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)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.