Dominica, the wild and mysterious paradise of the Caribbean, is a dream destination still unknown to the general public (and that’s good for you).
But the fact remains that this island is worth a detour and that sailors appreciate it for the change of setting and the tranquility it offers to those who come to tread its land. This is particularly the feeling of Damien, a seasoned sailor who stopped over in Dominica this year and who fell in love with this often snubbed island. It is with his advice that we take you on a tour of this mysterious rock that is sure to amaze you!
A well preserved paradise
Nestled between Martinique and Guadeloupe, the island is located in the middle of one of the busiest sailing areas in the world. And where the majority of destinations see their ratio of inhabitants to travelers doubled in season, Dominica shows much less popularity.
It must be said that the island is not conducive to popular entertainment. On its steep coasts, the beaches are just isolated dots surrounded by wild and impenetrable vegetation.
Small hamlets and a few coastal towns bring together the majority of the population on this elusive paradise-like island.
‘’ From the thorny trees of the steep coasts to the fruit trees in the heart of its virgin forest, nature dictates its law on this sparsely inhabited island. There isn’t a square metre that does not enrich your knowledge of tropical flora! ’’ – Damien
Indeed, the volcanic rock seems to offer an environment much more suitable to herbivores than to homo sapiens. The tropical flora is diverse and abundant, and it is the main attraction for its visitors.
Melting pot of the world's culture
Home to the last Kalinagos Indians, the island was also the refuge of escaped slaves. The Indians still live on the island on an independent territory in the northeast.
Their direct descendants, the Rastas make up a good part of the population of Dominica. Symbols of a regained freedom, the island also became the promised land of Hippies in search of a better world in the late 80s.
Finally, the Creole influence of the nearby French West Indies completes this colorful picture, manifested in the local cuisine, language and culture.
From Portsmouth to Roseau via Kalinago, the names of the towns reflect the unique diversity of its cultural landscape. Songwriter Gregory Rabess described it this way, and his words remain etched in the walls of the Old Mill Cultural Center in Roseau:
‘Dominica is a broth, a soup. There is a real dialectic of cultural influences here ’
In the heart of an ideal navigation area
This is an area where navigation is easy and predictable. Indeed, to reach the island from Martinique or Guadeloupe, you have to cross a channel where you have to be wary of the weather, but apart from that, it’s a quiet crossing that awaits you. :
“The sailing is easy, there is little current and the water is 25 degrees! The wind is always coming from the same direction, you have to be aware of the squalls, but everyone already knows that! ’’- Damien
The island has very few anchorages for two main reasons: The depth of the seabed around this volcanic rock and the protection of most of its east and southern coast. Damien explains it this way:
‘’ The island has a special character. In the Caribbean we are used to white sand and transparent turquoise waters. Here we have a paradise of thick vegetation which has been left immaculate for centuries on its solitary rock of solidified lava. You don’t come to the island for its coastline but for the interior of its land, it is rather unusual in the Caribbean … and it feels good! ‘’ – Damien
Roseau (South of the island): starting point for bucolic explorations
Arriving from the South from Martinique, Damien stopped in Roseau, the country’s capital and one of the main possible stops on the island. Located in the southwest of the island, the coastal town and its pastel colors border a coastline without any particular expression.
The anchorage is very well rated on Navily (4.8 out of 5), and the boaters who have stopped over praise the welcome and the reassuring organization of the boat boys. For 20-30 euros a night, you can moor safely on one of the mooring buoys.
A warm, rasta and musical atmosphere inhabits the streets of the suburb of Roseau and although the city offers very few cultural activities, you can always take a photo in front of the President’s White House. Every two days with the passage of a cruise liner, Roseau goes from peaceful calm to effervescent animation, bringing groups of enthusiasts and tourists who come to discover the island.
Damien explains: ‘’ You have to be strategic in Roseau, focus on visiting the city on days when the cruise liner is present and going for a hike when it is not there. You will thus enjoy the calm while hiking and the friendly and lively atmosphere in the city by alternating in this way. ’’
Roseau’s biggest draw is the many hikes that are offered by this part of the island. The Waitukubuli National Trail is an unmissable stopover and its 200 km of hiking trail will take you to the famous Freshwater Lake or the impressive Trafalgar Falls (no offence to the French).
In the middle of this green paradise, you may also stop at the famous Emerald Pool. Overhung by a natural waterfall of 12 metres, it owes its name to the emerald hue that the water takes, reflecting the surrounding green setting.
You can also revel in the hot and bubbly springs of TI Kwen Glo Cho in the middle of a flower garden and marvel at the unique beauty of David’s orchids (named after the hurricane that is said to have brought their existence to this isolated island).
On the southwest coast, near the village of Scotts Head, you will also discover a unique swimming spot that will give you the impression of diving in a champagne bath! Indeed, at Champagne Reef, the natural bubbles of one of the oldest and most imposing underwater volcanic faults rise from the seabed to create a real natural jacuzzi!
Stopovers in Dominica
Portsmouth (north): Relaxed beach and eye-opening explorations.
After soaking up the thrills of the south of the island, Damien continued his journey north and the famous city of Portsmouth (Prince Rupert North and South anchorage on Navily).
Portsmouth is one of the main towns in the north of the island and a perfect base for exploring this part of the rock. The anchorage itself is nicer and more pleasant than in Roseau. Facing the green mountains of Cabrits National Park in a protected bay, a little corner of comfort awaits you.
But what makes the reputation of this anchorage is above all the boat boys; their friendliness and unparalleled welcome in the region.
Organised in separate sections, it is anything but an omnishambles on the water. One and the same person will welcome you and accompany you during your stay. Races, tourism, events, technical problems – you name it – this person will be at your service to attend all of your requests and needs. The organisation is ideal, the welcome warm and the prices very fair for a safe and pleasant mooring on a buoy.
There are fewer sites to explore in the North, but the few bucolic and exploratory activities that await you are worth the detour. From Portsmouth you will have access to Cabrits National Park and its old cannons and fortifications.
You can also go up the Indian River for an unusual aquatic hike. Ironically, this is the only passable river on an island that has as many streams as there are days in a year. Gradually, you will discover the incredible diversity of its flora aboard a canoe, and finally enjoy a well-deserved break in tasting local rum on arrival (to be consumed in moderation).
By continuing your exploration of the island further west, you will be able to meet the Kalinagos Indians in the island reserve and the village of Kalinago Barana Aute. Impregnated with mysticism and ancient legends, the site and its population will transport you out of time. “A journey through the ages, cultures and senses” as Damien describes to us.
Coming back to Portsmouth after a busy day, the barbecues on the beach organised by the boat boys await you – A moment of conviviality where you can exchange stories with other fellow boaters who have come to visit the island. Damien describes to us this experience:
‘’ It was the pleasant surprise of the trip. We toured Dominica for its breathtaking natural landscapes and its unique atmosphere, we did not think that one of our best memories would be around a barbecue on a beach listening to local music in the company of adventurers from all over the world. A unique moment that will be remembered as one of the best spent in Dominica ’’
French, English, Canadian, American, Spanish and Italian boaters meet and mingle with the locals around a grilled fish on a beach in Portsmouth. A moment of warm sharing and exchange, which, like this wonderful island, will engrave unforgettable memories in your mind. To explore Dominica means opening up to a world of natural and cultural wonders in an atmosphere of effervescent exchange. A unique atmosphere that you will not find anywhere else …