Natural Wonders on the Caribbean's Island of Dominica
Newly discovered by adventurous travelers and the eco-minded, Dominica is a Caribbean pearl that harbors jewel-like rare parrots and a boiling lake.
Anne Jno Baptiste (no relation to Bertrand), who co-owns Papillote Wilderness Retreat, a seven-room eco-lodge a half-mile downstream from Trafalgar Falls, is less sanguine: "It's an anachronism to see these big transporters going through our dinky little roads. [Cruise ships] are not a healthy market. They don't leave enough money behind to make it worthwhile.''
But this is Dominica, where nature will ultimately have the final say in how many big ships or eco-tourists come calling. Anne, who moved here from the States in 1961, witnessed the winds of Hurricane David strip the river valley bare and destroy her business. Undaunted, she rebuilt her bungalows and replanted her garden, where Lesser Antillean bullfinches, bananaquits, and purple-throated Carib hummingbirds now make their rounds among a profusion of exotic and native plants, including breadfruit and banana trees, heliconias and begonias, torch ginger and cacao. Now in her late 70s, she takes a long view of things. "Dominica always fixes itself up,'' she says, flashing a fatalistic smile. "There's an inevitable volcanic eruption, like on Montserrat, due within 100 years.''
Dominica: Making the Trip
Visitors are required to have a valid passport for entry into Dominica (for more information, click here). No nonstop flights originate from the United States. American Eagle (800-433-7300) flies to Melville Hall Airport (DOM) daily from Puerto Rico, while LIAT (767-448-3980) connects from Barbados and Antigua. The high-speed catamaran L'Express des Iles makes the crossing from Guadeloupe and Martinique to Roseau five times a week and from St. Lucia twice a week.
For general visitor information about Dominica, contact the Dominica Tourist Office (767-448-2045) or visit the official website, here. Car-rental companies such as Budget have agencies on the island. A visitor driver's permit ($EC30; $US12) is required. (In this former British colony, driving is on the left side of the road.)
A certified guide is advised for those making the hike to Boiling Lake. Kelvin "Kello" Noel (767-225-6276) grew up in Laudat, the nearest village, and knows every inch of the trail. The Tourist Information Office in Roseau (767-448-2045) can recommend other trained guides as well.
Rangers with Dominica's Forestry Division (767-448-2401) include bird expert Bertrand Jno Baptiste (767-245-4768), who can be hired for either private or group tours. The Syndicate Trail in Morne Diablotin National Park (admission $US2) is both an easy, rewarding walk for birders and the most accessible place for a legitimate chance to spot Dominica's rare Imperial parrot.
This story originally ran in the March-April 2008 issue as "Off the Map."