Dominica Is An Island, Entire Of Itself

Dominica Is An Island, Entire Of Itself

Dispatch by Rebecca Bowslaugh

There are more than 7,000 islands in the Caribbean. With endless choices, it seems impossible that any one island could stand out among the many.

First spotted by Christopher Columbus on a Sunday in 1493 (the name Dominica comes from the Spanish word for Sunday: Domingo), settled by the Spanish, then colonized by the French, Dominica finally gained political independence from the United Kingdom in 1978. Before colonization, the island was inhabited by the Caribs who, despite many efforts, lost control of it; only 2,000 Caribs still live there today.

Since the 1980s, Dominica has been a steady and peaceful country, recently drawing attention to its lush plant life, long distance hiking trails (the longest takes two weeks to complete), volcano trekking (the highest peak is 1,447 metres), copious rivers and bountiful underwater exploration to entice more travellers to enjoy the amazing hiking, diving and ecotours available.

Situated in the Eastern Caribbean, southeast of Guadeloupe and northwest of Martinique, the Commonwealth of Dominica is sandwiched between many of the most popular Caribbean destinations. Despite the fact that it has been coined “The Nature Island,” Dominica still gets 25 percent less visitors than nearby Turks and Caicos each year. The country has set a goal to reach 90,000 visitors this year, in an attempt to boost its economy and maintain a successful and sustainable tourism industry.

With only 70,000 people inhabiting the 750 square-kilometre island (most of whom live in and around the capital city of Roseau), Dominica has remained mostly undisturbed by the (somewhat aggressive) mass tourism and development that hits surrounding islands each year.

Thanks in part to its rocky shoreline (very few glistening sands for all-inclusive resorts to takeover) and no international airport, Dominica is an ideal destination for anyone interested in a different type of island vacation.

With a high annual rainfall of more than 760 cm, a major draw is the system of rivers, streams, waterfalls and lakes, especially during and immediately following the rainy season, when the country can boast about having a river for each day of the year! The abundant rainfall also contributes to the 1,200 plant species found in the rainforests that cover almost 70 percent of the island. This is where endless opportunities open up for kayaking, canyoning, swimming, tubing—and that doesn’t even cover all the water sports available on the coast in the Caribbean Sea, including fizzy-water diving and snorkelling.

Dominica is one of the younger islands in the region (it’s only 26 million years old) and is constantly changing due to geothermal activity (above and below water). The nine active volcanoes (out of a total of 16 active volcanoes in the Caribbean) continue to evolve the island over time. For adventure travellers, the volcanoes offer great views, challenging hikes, a boiling lake and most importantly, hot springs.

Divers and snorkellers can look forward to living the high life; underwater bubbles made by volcanic vents create a swimming condition comparable to jumping into an oversized glass of champagne.

The island has many other historic and cultural attractions, including a rum distillery that uses island-grown sugar cane, the last standing baracoon in the Caribbean (a shack-like structure used during slavery), a smashed bus (that crash landed in the botanical gardens during the 1979 hurricane), the old town market (where you can pick up local souvenirs), museums (to learn the history of the island) and the World Creole Music Festival (a chance to experience authentic food, music, dance and art).

Dominica might be just one of thousands of tropical paradise islands, but it definitely stands out as being one of the most unique and varied experiences in the Caribbean. 

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