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Getting Back to Nature on Dominica

Recently I had the opportunity to get back to nature and the beauty of it all on Dominica for eight days divided between Roseau, on the southern shore, and Portsmouth on the northern shore.  I explored the terrain with several eco-tours through this beautiful, lush paradise situated approximately in the middle of the Caribbean island chain.

There is not time or space to devote to the beauties of Dominica here but I want to tell AAS readers not to miss the Indian River Tour out of Portsmouth.  Dave and I were lucky enough to have Martin Carriere as our guide.  Martin is highly-trained by the Nature and Conservancy Department and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and has been the President of the Indian River Tour Guide Association for the past three years and meets monthly with some thirty guides to discuss opportunities for developing eco-tourism in Portsmouth, the second largest city in Dominica. 

“I have been in the association for 15 years,” says Carriere.  “Although we have a strong season for six months out of the year, tourism among sailors has dropped off since 9/11.  Tourists are spending more but there are fewer.”   When asked about qualifications, he says, “A guide has to be trained by the association, which includes CPR and First Aid; these sessions are intensive and are taken in Roseau, our capital.  Each guide also has to be fully educated as to the 90 species of orchids, 188 species of fern, 18 species of bromeliad and a huge variety of palms as well as numerous other species of foliage.  The seminars are taught by the heads of the National Development Organization who work in conjunction with the Botanical Garden, which occupies some 80 acres.” 

Each river tour guide owns his own Dominican boat, built from White Cedar.  “They row these boats up the Indian River, because of the beauty of silence, so that the tourist can hear all of the many river sounds.”  Each guide also gives a local history of the area, including indigenous flora and fauna.  They especially emphasize the birds, Carriere says.  “We have some 365 rivers in Dominica, one for each day of the year, and about 166 species of birds, including the blue-headed hummingbird and the Searou Parrot, both of which are regionally endemic.”  

The island is sparsely populated with around 70,000 people inhabiting its 289.5 square miles. Tropical forests cover two thirds of Dominica which nourishes approximately 1,200 various plant species. Rivers, lakes, streams, and waterfalls abound, fed by the island’s high annual rainfall, which varies according to the topography.   The National Park Service of Dominica governs eight eco-sites throughout the country.  It has a small governing board who report to the Minister of Agriculture – the largest governmental department with offices in the Botanical Garden. 

I had the opportunity to visit the Emerald Pool on this trip, and the last time I visited, I saw Trafalgar Falls, both located within Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which was the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the eastern Caribbean.

Dominica is one of only a couple of islands in the Caribbean still inhabited with descendants of the pre-Columbian Carib Indians. I know of their talents, having followed the adventures of Gli-Gli, a Dominica-built Carib Gomier canoe housed on Tortola. 

Include Dominica in your summer travel plans—the island is cool, lush, and gorgeous.  The people are friendly and helpful—just the right introduction to a perfect Caribbean summer.

Nancy Terrell is a freelance writer who has lived in the Caribbean for 21 years.  She holds an MA Degree in Literature and is currently cruising on her trawler, Swan Song, throughout the Caribbean

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