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Gorgeous Gorges and Champagne Snorkeling in Dominica

Have you paddled through a river in a primal rain forest? Shot the surf to explore a river?  Stood under a warm waterfall in a gorge? How about snorkeling in champagne? Welcome to Dominica, the island of abundance.

Our sandy anchorage in the clear, protected waters at Prince Rupert Bay provides a view of the island and its cabrits and dense rain forest peppered with bright flora.  Checking in at the Portsmouth Customs Office, we pay a nominal environmental fee and buy a fishing/trolling permit; during office hours, there is no entry fee.  We provide three copies of our crew and passenger lists and a list of our planned anchorages to get a coastal permit.  If changing crew or passengers here, provide the lists to Immigration as well.

Portsmouth’s hour long Indian River tour is excellent.  Edison, our guide, paddles his brightly-coloured wooden boat along the river, providing fact and folklore, pointing out a cedar flower used for baby’s rash and hibiscus plants that flower yellow in the morning and orange in the afternoon.  White-blooming elephant vines tangle amongst huge 300 year old swamp bloodwood trees thrusting upwards, creating a canopy that almost blocks out the sky.  Massive roots, some 35 feet across, twisted and gnarled, protect the riverbank from erosion before reaching down into the water; when cut, the bloodwood tree expels a red sap used as a dye. Birds, butterflies and colourful flowers add to the magic of this beautiful, mystical river. 

Further south, the Layou River is fun to explore by dinghy, the challenge being to shoot the surf from a four-knot current over the sandbar.  We anchor Sea Whisper off Layou Village, dinghy to the river mouth and watch a village boat charge across the sandbar.  The friendly locals wave us in.  Marline and I hang on; Ian and Lionel jump out of the dinghy to guide us.  Ian disappears underwater as he steps in a hole. The villagers wait to catch us as we race through the break and move us into quieter waters. 

In the calm waters of the river, women wash laundry, men catch fish by hand, horses graze alongside; it is so idyllic.  We spend the afternoon lazily floating down the river enjoying a picnic lunch.

As we approach quaint, colourful Roseau, the capital of Dominica and southern port of entry, we are greeted by Sea Cat, a super guy who provides excellent moorings as well as laundry and guide services.  Leaving our dinghy at the Anchorage Hotel’s dinghy dock, we drive through a secondary forest of 100 foot tall trees and up into stunted high altitude woodlands studded with orchids and ferns to get to Ti Tou Gorge.

Ti Tou Gorge begins as a broad pool fed by a hot water spring.  We swim into the narrow gorge where we can place a hand on each side of the walls that soar 30 feet up to the slit of sunshine above.  In a central cave-like area, the sun beams into translucent waters, reflecting on the walls in shifting patterns.  The tall waterfall at the head of the gorge provides a warm-water massage.

We sail south again to Scotts Head Marine Park where a 250 foot wall drops 1,000 feet into the sea.  Here, Caribs would punish their faithless wives by throwing them into the deep water.  Now, outstanding snorkeling and diving are the main activities.

Champagne, a shallow, coral-studded bay nearby is one of our favourite spots to snorkel.  Clouds of bubbles, released from a volcanic vent in the seabed, rise to tickle our tummies as we swim over the underwater thermal springs.  

This beautiful, unspoiled island of Dominica has an abundance of fabulous and fun experiences waiting for you.  Enjoy!

Laurie McDonald wrote a column for a western Canada health-related magazine before leaving on a three year journey by sea aboard Sea Whisper. Her travel adventures are published in Canadian magazines and newspapers. 

New Air Service to Dominica

Flying instead of sailing?  LIAT, the regional Caribbean airline, has introduced daily non-stop service between St. Lucia’s Herwanorra Airport (UVF) and Dominica’s Canefield Airport (DCF), located on the western portion of the island, 10 minutes drive from the capital city of Roseau.  The flights, operated by Carib Aviation (3Q) in a codeshare agreement with LIAT (LI) on a 19-seat DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft, will allow connections to and from various long-haul flights from the United Kingdom, Miami, Atlanta, New York and Toronto.

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