Ports of Call
Calibishie, Dominica © Hans Hillewaert
Dominica was once one of the British Windward Islands, situated between Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean. Tourism has exploded on the island, which has become a popular stop for cruise ships, particularly since it became the setting for the hit movie franchise Pirates of the Caribbean. Tourists shouldn't visit for the typical Caribbean sandy beaches, though, as the coastline is rugged and dramatic, with steep cliffs plunging into the sea. Nature has indeed traded white-sandy beaches for other treasures on this volcanic island, such as thick forests, gushing rivers and magnificent waterfalls. Offshore there is a wondrous world for scuba divers, with diverse sloping reefs, pinnacles, walls and underwater hot springs to explore.
Many of those who come ashore from cruise liners have only a day to take in the delights of Dominica, which is certainly not enough for all the activities and excursions on offer. The capital, Roseau, provides a wonderful introduction to the destination. Located in a small area on Dominica's west coast, where rugged green hills meet a deep blue sea, it's a mix of French and British colonial structures that run along narrow streets, punctuating the modern concrete buildings and recalling the destination's history.
From there, travellers can head to the fascinating 'Boiling Lake' in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, tube down the Layou River, or snorkel among the tropical fish at 'Champagne' (where volcanic fissures make the water bubble). They can also hike through the forest, plunge into the green depths of the Emerald Pool, ride an aerial tram through the rain forest canopy, or watch a live folklore show.
This unspoilt tropical paradise does not offer luxury resorts and high-rise hotels, but is rather designed for those who want to take a break and relax in cliff-top villas, small mountain spas, guesthouses and apartments. At the same time, the island is equipped with all the modern conveniences, including good communications infrastructure, banks and numerous restaurants, usually run by local families, in which to sample the delicious local West Indian cuisine. Those brave enough might like to tuck into traditional favourites such as stewed opossum, or 'mountain chicken' (which is actually a large frog), which can be washed down with some hearty coconut rum punch.
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