Dominica is an emerald gem of an island nestled between Guadeloupe and Martinique, in the Leeward Islands. This steep island is the youngest of the Caribbean Islands with several peaks over 4,000ft. Dominica’s greatest attractions are its pristine forests, waterfalls, great hikes, spectacular snorkeling and incredibly friendly people. Dominica offers you the opportunity to step off your boat, stretch your sea legs and explore this spectacular island.
You can base your explorations out of Portsmouth or Roseau, but transportation will take a lot of your precious time so, if you can, spend some time in each area and hike the nearby trails. The people of Dominica have realized that they have a natural treasure and they take tourism and hiking seriously.
The cross island Wai’tukubuli National Trail is approximately 115 miles (184km) in length and is divided into 14 segments. The trailheads are near rural communities and the trail segments vary in levels of difficulty. Some of the trails are on old plantation roads and others are paths cut by the Caribs (Kalinago), the first indigenous people. You can access several portions of the Wai’tukubuli trail from Portsmouth. Section 13 of this trail, from Capuchin to Penville (Pennville), can be accessed by taking a bus from Portsmouth to Capuchin and getting off at end of the road and walking until you see the sign for the trail. You can get a bus back to Portsmouth. You can walk to the trailheads for sections 11 and 12 from Portsmouth.
From the anchorage in Portsmouth it is a short walk to Cabrits National Park. The trails are well maintained and some of the fort has been renovated. The trail up the East Cabrit will give you a good view of the harbor and on a clear day the West Cabrit view will reward you with a view of the Isle des Saintes (Guadeloupe). Cabrits is part of the National Park system and you will need to pay a small fee.
Another favorite hike in the north end of the island is Chaudière Pool. From Portsmouth take the bus to Bense and let the driver know that you want to be let off at the end where there are signs to the Chaudière pool.
At the southern end of the island, Sea Cat or Pancho can provide transportation and guide you on several local hikes. A popular south end hike is to Victoria Falls, where you can stop at Moses’ house for a delicious Rastafarian (vegetarian) lunch after the hike. I really enjoyed the tour through the garden with Moses explaining how he used each plant and herb.
Serious hikers can consider Boiling Lake in the south end and Morne Diablotin in the north central part of the island. Both are long day hikes that usually require a guide, good hiking shoes and sea legs that have been up and down hills recently. These are spectacular hikes, but are strenuous.
On day hikes I carry plenty of water, sun protection, a rain jacket and basic first aid kit. On two occasions my husband has repaired hiking foot wear with duct tape – so that is an essential on our list. I use a walking stick on steep hikes and I find that it saves my knees. It is always best to take your walks early in the morning when it is cooler. Don’t forget to greet people on the trail. Half the fun of hiking is meeting people along the way.
Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security (PAYS) boatmen can help you with any logistical need, such as guiding a hike, refilling propane or getting laundry done. Ask a boatman for his PAYS identification. Martin Carriere (goes by the boat name Providence) loves to hike and will guide you.
All of the guides can be contacted on VHF channel 16. Sea Cat is a hiking guide who has moorings near his house, with dingy dock and water. Phone: 1767.245.0507 or 1767.448.8954.
Pancho is a boatman and hiking guide. Phone: 1767.235.3698 or 767.448. Roots is a boatman and can help arrange tours. Phone number: 767.315.6446.
Wai’tukubuli trail brochure: http://agriculture.gov.dm/trail
Devi Sharp is a retired wildlife biologist and is exploring the Caribbean with her husband, Hunter, on their sailboat Arctic Tern.