Published on 21 may 2013 at 0h00
Ideally situated in the West Indian arc between Guadeloupe and Martinique, Dominica is certainly the most authentic and most protected island in the Lesser Antilles. To be discovered as a matter of urgency!
Dominica has only been independent since 1978, but 'The Nature Island' keeps its treasures jealously hidden. Here there is no mass tourism, as in its French or English-speaking neighbours; mass tourism and a built-up coastline have been avoided by prioritizing 'natural' and intelligent tourism, with walking, diving and trips to the countless rivers, volcanoes and waterfalls, through the tropical forests. Added to this are the welcome and the smiles of its inhabitants, who always take pleasure in showing you round 'the island with 365 rivers'.
This destination is even more attractive as it is only a few tens of miles from two very big charter bases in the West Indies, Marina Bas du Fort in Guadeloupe and Le Marin in Martinique. It is therefore easily accessible, whilst remaining completely wild and protected!
7 days, leaving from Le Marin.
Having arrived in Fort de France and transferred to Le Marin marina, embarkation aboard your catamaran. It's late, it's hot; the best thing to do is sleep…
After provisioning, we leave Le Marin for a first sail to Saint Pierre. Depending on the weather conditions, there is nothing to prevent you stopping for a swim at Grande Anse or around the Rocher du Diamant... At St Pierre, don't miss a visit to the town, marked for ever by the eruption of the Montagne Pelée volcano in 1902.
Back at the boat, we leave the anchorage to sail north along the leeward coast to the overnight anchorage. The relief is fabulous, overhung by the Montagne Pelée, whose summit reaches 1397 metres.
You must get up early and leave early in the morning to tackle the crossing of the Canal de la Dominique (about 25 miles), between 3 and 5 hours' sailing in the sun, depending on the strength of the trade wind.
On arriving in Roseau, Dominica's capital, you must get clearance. With around 14,000 inhabitants, Roseau has remained very authentic, with a few streets which are still cobbled, where recent buildings, Creole huts and residences from the colonial era mix.
The afternoon could be dedicated to visiting the surrounding green mountains by taxi, as far as the famous Trafalgar waterfall. Trafalgar Falls is actually made up of two adjacent falls, the higher of which is called Le Père, and the smaller, La Mère.
The water is very cool, and as you walk around you will notice that everywhere, rivers of hot water mix with the main flow. Another swim, this time in a bubble bath at 40°C.
Get up almost with the sun, prepare a picnic, pack the bags and we're off for the walk up the Morne Diablotin, the highest summit on the island, at 1447 metres. Thirty minutes in a taxi to get to the north of the forest reserve, then about a 3-hour walk to the summit. The ascent is quite strenuous (not to be undertaken with children), but once up there, what a reward! With as a bonus several Sisserous, the parrot which has become the emblem of the island, and is present on the Dominican national flag...
Quiet morning, and snorkelling along the coast.
In the afternoon, don't miss going to discover the Indian River aboard a local guide's skiff, the best way of understanding this complex and wonderful ecosystem. Along the river, big trees with twisted aquatic roots typical of the mangrove provide phantasmagorical scenery.
Departure by taxi in the early morning, to discover Soufrière Pool. The ideal spot for swimming, jumping and sliding down the little rapids, as well as accessing a little calm, deserted beach, the perfect place to spend some quality time as a family with children.
Return to the boat at the end of the afternoon; you will then have to weigh anchor to head for the capital.
The day's walk will take you to Boiling Lake. A quite strenuous walk, rewarded by the unique atmosphere which reigns up there. The Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which we cross to reach the lake, has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997. On the slopes of the thousand-year-old volcano: a lush tropical forest, narrow valleys, hot water springs and fresh water lakes. A three-hour walk, crossing dense forest one moment, ridges with wild, close-cropped vegetation the next. As you approach, you can admire boiling geysers. The water takes on ochre, white or black colours. Surprising and almost surrealistic.
Last day, and return to Martinique via the windward coast, which is superb and not very busy…
The same trip can easily be organised departing from Guadeloupe, allowing a nice additional stopover in the Saints…
No charter companies with catamarans locally. You will have to charter your boat in either Martinique or Guadeloupe. Many international flights to both these destinations (Air France - Air Caraïbes...)
Dominica benefits from a sub-tropical climate. It is hot all the year round (between 25 and 30°C) and the water temperature is always pleasant (between 26 and 28°C), but this green island, with a generous amount of sunshine, is also generously watered by showers...
Two seasons dominate: the dry season (from November to May) and the wet season (from June to October). You can of course sail here all the year round, even though you must be very careful during the hurricane season (especially from August to October)...
For EU residents, valid passport and return/continuation travel voucher. Identity card alone is accepted for French residents. A visa is delivered free of charge on arrival. The place of residence in Dominica is asked for by customs.
Official languages: English and Creole.
The currency in use is the East Caribbean Dollar, but the Euro is accepted everywhere with no problems (1 Euro = 3.37 ECD).
Not to be missed:
The island with 30 waterfalls and 365 rivers. A tropical forest covers two thirds of the island's area, and contains 1200 plant species. There are submerged volcanoes and considerable geothermal activity. You can also go to watch the whales which pass regularly offshore.
The local charter companies: there aren't any…so you will have to charter your catamaran in Martinique or Guadeloupe - Corail Caraïbes - Dream Yacht Charter - Punch Croisières - Star voyages - Regis Guillemot Charter...
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