I am writing this blog in the midst of serious post-holiday blues. I returned from the Nature Isle last week after an amazing adventure, courtesy of Discover Dominica.
I spent a week exploring and experiencing the island with a small group and can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable weeks of my life.
I really can’t recommend Dominica enough as a destination. It has everything you could want from a Caribbean island and a lot more. Their is a wide range of accommodation styles to suit every budget and preference and enough activities to keep you busy for a couple of weeks.
The thing that I found so remarkable about the country and its dramatic landscape is how wonderfully green everything is. The island has recovered amazingly from the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The canopy is gone but an abundance of green lushness remains.
Nature has proved resilient and so have the people of Dominica. The Wicked Woman, Maria, destroyed many properties and livelihoods but everyone I met had a determination to not let the disaster define their island and to not allow Maria become an excuse to not push on and make Dominica even better.
I want to say a mahoosive thank you to Discover Dominica for inviting me and showing me the beauties of Dominica. My rambling thoughts on my week are below.
If you can’t be arsed to read (I won’t judge you) but still fancy knowing more about Dominica, get in touch. You can call me on 01912505548 or email me on Betty@theholidayvillage.com
We met at the airport, bright and early, to start of journey. I say bright and early, it was 8:00am which is early by my standards. We flew with British Airways so I spent most of the flight watching films and drinking free wine. Woohoo. There are no direct flights from the UK to Dominica so we flew to Antigua and then caught and short Liat flight to Dominica. Easy peasy.
Landing into Dominica airport was an experience in itself. There was just greenery everywhere you looked. It was beautiful, looking out the window to just see tress everywhere, and then suddenly, we’d landed. The runway just seemed to come from nowhere, we were in the trees and then we were on the tarmac.
Our transfer from the airport to our hotel in the capital, Roseau, took about an hour. There are worse ways to spend an hour than driving through the landscape of Dominica.
We checked into Fort Young Hotel which was our home for 4 nights. We enjoyed a Pina Colada or 2 over a leisurely dinner overlooking the sea and then it was time to call it a night and unpack.
My room was huuuge and overlooked the sea. I loved the massive bed and the massive balcony. Room was well equipped with a large bathroom with a shower over the bath, plenty of storage space and a decent sized fridge (which I soon filled with local beer).
I woke up super early (this time I actually mean early, 5;00amish) and started the day with a cup of tea on the balcony. I called reception to see what time the pool opened and received the happy, happy news that it never closes. Get in!
The gang met up for a pre-breakfast swim and hot tub session and after a quick shower and change filled up on grub (beans on toast, plantain and a glass of tangerine juice for me, not my usual breakfast) ready for our first full day exploring Dominica.
First stop, Emerald Pool for a swim in a pool by a waterfall. Lovely. Somehow, the fact that it pissed it down for 5 minutes whilst we swam made it even better.
After we eventually dried off, we headed for the Kalinago territory where we learnt about the culture and history of the indigenous people of Dominica, known as the Kalinago or Caribs.
Then on on, time for lunch and a tour of Pagua Bay. This intimate property is made up of just 6 ‘cabanas and suites so it is ideal for a romantic, secluded getaway. We dined (and drank!) at the pool side restaurant. I can highly recommend the tacos and the Pina Coladas.
On the way back, we passed a place offering river tubing and persuaded our very patient driver Beno to stop so we could give it a go. We spent an hour floating along in giant rubber rings with a local guide helping us navigate the faster parts and rescuing when we ended up stuck in the mangroves in slower sections. The views as we floated along were spectacular. Towards the end of our ultimate lazy river experience, the river tubing company dog decided to join us. He leapt from ring to ring, standing on us all and wagging his tail madly. This was one of the most surreal things I’ve experienced, floating along a river in Dominica, sharing a rubber ring with a dog named Happy.
We finished off the day with dinner in Roseau and an early(-ish) night.
We thought we were starting the day with a swim in Freshwater Lake. Boy were we wrong. What was actually planned for us was an hour long hike around the lake. Christ on a cracker. What an experience. The views were stunning, or so I have been told. I was too busy watching where I was placing my feet to take much in. This was my first proper hike and what a hike it was. More of a climb really. The ups were fine, the downs, not so much.
Looking back at the pictures, I think I was being somewhat melodramatic at the time and there probably was no need for me to swear anywhere near as much as I did! The hike is definitely something I would recommend if you want amazing panoramic views and an active experience. Just make sure you’re dressed appropriately and aren’t wearing flip flops like one of our party was! (I was in trainers, thank feck!)
By the end of the hike my legs were utterly covered in mud. (The guy in flip flops was miraculously clean!) Thankfully, we were headed for some water so I could clean myself up. We went to Titou Gorge, which you’ll recognise from Pirates of The Caribbean 2. In fact, most of the film was shot in Dominica so give it a watch!
We swam through the gorge to the small waterfall at the end. The water was freezing but I really didn’t mind because I was a sweaty mess after that hike.
After a quick dry off in the sun we visited Trafalgar Falls (awful lot of waterfalls in Dominica) which is great for photo opportunities.
After lunch we visited the site of Jungle Bay, a resort due to open in June 2019. It is going to be crackalacking! The resort is very much focused on eco-tourism, wellness and experiences. They’ll be offering a Jungle Wellness Adventure Packages which will include accommodation in an eco-villa, local organic meals and fresh juices, daily beginner’s yoga classes, and daily activities and hikes. Activities will includes things like kayaking, Caribbean cooking classes and walking tours. To help you unwind after so much adventure, the package also includes a daily 3 minute spa treatment. Lush!
After the jam packed morning we had an afternoon at leisure, a couple of the gang went for a snorkel off the pier at Fort Young Hotel, a couple of us less active people (that means me!) went to explore the bars in Roseau, purely for research purposes of course. I can report back after a thorough investigation that the bars are good and the local beer, Kubuli, is excellente.
Today we visited Roseau Farmer’s Market and had a walking tour of the compact capital. I loved browsing the market stalls and managed to buy myself a much needed moisturising lip balm made with local ingredients. Roseau itself is easy to explore and well worth doing, though I had visited much of it the afternoon before via various bars.
Once we’d finished our city tour it was time to visit a couple of hotels, starting at Sunset Bay. This simple but friendly hotel offers Bed and Breakfast and All Inclusive options in a picturesque location. The hotel offers a dive centre and can also help arrange tours and excursions.
Lunch was at Tamarind Tree followed by a tour of the resort. This place is an adventurers paradise, offering high quality accommodation and hiking packages, diving packages and an ‘Explorer’ package which includes meals, drinks and daily activities. In November, Tamarind Tree won an award for their work in restoring part of the Waitukubuli National Trail, which was damaged in Hurricane Maria. It was evident upon meeting Annette who runs the property that she has a genuine passion for Dominica and helping it thrive.
We rounded off our day with a boat trip along the Indian River, which again, you’ll recognise from Pirates 2. I was surprised and delighted to find that there is a tiny bar on the river bank. It was bizarre and wonderful to be able to stop and enjoy a Kubuli in such an unusual spot.
Dinner was lowkey, we spotted a BBQ place at the side of the road and pulled in. I had spicy potato salad and a cold beer, everyone else had BBQ chicken. That is something I absolutely loved about Dominica, the abundance of casual places to eat, drink and socialise.
Today was the best day of the trip for me. I got to tick something massive (quite literally) off my bucket list by going whale watching! First things first though. We started the day by visiting Secret Bay, which has recently re-opened. This luxury eco-resort offers something really special.
Each of the 6 luxury villas comes with a private plunge pool and a personal villa attendant to make your stay perfect. Every detail of his resort has been meticulously thought out. From the bespoke dining options to private concerts, everything is possible here. I loved this property, we all did. We could’ve quite happily sat in the restaurant, admiring the views all day.
But we didn’t. Because we had whale watching to do! What a trip. I knew that the chance of spotting whales on a excursion is around 90%, even higher in peak season (November to March) but I was still worried that we wouldn’t see any.
We saw loads. It was 9 or 10, we lost count. At one point, there were so many sperm whales around the boat that I din’t know which direction to look in. This was great actually because it meant that there was no crowding or having to elbow anyone in the face to get in position to take a good photo. We were even lucky enough to see a mother and baby whale together.
After whale watching and a sunset Pina Colada we checked in to our new accommodation for the final 3 nights, Picard Beach Cottages. When I return to Dominica, I think I’ll stay at these cottages. I had a cute, beachfront cottage which was equipped with a kitchenette/living.dining room and a separate bedroom with ensuite bathroom.
My cottage was literally steps from the sea. I loved it. I loved being so close to the sea and I also liked where the property itself was located near Portsmouth, within walking distance of supermarkets and a a selection of restaurants.
Today was super chilled. The morning started with a visit to the site of the new Kempinski hotel which is due to open in November 2019. It looks like it’s going to be fantastico. I think it’s a great thing for the island that a hotel of this size (approx 150 rooms) is opening. I think it will really benefit the local economy and other, smaller properties by increasing Dominica’s reputation for tourism and hopefully attracting more visitors.
We spent the afternoon at nearby Cabrits National Park and visited Fort Shirley and enjoyed a tour courtesy of Dr Lennox Honeychurch who was able to tell us all about the history of the place.
The afternoon was spent mostly in the sea with a kubuli in hand, followed by a casual dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Our last full day! Boo! It was a really lovely way to end our jam-packed trip. We spent the morning with the amazing ‘Dr Birdy’, a bird and nature expert who took us through the Syndicate Nature Trail, with regular stops to look at native plants, hummingbirds, stick insects and more. At one point Dr Birdy stopped to pluck some grapefruit for us all to eat. It doesn’t get fresher than that!
We ended our day with, strangely enough, a meal at a Chinese restaurant before heading back to our cottages to pack our things and start to feel glum about having to leave the following day.
I miss you Dominica. It was a blast.