Dominica is called the “Nature Island” of the Caribbean and that nickname is well-deserved. Upon arriving, I embarked on a nearly two hour ride from the airport to the capital city of Roseau. The roads were barely decipherable but nature was all around. Even in the dark, I could make out the families of trees flanking our van on either side. During the next few days, I was to discover various aspects of the island, many of which are rooted in the landscape’s lush vegetation. Here are a few ways I experienced nature on Nature Island.
Hiking Through the Waitukubuli National Trail
My first morning in Dominica started with an adventurous hike through Segment 10 of the Waitukubuli National Trail. Currently the only trail of its kind in the Caribbean, the WNT includes an impressive 115 miles of hiking routes. There are fourteen segments in total and we chose Segment 10, which is among the easier hikes. Considering it was a “beginner trail,” I actually found it a bit difficult but I enjoyed the challenge…and the view about mid-way through the trail.
If you only have a day or two on the island, this is a good segment to start with because it only takes about three or four hours to complete and there is more than enough nature to see along the way. There are even a few tree branches to swing on, in case you want to channel your inner Jane from Tarzan. Travelers can hike by themselves but I recommend having a guide if possible. Allan, our guide for the trek, is a local from the nearby town and knew every type of plant, flower and fun fact about Dominica and having that inside scoop really made this a memorable morning.
Snorkeling in Champagne Reef
When I learned that there is a place in Dominica called Champagne Reef I knew I had to visit. A part of me hoped that real champagne might be involved but that would probably have been a dangerous combination. The reef got its clever nickname because of the small gas bubbles that rise from the volcanic bottom of the ocean floor. Temperatures can reach up to 90 degrees so it kind of feels like you’re in an underwater jacuzzi.
We took an hour tour through the reef, passing fish of every color and even some ruins from a sunken ship. Pre-Carnival anticipation was in the air and for many, the festivities were already well underway. Not far from the reef, there was a P-Diddy-worthy booze cruise where people were drinking and dancing to Top 40 hits. The energy was contagious and as I listened to songs from Rihanna, Beyonce, Katy Perry and even Miley Cyrus from underneath the water, the bubbles shone like diamonds reflected under the clear blue sky.
Cruising Along the Indian River
After hiking the WNT and snorkeling in Champagne Reef, I was ready for a leisurely river cruise. As it turned out, this was one of my favorite activities while on Dominica. Taking a small boat into the river, our tour guide began telling us all about the unique vegetation and animals that live here. We also passed a few different spots where Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 were filmed, including this small hut that was built specifically for the movies. I really appreciate how the constructors did their best to create something that not only blended into the environment but one that didn’t harm the habitat.
Perhaps the coolest and most unexpected portion of the river cruise was a pit stop to a bar and garden area midway through the cruise. After snapping a few pictures of the colorful flowers and chatting with some of the locals maintaining the grounds, I slurped down a delicious rum cocktail made from fresh ingredients, all before 11 AM. I’ve been on a few river cruises over years, none of which included a bar, let alone one that used tree stumps for seats and blended fruits from the trees overhead.
Megan Eileen McDonough
Megan Eileen McDonough is a New York City-based freelance writer the founder of Bohemian Trails, a blog covering global lifestyle trends for the savvy and stylish traveler. Her cultural escapades have taken her to Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and across the United States. Megan’s work has appeared on Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, US Airways and USA Today among others.