We learned to dive a few years ago with Nature Island Dive in Soufriere and have since been back every year. The diving is sensational - really unspoilt (not that many tourists) with lovely corals and fantastic sealife. Turtles on almost every dive, seahorses, frogfish, huge shoals of creole wrasse, jacks etc and occasional sharks. The best sites are the least dived - with pristine reefs. All dives must be guided as it is a marine reserve. There are divers from the cruise boats but they are taken to limited sites so if you stay for a few days/weeks ask to go to other sites such as Scotts Head Pinnacle, West End, Craters Edge, Condo as well. The boat rides are short from Soufriere.
Dominica is a wonderful island - the Atlantic coast is amazing for views and walking. The Dominican people are really friendly and proud of their country although you can see and feel the changes happening on the island.
Getting around is, er, interesting. Cars/jeeps can be hired but driving isn't easy due to the poor roads, enormous potholes and other drivers. We have preferred to use the little cheap and interesting buses where possible.
You can buy fish from the fishermen in Soufriere and Scotts Head - they don't sell reef fish fortunately.
The Saturday market in Roseau is great fun - and good value. The fruit on the island is amazing - pineapples have a totally different taste than when eaten in Europe.
I'd recommend staying outside of Roseau - not the prettiest place on the island. Dive shops will arrange accommodation according to your budget and preferences.
If you stay in the south, walk up to Galion village and the top of Scotts Head for the best views in the Caribbean.
The Windward Islands of Dominica and St Lucia both hold special food markets during their Creole Week festivals at the end of October. The
festivities include a focus on the produce of these very fertile islands and this is celebrated in the colourful food markets.
Stunning displays of local fruits, vegetables and spices are created for the event. Market vendors wear traditional costumes, stalls are festooned with brightly coloured madras fabrics and decorated with tropical flowers. Visitors can also sample the delights of a fresh jelly coconut, sugar-cane juice or a more substantial meal from a roadside snackette.
For a few days visitors have a glimpse of the past, away from the multi-national fast food outlets that are now sadly springing up near to these long established local market places.
Roseau market in Dominica
Castries market in St Lucia
The last Saturday in October
A traditional pre-Lenten Caribbean carnival that is friendly, accessible to visitors and uncommercialised. It is a moveable feast determined by the timing of Lent and in 2011 the main event falls between March 7th and 8th. Mas Dominik is a mixture of African masquerade and French carnival traditions. Many of the costume designs are traditional such as the Sensay where the masquerader is completely hidden by a costume of raffia, rope or strips of material topped by a mask and cow horns. The opening of carnival or Jouvert begins at dawn on the first day. Individuals take to the streets in home made costumes or night clothes banging drums or saucepans, anyone can join in and the streets are very eerie at dawn, populated by shadowy figures and the sound of drums. This is followed by the joyous celebrations of the school bands and other traditional masqueraders. The climax on Carnival Tuesday features the costume bands who make several laps of the route. There is no space in the narrow streets for elaborate creations or large structures but this means the carnival action is close, neither locals or visitors can remain spectators for long and will find themselves jumping up behind a band or a truck that plays the current carnival tunes.
The main carnival events take place in and around the capital city Roseau, and it is compact enough that you could not possibly miss the carnival. You need to stay in or around the capital to make the most of the events as public transport is virtually non existent after dark and associated events such as calypso competitions take place late into the night.
Google map: bit.ly/e4cdUX
The scenery is fantastical on the trek through this unique Atlantic rain forest. It is like watching the earth evolve in fast motion beneath your feet. Exciting and spellbinding lush rain forest meets the lunar scape just before the boiling lake. The best place to relax is on the way back from the lake, in the gentle thermal river with small hot natural pools, safe to bathe in and the water is the colour of blue white.
The natural spa is just outside the village of Wotten Waven in the Roseau valley, an area of outstanding natural beauty and geothermic activity which creates hot sulphur springs.The spa has four hot pools with a constant flow of mineral rich water. The surroundings are very beautiful. You lie in the natural pools looking up at a canopy of lianas and vines. All the construction of pools and showers and a changing area is from natural materials and blends into the landscape. Screw, the Rastafarian creator of this tropical paradise, has the warmest welcome and makes bathers feel at ease. The spa is popular with locals and visitors alike, costing from 10 US dollars for a 45 minute session. After lounging in the pools and perhaps enjoying a lava scrub fresh local fruits and juices are offered to guests. A small bar provides other local drinks such a cocoa tea. It really is the most relaxing and beautiful place, once visited you have to return.
On the road from Wotten Waven to Trafalgar, there is a well sign-posted car park, or take the local bus the driver will know where to drop you. +767-440-4478
open 10am-10pm, except Mondays, arrive early or late if you want to avoid cruise-ship parties.
Google map: bit.ly/hefwed
A rigorous hike through rainforest, high woodland and dramatic coastline.
I walked this recently with my friend, a local called Damien who lives in Tanetane, near Portsmouth Dominica. He walked this trail back in the early 80's with many other locals and so we decided to revisit.
We set off from my cottage accommodation at Manicou River Eco Resort, Tanetane. We then walked up the Manicou River until we reached the main road and caught a bus (we were going to hitch a ride but the bus arrived within five minutes) to the trailhead in Pennville. We then walked through farmland and animals for a mile or so until we were truly alone. We never saw another soul until we finished the hike in Capuchin three hours later.
We walked along jungle tracks though very rough farmland with dramatic drops in impossible valleys. Damien told me how the farmers here have to walk to the main road with their loads on their backs and heads to sell in the markets. Many young people are abandoning these farms as the need for gadgets and Game boys mean they need to work in town to earn the bigger money.
We walked through huge bamboo forest and banana plantation. Damien pointed out the various crops and the names of the trees as we hiked our way above the island. Many places we saw the islands of Guadeloupe, Marie Galante and the Saints quite clearly. We were very high.
We came across ruins of old estate houses and an entire village (Delaford) that were abandoned to the jungle with Tarzan vines and huge plants over our heads. Some were 'Birds of Paradise' as big as a small house.
Most visitors don't know that this part of the island is every bit as rich and verdant as any other. This is green lush rainforest but just a few miles from Portsmouth center. The Caribbean side is known as being dry and featureless, but the coastline between Portsmouth and Capuchin is as stunning and dramatic as the Cote d’Azur.
The trail may be getting known now, but it is still a challenge and many times we had to hack our way through fallen bamboo with cutlass (machete). The lovely cooling winds really help though and sitting looking over a half mile deep valley with a cool bottle of water that you just filled from a mountain stream makes you feel a million miles from your desk back in wherever.
You do not need a guide as you can just follow the blue and yellow paint on the sides of rocks and trees. If you take any banana remember to leave a little change for the farmer to find to say “thanks”. Take a cutlass.
The entire trail was cut by hand as there are no roads to access this area. This was no mean feat and when you see the Reposoir Point a deep cut through volcanic rock you can really understand. The whole trail was originally a local route, which the school children of Delaford walked every day to attend school in Pennville. Imagine.
We sat and cooled our feet in lovely streams and listened to nothing, but the sound of running water and our own breathing. There was no aural trace of humans at all. Lovely.
Capuchin beckoned as we entered Degras Balata estate walking through lovely Balata trees and hearing the exotic birds above.
We looked over Cape Melville in Capuchin, which is a stomach churning drop to certain death and said "wow" a lot.
We then bumped into a couple of teachers from Ross Medical University (Portsmouth) and were then driven back to the resort which was nice.
All in all, this is an excellent hike and we were never more than 10 miles from Portsmouth center, but felt a million miles from it all. Go there now.
Manicou River Eco Resort: www.manicouriverresort.com
Everton Hall Estate
Commonwealth of Dominica
+ 1 767 616 8903.
Walk from Portsmouth (15 minutes) or take a bus.
This is a 9.5-acre luxury eco-resort that is 450 feet up a volcano overlooking the Caribbean Sea. 10 mins from the town of Portsmouth and 5 mins from the beach.
A fresh water river runs along one side that has amazing swim holes and mini waterfalls. You can walk all the way up the river to its source.
The London couple that own it have built the most incredibly stylish and elegant wooden houses from trees from the land. The best time to be there is at sunset when the glow hits the Red Cedar of the houses and set them on visual fire.
The 320 degree views from the decks take in Morne Aux Diables to the French Islands of Les Saintes and Guadeloupe. The furniture that has not been made on site is super chic Roche-Bobois. This resort is unspoiled with only one access road and foot paths through the layers of woodland, from sub-tropical to mini forest higher up.
The houses are cool and very spacious with full kitchens and private bathrooms. They have huge extra-king sized water beds that add to the nature experience.
They are just opened so have a really good cheap deal at the moment. The cheapest in the area and best value on the island.
The resort is off grid & uses filtered rainwater.
Ti Kwen Glo Chau (translated from Creole as tiny corner hot water) is in the village of Wotten Waven: with a bush rum in your hand, take an outdoor hot bath in a cast-iron tub and gaze at a tropical fairyland. Run by a friendly Rasta couple, it's "ital" (natural) all the way.
Two cottages in an exquisite location, built by an amazingly creative craftsman, Clem Frederick, who, with his wife, artist Marie, has created this exquisite little place. Eat delicious creole food cooked on an open fire with banana leaves as plate mats; relax on Clem's chairs made from driftwood in Marie's open-sided art gallery. Every experience is a delight.
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