Dominica, the nature island
28 December 2016
Everyone that we had met who had visited Dominica has raved about its beauty, so we were very excited to arrive in Roseau, the capital, to be able to see the island for ourselves.
Dominica (pronounced Domi-ni-ca, with the emphasis on the ‘ni’ and not like the Dominican Republic), lies between the French islands of Martinique, in the south, and Guadeloupe, in the north. It is an island of nature with nine potentially active volcanoes (most other islands only have one!), countless waterfalls, hiking trails, a boiling lake and as much to see below the surface as there is to see above.
We divided our stay into two halves, one week in the south at Roseau on a mooring buoy, as it was too deep to anchor, and one week in the north, at anchor in Portsmouth. Friends Dave and Anna were with us on their boat and together we snorkelled at Champagne Reef where warm bubbles ascend from the sea bed. We also saw in the wild torrent of water at Titou Gorge and were glad to be wearing life jackets as we were buffeted around the narrow gorge that led to a waterfall. We then hiked through rainforest to Middleham Falls, where the almost daily rain ensured that there was plenty of water falling down the sheer drop high above us. From here we continued our hike to the town of Cochrane, where the local bar also had ‘Pig Meat for Sail’! At the end of our hike, we were rewarded with fresh grapefruit that had fallen from the trees and a local taxi as we could walk no further.
Back in Roseau, the botanical gardens were given a great write-up in our guide with a parrot conservation area but the reality was a disappointment and three sad looking parrots in a cage didn’t seem like a conservation project to us. However, a group of local dogs escorted us up the short hike from the gardens to Morne Bruce, which gave us a birds-eye view of the city and a glimpse of a local bride who was having photos taken. Each day cruise ships of all sizes arrived into Roseau and the town came alive catering to the tourists but after everyone had left, it was quite quiet as everyone got on with their daily lives.
Our time in Portsmouth was quite different. Whereas there were very few boats stopping in Roseau, we counted up to 50 boats either at anchor or on a mooring buoy in Portsmouth, including friends Barbara and Stephen, who were joined by Stephen’s son Dan. We met many years ago in the Mediterranean and it was great to see them again and also see Q-Queenie, their motor-catamaran, for the first time.
Even though we were just days from Christmas, you wouldn’t have known it. There were no bright decorations in the streets or Christmas carols blaring from every shop that you passed. It was only on Christmas Eve that the main street became pedestrianized and food vendors came out and there was excitement in the air as everyone busied themselves preparing for a 3-day holiday. Christmas Day for us started with drinks aboard Q-Queenie followed by lunch with Dave and Anne where we enjoyed chicken, not turkey, with roast potatoes, sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, stuffing and delicious gravy followed by mince-pies by Anna, stolen and a French Christmas log. We hadn’t eaten like that for a long time and so relaxed watching Love Actually on dvd. A good day was had by all.
Dominica has provided the setting for many scenes in the Pirates of the Caribbean films (the Titou Gorge being one of them) and it was on a trip up the Indian River that our guide proudly showed us the home of the witch Calypso that featured in the second film. None of us had seen the film, so it didn’t mean much to us, but the rowing trip up the river was very nice and scenic and we enjoyed our ‘Dynamite’ drinks at the small bar at the end.
We really wanted to do a lot more on the island but the weather had other plans. We expected rain during our visit, the island wouldn’t be so lush and green and the waterfalls so impressive, if it didn’t rain but there was so much rain and strong, gusty winds that we didn’t feel inclined to go hiking and seek out the famous Sisserou parrots only to get soaking wet and cold. We’d had enough of that just getting shore and back! Maybe we just hit it at the wrong time of year but Dominica is definitely worth spending some time at and you really have to go inland to see its true beauty.
Roseau – mooring buoys at Dominica Marine Centre (40EC) are in best location for town. Call Markus VHF 16. They had a nice bar & restaurant with wifi and can refill gas bottled (30EC).
Portsmouth – Indian River guides formed the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services (PAYS). A great bunch of guys who are there to help and look after cruisers needs. They are not pushy and can assist with anything.
Regulations – we checked in at Roseau and benefitted from the 2-week check-in/out at the same time system which meant that we didn’t need to check out in Portsmouth.