Caribbean Travel Info & Hiking Recommendations for Dominica
One of the best places to hike / backpack… The Commonwealth of Dominica is a Caribbean island of the West Indies’ Lesser Antilles, also known as the Windward islands. At approximately 28 miles (45km) long by 12 miles (20km) wide it has a surface area of roughly 290 square miles (750 sq km), making it one of the larger islands in the south-eastern Caribbean sea, along with its closest neighbours, Guadeloupe to the north, and Martinique to the south. The island has close to a dozen mountains above 1,500 feet (500m), the tallest being Morne Diablotins, at 4,747 feet (1,447 m) above sea level.
Dominica is extremely mountainous and as it is one of the most rained on places on earth, it is a green, jungle rainforest with hundreds of streams and rivers and dozens of waterfalls, along with freshwater crater lakes, hot springs and fumaroles. Due to its rugged terrain combined with the fierce resistance of the native Carib Amerindians, Dominica was the last of the Caribbean islands to be colonized by Europeans. It is the only remaining Caribbean island with a designated Carib territory. The Kalinago tribe now live on a 3,700-acre (15 sq km) territory on the east coast of the island.
Dominica is known as the “Nature Isle of the Caribbean” for good reason, as it is probably the last major Caribbean island to retain most of its unspoiled natural beauty. With 9 of the Caribbean’s 16 active volcanoes, Dominica is the youngest island in the Lesser Antilles, and it’s still being formed with visible ongoing geothermal/volcanic activity. This can be experienced first-hand at the second-largest thermally active “hot spring” in the world, Boiling Lake, which is literally boiling. The Government of Dominica is attempting to keep the island a natural beauty through protection of an extensive natural park system which includes the Cabrits National Park, the Northern and Central Forest Reserves, as well as Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a tropical forest blended with scenic volcanic features which is recognised as a World Heritage Site.
Wildlife on the island includes birds, turtles, crabs, frogs, lizards, snakes and bats, as well as a few land mammals (Manicou opossums, a rodent called an Agouti, along with wild pigs). There have been over 150 bird and hummingbird species identified in Dominica, including their national symbol, the Sisserou (Imperial Amazon) parrot, as well as the Jaco (Red-necked) parrot. The island is also home to a number of birds of prey, as well as a dozen different types of bat. Dominica has many iguana, gecko and lizard species, as well as small tree frogs and large ground frogs, including one known as the Dominican Mountain Chicken (apparently a culinary delicacy). Four types of snake live on Dominica, including the Boa Constrictor, however none are venomous. There are many small spiders on the island, however none are venomous either. Of course, the lush Dominica forests are home to a wide variety of tropical tree and plant life, including multiple fruit trees, orchids, ferns, and flowers such as lantanas, heliconias, blue wax flowers as well as the national flower, the Bwa Kwaib.
Special care should be taken to safeguard against the disease (Chikungunya and Zika) carrying mosquitoes. They can be a problem if you’re stationary for long periods of time, particularly during “still” periods at dusk in the rainforest or on a beach. From our personal experience in 2014 and 2016, we had no problems on our hikes, or at our accommodations, which was on the ocean with a constant strong breeze.
In the waters, just off the shores of the island, numerous whale and dolphin species can be seen. Due to Dominica’s healthy reefs, volcanic walls and associated deep water, the island also offers some remarkable dive sites where a variety of fish / sea life can be viewed. This includes barracuda, horse-eye jacks, grunts, blackbar soldier fish, tuna, batfish, yellowtail snapper, frogfish, eagle ray, electric ray, grouper, amberjack, yellowhead jawfish, king mackerel, scorpion fish, cero, flying gunards, Angelfish, Caribbean reef squid, seahorses, sand eels, moray eels, shrimp, red-banded lobster, sea snakes, sea urchins, Decorator crab, and sea-pens.
English is the official language of Dominica, however the locals also speak Antillean Creole and/or Kokoy, both French based Patois-like dialects. The main currency is the Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollar, although the US dollar is also widely accepted. Please note that the Dominica electrical power system uses 220volt AC, so adapters/converters and surge suppressors (to handle the occasional dirty power) are required by North Americans.
The best time to hike in Dominica is January to April, with February/March being the best in terms of weather. These months typically have the least amount of rain and the daily average temperatures range comfortably from a low of 72˚ (22˚c) to a high of 84˚ (29˚c) degrees. It’s much hotter and more humid, with much more rain later in the year.
Up-hill hiking in Dominica … There are literally dozens of day-hiking trails on this island. There is a nominal ($5usd per site or $12usd for a week pass) User Fee required for most of the trails in Dominica. That said, local Guides are also recommended for most trails, and they typically charge around $100usd per couple, or less if you’re part of a larger group. Featured trails for up-hill hiking in Dominica:
Other recommended trails for up-hill hiking in Dominica include:
- Morne Diablotin – North/Central part of island, near Syndicate
- The highest peak on the island
- Difficult: 6-8 hours and 2800 feet (850m) vertical (Rainforest / Cloudforest)
- Morne Trois Pitons Trail – South/Central part of island, near Pont Casse
- The second highest peak on the island
- Difficult: 6-8 hours and 2300 feet (700m) steep vertical (Rainforest / Cloudforest)
- Bolive Falls – South/East part of island, near La Plaine
- The most remote waterfalls/pools on the island
- Difficult: 6-8 hours and 2300 feet (700m) steep vertical (mixed Rainforest)
- .. Too many others to mention…
Other potential 1/2 day hikes of interest include:
- Victoria Falls – South/East part of island, near Delice
- In-and-out of river “trail”… Ending in pool below spectacular 165 feet tall waterfalls
- Intermediate: 1-2 hours
- Morne aux Diables – North part of island, near Portsmouth
- Mountainous and Volcanic
- Intermediate: 4-6 hours
- Morne Crabier – South/West part of island, near Gallion
- Hilly with stunning views of bay at Scott’s Head
- Easy: 2 hours
- Boeri Lake – South/Central part of island, near Laudat
- World Heritage Site with a variety of landscape views
- Easy: 2 hours
- Seriously… There’s too many others to mention…
For you backpackers…There’s the Waitukubuli National Trail… 115 miles (184 km) of trails from one end of Dominica to the other. You’re probably wondering how that’s possible on an island 28 miles (45km) long. Well… The trail snakes quite a bit, and has many optional extra sections. The trail is broken into 14 segments, starting at the southern tip of the island at Scott’s Head, then goes north near the centre of the island about a third of the way, before heading to the east coast for a while, then loops back almost across the island, before heading north where it loops counter-clockwise around the northern tip of Dominica, ending in the Cabrits National Park on the West side of the island, just north of Portsmouth. This trail, not only covers a lot of territory, it traverses segments with varying degrees of difficulties, each being a different length, in terms of both distance and duration. Individual segments take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours, with the entire trail requiring approximately 2 weeks to complete. The official website states “…We have developed the Caribbean’s first long distance walking trail, and invite you to experience it with us… The Trail showcases the best of Dominica – culture/heritage, local lifestyles, and our island’s rugged terrain and wild nature – rivers, waterfalls, mountains, exotic gorges and rainforests… The Trail is completely hike-able with the necessary services and facilities. All visitors and non-residents are required to register in advance and purchase a Trail Pass prior to accessing/hiking the Trail…”
Camping in Dominica’s National parks and Reserves is not permitted, however there are a few privately owned / operated campsites, as well as a number of ECO-Lodges and B&Bs for backpackers to stay.
For more information about hiking in Dominica, visit their Hiking website / pages at http://www.dominica.dm/index.php/hiking
Another site for hiking information can be found at http://www.visit-dominica.com/hikingqry.cfm?AltCategory=96
For information specific to the Waitukubuli National Trail, please go to http://www.waitukubulitrail.com/
Other things to do (besides hiking) in Dominica:
Dominica claims to provide some of the best scuba diving in the world with their plunging sea walls, colourful reefs and soft corals, as well as volcanic vents that can even be experienced by snorkeling off the coast at Champagne reef, on the south-west coast.
- Whale watching tours can be found near Roseau, on the South-West side of the island. There are a number of Whale species found in the deepwater coastlines, and Dominica is the only country in the world where the Sperm Whale resides all year long.
- For the history buff, there’s impressive Fort Shirley, part of the Cabrits National Park, on the North West side of the island, just north of Portsmouth.
- There are a few small beaches in Dominica, where the locals will charge a small fee to visit. There’s the black sanded Mero beach in the central West side and the Number 1 (Hamstead) beach on the north-east coast near Calibishie, where some scenes from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were shot. There’s also a free beach at the north end of Portsmouth, on the north-west coast.
- There’s also plenty of other things to do, including canyoning, nature hikes, river tours, visits to thermal springs, Zip-Lining, Kalinago Territory (North-East area), as well as Bird watching, Sea turtle watching etc… More info can be found at http://www.dominica.dm as well as http://www.visit-dominica.com.
Other useful Links to Dominica Websites include:
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