Dominica (pronounced Dom-in-ee-ka) is a spectacular green island of rugged mountains, lush rainforests and rushing rivers in the Eastern Caribbean chain of Windward Islands. It lies south of Guadeloupe and north of Martinique. Dominica is 29 miles long and 16 miles wide (47 by 26 kms), with a total land area of just under 290 square miles (465 square kms).
Dominica has two airports – Melville Hall and Canefield Airports. Melville Hall is situated in the northeast of Dominica and receives most regional flights. Canefield Airport is situated just north of Roseau, the capital city.
Apart from many yacht companies and cruise lines that make Dominica their port of call, a regular high speed catamaran service is offered by L’Express des Iles from Guadeloupe and Martinique, with onward connections to St Lucia. These services operate every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The ferry terminal is located in Roseau.
A departure tax of EC$55.00 (approx: £10.50) is payable upon leaving Dominica (with the exception of children under 12 years of age).
Citizens of Great Britain and most other EU countries do not require a visa to visit Dominica. Citizens of former Eastern Bloc countries do require visas and are advised to check before travelling.
Arriving visitors must provide evidence of a return ticket or ticket for onward travel. Visitors arriving at Dominica’s airports are generally allowed a maximum stay of one month. Requests for extensions are dealt with at the Immigration Office in the city of Roseau. There is a fee of EC$100 (approx: £19) for an extension.
No vaccinations are required.
The official language is English, but Creole (a language based on French with Carib and West African influences) is also widely spoken.
The population stands at approximately 71,000.
The Commonwealth of Dominica achieved full independence from Great Britain on 3rd November 1978. It is now a Republic with a non-executive presidency and parliamentary government. Its unicameral House of Assembly, based on the Westminster model, has 30 members (21 elected, nine appointed). Elections are held every five years, with a President elected for no more than two terms of five years. The President appoints a Prime Minister, who consults the President in appointing other ministers.
A general election was last held in May 2005. The current head of state is the President, His Excellency Dr Nicholas J O Liverpool. Head of Government is the Prime Minister, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit.
The Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$) is the official local currency, but the United States dollar is also widely accepted on the island. The British pound sterling and Euros can be exchanged at most banks, which are open from 8:00am – 2:00pm from Monday to Thursday and 8:00am – 4:00pm on Friday. The rate of exchange is approximately GB£1.00 = EC$5.25. The Eastern Caribbean dollar is fixed to the US dollar, where US$1.00 = EC$2.67. Rates of exchange with the pound sterling and the Euro therefore fluctuate. Most hotels, restaurants, car rental agencies and tour operators accept major credit cards and traveller’s cheques.
Most restaurants and hotels include a 10% service charge. Further tipping for special services is by choice. Dominica benefits from excellent weather conditions year round, with average temperatures of 27-31°C (80-85°F). Temperatures do vary across the island due to its topographical features. In coastal areas, high temperatures range from 29 to 32 degrees Celsius and low temperatures range from 20 to 22 degrees Celsius. Inland and mountainous areas tend to be cooler and wetter. Rainfall in the interior rainforests can be as high 300 inches per year. July to November are the wettest months, and February to May are the driest.
The hurricane season lasts from June to October each year. Dominica’s last major hurricane was in 1979.
Casual, light cottons are ideal during the day, and a light sweater is recommended for the cooler evenings. Raincoats and walking shoes are recommended for hikes through the rainforests. Swimwear is not appropriate in the streets, shops or restaurants.
The voltage is 220/240 volts and 50 Hz – the same as the UK – with British power sockets in some hotels. However, some hotels also offer 110/115 volts and two-pin power sockets, for which an adapter may be provided.
Dominica is four hours behind GMT.
Tap water is safe for drinking.
The area dialling code for Dominica is 767. To dial Dominica from the UK, dial 001 767 followed by the seven digit local number.
Dominica has a modern and reliable digital telecommunication system. Coin and card operated payphones are available at various points around the island. Mobile phones can also be used with one of the three networks available – Cable & Wireless, Digicel and Orange.
Dominica has internet cafés and most hotels also offer internet access, including some with broadband/wireless internet services.
Driving is on the left hand side of the road in Dominica. The speed limit in Roseau and in villages is 20mph. while there is no speed limit outside residential areas, unless otherwise stated.
Various rental companies offer cars, off-road vehicles and bikes, and the cost of a monthly visitor driver’s permit is EC$30 (approx: £5.75).
Taxi services are widely available on the island. The use of licenced taxis only is recommended. Enquire about the official rate when travelling from point to point or agree the fare in advance.
Route taxis and fixed-fare buses operate across the island from point to point, mostly to and from the capital Roseau.
In case of an emergency, dial 999 for police, fire or ambulance services. Good medical services are available on the island, but extra insurance is recommended, as well as carrying regular medication with you during your visit. As well as four hospitals, Dominica has a large selection of doctors, health centres, and a medical facility at Ross University in Portsmouth.
Contact details for hospitals are:
Princess Margaret Hospital (Roseau): 1 (767) 448 2231
Portsmouth Hospital: 1 (767) 445 5237
Marigot Hospital: 1 (767) 445 7091
Grand Bay Hospital: 1 (767) 446 3706
Dominica has a choice of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets, from eco-resorts, small villas and conventional hotels to charming inns and simple guesthouses. Locations vary from beachfront to more rustic areas in-land. For more information, please see the separate sheet on Dominica accommodation.
There are tourist information desks at both airports and in Roseau, conveniently located to serve the Roseau Cruise Ship berth and the Roseau Ferry Terminal. An information desk at the Woodbridge Bay Port is also manned when a cruise ship is docked.
Most shops are open from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, Monday to Friday, and from 8:00 am – 1:00 pm on Saturdays, with some staying open until later during the week.
Throughout its history, different groups of settlers and colonizers have tussled over possession of Dominica. By the 14th Century, the Carib tribes were driving out the Arawaks to become the dominant inhabitants. They named the island Waitikubuli, which means ‘tall is her body’.
The island was given its present name by Christopher Columbus, who spotted the island on Sunday 3rd November 1493 (‘Doménica’ is Italian for Sunday). The British took theoretical possession of Dominica in 1627 without settling the island, although it had become a de facto French colony by 1632. The Carib inhabitants, however, acted with fierce resistance towards the island’s European colonizers, driving away a contingent of missionaries sent by the French.
In 1660, France and Britain signed a neutrality treaty in which they agreed to leave the island in Carib possession, but in fact French settlers continued to arrive, bringing with them enslaved Africans and establishing coffee plantations on Dominica. During the 18th century, Dominica became caught up in skirmishes between the British and the French, changing hands several times. In 1805, the French finally withdrew, leaving the British in possession.
The British established sugar plantations in Dominica and administered the island as part of the Leeward Islands Federation. In 1939 it was transferred to the Windward Islands Federation. In 1967, the island became an Associated state of the United Kingdom, giving it internal self-governance, whilst Britain remained responsible for foreign policy and defence.
Dominica achieved full independence as a republic within the Commonwealth on 3rd November 1978, 485 years to the day after Columbus ‘discovered’ the island.
Dominica in a Day: A guide for cruise ship visitors Dominica has become a popular cruise ship destination for its excellent day activities and accessible attractions. There are three cruise ship berths in Dominica: The Bayfront in the capital Roseau, Deep Water Harbour in Woodbridge Bay (five minutes north of Roseau) and Cabrits in Portsmouth. The majority of cruise ships will organise day tours of the island. However, exploring Dominica with a tour guide or taxi driver is a relatively cheap and safe option. Visitors who would rather explore the island independently can take a private tour that is tailored to meet their needs from the tour sales representatives. Tour representatives can be found situated at the end of the pier. All taxi drivers and tour guides in Dominica have undertaken training before being granted a permit to escort tourists. This ensures that your driver will be very knowledgeable and even a short journey will be informative and interesting. Prior to taking a taxi or tour, agree to the fare and check whether the amount quoted is US dollars or Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollars.
If you wish to use the bus, the tourist information centre (see below) provides current timetables and advice. Please ensure that you check the return times before setting off.
Below are just a few suggestions of Dominica’s key sites and attractions that can be enjoyed in a day. Visitors can explore Roseau and then venture to the interior, or alternatively stay on the coast and enjoy the island’s spectacular dive sites.
Dominica’s capital Roseau is a picturesque bustling town blending new and old architecture dating from colonial times. The city is easily explored by foot or via short taxi journeys.
The Tourist Information Centre is on the bay front, opposite the cruise ship berth on the west side of the old market. It is open from 8am - 1pm and 2pm -4pm on weekdays and 8am to noon on Saturdays. A circular historical walking tour of Roseau takes about one hour and sets off from the Roseau cruise ship berth. The walk can be downloaded from www.avirtualdominica.com and the Tourist Information Centre can provide maps. Close to the cruise ship mooring you will find the Old Market and the Dominica Museum. The old market is a cobblestone plaza and was once the site of the former slave market. Today you are more likely to pick up a souvenir or handicraft. The museum is found above the tourist office and educates visitors about Dominica’s colourful history, including its Carib traditions and Creole culture for only US$1.00
The Botanical Gardens are on the outskirts of town and is home to over 40 acres of tropical flowers, native trees and an aviary housing the indigenous Jacqout and Sisserou parrots. The gardens sit below Morne Bruce, which is worth climbing to enjoy the bird’s eye view of Roseau.
ATTRACTIONS A SHORT DRIVE FROM ROSEAU (UP TO 25 MINUTES BY TAXI)
Trafalgar Falls is a stunning twin waterfall flowing side by side, which is accessible via an easy ten-minute walk from the Papillote Wilderness Retreat on the Eastern edge of Pitons Morne Trois National Park. Close by, you will find Wotton Waven, home to hot sulphur springs, where you can dip in a hot tub and sulphur mud pool.
For those who want to experience the lush rainforest up close, a ride on The Rain Forest Aerial Tram in Laudat (six miles north of Roseau) is a must. Transported in a hanging gondola, which seats up to 8 people, the journey is through approximately 1 mile of protected tropical Montane rainforest bordering the Morne Trois Pitons National Park. A narrow corridor through the trees allows close observation of the diverse plant and bird life to be found in this enchanting habitat.
From Laudat visitors can also discover Ti-tou Gorge a small waterfall deep in a water-filled gorge ('Ti-tou' means 'little-throat' in Creole). Visitors can enjoy a heavenly five minute swim through a series of natural eight rooms and ponds to the base of a waterfall.
Freshwater Lake (near Laudat) is Dominica’s largest lake and the country’s major source of hydro-electricity. If you continue hiking you will come to Boeri Lake, which at 2,800 feet is the highest lake in the country. Boat rides and kayaking are available on the lake or one could prefer to sit and sip hot local coffee or chocolate taking in the natural surroundings.
From here you can hike up to Boiling Lake though you will need to arrange a guide in advance and be aware that it is a strenuous full day excursion involving a six hours of hiking. Along the way you will pass the sulphurous Valley of Desolation before you reaching the flooded boiling fumerole.
FURTHER AFIELD FROM ROSEAU (25 MINUTES AND MORE BY CAR)
The Scott’s Head Soufriere Marine Reserve (SSMR) in the southwestern tip of Dominica will be of particular interest to divers and keen snorkellers. One special spot is Champagne, a bubbly underwater site created from submerged gas vents. Dive companies will take you to key sites and activities can be arranged through the Dominica Watersports Association.
Portsmouth in the north west is Dominica’s second largest town and home to several historical places including Fort Shirley an 18th Century fort and site of battles between the English and the French. The Cabrits National Park is a 260 acre protected national park. From here take a leisurely boat ride up Indian River accompanied by a certified guide who will point out the flora and fauna. Expect to pay about £5 (EC$25) for a ninety minute tour with a certified guide.
On the East coast of Dominica is the Carib Territory where the last of the Caribbean indigenous people live. Visit the Kalingo Barana Aute – the Carib Cultural Village by the Sea, to experience the traditional Carib lifestyle, handicrafts and culture.
Adventure and activities in Dominica
Known as ‘The Nature Island’, Dominica’s rich landscape of high mountains, exotic rainforests and unspoiled waters offers adventurers one of the Caribbean’s best islands for exploration. With numerous activities available on- and off-shore, and a calendar of lively events throughout the year, each day in Dominica brings a new and exciting adventure.
Some of Dominica’s most beautiful locations are best reached on foot, and a network of hiking trails exists around the island with routes to suit any level of walker. The trailheads lead through lush forests to hot springs, waterfalls and lofty peaks which provide spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. More experienced hikers can take on the challenge of climbing the Eastern Caribbean’s highest peak, Morne Diablotin, or venture through the Valley of Desolation to Boiling Lake, the second largest of its kind in the world. Local guides can be hired for the more testing routes, or for anyone interested in learning more about the island’s flora and fauna.
Dominica can also be explored by mountain bike, with a choice of taking a guided tour or hiring a bike and choosing your own route. Horseback riding and ATV (quad bike) rides through jungle routes are other exciting ways to discover the island. These can be booked through Highride Nature Adventures.
Dominica is one of the world’s top destinations for scuba diving. The healthy reefs teem with marine life, and divers will find a stunning variety of corals, sponges and fish species including seahorses, octopus, stingrays, barracudas and frogfish. Many of the dive sites are virtually unexplored, with excellent visibility. The volcanic terrain of the island continues underwater, where the topography is characterised by steep drop-offs, lava pinnacles, volcanic arches and caves. There is even the giant crater of an extinct volcano.
Shallower dive sites also offer excellent snorkelling, with the Soufriere Bay area and Cabrits National Park particularly recommended. Snorkellers can accompany a dive expedition or rent equipment by the day.
Those preferring to stay above the water can rent a kayak for a leisurely paddle up the western coastline of Dominica, where the waters are relatively calm.
Dominica is one of the best places in the Caribbean to spot whales and dolphins, with twenty-two species identified in the local area. Whale species that might be seen include the sperm, orca and false killer whale. Migrating humpback whales are also occasionally spotted in winter. Spinner, spotted and bottlenose dolphins delight in performing for tour boats, performing acrobatic tricks and swimming alongside the boats almost within reach.
Dominica has some excellent sites for sport fishing just moments from its coastline, and anglers can enjoy half- or full-day charters where equipment is provided.
OTHER ADVENTURE ACTIVITIES
Wacky Rollers offers fun experiences for visitors of all ages. Explore the ‘land of 365 rivers’ on a river tubing safari, negotiating Dominica’s waterways in a large rubber ring; or take an island jeep tour in an open-sided four wheel drive vehicle, passing some of the island’s most beautiful spots. For the truly adventurous, the Wacky Rollers adventure park offers an aerial tour through the forest on a network of ropes, suspended bridges and zip-wires.
For another alternative look at Dominica, enjoy a ride on the aerial tramway, which travels through the treetops over Breakfast Gorge, providing breathtaking views of the rainforest. A guide accompanies each tram, pointing out the local flora and fauna during the 70 minute journey. The tram often runs only on cruise ship days or for groups of a significant size. More information is available at www.rfat.com.
A new attraction which opened in early 2006 is Kalinago Barana Aute – the Carib Cultural Village by the Sea. Situated in the Carib Territory reservation, where the descendants of Dominica’s original inhabitants live in eight villages, this provides a rare chance to experience the Carib culture which remains only in Dominica. The village includes an interpretation centre and a craft shop.
A number of excursions and tours are also available highlighting Dominica’s cultural heritage. Jungle Trekking Adventures and Safaris (JTAS) offers a range of experiences, including some particularly suited to families with children. The ‘Mill and Masquerade Experience’ leads visitors to a 19th century sugar cane plantation for a traditional masquerade presentation. In ‘Cuisine a la Dominique’, two of Dominica’s hottest chefs teach visitors how to produce and present traditional Caribbean dishes. ‘Bonfire Tyme’ is an evening tour for families, consisting of a sunset tour of Roseau, storytelling, ring games, traditional singing with live drums around a bonfire, and a village dinner. JTAS also offers visitors a first-hand experience Carib culture, scenic tours, and an overview of the island’s flora and fauna.
To learn about the island’s history, take a walking tour of Roseau, Dominica’s capital, or visit the Roseau Museum, Fort Shirley, an English colonial fort found amongst the ruins at the Cabrits Historical and Marine Park.
Planning a visit to Dominica that coincides with a cultural festival is highly recommended to really get a feel for the vibrancy and creativity of the island.
As with any Caribbean island, Dominica’s Carnival is the biggest and most colourful event of the year. The Real Mas Domnik runs each year for at least six weeks until Ash Wednesday in February. The celebrations contain a mixture of competitions, exhilarating musical events and elaborate costume parades, with the whole island swept up in carnival spirit. Highlights include the Calypso Monarch competition, the Miss Dominica beauty pageant and days dedicated to showcasing the finest of Dominica’s musical talents. Dominica also hosts the annual World Creole Music Festival, which contains the highest level of Caribbean and world creole music. The festival has attracted some top names in recent years, including international artists Wyclef Jean and Shaggy; creole music giants Kassav, Tabou Combo, Carimi, Ti-Vice, Papa Wemba and Sakis; and local bouyon kings WCK and Triple K amongst many others. Taking place over three nights at the end of October, the festival falls just before Dominica’s Independence Day festivities on 3rd November, providing even more entertainment and spectacle for visitors.
As well as these large-scale events, local village festivals and celebrations are held throughout the year, particularly in the summer months of May to August.
Full listings of tour and activity operators in Dominica, along with further information on events and festivals, can be found at www.discoverdominica.com. For more detailed information on hiking and scuba diving in Dominica, please see the separate information sheets ‘Hiking in Dominica’ and ‘Diving and water activities in Dominica’.
Diving and water activities in Dominica
Activities such as scuba diving, kayaking and whale-watching mean that Dominica offers as many attractions off-shore as on.
With some of the healthiest reefs in the Caribbean, Dominica is considered one of the world’s top destinations for scuba diving. It combines a diversity of coral and marine life with underwater visibility ranging up to 100 feet and a number of full service dive operators, offering equipment and excursions for divers of all skill levels. In addition, Dominica boasts many unfrequented dive sites, some of which are almost unexplored territory.
The volcanic origins that have shaped the rugged landscape of Dominica continue beneath the surface of the water. The varied underwater terrain includes vertical walls, lava pinnacles, volcanic arches and caves, alongside rich shallow reefs encrusted with corals, sponges and other forms of marine life.
The sea life is just as impressive and varied as the topography, and Dominica is an excellent location to spot fish and other creatures. Stingrays, snappers, barracudas, parrotfish, seahorses, frogfish and rainbow crinoids are just some of the life forms that can be found in the waters around the island.
The majority of Dominica’s dive sites are located not far from the shore right the way along the western coast of the island. Located at the southwest tip of the island, Scott’s Head is a peninsula that separates the calmer Caribbean Sea from the more turbulent Atlantic Ocean. In the late 1990s, the Scott’s Head-Soufriere Marine Reserve (SMMR) was established to ensure conservation of the surrounding areas, and is home to some of the island’s most dramatic dive sites. These include Scott’s Head Pinnacle, Champagne, Crater’s Edge, L’Abym, Condo, Suburbs, Village and Dangleben’s Pinnacles. The area contains a gigantic and extinct volcanic crater, which falls just below the surface of the water at some points before plummeting to immeasurable depths.
Champagne, Dominica’s most famous dive site, features a bubbling underwater hot springs in just 15 feet of water. Scott’s Head Pinnacle features pinnacles, seamounts, walls, and an incredible array of marine life. Also of interest at the site is Scott’s Head Arch, a tunnel in 25 feet of water that is filled with Blackbar Soldierfish and schooling grunts.
Northwest of these sites, divers will find the Crater’s Edge teeming with masses of black jack, bar jacks, rainbow runners, tuna, yellowtail snapper and cero, all pursuing schools of baitfish.
Further up the west coast, north of Roseau, Rodney’s Rock is a shallow dive area with more than 12 sites located just offshore. Large rocks covered with corals and sponges, mini caves, sandy patches of seagrass and large schools of sergeant majors, blue and grey chomis, octopus and seahorses can be found.
On the northwest coast, divers can explore more than 10 sites including Toucari Bay. A secluded area with coral covered rocks and tunnels providing opportunities for swim-throughs, this site is home to a wide variety of sea life including octopus, moray eels, parrotfish, French grunts, mahogany snapper and crabs. Also in the northwest, divers can visit the remains of an 18th century wreck at Cottage Point.
Dominica has a number of dive shops and operators, listings of which can be found at www.discoverdominica.com or on the Dominica Watersports Association website, www.dominicawatersports.com. Both beginner resort courses with an ocean dive and full PADI certification courses are available. Some operators, including Dive Dominica, Nature Island Dive and Anchorage Dive Centre, Sunset Bay Club, Fort Young Hotel, and Tamarind Tree offer one-week dive packages that include accommodation and multiple dives. By law, all dives (shore and boat) in Dominica must be accompanied by a government-registered, licensed divemaster.
All of Dominica’s dive operators offer snorkelling tours or will take snorkellers out with a dive expedition. Some dive sites are better suited to snorkellers than others – viewing a wreck 50 feet underwater is less enjoyable than exploring shallow coral reefs, for example. The Soufriere Bay area and Cabrits National Park are good for snorkelling. For those not wishing to join an organised expedition, some dive shops rent out snorkel gear by the day.
Dominica is one of the best locations in the Caribbean for kayaking. Guided excursions ranging from one hour to full-day are available along the western coastline, or kayak rental is available for those wanting to create their own adventure. Soufriere Bay, Cabrits National Park and Douglas Bay are among the recommended destinations for kayakers, who might like to combine their trip with some snorkelling.
WHALE AND DOLPHIN WATCHING
Dominica’s temperate seas and underwater contours provide the ideal environment for whales and dolphins, and the island stakes a claim to being the whale-watching capital of the Caribbean. Twenty-two species of whales and dolphins have been identified in the island’s waters, primarily around Scott’s Head, where waters plunge to 6,000 feet.
Dive Dominica and Anchorage Dive Centre both operate boat trips where passengers can get closer to some of these magnificent mammals. The most commonly sighted are sperm whales (October to March), which grow to a length of 70 feet and have a blunt, square snout. Other resident whale species include the orca, pygmy sperm whale, pygmy killer whale, false killer whale and pilot whale. In winter, migrating humpback whales are occasionally spotted as well.
Spinner dolphins stay in Dominican waters year-round, and delight in performing on cue near tour boats. They swim together in packs numbering literally hundreds. Spotted and bottlenose dolphins can also be seen, and are known to approach humans almost to within touching distance.
The steep underwater drop-offs that are characteristic of Dominica mean that deep sea fishing is available just minutes off the coast of the island. Anglers can fish barracuda, dorado, marlin, tuna or wahoo in the year-round fair weather and calm waters of the west coast. Two other productive banks are found at opposite ends of the island – the first, five miles off the north coast in the Guadeloupe Channel, and the second, Macouba Bank, 12 miles southeast of Dominica.
Half-day and full-day charters are available, which include bait, tackle, drinks and snacks.
Hiking and the natural landscape in Dominica
The best way to fully experience the varied terrain and outstanding natural beauty of Dominica is to explore the island on foot. Dominica has walking trails to suit all from the novice to the most experienced of hikers.
While the skill level needed to tackle each trail may vary, each route offers a rewarding tour of the island’s awe-inspiring surroundings, from its majestic mountains, rolling hills and lush forests to the spectacular waterfalls – and even a boiling lake.
Dominica’s Forestry Division publishes brochures on many of the trails, which can be purchased very cheaply from their headquarters in Roseau’s botanical garden. Short hikes to the most popular destinations can be done alone, but a guide familiar with the route is recommended for the more challenging wilderness treks.
Currently under development is a network of trails that allows you to traverse the island completely. This mega-trail is called the ‘Waitukubuli’ Trail, after the Carib Indian name for the island. It will be 113 miles long, taking 12-15 days on average to cover the entire island. It will pass through villages, allowing walkers to stay overnight in these communities.
Below is a selection of Dominica’s hiking trails, grouped in levels of difficulty.
Starting four miles northeast of Roseau, in Trafalgar, this hike leads you to a pair of adjacent waterfalls. The taller of the two is referred to as the Father and the shorter, the Mother. A ten to fifteen minute walk along a well-maintained path brings you to a viewing platform where you can photograph and see both falls. For a closer look, a path leads to the base of the falls. Climb over the boulders to enjoy a swim in the pool at the base of the Mother.
Starting five-and-a-half miles northeast of Roseau in Laudat, the trip to Ti-Tou Gorge, also known as ‘Little Throat’ Gorge in Carib, is actually a five minute swim to the base of a waterfall through a series of natural ‘rooms and ponds’ formed by high cliff walls canopied by interlaced trees. The canopied light filtering down the mountainside within the gorge is spectacular. Ti-Tou Gorge also features a hot spring just outside the entrance of the gorge. The gorge was used as a filming location for Pirates of the Caribbean II.
Starting eight miles northeast of Roseau, off the Canefield - Castle Bruce Road, Emerald Pool is a beautiful waterfall in a grotto and the perfect place to enjoy a swim. The 40-foot waterfall is Dominica’s most accessible, reached along a natural wooden walkway.
Dominica’s largest lake, Freshwater Lake, rests at the end of a two-and-a-half mile stone road beginning in the town of Laudat. The road is suitable for walking, otherwise it is possible to drive within a fifteen minute walk of the lake. Although only 55 feet deep, legend has it that the lake is bottomless and a one-eyed denizen of the deep resides there. The elevated areas around the lake offer a magnificent view of the east coast, Grand Ford and Rosalie.
The one-and-a-quarter mile path to Boeri Lake begins at Freshwater Lake. The path is rocky and can be slippery, especially in the rain. The lake sits at an elevation of 2,800 ft, covering some four acres. Fed by rainfall and runoff, the water level varies seasonally.
Starting five miles northeast of Roseau in Laudat, the long and sometimes hilly trek to Middleham Falls leads into the heart of the fern and orchid-filled rainforest and takes about three hours. The striking falls – Dominica’s highest – are highlighted by a narrow stream that drops approximately 200 feet from a keyhole notch in the lip of the cliff. A shallow cave to the left of the falls makes a great place to relax. Two trails lead to Middleham Falls, the more popular of which begins just off the Roseau-Laudat road.
Much of the appeal of this trail comes from its location on the remote Atlantic side of Dominica, with its starting point in La Plaine on the southeast coast. The trail descends a steep incline to the bed of the Sari-Sari River, crossing it several times as the exact path depends on the flow of the river. The hike is about one mile in each direction, and can be slippery when wet.
Victoria Falls is fed by the White River, named because of its white colour due to mineral content. The waterfalls are the same white colour as the river, whilst the cliff face and boulders at the base of the falls are a rich rust colour due to mineral deposits. The hike is actually more of a scramble – it involves crossing rivers and climbing over some rocks, so walkers should be prepared to wade in water up to their knees. There is the opportunity to swim under the waterfall. The trip usually takes less than 45 minutes each way and can be started at Delices on the southeast coast, or from the east coast. This trip can be combined with the Sari-Sari Falls hike, as the trailheads are close together.
The Boiling Lake hike ranks as one of Dominica’s most demanding trails, taking approximately six hours for the round-trip over some very challenging terrain. It is recommended to walk with a local guide. Starting from the village of Laudat, hikers venture through rainforests filled with rare exotic birds, and the Valley of Desolation, a moss-covered valley littered with brightly coloured hot springs, boiling mud and mini-geysers, before reaching the Boiling Lake. This lake is the second largest of its kind in the world, with water temperatures around the edges ranging from 180-197 degrees Fahrenheit. Beginning at approximately 1,600 feet, the trail starts out flat but quickly grows steeper.
Dominica’s most challenging trek, and one that is rarely conquered, is a very steep hike up to the peak of Morne Diablotin (Devil’s Mountain). Located in the Northern Forest Reserve and towering up to 4,747 feet, this is the island’s highest peak and also the natural habitat of the two endemic parrots found in Dominica – the Sisserou and the Jacquot. It is also a great place to spot many of the other 170 species of birds in Dominica. This hike should be reserved for the only the most experienced hikers and only with a local guide. Bird watchers need not despair – the Sisserou and Jacquot can also be seen along the less strenuous Syndicate Nature Trail in the foothills of the Morne Diablotin.
Ten interesting facts about Dominica
1. Dominica has the highest mountains in the Eastern Caribbean. The highest is Mount Diablotin, at 4,747 feet high. 2. Dominica was used as a filming location for Pirates of the Caribbean II and III.
3. Author Jean Rhys (1890-1979), whose novels include Wide Sargasso Sea, grew up in Dominica. She was born Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams in Roseau.
4. Morne Trois Pitons National Park in Dominica was the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Eastern Caribbean. 5. Dominica was the first island in the Caribbean to have a female prime minister. Mary Eugenia Charles was elected in July 1980.
6. Dominica’s national flower is the bwa kwaib and its national bird is the Sisserou parrot.
7. Dominica is home to around 3,000 native Caribs, most of whom live on a 3,700-acre reservation on the eastern side of the island. Carib traditions such as carving dug out canoes, building houses on stilts and weaving distinctive basketwork still exist in Dominica.
8. Approximately 60% of the island’s electrical power supply is hydro generated.
9. Dominica was the first country to be benchmarked by Green Globe 21 for its commitment to environmental sustainability.
10. Dominica’s Boiling Lake is the second largest of its kind in the world after Lake Rotorua in New Zealand, measuring approximately 63 metres across – at least, when full. The lake has been found empty several times over the past century, and it is not yet fully understood what causes this phenomenon.