Calibishie, Dominica © Hans Hillewaert
Dominica was once one of the British Windward Islands, situated between Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean. Tourism has recently exploded on the island, which is increasingly popular as a stop for cruise ships, particularly since it became the setting for the hit movie franchise Pirates of the Caribbean. Don't come to Dominica for the archetypical Caribbean sandy beaches, though. The coastline is dramatic and rugged, with steep cliffs plunging into the sea. Never mind, because on this volcanic island nature has traded white powdery beaches for other treasures, like thick forests, magnificent waterfalls and gushing rivers. 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. There is the fascinating 'Boiling Lake' in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, tubing down the Layou River, snorkelling among the tropical fish at 'Champagne' (where volcanic fissures make the water bubble), hiking through the forest, plunging into the green depths of the Emerald Pool, riding an aerial tram through the rain forest canopy, or watching a live folklore show, to name just a few of the diversions to be enjoyed.
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 like stewed opossum, or 'mountain chicken' (which is actually a large frog), which can be washed down with some hearty coconut rum punch.
Dominica is one of the few places left in the world, and most certainly in the Caribbean, where it is genuinely possible to 'get back to nature'.
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