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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Emerald Pool and Trafalgar Falls

Emerald Pond, Dominica

Emerald Pool, Dominica

The day we go on a road trip around Dominica with a rental car which we share with our good Aussie friends Mel and Caryn s/v Passages we visit many sites all over the island, the east coast and the west coats and the middle. We take our time in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. The park is an area of volcanic activity including the Valley of Desolation with its boiling mud ponds and small geysers, and the Boiling Lake which we have already visited, as well as a few rivers and waterfalls.

Trail to Emerald Pond, Dominica

Trail to Emerald Pool, Dominica

First we hike to Emerald Pool through the beautiful lush rainforest vegetation covering pretty much the entire island. It is just a few minutes walk on a very well managed trail, with steps and handrails, from the visitor’s center where we have to present our weekly park passes.

Emerald Pond, Dominica

Mira at Emerald Pool, Dominica

As we get to the pool we all go Aaah!

Emerald Pool, Dominica

Emerald Pool, Dominica

The small waterfall is a charming very delicate 50-feet chute coming down from the grey rocks above, between branches and roots, cascading into a crystal shallow pool of blue-green water in front of a small grotto.

Maya at Emerald Pool, Dominica

Maya at Emerald Pool, Dominica

We swim in the pool, shower under the fall, climb the rocks around, and just chill in the shade of the forest.

Emerald Pool, Dominica

Emerald Pool, Dominica

Ivo and Mira at Emerald Pool, Dominica Photo by Mel

Ivo and Mira at Emerald Pool, Dominica
Photo by Mel

Next, we drive to Trafalgar Falls.

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

The hike to the falls is again very short, on a path through the forest. We see the two falls from a distance, Mother and Father,

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Two spectacular waterfalls, but really hard to get closer to.

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

We climb over huge boulders and walk over fallen trees above the river which runs fast and furious here. Some places are dangerous.

Maya at Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Maya at Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Maya, like always jumps from boulder to boulder like a mountain goat and reaches the first fall before the rest of us.

Ivo at Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Ivo at Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

This chute is massive, the water is booming down loud and angry, with strong wind rushing from the canyon.

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

The pool bottom is sandy with rocks and some spots are very deep.

Mira underwater, Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Mira underwater, Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

We splash around some more and Ivo conquers the biggest tallest rock, as usual.

Ivo at Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Ivo at Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

On the way back from the falls, next to the rive, there is a hot water stream coming down from Boiling Lake, forming yellowish geothermal ponds of very hot volcanic water.

Mira in a hot water pool

Mira in a hot water pool

So hot it’s hard to stay too long. It feels like a hot bathtub. I miss hot bathtubs…It has been a long time since I have been a tub with hot water, and I really enjoy this one. We soak int the hot waters, then run to the cold water of the river to cool down. Then repeat.

Ivo

Ivo is zen

Until it starts getting late and it’s time to go home, back to the anchorage in Plymouth, back on the boats.

Plymouth anchorage, Dominica

Plymouth anchorage, Dominica

 

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Across The Valley of Desolation to Boiling Lake

Boiling Lake, Dominica

Boiling Lake, Dominica

There is a lake in Dominica where you could make a soup for giants, for it looks like a pot and it’s full of boiling water!

Boiling Lake is the second largest hot spring in the world. Some Dominicans say, it is actually the largest, as the one that currently holds the record, Frying Pan Lake in the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in New Zealand, is merely steaming, not really boiling. We will have to go to New Zealand and confirm this. But until then, let’s see if the one in Dominica is really boiling!

Boiling Lake steaming in the distance

Boiling Lake steaming in the distance

We take the bus to the capital Roseau and from there the bus to another village, Loda, near the trailhead. At the last stop we are greeted by locals who offer to be our guides. We refuse. Guides to Boiling Lake charge 100 US$ per person but are not obligatory. We enter the rainforest without a guide and the 3-hour 8-mile journey in one direction begins.

The bridge leading to the beginning of Boiling Lake trail, Dominica

The bridge leading to the beginning of Boiling Lake trail, Dominica

In the beginning the trail is very easy, like always, gently leading us up, on steps made of wood among beautiful rainforest. But after that crazy hike up Morne Diablotin, which started all right too, we are a bit skeptical.

Maya on the trail

Maya on the trail

We reach a small river after about an hour and from there the hike gests more difficult, with some physically challenging moments, but nothing to be afraid of. The trail all the way to Boiling Lake is one of the best straightforward trails we have hiked so far, with lots and lots of convenient steps of wood or stone, a succession of sections going up and down, instead of a constant uphill hike, and just two or three a bit more difficult rock-scrambles.

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On the way, we even meet a woman in her late 70-s with her granddaughter and a guide on the trail to the lake, even though she didn’t make the final couple of miles.

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The temperature gets cooler as we get higher, and Maya puts on her rain poncho, against drizzle and cold. But as soon as we reach the Valley of Desolation it gets hot again.

Maya

Maya

The Valley of desolation… If I was a mean little troll I would live here, among the bubbling boiling smelly sulphur-water pots letting out vapors and gases. I would hide near the small spraying and hissing geysers, in cracks and holes. The small stream that runs through and beneath the ground would be my enchanted river.

Valley of Desolation, Dominica

Valley of Desolation, Dominica

The Valley of Desolation is a volcanic area with hot, steamy and moist air which smells sharply of sulphur. It is also one of the most mysterious and beautiful places I have ever seen, smelled and gone through, with hot-water streams: some milky-white, others grey like led, others inexplicably black, creating stunning abstract patterns of colors and shapes.

Ivo

Ivo

The entire landscape in the valley is in fact barren and desolate, hellish, devoid of life. Not many plants grow here due to the poisonous volcanic gases constantly escaping the earth’s crust.

Valley of Desolation, Dominica

Valley of Desolation, Dominica

After spending some time in the Valley of Desolation, we continue a few more minutes, across a hot-water milky-colored river with a small waterfall and a hot-water pond, to reach the Boiling Lake, steaming in the distance.

Hot-water waterfall and pond

Hot-water waterfall and pond

Almost continuously enveloped in clouds of vapor, its greyish water forever bubbling, its temperature along the edges is 180-200 degrees Fahrenheit or about 90 degrees Celsius, and its boiling center is too hot to measure.

Mira at Boiling Lake, Dominica

Mira at Boiling Lake, Dominica

Dominica’s Boiling Lake, about 200-250 feet in diameter located at the bottom of a large sinkhole-like basin is in fact a flooded fumarole: a crack in the Earth’s crust near a volcano, which emits steam, gases and heat escaping from the molten lava below.

Boiling Lake, Dominica

Boiling Lake, Dominica

High steep rock walls create the lake’s basin. Its cliff-top ledge is about 100 feet directly above its shore. You wouldn’t want to slip here and fall in the pot…

The landscape around the lake is similarly barren and melancholic as the one in the Valley of Desolation. Perpetual mist, dead plants and low grasses, wet rocks covered with orange moss.

Maya in Valley of Desolation, Dominica

Maya in Valley of Desolation, Dominica

We eat our sandwiches on top of the cliff, the lake boiling below us, before we start heading back, feeling enchanted.

We look at the heavy green mountains around us when the clouds permit us to see, and we are speechless with awe. Nature keeps amazing us again and again

The long but not difficult trail to the lake, across the Valley of Desolation, leading us to the Boiling Lake itself became our favorite journey while visiting Dominica.

Maya at Boiling Lake, Dominica

Maya at Boiling Lake, Dominica

 

More Pictures from The Valley of Desolation and Boiling Lake trail

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Valley of Desolation, Dominica

Valley of Desolation, Dominica

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Morne Diablotin. Lost in The Labyrinth of Hell

View from Morne Diablotin

View from Morne Diablotin

Dominica is the youngest of all the Caribbean islands, still being shaped by volcanic and geothermal activity. Rich with rivers and waterfalls, lush forested mountains teaming with wildlife, Dominica  offers miles and miles of hiking trails all around the island. The ultimate and most difficult hike is not The Boiling Lake, as many wrongly think, but the trail to the highest peak standing at 1,447 meters (4,747ft) above the sea: Morne Diablotin, The Devil’s Mountain.

Road to the trailhead

Road to the trailhead

After a night of abundant tropical rain, around 7:30 a.m., we take a bus from Plymouth direction Roseau to the intersection of the road leading up to the Morne Diablotin trail. The bus ride, 15-20 minutes, costs us 3 EC per person and the driver knows exactly where to drop us off. We start up the road, steep but paved, walking among farms and agricultural lands, stopping often to eat fruits.

Maya with grapefruit

Maya with grapefruit

There are mango, oranges, and grapefruit trees on the side of the road covered with ripe fruit, some of it lying on the ground under the trees.

Ivo and Maya near a fallen banana tree

Ivo and Maya near a fallen banana tree

Maya, the blue wizard,  saving bananas from rotting on the ground.

Maya, the blue wizard, saving bananas from rotting on the ground.

We have a fresh delicious fruit salad for breakfast right there on the road, and gather a few mangoes and grapefruits for later in a bag adding to the already heavy load Ivo is hauling on his back: water bottles, sandwiches, rain ponchos, and jackets for the three of us.

Mira with mango

Mira with mango

Fresh grapefruit

Fresh grapefruit

Maya and Ivo

Maya and Ivo

The higher we go the colder it gets and it drizzles every now and then, so we put on our blue rain ponchos. We meet people working on their lands, gathering fruits, planting trees, greeting us.

Planting a coconut palm tree

Planting a coconut palm tree

After 2 hours, already a bit tired of walking uphill, we reach the trailhead where a warning sign explains that the hike to the mountain summit is between 2 and 3 hours long in one direction and should not be attempted after 10:30 a.m. It’s 10:00 a.m. so we are good to go. There is no one here to present our one-week park permits to, so we simply enter the park and start walking.

Maya at Morne Diablotin trailhead

Maya at Morne Diablotin trailhead

“A certified guide is strongly recommended”, the sign advises. We don’t have a guide as they charge somewhere between 50 and 100 $US per person for this hike.

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In the beginning we walk slightly uphill on steps made of wood. Soon, the climb becomes steeper and the steps are replaced by roots. The forest is beautiful: giant wet ferns and tall trees covered with moss. The ground is very muddy from last night’s rain and our progress is slow, choosing where to step. After an hour I start thinking, this isn’t too bad. We can survive this terrain for 2 more hours.

Maya in the forest

Maya in the forest

Maya walking on roots

Maya walking on roots

The devil heard my though.

Just like that, the world transforms, like in a bad dream. Dark roots like monstrous intestines emerge from the ground to form an ugly twisted web all around us and above our heads.

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The tropical rainforest is replaced by nightmarish woods with trees that grow upside-down and sideways, twist and disappear in the swampy ground. Never seen anything like it, except maybe in horror films. The trail is no more.

Maya

Maya

We are now in a labyrinth of hell, painfully making our way up and up between these giant slippery moss-covered roots and branches, climbing on boulders, walking on trees, sinking in mud. If it was just a section that ends after 15 minutes it would be a fun experience, but this nightmare goes on forever, hour after hour. We wish we had superhuman powers, we wish we were ninjas, or lizards who can crawl, or birds who can fly, so that we could save ourselves. Even a certified guide wouldn’t be of any help here unless he can perform miracles.

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Three hours have passed and we are still in the infernal maze of roots and mud, still climbing up, still haven’t reach the summit. For the first time, I give up. I just don’t want to suffer anymore, and I know I have all this way, two hours of torture, to go back down. So I stop.

Mira

Mira

Ivo and Maya persist, determined to reach Dominica’s highest dome. I wait for them for one more hour, unable to sit anywhere, mud and roots covered with damp moss all around me. When they return, Ivo tells me it gets even worse further up and there is nothing really to see on top, especially with all those thick clouds. He had to carry Maya on his back a few times climbing up huge boulders and more of those hateful roots.

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I can’t believe they are calling this “a trail”. How is this a trail in a national park?

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Maya

Maya

We have walked to a cave in Guatemala up the mountain through a jungle without trail, cutting vegetation and making steps in the steep ground with machetes in order to pass, walking across precipices and fallen trees. We have hiked for two days, across different climates and terrains, to the highest Caribbean peak with guides and mules, sleeping in mountain shelters. But we have never seen such an impossible “trail” as the Morne Diablotin one. We have never felt so defeated by mud and roots, so at the end of our strength.

Maya

Maya

Somehow we manage to get back down to the trailhead without any of us getting injured, even though we all fall in the mud over branches now and then.

Maya fell in the mud

Maya fell in the mud

Ivo fell over branches

Ivo fell over branches

It’s 5:00 p.m. and we haven’t had the chance to stop and eat anywhere. We are starving, tired, destroyed. We sit on the road for a while and eat our sandwiches, then we hitch a ride in the back of a pickup truck returning from a day’s work at the farms, loaded with avocados, pumpkins, oranges, and bananas. Then back on the bus, and back home, on the boat.

Maya at the end of the journey

Maya at the end of the journey

It has been a crazy hike in the most surreal terrain ever and Maya, 11-years-old, did really great. She remained positive and enthusiastic the entire time, leading the group, jumping from branch to branch. And even though at the end of the journey she cried a little bit, from exhaustion and pain in the legs, she was really happy she made it. I didn’t cry, but I also didn’t make it all the way to the top, and I felt miserable most of the time. Yet, now, looking back at this unique journey, I feel proud and glad we went there. One more incredible story to tell, one more unforgettable memory. (Just don’t ask me to go hike up to Morne Diablotin ever again…)

Maya

Maya

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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.

GOPR1200
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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Plastic Calypso

Full Moon Rising over Plymouth anchorage, Dominica

Full Moon Rising over Portsmouth anchorage, Dominica

Our journey in Dominica begins with a nice little boat party in the Portsmouth anchorage aboard Fata Morgana in honor of the big fish we caught on the way. I prepare yummy fried fish-fillets breaded with egg-and-flour mixture and we invite our boat-friends: Tina and Mark from s/v Rainbow, Bev from s/v Aseka, and Mel and Caryn from s/v Passages with whom we’ve been sailing together since Guadeloupe.

Mira with a King Fish

Mira with a King Fish

That evening we make plans to organize some activities together on the island. We decide to visit Indian River the next day. Bev has already arranged a “boat –boy” for all of us. His name is Albert and he will be our Indian River guide for 50 EC ($18 US) per person.

In Dominica, when a yacht arrives in an anchorage, a bunch of small wooden powerboats race to offer all sorts of services: organized guided excursions, small boat-works, transportation, local fruits and vegetables, fish and lobster, and anything else that the cruiser might need, for a fee. These are the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services (PAYS) known as boat-boys and they and their families depend on the visiting cruisers, who, from their part, are very conscious about their role for supporting the local economy.

Albert

Albert

For Ivo and me $18 US per person ($50 US for the three of us with Maya) for a small tourist activity is a huge expense we would normally avoid. Most cruisers who are for the most part either retired and receive a monthly pension or wealthier couples on a year or two sabbatical vacation have a bigger budget than us. They buy souvenirs, go to restaurants, hire guides, cars, and in general enjoy themselves spending money like tourists do. Which is great, but it is just not our case. Our journey is all about simplicity, minimalism, self-sufficiency, off-the-grid way of life, and finding ways of traveling and exploring the world outside of the system with minimal spending. Plus, we have no regular income, and we are not planning to return to a land-based life and work any time soon, so the longer our savings last, the longer our journey will be. For us $50 US equals the amount of money we normally spend for food for the entire family for a week. But in Dominica we decide to participate, at least this once, in supporting the local economy, and so we sign up for the Indian River expedition.

Dominica, The Nature Island

Dominica, The Nature Island

Dominica, nicknamed The Nature Island, is a 750 square kilometers (290 square miles) island famous for its unspoiled natural beauty, lush rainforest mountains, abundant wildlife, and many rivers, 365 to be exact, “one for each day of the year” as they like to say. A guided expedition to Indian River is a must for the cruisers arriving in Portsmouth, the number one destination, featured in cruising guides again and again as “an amazing experience, unlike anything else you find in the Eastern Caribbean.” (Chris Doyle, The Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands, 12th edition, p.455)

 Indian River, Dominica

Indian River, Dominica

Our guide Albert picks us up at 8 a.m. the next morning and we ride in his motorboat from the anchorage to the entrance of the park. It costs $5 per person to enter, but we buy $12 park permits good for a week for all of the national parks on the island as we are planning to explore Dominica’s interior thoroughly. Beyond the bridge, Albert stops the engine and starts rowing up a wide green river.

Maya enjoying the ride, Indian River, Dominica

Maya enjoying the ride, Indian River, Dominica

Soon the river splits in two channels and we enter the narrow one on the left amidst thick swamp vegetation and bloodwood trees with tangled roots like monstrous intestines above the damp ground, home of giant blue crabs. Albert tells us all sort of interesting and curious facts about the nature here, the trees and the ferns, the animal life, and the history and traditions of the island. He explains that if you cut the bark of the bloodwood tree a thick red sap will start oozing, like blood.

Albert showing Bev and Caryn some interesting plant

Albert showing Bev and Caryn some interesting plant

We reach a spot where a small creepy shack stands on the shore: Calypso’s house. Johnny Depp has been here as well as in many other locations throughout the island during the filming of The Pirates of the Caribbean. We are thrilled. Indian River with its bloodwood trees and mysterious swamp vegetation crawling with huge crabs is definitely the perfect set for the eerie Calypso scene.

Calypso's Forest Shack

Calypso’s Forest Shack

But we also start noticing trash here and there on the sides of the river, foam cups and plastic bottles. I ask Albert who is supposed to clean the river and he says it’s the park’s job.

Trash in Indian River, Dominica

Trash in Indian River, Dominica

We continue on our tour and get to the Bush Bar further upriver. It’s a nice little bar and restaurant, built for the tourists, among a forest-garden with beautiful trees and flowers, populated by birds, lizards, and butterflies.

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Then we row back to the entrance and back on the boats. The whole tour takes about 1- 1.5 hours thanks to Albert who takes his time talking about the nature and all sorts of things. Otherwise, the area we covered is not big at all, and we could have done the trip with our kayak in 10 minutes. It was a wonderful experience nevertheless, but both Ivo and I think it was not worth $50. We realize, too late, that we could have gone in the park with our kayak without a guide, saving the 50 bucks. The only rule there is not to use engines upriver (in order not to pollute the waters!?). Guides are not compulsory in any of Dominica’s National Parks. But the most disappointing part was all the garbage around and the park’s official’s attitude towards it.

Maya and Ivo

Maya and Ivo

The Indian River guides and personal sit near the park’s entrance all day waiting for tourists, and during the hurricane season they don’t have much work. But instead of spending some of their time cleaning the river which is their source of income, they just sit around all day, smoking and drinking, doing nothing.

Indian River, Dominica

Indian River, Dominica

The trash-in-the-river situation started bothering us more and more and a few days after our Indian River expedition Ivo and I comeback there with our kayak and with a big garbage bag. We spend about 1-1.5 hours, the same amount of time like last time, cleaning the area. But we realize we need much more than one garbage bags.

Mira collecting trash in Indian River, Dominica

Mira collecting trash in Indian River, Dominica

As we get further upriver where Albert didn’t take us last time, we see more and more trash floating around or stuck in the roots of the bloodwood trees. We get to a point where this channel borders a road and a residential area.

Plastic trash in Indian River, Dominica

Plastic trash in Indian River, Dominica

Apparently, people use the river to dump their trash from the road and the trash slowly makes its way down to the park. We are appalled. We will need a crew with shovels and lots of garbage bags or a truck if we want to clean up all this.

A bag full of trash, Calypso's house in the background, Indian River, Dominica

A bag full of trash, Calypso’s house in the background, Indian River, Dominica

Very disappointed, we turn back with our garbage bag full since a long time and we head home, to the boat. At the park’s exit where we go to deposit the river garbage, one of the guides tells us that we are supposed to pay a fee if we want to dispose of garbage. He thinks it’s our boat garbage! Both Ivo and I are about the explode, but I calmly explain that this is not our garbage but theirs, and leave.

Ivo with trash, Indian River, Dominica

Ivo with trash, Indian River, Dominica

We feel sorry for “The Nature Island” and its “365 rivers, one for each day of the year”. Who knows how many of these rivers are still flowing, and how many are dry, clogged with litter, extinct.
It is up to the local people and its government to address the issue of land and water pollution in Dominica, to protect their natural resources, and educate the inhabitants of the island about all this, before it is too late.
But also, what can we, the visitors, do to help restore nature’s unspoiled beauty, besides “supporting the local economy” with unrealistic guide fees, which according to Chris Doyle’s guide, are supposed to go towards the maintenance of the parks?

Indian River, Dominica

Indian River, Dominica

*This article by Mira Nencheva has been publish in www.caribbeancompass.com

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