Jacko Steps Hiking trail in the Morne Diablotin National Park is known to be one of the most historic trails in Dominica © Paul Crask
Take one of Dominica’s most popular hiking and birdwatching trails through the rainforests of Morne Diablotin National Park.
When it was formed in 1977, the Northern Forest Reserve covered 8,900ha of mountains and rainforest. In January 2000 3,335ha were taken from the reserve to form the Morne Diablotin National Park, which was created primarily as a sanctuary to protect the natural habitat of Dominica’s two endemic parrots, in particular its national bird, the sisserou (Amazona imperialis). Morne Diablotin gets its name from the French name for the black-capped petrel (Pterodroma hasitata), a bird that used to inhabit the cliff faces of the mountain. The name translates to ‘little devil’ and was given because of its apparent demonic sounding call. The petrel typically nests on high cliff faces, burrowing a hole or using natural clefts. Though rarely seen these days, experts believe the bird may be returning to the mountain.
The higher elevations of Morne Diablotin are cloaked in elfin woodland. Lowgrowing kaklen (Clusia mangle) dominates the terrain, growing in a dense, tangled blanket some 2–3m above the ground. The palmiste moutan, or mountain palm (Prestoea montana) pushes its way through the kaklen, together with other lowgrowing trees and ferns. The lower elevations give way to montane forest and then dense swathes of rainforest. Trees such as the gommier (Dacryodes excelsa) and several species of chatanier (Sloanea dentata, Sloanea caribaea and Sloanea the forest floor. Other trees known locally as the mang blanc, mang wouj, bwa kanno and kwé kwé can also be found in this habitat and have prop roots. The karapit (Amanoa caribaea) produces both buttress and prop roots and is one of the most abundant species of large tree growing in the rainforest.
Within the Morne Diablotin National Park is the Syndicate Nature Trail, one of Dominica’s most popular hiking and birdwatching trails. There is also a tough trail to the 1,447m summit of Morne Diablotin.
The visitor centre was opened in October 2006 and has an interpretation room where visitors can learn about the rainforest habitat, including the trees, animals and birds that may be seen within it. The centre also has toilets and a small shop selling refreshments. Unfortunately it is often closed, catering more to cruise ship tour buses than independent travellers.