek to the boiling lake – quite a difficult hike and only for the prepared.
Hiking: Whether it’s a gentle hike in Morne Trois Pitous, or the more vigourous trek up Morne Diablotin, it is worthwhile packing your hiking boots when making a trip to Dominica. The untouched rainforest hides volcanic wonders and spectacular waterfalls. Middleham Falls is a relatively easy trek, taking a little over an hour with rest stops on the way. At an elevation of almost 5000 feet, the more energetic hike to Morne Diablotin takes you to the highest peak in Dominica and requires a rigorous day hike but will give you a panoramic view.
Whale-watching: Sperm whales live offshore year-round. Other whales and dolphins are frequent visitors to the waters around Dominica and whale-watching cruises are widely available.
Culture: The tiny island is also home to a plethora of cultural activities. Dominica hosts the World Creole Festival in October of every year, when Creole musicians from around the world gather to make music from dawn until well after the sun has gone to bed. Carnival – the Real Mas – is in February or March in each year, with parades, pageants and, most importantly, street carnivals and jump-up (jump-up and dance).