A November 2004 trip
to Dominica by madaunt
Quote: Dominica offers the most varied scenery and natural landscape of any tropical island I have ever visited. Dominica is beautiful year-round for hiking, diving, swimming, bird-watching, and sightseeing in historical and natural sites. With beaches, jungles, and arid areas, plus the Caribe Indian territory, there is much to explore.
In three visits (in January, May, and November), I found more and more things to see and do every time. Dominica seems to be beautiful year-round, with wonderful opportunities for hiking, diving, swimming, bird-watching, and sightseeing in historical and natural sites. In Roseau, the capital of Dominica, don’t miss the Governor’s Mansion with its elegant tree-lined driveway and colonial architecture. Just across the street from the mansion, you can visit the oldest free library in the Caribbean—and this library must surely have the most beautiful ocean views of any library on earth! And still within easy walking distance, you can visit the Botanical Gardens. Only 16 miles outside of Roseau, you can hike to the fabulous Emerald Pool and Falls. With beaches, jungles, semi-desert areas, and the Caribe Indian territory, there is much to explore on this lovely island.
How to get there
Dominica is accessible by sea and by air. For the current travel information, try the Dominica travel website . All the major cruise lines visit year-round, but there are more sailings from November to May, when the weather is drier. Although there are no nonstop flights from North America, many nearby islands are served by international carriers, including Air Canada and American Airlines. In addition to short flights from these islands, there is daily ferry service from Guadeloupe directly to Roseau.
The Eastern Caribbean dollar is the island currency, but don’t bother to change your money: US dollars are accepted everywhere and some locals take Canadian dollars, too. Other currencies are also acceptable. I accidentally brought the wrong purse with Euros and British pounds and was happy to find that I could spend these in many shops, stores, and businesses in Roseau. My husband gave Canadian dollars to a boy who helped us when we were lost and the child’s Dad said his son could use the money to buy ice cream.
To get out to see the sights beyond Roseau, you definitely need some kind of transportation, but to explore Roseau for historical buildings, shopping, and the fabulous Botanical Gardens, all you need are good walking shoes, a sun hat, and a bottle of water. Walking is fun, and every corner reveals some new vista or amusement.
Attraction | "Diving/swimming, hiking/walking & bird-watching"
Hiking and Walking
Hiking and walking are both excellent on Dominica. There are many beautiful trails and walkways with easy to challenging grades and spectacular views of jungle, hills, valleys, waterfalls, and ocean. I recommend going to the Visit Dominica website for current hiking info. If you plan to hike to the Emerald Falls and Pool (about 16 miles outside of Roseau), make sure that you have good boots and plan on a lot of boot-cleaning when you get back. The path to the falls is often muddy, rocks are slippery, and on a humid warm day, you really need all your concentration.
Even for non-birders (that’s me!), bird-watching on Dominica is fantastic. There are brilliantly-coloured tropical birds, songbirds, and sea birds every where. I couldn’t believe how beautiful these birds were. We met many avid birdwatchers on Dominica, and they told us that this is a jewel of an island for birders. Almost any website featuring Dominica will provide pictures and info about birds, but one of the nicest sites is Virtual Dominica.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 25, 2005
Attraction | "Amateur Guide Made Botanical Gardens Even Better"
We were lost, hot, sweaty, and frustrated. There were some tipsy men in the alley who wanted to help us, but they could not understand our questions or read our map—or maybe they were just too happily drunk to make much sense of anything.
We were about to give up when we saw dozens of schoolchildren hurrying back to school after their lunchtime break. They wore smart uniforms that loving parents had washed, ironed, and mended with great care. Most girls wore elaborate braids, and nearly all the boys had short, neat haircuts. A boy about 10 or 11 years old suddenly broke away from the herd and stopped in front of us. All in a lilting rush, he asked if we were lost, if he could look at our map, if we wanted to go the Botanical Gardens, and could he take us there? We thanked him and began following our new guide straight up the alleyway. All the children were heading in the same direction because the main school in Roseau is right at the entrance to the gardens. It turned out that we were on the right path after all, but the lane was so steep that we could not see the gardens until we reached the top.
After thanking our schoolboy guide and giving him a couple of dollars to buy ice cream, we went into gardens. There are acres of gorgeous tropical flowers and fruits; luxuriant vines, trees, and bushes; and exotic birds and insects. There are hills and valleys and vistas of great beauty stretching all the way to the sea. The parrot research centre is wonderful and well worth visiting. In another area, a rather nondescript shrub holds some of the world’s largest and most brilliantly coloured caterpillars. In other parts of the gardens, there are horticultural experiments, rare plants, and orchids growing in every direction. There are broad, paved avenues curving through the carefully tended, park-like settings and narrow dirt paths disappearing into wild vegetation.
If you don’t get lost, it only takes about 20 minutes to walk from the pier to the Botanical Gardens. The gardens are open year-round, and there is no admission charge. There are entrances off Trafalgar Road and Queen Mary Street.
Dominica Botanical Gardens
If you don’t mind just sitting there, this is fine, but if you hate waiting in traffic, you might want to consider either a minivan or a taxi tour. The minivans are more nimble and there is less waiting. Guides are variable: all are competent and some are just as good as the ones on the coach tours, but a few seem less enthused and less knowledgeable about their jobs. The cost is about half of the coach prices. Taxi tours are usually a bit more expensive than the minivan tours, unless you have four people sharing a cab, but this means that someone sits in the middle in the backseat and that person won’t be as comfortable or see as much as the other tourists. Some taxi drivers will also act as guides, but many are cheerful drivers who only speak when spoken to. The biggest advantage to taxi tours are that you can go where and when you want to go and the taxis can often maneuver around the traffic jams that keep all other tours in complete gridlock.
If you are visiting Dominica on a cruise ship, keep in mind that tours you book on the ship might be a little pricier, but you will get an excellent tour with convenient times and won’t have to worry about the ship sailing without you. If your cruise tour is delayed, the ship will wait for you. Tours booked at dockside can be just as good, but these might not be available when you are ready to leave the ship, and if you get delayed somewhere on the island, you might have some panicky thoughts about missing your ship’s departure. I’ve never seen this happen, but I have watched sweating, anxious passengers hurl themselves out of tour buses and vans and sprint along the dock only minutes before the gangway was drawn up.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 25, 2005
A French-English dictionary is not much help because the local French dialect has unique words and phrases. One highly literate young teacher explained to us that much of the local dialect is hundreds of years old, and if compared with English, is very nearly Shakespearian in vocabulary and structure.
Vancouver, British Columbia