Dominica: Heaven on Earth!
Known as the ‘Nature Island‘ of the Caribbean, Dominica is an UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with lot of adventurous spirit. Forget the Caribbean cliche of lying on golden sand, and think about venturing forth on spectacular mountain hikes through untamed virgin rainforests filled with more than 365 rivers, waterfalls,national parks, rare birds, exotic plants and surreal boiling volcanic pools (world’s 2nd largest boiling lake).
Explore the crystal clear ocean with pristine coral reefs, resident whales, volcanic formations, rich marine life and experience exceptional diving, snorkeling and whale watching. As the only island where Carib Indians have survived, there’s even someunique local culture to discover.
Extremely friendly, largely unspoilt; “Domineek-ah” invites you to Explore! Hike! Discover! its Nature’s Paradise.
Commonwealth of Dominica
The Commonwealth of Dominica, commonly known as Dominica (French: Dominique), is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea. The name is pronounced (dom-in-EE-cuh). In Latin, its name means “Sunday”, which was the day on which it wasdiscovered by Columbus.
Dominica’s pre-Columbian name was Wai’tu kubuli, which means “Tall is her body“. The indigenous people of the island, the Caribs, have a territory similar to the Indian reserves of North America. The island lies between two French overseas departments, Guadeloupe to the north and Martinique to the south. Its official language is English, though a French creole is commonly spoken.
Dominica has been nicknamed the “Nature Isle of the Caribbean” for its seemingly unspoiled natural beauty. It is one of the youngest islands in the Lesser Antilles, still being formed by geothermal-volcanic activity, as evidenced by the world’s second-largest boiling lake. The island features lush mountainous rainforests, home of many very rare plant, animal, and bird species. There are xeric areas in some of the western coastal regions, but heavy rainfall can be expected inland. The Sisserou parrot, the island’s national bird, is featured on the national flag.
Dominica is home to a wide range of people. Although it was historically occupied by several native tribes, only a Carib tribe remained by the time European settlers reached the island. French and British settlers each claimed the island and imported slaves from Africa. The remaining Caribs now live on a 3,700-acre (15 km_) territory on the east coast of the island. They elect their own chief. This mix of cultures is important to Dominica.
Almost all nationals of Dominica today are descendants of African slaves, brought in by colonial planters in the eighteenth century. However there is a significant mixed minority along with a Indo-Caribbean or East Indian groups, a small European origin minority (descendants of French, British, and Irish colonists) and there are small numbers of Lebanese, Syrians and Asians. Dominica is also the only Eastern Caribbean island that still has a population of pre-Columbian native Caribs, who were exterminated or driven from neighboring islands. There are only about 3,000 Caribs remaining. They live in eight villages on the east coast of Dominica. This special Carib Territory was granted by the British Queen in 1903. There are also about 1,000 medical students from the United States and Canada who study at the Ross University School of Medicine in Portsmouth.
The population growth rate of Dominica is very low, due primarily to emigration to other Caribbean islands, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and Canada.
About 80% of the population is Roman Catholic, though in recent years a number of Protestant churches have been established.
The Dominican economy is dependent on both tourism and agriculture. Twenty percent of Dominican workers are in the agricultural sector, and Dominica’s primary agricultural exports include Tobacco, Bananas, Vegetables, Citrus, Copra, Coconut Oil, and essential oils such as Bay oil. The country’s industries, other than Tourism, include Soap, Furniture, Cement blocks, and Shoes. Dominica is further benefited by the presence of an offshore DeVry Medical School, Ross University, in the northern town of Portsmouth. Over 1,000 students mainly from USA and Canada live and study in Portsmouth.
Dominica produces a wide range of agricultural produce, both for local consumption (it is self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables) and for export.
Bananas, Citrus, Mangoes, Root crops, Coconuts, Cocoa and essential oils are the main regional exports. Bananas have traditionally formed the backbone of the island’s economy.
The Forest and Fishery potential were not exploited and remains most eco-friendly.
Dominica’s tourism industry is growing at great percentage each year.Dominica has famous tourist spots, such as the Indian River in Portsmouth, Emerald Pool, Trafalgar Falls, Scotts Head (where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea), and the world’s second-largest boiling lake, which is inside Morne Trois Pitons National Park. The national park, itself, has been designated a World Heritage Site. This island country also has many excellent diving spots due to its steep drop-offs, healthy marine environment, and reefs.
Major Industries: Soaps, Candles, Cooking Oil, Detergents, coconut oil, tourism, copra, furniture, cement blocks, shoes
Dominica’s manufacturing sector is mostly connected with the processing of agricultural products. Island has built up a handful of successful industries specializing in soaps and other agricultural byproducts. The largest manufacturer is Dominica Coconut Products, controlled by Colgate-Palmolive, which produces soap from coconuts. The factory has an agreement to sell an estimated 3 million bars of soap each year to Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.
Other manufacturing includes cardboard boxes and beverages, while there is also export-oriented sector producing clothing. Home industries produce some leather work, ceramics, and straw products. There is also mining potential in Dominica, especially in the island’s northeast where there are deposits of copper.
Now the manufacturing sector has been expanding at a steady pace, including electronic assembly, rum, candles, and paints. The Trafalgar Hydro Electric Power Station is now operational, making the island virtually energy self-sufficient.
There are very good opportunities for labour intensive manufacture of goods for export to the United States and the European Community, both of which allow reductions in import duties on certain goods manufactured in Dominica. The work force is well educated and honest. The Dominica Government is very keen to promote new labour intensive industries, and substantial tax breaks are offered to new investors.
Dominica is an island nation and borderless country in the Caribbean Sea, the northernmost of the Windward Islands. The size of the country is about 289.5 square miles (754 km). The capital is Roseau.
Dominica is largely covered by rainforest and is home to the world’s second-largest boiling lake. Dominica has many waterfalls, springs, and rivers. Some plants and animals thought to be extinct on surrounding islands can still be found in Dominica’s forests. Dominica is home to several protected areas, including Cabrits National Park. Dominica has 365 rivers.
It is said that when his royal sponsors asked Christopher Columbus to describe this island in the “New World”, he crumpled a piece of parchment roughly and threw it on the table. This, Columbus explained, is what Dominica looks like—completely covered with mountains with nary a flat spot.
Morne Trois Pitons National Park is a tropical forest blended with scenic volcanic features. It was recognized as a World Heritage Site on April 4, 1995. Within the Caribbean, it shares this distinction with historic World Heritage sites in San Juan (Puerto Rico), Willemstad (Curacao), Saint Kitts, Hispaniola (Dominican Republic/Haiti) and Cuba, and another natural World Heritage site in St. Lucia.
The two major cities are Roseau and Portsmouth.
The former indigenous people of Dominica, the Arawak people, were expelled or exterminated by Caribs in the fourteenth century. The Arawaks had been guided from the waters of the Orinoco River to Dominica and other islands of the Caribbean by the South Equatorial Current. These descendants of the early Tainos were overthrown by the Kalinago tribe of the Caribs.
The Caribs arrived on the island in special boats which they are still making at their own territory on the island. Christopher Columbus arrived at this island on Sunday, November 3, 1493. He and his crew soon left the island, having been defeated by the Caribs. In 1627 England tried and failed to capture Dominica. In 1635 the French claimed the island and sent missionaries, but they were unable to wrest Dominica from the Caribs. The French abandoned the island, along with the island of Saint Vincent, in the 1660s.
For the next hundred years Dominica remained isolated, and even more Caribs settled there after being driven from surrounding islands as European powers entered the region. France formally ceded possession of Dominica to the United Kingdom in 1763. The United Kingdom then set up a government and made the island a colony in 1805. The emancipation of African slaves occurred throughout the British Empire in 1834, and, in 1838, Dominica became the first British Caribbean colony to have a Black-controlled legislature. In 1896, the United Kingdom reassumed governmental control of Dominica and turning it into a crown colony. Half a century later, from 1958 to 1962, Dominica became a province of the short-lived West Indies Federation. In 1978 Dominica finally became an independent nation.
English is the official language of Dominica and is universally understood. However, because of historic French domination, and the island’s location between the two French-speaking territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe, Antillean Creole Patois, a French-based creole language, is the mother tongue of 80% of the Dominican people. Dominica is therefore a member of the Francophonie organization.
The dialect of Dominica also includes Cocoy, or Kockoy, is a mix of Leeward Island English-Creole and Dominican Creole. It is mainly spoken in the northeastern villages of Marigot and Wesley.
Dominica possesses the most pristine wilderness in the Caribbean. Originally, it was protected by sheer mountains which led the European powers to build ports and agricultural settlements on other islands. More recently, the citizens of this island have sought to preserve its spectacular natural beauty by discouraging the type of high-impact tourism which has damaged nature in most of the Caribbean. Visitors can find large tropical forests, hundreds of streams, spectacular coastlines and coral reefs.The Sisserou parrot is Dominica’s national bird and is indigenous to its mountain forests.
The Caribbean Sea offshore of the island of Dominica is home to many cetaceans. Most notably a group of sperm whales lives in this area year round. Other cetaceans commonly seen in the area include spinner dolphins, pantropical spotted dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. Less commonly seen animals include killer whales, false killer whales, pygmy sperm whales, dwarf sperm whales, Risso’s dolphins, common dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins, humpback whales and Bryde’s whales. This makes Dominca a popular destination for tourists interested in whale-watching.
Dominica is a parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth of Nations. The president is head of state, while executive power rests with the cabinet, headed by the prime minister. The unicameral parliament consists of the thirty-member House of Assembly, which consists of twenty-one directly elected members and nine senators, who may either be appointed by the president or elected by the other members of the House of Assembly.
Unlike other former British colonies in the region, Dominica was never a Commonwealth realm with the British monarch as head of state, as it instead became a republic on independence. Dominica is a full and participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Dominica is also a member of the International Criminal Court with a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of protection for the U.S. military, as covered under Article 98. In January 2008 Dominica joined the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.
There are two Airports on the island: the main one is Melville Hall Airport (DOM), about one hour away from Roseau; the second one is Canefield (DCF) which s about fifteen minutes’ travel from Roseau. Melville Hall Airport is under expansion. American Airlines and LIAT (who recently merged with Caribbean Star, a former competitor in that market) are the major airlines that service the Melville Hall airport, and Carib Aviation operates service from Canefield.
The road was built between Portsmouth and Roseau. People can also take boats. It just takes anone hour to drive from Portsmouth to Roseau. Minibus services form the major public transport system.
MAJOR TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
The Boiling Lake and Valley of Desolation are reached by way of a narrow trail from LAUDAT. The trail is less than four miles long but it takes three to four hours to walk one way. The whole expedition requires a full day. The Boiling Lake is the largest of its kind in the western hemisphere. It is kept bubbling by the volcanic heat of the crater in which it is cupped. The Valley of Desolation is also a fascination area located on the flanks of Morne watt. This is made up of sulphur springs boiling water, pools of gray boiling mud and streams made multi-coloured by the minerals contained in the water from the old volcanic activity.
VALLEY of DESOLATION
Below the Boiling Lake is the Valley of Desolation, where the forest has been destroyed by sulphuric emissions.
At the beginning of the trail to boiling lake is the TITOU Gorge, where hot and cold streams intermingle.
A series of paths through the rain forest, leading to the Middleham Falls, which tumble through 150 meters into a beautiful pool in the middle of the forest.
About 5 miles from Roseau up a steep and picturesque valley are to be found two spectacular cascades. The Trafalgar Falls are two and sometimes three falls situated in the Roseau Valley. approaching the village of Trafalgar, one gets his/her first view of the tops of the falls, cascading side by side out of the deep gorges on the cliff face. Past the village of Trafalgar one continues on foot along a trail which leads to the Falls. To the left is the taller waterfall which is sometimes referred to as the ‘father’ falls and to the right is the shorter, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘mother falls’. They are also referred to as the male and the ‘female’ falls.
Climbing up to the falls requires some balancing and clambering skills as one must clamber over large and slippery boulders. A trained tour guide is highly recommended.
Located in the Morne TROIS Piton National Park and a ten minute track from the main road through beautiful tropical woodland, the Emerald Pool is a lovely grotto of crystal, refreshingly clear, cool water which is filled by a waterfall.
CABRITS NATIONAL PARK
The CABRITS National Park in Dominica’s North West coast is one of the unique protected areas of its kind in the Caribbean. An 18th century garrison, coral reefs, volcanic sand beaches are all linked together within this park. Parts of the park remain overgrown and interesting trails lead through the ruins.
Prince RUPERT’S Garrison, known as one of the most impressive Military sites in the West Indies, is hidden beneath the lust vegetation which covers the Carrits. The Garrison was constructed between 1970 and 1815 and contains over fifty major structures.
There are numerous furmaroles where visitors can conveniently witness this phenomenon of bubbling mud as sulphur gasses escape from the volcanic interior of the earth and those at Soufriere and Wotten Waven have been identified as suitable for Spa development.
SOUVENIRS / HANDICRAFTS
Dominica has a reputation for good quality original handicrafts, particularly for those manufactured by the Carib community, producing some fine basket, bowls and bags.
Nestled below the Morne Bruce hill, on the outskirts of Roseau, is the 40 acre Botanical Gardens of Dominica. Just 66 feet., above sea level, the Gardens receive approximately 85 inches of rainfall annually, with a favourable conditions for the growing of a wide variety of tropical plants.
The Botanical Gardens has so far survived several tropical storms And hurricanes, including hurricane David in 1979. Some evidence of David’s wrath may still be seen, as the remains of a large bus Lies crushed beneath the weight of a massive Baobob Tree.
The Indian River has its source in the foothills of Morne Diablotin and before it enters the sea at Prince Rupert’s Bay, it meanders for about a mile through low-lying swamp land just south of the town of Portsmouth.
The luxuriant vegetation hanging over head and along the banks of The placid waters of the river is what attracts attention to this river. Its twisting course is made even more contorted by the Serpentine bank. Herons break the silence and beady eyed crabs shuffle between the roots.
The village of Soufriere takes it name from the Soufriere Bay located along the south coast. Sites to visit in Soufriere are the ruins of the old sugar and lime factory and the Catholic Church with its vibrant mural depicting the village life. In the valley behind the village are sulphur springs which gives the area its name. When the French held Dominica, they built baths their for their soldiers. The area is like a small walk-in volcano. Hot springs are also active along the sea shore between the Soufriere and Scott’s Head, and on the sea bed in front of the church.
Scott’s Head lies to the southern end of the Soufriere Bay. The Ruins of fort Cachacou remains the headland which exist along the narrow isthmus. Most of the batteries and ramparts of the fort have fallen over the cliff into the sea, but it was an important defence post, involved in military action between the British and French in 1778 and 1805. Cachacou is the original Carib name Which means “that which is being eaten” (by the sea). The English called it Scott’s Head after Captain Scott, one of those, among the others, who gave their names to places in Dominica after Capturing the island from the French in 1761. Snorkelling, scuba diving and sea kayaking around the point are spectacular.
The Carib Territory is an area of 3,700 acres of land on the north east coast of the island. The Territory is home to the original inhabitants of the Caribbean islands – the Carib Indians. Today the Carib people engage themselves in agriculture, fishing, and their native craft of dug-out canoe and basket making.
L’ESCALIER TETE CHIEN (THE SNAKES STAIRWAY)
Tete Chien is the local name for a Boa Constrictor, because its head looks like a dog. Geologically, this formation is called a dyke. It resembles a gigantic petrified serpent crawling up the hillside from the ocean. This `escaller’ features prominently in Carib myth and folklore.
The Freshwater Lake is located within the Morne TROIS pitons National Park, at an altitude of 2,500 feet, above sea level. The lake is less than a mile from the village of Laudat with motor-able roads up to the lake itself. Nature was combined with technology on this lake when the lake was dammed for use as a reservoir. It is the source of the Roseau River and also the subject of myths and legends. A single eyed monster with gem like carbuncles was said to reside there. It was also said to be bottomless, although it was actually only 55 ft deep. From the Hilltop area over looking the lake, the island’s eastern coastline Can be seen.
The Boerie Lake trail leads off from the shores of the Freshwater reservoirs in a north-easterly direction around the back of Morne Micotrin. An easy one and a quarter (1 1/4) mile walk will lead you up and over two sharp ridges to the rocky shoreline of the lake at an altitude of 2,800 ft. Boeri Lake is said to be 117 feet., deep and its almost circular surface covers an area of about four (4) acres. The lake is filled by rain water and run off.
This Gorge is located just minutes from the village of Laudat. This dark, narrow, water-filled canyon winds along to the base of a waterfall. The water flows in a powerful manner and a swim up should be attempted only by strong swimmers. A hot mineral cascade at the mouth of the canyon can also give pleasant relief to sore muscles after hiking or cycling.
The Cabrits Cruise Ship Berth is the only cruise ship facility in the Caribbean which is located within a national park. Portsmouth is a popular call for yachts and borders along Prince Ruperts Bay in the north west of the island. Traditional sloops and schooners are still built along the shore. Small guesthouses and beach front facilities are located in Portsmouth. Bars and restaurant serve simple snacks and local dishes. Hotels along Picard Beach offer modest type hotel accommodation.
The market near the end of Bay Street offers local fruits and vegetables early on Saturday mornings shops stock a good variety of groceries.
Dominica’s beaches are small, and are golden grey or honey coloured. Most of the beaches are cosy and secluded with breath-taking sunsets.
Visitors can get to Dominica by air with connections from Antigua or St. Martin using Liat.