In Dominica’s capital city, you’ll find a tightly packed maze of colourful streets filled with the pulsing beats of reggae and dancehall.
The name Dominica comes from the Latin word for Sunday, which was the day on which this island was spotted by Christopher Columbus. Before its discovery, Dominica was referred to as Wai‘tu kubuli, which means “Tall is her body.” Known as the “Nature Isle of the Caribbean,” Dominica is nestled into the heart of the Lesser Antilles, between Guadeloupe and Martinique.
From the Boiling Lake and many natural hot water baths, to the cool refreshing rivers and waterfalls, to the magnificent underwater sights for snorkellers and scuba divers, Dominica’s natural treasures are plentiful.
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar (XCD)
Government: Parliamentary Republic
DID YOU KNOW?
- Because of Dominica’s relatively small size and a lack of direct international flights in, larger vacation package companies have avoided Dominica, leaving it instead to smaller local getaways and rustic adventure opportunities. Larger Caribbean cities outside Dominica are sometimes intimidating to travellers but this is far from the case in Dominica. The locals are so friendly that it’s almost fun to get lost just to have an excuse to approach people on their front porches! This makes Dominica an attractive destination for those wishing for a more off-the-beaten track and authentic Caribbean getaway.
- Geographically, Dominica is still being formed by geothermal-volcanic activity, as evidenced by the world’s second-largest hot spring, Boiling Lake in Morne Trois Pitons National Park. Most of the park is primordial rainforest, varying from jungles thick with tall, pillar-like gommier trees to the stunted cloud-forest cover on the upper slopes of Dominica’s second highest mountain, Morne Trois Pitons (4,550 feet).
- On land, Dominica has mountain peaks upwards of 5,000 feet above sea level, but there is also a whole other natural wonder waiting for travellers below land. The waters of Dominica are protected: the southern end is the Scotts Head Soufriere Marine Reserve, and the north is the island’s first marine reserve, the Cabrits Marine Reserve. There is a strict “look but don’t touch policy”, and visitors are asked that the only things they leave are bubbles.
- Dominica is known as the “Whale Watching Capital of the Caribbean,” as the waters off the island provide the ideal habitat for whales to feed, breed and play. A film and photography hotspot, Dominica is home to many species including sperm whales, pilot whales, pygmy whales, Atlantic spinner dolphins and spotted dolphins.
Dominica has a tropical, marine climate with high precipitation, lots of sunshine and minimal seasonal changes in temperature. The average temperatures are about 25°C year round. Dominica also experiences strong, steady trade winds that make the temperatures more comfortable.
There are normally two seasons: rainy, lasting from June to November, with the wettest months being September and October, and the dry season, with February, March and April being the driest months. The rainfall is usually twice as high in mountainous inland areas than in the coastal regions.
The best time to visit Dominica are months between December and May, when there is less rainfall and there are no dangers of hurricanes (the hurricane season normally lasts from June to October).
Dominica was the last of the Caribbean islands to be colonized by Europeans, due to the fierce resistance of the native Caribs. France ceded possession to Great Britain in 1763, which made the island a colony in 1805.
In 1980, two years after independence, Dominica’s fortunes improved when a corrupt and tyrannical administration was replaced by that of Mary Eugenia Charles, the first female prime minister in the Caribbean She remained in office for 15 years.
Some 3,000 Carib Indians still living on Dominica are the only pre-Columbian population remaining in the eastern Caribbean.
JUNGLE BAY RESORT AND SPA
Jungle Bay Resort and Spa was built and is operated in alignment with international geotourism and ecotourism guidelines. As an alternative to traditional Caribbean tourism, the focus is on nature-based activities and overall wellness with quality service, guided by the principles set by both National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations and The International Ecotourism Society (TIES).
THE WAITUKUBULI NATIONAL TRAIL
The Waitukubuli National Trail Project is an exciting undertaking that encompasses 183 kilometres of trail spanning and twisting the length of Dominica. From Scotts Head in the south, right up to Capuchin in the north, the trail winds from one end of Dominica to the other. Along the way it will take you through coastal villages, up woodland hills, into lush rainforest, past waterfalls, down to rivers, back up to the mountains and then down again.
Dive Fest was created in order to give Dominicans a fun and educational way to learn more about scuba diving. Through its Discover Scuba, Discover Scuba Diving and Discover Snorkelling programs, children and adults can take the plunge and experience diving first hand. As well, education about the marine environment has been an important part of Dive Fest; in past years, school children have attended slide shows on marine life and participated in lectures about marine ecology, touring the Soufriere Scott’s Head Marine Reserve.
CALIBISHIE LODGES ESTABLISHMENT
Calibishie is a “boutique” hotel, nestled among tropical forests and on a seaside bluff overlooking the Caribbean—a place where you can put a little distance between you and the rest of the world. The lifestyle is pure and easy in rhythm and tempo, and Calibishie offers you a window to local culture and a different way of living. Visitors love the nature, the sounds and colours, and the peace of living by the sea.”
HIBISCUS VALLEY INN
The Hibiscus Valley Inn is a Swedish-owned guesthouse in the Dominican countryside with three “nature bungalows.” Each bungalow has two rooms and a veranda in each, and are situated in a beautiful area next to the Pagua River and the rainforest.
As eerie as it is beautiful, the Valley of Desolation is an otherworldly landscape of volcanic steam vents, bubbling mud pots and a boiling lake that is the world’s second-largest hot spring.
In this three-part series, writer Bret Love explores the natural beauty and abundant wildlife of Dominica, a tiny ecotourism paradise in the Caribbean. Part Three: Exploring the island and discovering original inhabitants, delectable food and a perfect hideaway.
In this three-part series, writer Bret Love explores the natural beauty and abundant wildlife of Dominica, a tiny ecotourism paradise in the Caribbean. Part Two: A whale of an experience.
In this three-part series, writer Bret Love explores the natural beauty and abundant wildlife of Dominica, a tiny ecotourism paradise in the Caribbean. Part One: Witnessing a spectacle of nature on the beach.