Written by Bradt Travel Guides
Dominica is like no other Caribbean island. Explore trails leading through lush rainforest to idyllic pools and dramatic waterfalls, climb the volcanic peaks of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, swim in sparkling rivers and discover the teeming marine life in the Soufriere Scotts Head Marine Reserve.
Awe-inspiring Boiling Lake
Dominica’s Boiling Lake is said to be the second-largest of its kind in the world. It is a flooded fumarole approximately 60m in diameter with a magma chamber beneath the surface, heating the fresh water to a rolling boil. The lake is fed by two small streams and once it reaches a certain level it overflows through a gap in the crater wall on the eastern side. This overflow eventually becomes the White River.
The Nicholls–Watt route, the primary trail that is used to access the lake today, begins at Ti Tou Gorge and climbs up to Morne Nicholls before descending into the Valley of Desolation and then to the lake itself. The Valley of Desolation is an unfortunate name for what is essentially an area of extraordinary activity, beauty and life. This wide valley contains hot streams, bubbling mud and violent steam vents. The fumarole vegetation consists of lichens, mosses, bromeliads and kaklen (Clusia mangle). Subjected as they are to sulphurous gases and a heady concoction of mineral deposits, the rocks of the valley are painted in whites, browns, yellows and oranges.
© Paul Crask
Dramatic, other-worldly landscapes
Pointe Baptiste is located on the northeast coast, a little to the south of Calibishie. It has two areas that are certainly worth visiting. The first is the Red Rocks, a very unusual coastal formation of smooth red earth that has been compacted and shaped by both ocean and weather. As well as the beauty of the formations themselves, you can explore a cave, short trails along the coast to further formations and a black sand beach along the margins of the Pointe Baptiste Estate, and fabulous views back across the bay to Calibishie, Morne Aux Diables and the northern interior. This is a magical spot at dusk when the sun sets behind the mountains. The second area worth visiting at Pointe Baptiste is the white sand beach at Pointe Baptiste Bay. It is a good place to chill out and you can also enjoy the offerings of the Escape Bar and Grill, hidden in the trees behind.
© Paul Crask
The best beaches in the Caribbean
Perhaps Dominica’s most beautiful stretch of sand, Woodford Hill Beach was the subject of some controversy in recent times when a luxury hotel chain wanted to make it private. Fortunately this never happened and this is a must-visit spot. There is no sign for it but it is quite easy to find. Along the coastal road that passes through the village of Woodford Hill, look for a narrow paved road on a bend that goes down towards the sea. The verges are usually quite overgrown, disguising it a little, but you should see it. Go down to the bottom and, if you have come by car, park up under the trees. Be sure to leave your valuables locked away out of sight as there have been very occasional incidents of opportunist theft on this beach. Do not let this put you off though. This is as nice a beach as any in the Caribbean.
Dominica’s premier international music event is the World Creole Music Festival which takes place during the last week of October each year. This three-night event falls within Creole Week, which is part of Dominica’s independence celebrations. Creole in the Park is a four-day live music and Creole cultural event that is held in the Botanical Gardens, Roseau. It is an excellent family event that runs from lunchtime to early evening. There are stalls selling traditional Creole food and crafts, activities for children, and lots of good music. National and international musicians arrive on the island to perform during the Creole festival period. Although the week is a celebration of Creole culture and tradition, the music festival does not limit itself to a particular genre.
© Paul Crask
Superb hiking possibilities
The Morne Trois Pitons National Park was established in 1975 and in 1997 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is approximately 7,000ha in size and contains a high concentration of dormant and dead volcanoes. The park’s vegetation zones include deciduous and semi-deciduous forest, secondary and mature rainforest, montane forest, and elfin woodland at the volcano summits. Volcanic activity can be seen within the park. The Valley of Desolation is a fascinating landscape of steaming vents, geysers, hot-water rivers and cascades, boiling grey mud and a crust of sulphur-stained rock. Of the volcanoes within the park boundary it is the dominant three-peaked Morne Trois Pitons itself at 1,342m that is the highest. From the summit there are spectacular views of lush and dense rainforest all around. To the south are the peaks of Morne Micotrin (1,221m) Morne Watt (1,224m) and Morne Anglais (1,123m, see page 000). To the north is a vast blanket of green covering the area from the Central and Northern Forest Reserves to the distant summit of Morne Diablotin (1,447m) and the Morne Diablotin National Park.