Natural Beauty In DominicaPosted on: 30 November 2007 by Gareth Hargreaves
Experience unrivalled eco-tourism and an arcadia of unspoiled nature on the Caribbean island of Dominica.
Located between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Eastern Caribbean and known as the nature island, the independent nation of Dominica is the largest and most mountainous of the Windward Islands, encompassing an area of nearly 290 square miles.
Of volcanic origins and with mountains reaching heights of nearly 5,000 feet, Dominica's rainforests are considered among the last true oceanic rainforests in the world. With more than 365 rivers, waterfalls, boiling lakes and pristine coral reefs, Dominica’s natural diversity is truly unique.
It's a place where man and nature live in harmony, where adventurers and nature loving travellers alike will revel in the Island’s eco-tourism options which include scuba diving, snorkelling, mountain biking, kayaking, horseback riding, nature tours, hiking, sailing, fishing and whale, dolphin and bird watching.
The island has been recognised for its sustainable tourism efforts, and was the first country in the world to receive Benchmarking designation from the prestigious eco-tourism organization Green Globe 21, who ranked it the only Caribbean destination in the top five happiest countries on earth in the Happy Planet Index which was compiled by Britain’s New Economics Foundation. It is also the location where Pirates of the Caribbean II was filmed and one of only a couple in the Caribbean still with populations of the pre-Columbian Carib Indians.
The fact that it is not that easy to reach - access is only possible via Puerto Rico, Antigua, Martinique or Guadeloupe means Dominica is off the beaten track, and here a different Caribbean experience awaits travellers seeking a nature at it's purest and true Carib culture.
Dominica is not a beach lovers paradise. The typical white sands of the Caribbean are found only in the far north east of the island, the other beaches consist of dark volcanic beaches. Nevertheless, the coast offer a rocky paradise of marine life for snorkellers and divers, and some of the bets whale watching in the entire Caribbean.
The Carnival: February
Undoubtedly, the prime time to visit is during February when temperatures average at 28C and when carnival spirit comes to the island with Mas Domnik, which translates as ‘The Real Mas’. The annual carnival officially starts in January but truly kicks-off in February culminating on with Jump Up - the National Traditional Carnival Street Party with island wide celebrations on Carnival Tuesday.
Carnival or masquerade as it can be referred to, is distinctly an Afro-French festival, it's flavour a combination of the two culture. Rooted in the French masquerade tradition where party-goers wore masks to conceal their identity and coupled with the African love of colour, costumes, masks and the rhythm of the drumbeat it is a calypsonian pageant not to be missed.
Flamboyant shows, dance, drumming competitions and pageantry take place across the island throughout the month, including the crowning of Miss Dominica and the Calypso Monarch to awarding the best costume band.
On Ash Wednesday the finale takes place when an effigy of Vaval - the symbolic god or spirit of the carnival is ceremoniously burnt as at sunset, marking the end of the revelry and the beginning of Lent.
Trek Through The Rainforest To The Boiling Lake
The Boiling Lake in Roseau Valley ranks as one of Dominica's most demanding trails, with good reason. It takes three hours there and back over some challenging terrain. This well-maintained trail begins at approximately 1,600 ft (490 metres), where a level stretch of rocky pathway blends alternately with wooden steps, but don't be fooled by the flat beginning -it gro steeper. It may be a strenuous trail, but the trip is among the best ways to experience the rainforest and see it astounding array of flora and fauna.
The Boiling Lake is a flooded fumarole, a crack through which gases escape from the molten lava below rather than a volcanic crater. The natural basin of Boiling Lake collects the rainfall from the surrounding hills and from two small streams which empty into it. This trail is the most spectacular in Dominica, combining rainforest terrain with mountains and forest, before crossing the bleak Valley of Desolation. This arduous but rewarding trek should not be attempted without a guide.
Whale Watching & Dolphins
Dominica's sheer walls disappear under the sea, creating deep sheltered bays along its western coastline which are a haven for the sperm whale which loves to calve and breed in this type of habitat. In fact, it is the only country in the world where the Sperm Whale resides all year long, although sightings are most common between November and March. Whale Watching on the island is not difficult and a short boat ride can bring you in contact with the world's largest toothed mammal bathing in the calm turquoise Caribbean Sea.
Fishermen, yachters, and marine adventurers report seeing the Sperm Whale at Scotts Head, Roseau, Layou, and Point Round. Whale Watching operators follow strict codes of conduct on their excursions. They do not lure the whales and minimize any disturbance. On a rare trip, the whales may be elusive, but such disappointment is usually compensated with acrobatic performances by hundreds of Spotted and Spinner Dolphins or perhaps another species of whale. After all, with twenty-two species of whale and dolphin identified in its water, Dominica has a deserved reputation as the whale-watching capital of the Caribbean.
Diving & Snorkelling
The islands annual Annual DiveFest takes place in July and is the perfect opportunity for to experience Dominica's coral reefs and marine life. During Divefest introductory snorkel and scuba sessions are offered all over the island for absolute beginners, whilst certified divers can take part in an underwater treasure hunt, sponsored by Jewellers International. Those preferring to keep dry can enjoy a wine and cheese cruise or a discounted whale-watching excursion. For further information visit www.dominicawatersports.com
Where To Stay
There is accommodation to suit all budgets and tastes be it a beach front villa, a luxury hotel resort or a guest house. If you are looking for luxury try Jungle Bay Resort and Spa, where daily yoga classes take place in sight of the sea, and guests stay in one of the thirty-five luxury cottages are elevated on wooden posts amidst a coastal jungle canopy, overlooking the rugged Atlantic Ocean. Dining on fresh local produce and just-caught seafood is experienced in an open-air, octagonal restaurant with a palm tree protruding through the roof.
For prices and availability visit http://www.junglebaydominica.com
Those wanting to really get back to nature should stay at Three Rivers guest house, a small multi award winning eco lodge set in a lush rainforest valley in unspoiled eastern Dominica. It offers secluded self contained cottages, natural forest cabins, camping and dormitory facilities, restaurant and bar. We have four natural river pools and are ideally located for hiking and wildlife watching.
For prices and availability visit www.3riversdominica.com
No direct flights from North America or Europe are available because both of the island's airports are too small for large aircraft to land. Travelers flying to Dominica must catch a connecting flight to the island. Most visitors pick up their connections from St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Barts, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia, and Barbados, as well as from other smaller islands in the Caribbean.
For inter-island flights visit LIAT www.liatairline.com/.
For further information visit the Dominican Tourist Board at http://www.ndcdominica.dm
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