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Ringo Boitano: Destination Dominica

rainforest and mountain on Dominica

Destination Dominica
Exploring the Nature Island of the Caribbean

By Ringo Boitano

here it was in bold print: "Dominica is the only island Columbus would recognize if he returned today.” I’m not sure how the author managed to land that quotation, but even from the deck of my arriving vessel, I could see that this tiny island nation of 70,000 was definitely an untouched paradise found. Located in the Eastern Caribbean, Dominica (pronounced Doe-mi-Nee-kah) is blessed with dynamic rainforests, undeveloped beaches, pristine rivers, cascading waterfalls, small coastal villages and the highest mountain on any of the Caribbean’s Islands. It's also on the moviegoers map as well now that Walt Disney Pictures shot the last two installments of "Pirates of the Caribbean" on the island. Now back to this Columbus guy.

location map of Dominica

A Bit of History

Located between Guadeloupe to its north and Martinique to its south, few places on earth exude the beauty of Dominica. The youngest volcanic island of the Lesser Antilles, it first emerged from the sea 26 million years ago. At the time of Columbus’ arrival in November of 1493, Dominica was a stronghold of the Caribs – who are today the last indigenous people of the Caribbean. Throughout it’s history, Dominica‘s fertile land has attracted settlers and colonizers, and has been the subject of battles, primarily between the Caribs, the French and the British. In 1660 the British and French agreed to leave the Caribs in undisturbed possession, but French settlers continued arriving, bringing enslaved Africans with them. The Africans intermarried with the Caribs, which accounts for the island’s Afro-Caribbean ethnicity. Full independence was achieved in Dominica on November 3, 1978. Its languages are English and Creole. The official currency is the EC dollar, but the U.S. dollar is widely accepted.

young schoolgirls in Dominica

The Carib Territory

Situated high in the mountains, The Carib Territory is a must-see destination in the northeast part of the country. It is also where some of the most spectacular vistas of the island can be found. With a population of 3,500, most of the villagers live in huts that have changed little over the centuries. Unfairly categorized by the first arriving Europeans as cannibals, these are a gentle and shy people. Children would hide behind structures when my small group arrived by van. Young men, who were carving coconuts, offered us fresh coconut milk to drink. Today, income is derived primarily from crafts, fishing and farming. It’s a great place to purchase gifts or souvenirs to help the local economy.

Roseau

Dominica is literally a nation with one traffic light, and that one traffic light is in the capital city of Roseau. This is where your adventure will begin and end. Tourism is the nation’s leading source of income and the locals are friendly and glad to help. Remember, though, this is a true third-world nation and poverty is evidently on display in the city. Watch your step when stroll, for there might be a knee-deep pothole on the sidewalk. Roseau is a good place to make your home base while exploring the island. It’s also the best place to arrange a tour. Just ask the folks at your hotel and they will recommend one. It’s safe and easy, too, to just approach one of the tour drivers on the street. Tell them what you want and the amount of time you have, and off you go. Make sure, though, you negotiate your price before departure. It’s fun and carefree way to explore the island’s endless attractions, and every one of your tours will be customized to fite your needs and interests.

church amidst lush rainforest

Hitting the Road

Dominica is a fantasy island of rainforest greenery, nestling alongside rugged mountain peaks. Lush fern groves are overflowing with orchids, birds of paradise and fragrant ginger lilies. Banana, breadfruit and guava trees line the roadside. This is home for several endemic species like the brightly plumed Sisserou Parrot, depicted in Dominica's code of arms. No matter what you do, you can’t go wrong.

A Few Tips

Boiling Lake
This hot springs lake is the second largest in the world. Be warned, though, a full-day rigorous hike with a guide is needed to visit this once-in-a-lifetime sight.

Dominica Aerial Tramway
A 4,600-foot-long Rainforest Aerial Tram will take you on a spectacular one-hour journey over the magnificent rainforest, where you can glide through the rainforest.

Emerald Pool
Located near the Carib Territory, there is no better way to cool off than a swim in this tropical pool, complete with waterfall.

Trafalgar Falls

Jaco Flats
A two-hour hike that involves wading through a river and walking down cliff steps built by escaped slaves.

Trafalgar Falls
(Morne Trois Pitons National Park): Two spectacular waterfalls, Mother and Father, flow into a pool. On a hot day, this is where you will find all the locals.

Valley of Desolation
(Morne Trois Pitons National Park): A moss and lichen covered valley littered with brightly colored hot springs, boiling mud and mini-geysers.

Fort Shirley
This English colonial fort is among the ruins found at the Cabrits Historical and Marine Park, which preserves remnants of the island’s tumultuous history.

Roseau Museum
This museum highlights the island's cultural and natural history.

Activities

Hiking, mountain biking and kayaking offer intimate ways to experience Dominica that you don’t get to see by van or car. Dominica is also categorized among the best diving locations in the Caribbean. Still relatively undiscovered, this leads to uncrowded dive sites and dive boats. The entire island is a photographer’s dream.

What to Eat

serving typical Dominican cuisine

Nowhere in the Caribbean will you find such a culinary assortment. The country’s cuisine is an intriguing blend of African, Carib, French and Asian influences.

BULJOW: A genuine Creole dish of salt fish with pepper, chives, tomatoes, boiled bananas and coconut.

CRAPAUD (or mountain chicken): A large frog, either fried or stewed in a sauce.

FLYING FISH (or volan): A Creole breakfast of fried fish served with fried bread.

FRESH FISH: Blue marlin, dolphin (or mahi-mahi), grouper, kingfish, snapper and .

FRUIT: Barbadine, passion fruit, carambola, tamarind, guava, soursop, gooseberry, paw paw, cherry, seamoss, sugar cane, sorrel, banana, coconut, grapefruit, limes, tangerine, mandarin, mangoe, pineapple and watermelon.

SAN COCHE: Codfish boiled in coconut milk, served with dumpling and boiled green bananas.

VEGETABLES: Yams, dasheen and tannia, root tubers that are filling staple foods.

Complement your meal with a cold Kubuli, Dominica’s local beer.

Where to Stay

Roseau Valley Hotel is situated deep in the greenery of Dominica’s spectacular Roseau Valley. Located just two-miles inland east of Roseau, this is the ideal spot to enjoy the island’s fresh mountain breezes and lush vegetation. Guests can choose from deluxe rooms with private balconies. Amenities include free Wi-Fi and VIP privileges at local natural spa. Roseau Valley Hotel is within hiking distance of many of the most scenic spots in Dominica, including the Fresh Water Lake, Trafalgar Falls, the Volcanic Hot Springs and Boiling Lake. Call (767) 449 8176 or visit their website.

For further information about travel to Dominica, visit www.dominica.dm.


Feedback for Ringo

I love Ringo's piece on historic hotels. I once stayed at the Laurentian in Montreal - is it still around, is it historic? And then there was the Heups in Bismark.

It is interesting that two of your entries are in CANADA.

Brent, Seattle, WA

It's no mystery that you are great at what you do.

Sandee, Seattle, WA

* * * *

The Mystery on the Oasis pics are very funny!

Ramon, Kansas City, MO

* * * *

Ha ha ha ha ha...love your "schtick" Ringo!!

Dolly, Las Vegas, NV

Hello the travelling Boitano's hope you enjoy. Best wishes.

Elsa Magdalena Berno-Boitano, Laussane, Switzerland

My Irish roots understand terrible beauty. So do my human roots. The concept has such a ring of truth to it, doesn't it? Great article, Ringo. I hope to get to Ireland eventually, and thanks for blazing the trail!

Sandeee Bleu, Seattle, WA

* * * *

No wonder I've been hearing all these wonderful stories about Ireland. I used to think that it was just for Irish Americans seeking their ancestral roots but your article seems to call out to the non-Irish like me. Fascinating and intriguing.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

Thanks for this great post wow... it's very wonderful.

Key Logger, New York

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Lets not forget that the Marriot Harbor Beach is within walking distance to the world famous Elbo Room - Fort Lauderdale's oldest bar.

Jeff, Fort Lauderdale, FL

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Jeff–

Thanks for taking the time for the message and reminder. Indeed, I had a quick drink at the Elbo Room. My trip to Ft. Lauderdale would not have been complete without a visit to this historic institution.I have been reading about it for years, and was not disappointed. It felt like a real local's hangout.

- Ringo

Ringo,

I thoroughly enjoyed your article about Dick and Liz. I remember seeing that article back in the heyday of Life Magazine.

To remember the "behind-the-scenes" stories like that makes you genuine fan of the 60's. The famous couple's turbulent relationship was just a precursor of today's headline-grabbing media stars like Britney Spears and her colleagues. Life was simpler then. The paparazzis still had some sense of decency. You "coulda" been a good paparazzi. I say "coulda" because you kept this to yourself all these many years.

Looking forward to other media trivia you can remember.

Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA

Hey, Ringo –

Enjoyed your article on Antarctica --- cool photos, too. One thing, you mentioned that Ushuaia in Argentina is considered the most southern city in the world. I read that Chile lays claim to that distinction, with Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in the world.

Mick, Greenbay, WI

* * * *

Mick –

Now that football season is over --- I’ve often wondered what you Packer fans did in the off season ---- it’s great that you took the time to visit TravelingBoy. Great question, unlike my older brother, I adore all lamb products, and Patagonian Lamb --- cooked in a restricted area at the restaurant in an opened wood-fueled fire pit --- is amazing. The chef actually uses an ax to carve it. Frankly, I found it superior to Norwegian fjord lamb, Irish Burren lamb and even those much esteemed creatures down in New Zealand. The crab in Ushuaia is the other thing to eat. Wait a sec, you asked about Punta Arenas vs. Ushuaia as the furthermost city in the world. Well, they both have little disclaimers re populations --- you know, what’s a city, which one is a town, ect – so better let Chile and Argentina brass it out. They seem to be able to argue about any subject.

- Ringo



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