Champagne Reef

Ivo at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Ivo at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Not far from the biggest city and capital of Dominica, Roseau, there is a place called Champagne Reef. It became our very favorite snorkeling spot.

Mira at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Mira at Champagne Reef, Dominica

We sail from the Portsmouth anchorage to Roseau and drop anchor in Roseau harbor which is so deep we are just a few feet from the houses, almost on shore. We are the only boat at anchor in the bay; everyone else is on mooring balls, paying per night. Ivo and Maya dive to makes sure the anchor is holding well and we are ready to explore.
The city is nice with a big farmers’ market and lots of old buildings, shops and restaurants. We have lunch at a local fast-food joint together with our Aussi friends Mel and Caryn: fried and spicy chicken and beef patties, and we are ready for some champagne for desert.

En route to Champagne Reef

En route to Champagne Reef

With Mel and Caryn s/v Passages and Tina and Mark s/v Rainbow, we pile up on a local bus and for a couple of EC$ we get to a small dive shop near the beach. The spot everyone is talking about.

Maya and Mira, Champagne Reef, Dominica

Maya and Mira, Champagne Reef, Dominica

Champagne Reef is a famous diving and snorkeling destination unique in the entire Caribbean region.

Maya at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Maya at Champagne Reef, Dominica

A submarine volcanic activity near the shores creates beautiful hissing hot bubbles between the corals and the rocks of the reefs in deliciously clear water.

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Small fishes of all colors, seahorses, spotted sea snakes, and schools of squid swim around the bubbles. It must be DisneyWorld for them! It’s beautiful.

Champagne Reef, Dminic

Champagne Reef, Dminica

The water here is shallow and warmer due to the geothermal gases escaping the earth’s crust. We enjoy it as much as the fishes, maybe even more.

Champagne Reef, Dominica

Champagne Reef, Dominica

The bubbles tickle us as we snorkel above them and bump into our goggles. We can also hear them underwater. The reef sounds and looks exactly like champagne and we are as happy and excited as drunk people underwater.

Mel and Caryn at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Mel and Caryn at Champagne Reef, Dominica

At some point Ivo gives instructions to the rest of us to get out and wait for him on the beach. Why, we want to know, is he kicking us out of the champagne? Well, because he is taking off his swim shorts to use them as gloves and protect his hands from a giant spiky lobster while chasing it around the reef butt naked. I am tempted to go back in the water and surprise Ivo with the GoPro…

Ivo ???!!!

Ivo ???!!!

The lobster escapes.

 

Champagne Reef, Dominica

Champagne Reef, Dominica

Maya at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Maya at Champagne Reef, Dominica

 

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Tall is Her Body

Tall is her body, her spirit young and independent. With devastating energy, she is fresh and attractive like no other: Dominica, „Isle of beauty Isle of splendor, Isle, to all so rich and rare…“(Dominica’s National Anthem)

Plymouth anchorage, Dominica

Plymouth anchorage, Dominica

The independent island-nation of Dominica stands out in the group of the Lesser Antilles Islands like a gorgeous young girl in a crowd. The youngest of all other islands in the region she is still being shaped by volcanic and geothermal activity making her the island with the most diverse, rich, unspoiled nature. Tall mountains and volcano craters covered with rainforest, home of rare plant and animal species, hundreds of lakes, rivers and waterfalls, hot springs, sandy beaches and reefs: land and waters teaming with life.

Dominica, East Coast

Dominica, East Coast

Here, we climbed the tallest of her peaks: Morne Diablotin standing at 1,447 meters (4,747 ft) above the sea level, the most unconceivable hike we have ever done, and we walked up to Boiling Lake, the second largest hot-water spring in the world, a lake inside a crater that is actually boiling!

Mira at Boiling Lake, Dominica

Mira at Boiling Lake, Dominica

We jumped in deep river-ponds, we bathed in geothermal pools, we showered under spectacular waterfalls, and we swam among hot bubbles coming out of coral reefs.
In the forests, where wild mango, grapefruit, and banana trees offered us snacks, we met the green Sisserou parrots, endangered endemic birds, which flew above our heads screaming like mad sorcerous some cacophonic warnings. And on the road, near a vast banana plantation, a shy agouti crossed our path.

Huge grasshopper, Dominica

Huge grasshopper, Dominica

During his second voyage, Columbus, his imagination stiff by the tropical heat, gave her the present name, Dominica, as it was Sunday when he passed by on November 3, 1493, and he had run out of saints for naming islands. But her original inhabitants, the Carib and Kalinago Indians used to call their island Wai‘tu kubuli, meaning “Tall is her body” for her many volcanoes and mountains with peaks lost inside clouds.

View of Dominica's West Coast from Morne Diablotin

View of Dominica’s West Coast from Morne Diablotin

As the neighboring islands were settled by the French and the British, their native populations decimated, their lands planted with sugarcane harvested by imported African slaves, Dominica remained unsettled, a neutral territory and a sanctuary for all remaining Caribs in the region until the 18th century. Today, Dominica is the only Eastern Caribbean island where about 3,000 pre-Columbian Caribs still live in a few small villages on the east coast: a designated Carib Territory.

Ivo at Trafalgar Fall, Dominica

Ivo at Trafalgar Fall, Dominica

As we went to visit them, we met Matilda Archibald selling woven baskets and hats by the road to passing tourists. She offered us guavas from her garden and a homemade ice cream from a large spiky fruit we’ve never seen before. It was fragrant and sweet.
“Comeback and visit me again”, she said. We would love to comeback, we thought as we kept going.

Matilda Archibald, descendant of the Carib Indians, Carib Territory, Dominica

Matilda Archibald, descendant of the Carib Indians, Carib Territory, Dominica

Further down the road we marveled at stunning vistas from tall cliffs: gorgeous bays with vegetation-covered rocks sticking out of the sea among reefs, another one of the many locations on the island providing the film set for The Pirates of The Caribbean.

Dominica's East Coast

Dominica’s East Coast

Later, we went for a dip at Champagne Reef, near Roseau, the capital, where geothermal volcanic activity not far from the shore has transformed a large underwater area into a bowl of bubbling ticklish champagne. Snorkeling there is a magical fun experience with hot fuzzy bubbles bumping into your goggles.

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Yes, even though Dominica is the least popular of all the Caribbean destinations, getting half the amount of visitors per year than Haiti, even though her economy is very much struggling, as most independent Caribbean nations, with poverty and unemployment her biggest issues, and even though land and water pollution are threatening the health of her rivers and coastal areas, Dominica is still ‘The Nature Island’, very much self-sufficient, where agriculture is the main economy and the inhabitants produce and consume an impressive amount of local fruits and vegetables, with unlimited freshwater supplies, clean hydroelectric production, as well as a geothermal project developed by Iceland, and many effective social and healthcare resources available to the population.

Maya at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Maya at Champagne Reef, Dominica

This is the Caribbean island with the most rivers and nature trails, and we enjoyed every moment of our two week visit there. We fell deeply in love with Dominica. We even thought that if we had to choose only one island in the Caribbean where we would return and even live, it would be her.

Emerald Pond Waterfall, Dominica

Emerald Pond Waterfall, Dominica

 

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