We LOVED our time in Dominica (Pronounced: Doh-min-NEE-kuh), which was from March 21 to April 3! It’s a very special place! The best thing that this island has to offer is NATURE, NATURE, NATURE (including the homo sapien variety, most of the ones we met of this variety were tour guides, making the island’s natural treasures accessible to its visitors)! This country struggles with poverty and unemployment more than some of the other islands that we’ve visited, but has managed, more than some other islands, to offer its visitors a safe destination to explore. I think a big reason for this is the development of ecotourism. The people are proud of their island and its unspoiled, wild, beautiful, majestic, fascinating, captivating, spectacular, awe-inspiring, intriguing, nourishing, words-can’t-describe, natural wonders! Since my words cannot do justice to the experience of Dominica, I’ll include lots of photos (I know, what’s new?) we took while we were privileged to be in lovely DOMINICA!
We had a good sail to “The Nature Island of the Caribbean” which boasts 8 active volcanoes, 365 rivers, and the only indigenous-peoples settlement in the Eastern Caribbean. Of all the islands that we have visited, this is one where visiting the interior is a must! What Dominica lacks in an abundance of white sand beaches, it more than makes up in lush rainforest, waterfalls, geothermal pools, and other wonders! We experienced as much as we could in our 15 days, split between two anchorages, here. We started out anchored at the capitol city in the southwest, Roseau (pronounced: Roh zoh), and then sailed to Portsmouth in the northwest. There is so much left to be seen on our way back south!
A big part of what made our time in Dominica so special is sharing all the natural wonders with fellow cruisers. We needed professional tour guides for some of the exploring that we did, and it was more economical for us to get as many people to go together as a van would hold. More of a benefit than cutting costs, was the great opportunity to cultivate new friendships (tour guides, included)!
I’ll share our Dominica experience chronologically by tours and hikes with a few other events thrown in. We were busy, busy while here! Well, let me just show you…
First things, first—Captain Mark had to get us checked into the country. Mark got a lift from 26 year old, Dwain (his professional name is Mr. Bean). He works for a taxi/tour guide/other-various-services-to-cruisers operation called SeaCat Tours, which is owned by the one-of-a-kind tour guide, Octavius. (professional name, SeaCat).
After we got checked in,
and a small rain shower passed, we met Kendra on s/v SeaFrog, Carrie and Carl on s/v Brilliant, and Kathy and Pete on s/v Delphinus at The Loft,
a bar/restaurant, which is at the end of this dock with widely and unevenly spaced boards (”Don’t look down!”…but you HAVE to look down!) to plan our excursions with SeaCat Tours.
Mr. Bean met us there to help us plan. This is where Mark got his reputation as a “details” guy with Mr. Bean, and it became his mission to show Mark a great time! He succeeded!
Tour #1, with Mr. Bean and his friends as our guides, began in the afternoon and included Champagne Reef. Volcanic gasses bubble up into the ocean through the sea floor. The water in the holes, from which the bubbles escape is hot. Snorkeling here was a magical experience!
No coral grows near the geothermal activity because of the warmer water temperature, but just around the corner…
Brittle Sea Star
Sea Eggs—This one is suctioned to Mark’s hand.
Mark and I never touch anything while we snorkel on our own, but we took advantage of the creatures that were offered to us for holding. One of our friends who went on the snorkeling tour with us, Claudette, calls the sea cucumbers, like the one that Mark’s holding, “Sea Puppies”. I like that name because they feel sort of furry and soft like a fat little puppy’s belly! I’ve since found so many different kinds with all different patterns and colors.
We didn’t have near enough time to snorkel at Champagne Reef! But we got back into the boat and zoomed over to Scott’s Head, at the most southwestern tip of Dominica.
We hiked up Scotts Head and looked back toward the village of Scotts Head and the narrow isthmus that is part of the rim of an extinct volcano,
had a group picture taken,
hiked a little higher,
took nature pics along the way,
and looked down on the site where we would snorkel part of the rim of the extinct volcano…Let’s go!
So colorful and beautiful!
Next, we got back into the boat and zoomed northeast over to the little village, Soufriere, where we got refreshments and hung out in the natural “hot tub”. The hot pool is formed by a rock breakwater having been built at the water’s edge to slow the cooling waves that wash up on the reddish-rock-beach where the piping hot water seeps and bubbles up from the really hot earth underneath, and is cooled slightly by the waves that make it past the breakwater.
Ahhhhhhh, it was nice and warm after our snorkeling and wet boat ride! It was low tide, so the water was kind of low and the ground was burning hot in the places where there wasn’t at least a couple of inches of sea water. The back side of my body was boiled-lobster red when I got out!
Looking back towards the land from the beach at the beautiful historic church
Cute Mr. Bean!
Our group sitting on the breakwater with Mr. Bean—Some of the photos are fuzzy from the steamed-up lens.
We headed home, but not until after Mr. Bean dove off the boat close to a seaside fresh spring-water bottling plant, swam to shore, and brought us back a big bottle full of fresh spring water (no chemicals added) for us to taste! We were all thrilled with our first guided tour in Dominica!
The sun set on our first Dominican adventure and first full day.
Tour #2, with the incomparable SeaCat, was scheduled to start in the morning on a day when no cruise ship was visiting! Our day started out cloudy with a drive through Roseau,
past the market,
and through the interior of southern Dominica, seeing sights and listening to and learning from SeaCat’s commentary.
Middleham Falls was our first hike. It rained during the first part of it, so we got the full rainforest experience. It was wonderful! Our hike also took us much longer than the 45 minutes that the sign said it would take one way to the waterfall!
Of all the trails that Mark and I hiked in Dominica, this one was the most elaborately appointed. That this trail is popular with cruise ship tourists may be one reason for this. There are even treads carved in the log walk ways that make up parts of the trail!
The trail led us across rivers,
over a part made up of a web of exposed roots, and
past beautiful and exotic sights that were everywhere we looked.
This real flower felt like wax.
Some of the treats for our eyes were also a treat for our tongue, like this wild raspberry! SeaCat picked samples of all sorts of things for us to try.
On one section of the trail, we could hear birds that SeaCat called Solitaires calling to each other. When SeaCat mimicked them, they would call back. I could imagine myself as a tribute in Hunger Games listening to the Mockingjays. I tried to whistle the Mockingjay song from Hunger Games, but it kept coming out as the Close Encounters of the Third Kind theme !
Stops like this one were part of what made us take longer than 45 minutes to get to the waterfall, but it was FUN. Me Tarzan!
Carrie and Kendra!
SeaCat was hiding in the trunk of this tree as I walked by, so I took a turn!
The trail had ups, and
small wonders, and
Pretty waterfalls, but not the main attraction
SeaCat made a cup and gave us all a sip of pure spring water….Ahhhhhh!
More wild Heliconia
Some of the “downs” were quite steep, and became steep “ups” on the way back!
We’re headed down and getting close to the main attraction!
After all the waterfall pictures, it was time to head back the way we came. I did this part of the hike by myself, running part of the way, and slowing down in other parts to take more pictures, listen to the “mockingjays”,
and experience the parts of the trail that were in the rain on the way, in the sun on the way back. It was tranquil!
Fellow hikers, including Mark, began to trickle back to the trail head, and we visited and dried off before we headed to the next part of that day’s adventure.
We drove to Titou Gorge. Only 3 of us took an active part in the Titou Gorge experience. This was because of a few reasons: Reason #1- Lack of information. SeaCat’s explanation of what we would experience there was quite terse and cryptic. We could ascertain from his explanation (more like commands: “Don’t ask questions; just do it!” and “If you’re not a strong swimmer, get a lifejacket!”) that we would be getting into the cold water after we had just dried out from the rainforest (this almost discouraged me). Reason #2- some of our group were beginning to suffer from hangryness (definition: being angry resulting from hunger) due to the late hour in the day. Reason #3- after surveying the situation while SeaCat had seemingly disappeared, they made a wise decision that jumping in would be beyond their comfort level….I WAS ALL IN!!!!
OH MAN!! IT WAS EXHILERATING!!
First, we walked back into the jungle from the road. It was interesting to see the wooden pipes along the way, built just 30 years ago to carry water down to a hydroelectric plant. We speculated on the reason for them being wooden. They were put together like a whiskey barrel…interesting…pretty, even…gave me the impression of an old railroad track hidden in the woods!
When we got to our destination, we found where an (overflowing) dam forms the cold-water pool where we took the plunge. On the other side from where we entered the bracing water is where a hot water spring empties into the river that offers a spot to warm up.
When SeaCat reappeared (I think he went to change into swimming clothes), I forced myself to go headfirst into the cold water, the current was pretty swift as we swam hard, with a sprinkle of rain falling, into the crevasse in the mountain.
I’m headed in, followed by SeaCat and Denise, another cruiser, on our tour!
Mark took pictures from above. The first two photos show us in the first cavern that we swam to in the gorge. This is where some of the second Pirate’s of The Caribbean was shot. Getting past this first stop used all of my strength and the strategy, that SeaCat told us, of zig zagging across the VERY swift current to an underwater ledge on the opposite side of the gorge from where you can barely see me in the photos. Then came the hardest part! SeaCat kept saying he thought the water was rushing too fast for us to go any further because of the rain we’d had, but then he disappeared under the EXTREMELY FAST MOVING CURRENT of water (basically, the waterfall) and popped up a few looong seconds later on an underwater ledge right by the thundering waterfall! We would not have been able to follow, except that SeaCat had a life ring at the end of a long line. He threw it back to us one at a time and dragged us through the turbulent water to the ledge by the waterfall!! Some young men had been there before us, and SeaCat did the same for them, or they wouldn’t have been able to make it any further than the first ledge! They lucked out, and so did SeaCat, because they booked a tour with him for the next day! We stayed under the waterfall for a little while, marveling at the power of it, and then took the plunge back the other way, letting the current wash us back, making sure to repel off the sides with our feet. What an experience!!!!! I warmed up a bit under the warm spring and then got the camera from Mark and went back into the gorge to try to get some pictures from that perspective…
It was hard to keep the lens dry so this is the best that I could do…
SeaCat and I totally bonded over our EXHILERATING swim!! He was pretty proud of me, and I was too—not bad for a nearly 55 year old GRANNY!
We did a Happy-dance when we got out of the water!! Octavius kept saying to me, “Look at that smile; I love that smile!” But look at his smile; I love his smile!
Next stop, LUNCH!
Yum!!! It was around 4:00 before we got to the restaurant, but we had preordered so that helped. The view looking out over a river was gorgeous from this roadside eatery, but I was too focused on the food to take any pictures,
and the local guava juice (more like a smoothie)…scrumptious!!
Our tour was NOT over!! We climbed back into the van and headed to the adventure that turned out to be the most outside my comfort level…
Trafalgar Falls! There are actually two waterfalls, but I didn’t get a photograph with both in the picture, FAIL! This one is Papa Fall,
and this is Mama Fall (smaller,but more powerful). Until the landslide caused by tropical storm Erica, the topography around the falls was different—not so many BOULDERS! Before the landslide, you could relax in a warm pool at the base of Papa Fall. Now, the warm (much warmer, I presume) pool is right underneath the source, at the top of the boulders.
If we were not with SeaCat, this nice viewing platform is where our experience at Trafalgar Falls would have ended, but we WERE with SeaCat!! So as he hollered, “BOULDERS,BOULDERS, BOULDERS!”, some of us climbed out on the boulders and carefully began our ascent to Papa Fall and the hot spring, some of us with a little trepidation (me) and others, perhaps the wiser of us, with much trepidation (Mark).
Looking back at those who chose not to risk life and limb on the BOULDERS, BOULDERS, BOULDERS!!!!
The boulders seemed much bigger when we got out on them.
We got a closer view of Mama Fall…
and Papa Fall.
“Hello, Kathy (s/v Delphinus), Carrie, and Kendra!!”
It’s amazing how abundant plant life is on this island, and that it grows EVERYWHERE!
We came to a wide place in the river where we stripped down to our swimming clothes and swam across. We could see iron deposits from the hot spring on the rocks, as we got closer.
It’s getting REAL now!
Denise chose to end her climb here. The rest of us pressed on with the help of this rope.
We made it through part of the waterfall to a plateau where the nice warm pool was! See the rope that helped us up?
At this point, good photos were hard to get because of all the water and steam.
Our time up there was like being in a natural jacuzzi…so soothing! I would change spots to let the powerful “jets” soothe different muscles. The lady that chose not to brave the crashing waterfall up to this level was right underneath the ledge beyond my feet.
Mark enjoyed his warm “deep-tissue massage”!
My natural jacuzzi time would have been perfect except for thinking about the crawl back down and the cool water we faced for that. Also, I was worried about Kathy, Carrie and Kendra having to wait on us for so long. We stayed up there quite a while. Some of the men in our group followed SeaCat even higher, but Mark and I were content right where we were! Worrying about seeing one of those men go tumbling down the waterfall beside us was another thought that kept my “hot tub” experience from being altogether peaceful. Thankfully, the guys made it back down to our level, and we were ready to set off back down. Sometimes going down can be harder than climbing up, but that was not the case this time, thank goodness!
Our climb down was getting close to dusk. The way the light played on our surroundings was beautiful.
We swam back across the river, got dressed, and continued our careful descent as
the sun was setting on Mama and
Papa Falls and
the whole valley.
Another shot of the profusion of greenery
I missed this sign on the way to the falls, but we didn’t break any rules and it wasn’t raining, so we were good! I’m almost positive that the way we experienced Trafalgar Falls would not be permitted in the USA, but we WEREN’T in the USA! Two men in our group did slip on rocks and hurt themselves (toes, ankles, and a little blood were involved), but everyone finished the hike alive!
There were a couple of sites included in our tour that we didn’t get to see and experience, well, we saw them in the dark. This was due to getting started an hour late and taking too much time at other places. This was disappointing, but our SeaCat tour was an experience that I’ll never forget, and I recommend it to anyone wanting a tour that’s heavy on the physical and adventure!
So far, I’ve shared only the happenings that included our first two tours and our first two full days in Dominica, but I think that I should give anyone reading about our Nancy Lu adventures some time to absorb our first tastes of the natural beauty of Dominica before I share any more…I can’t wait to share more!