Exploring Dominica's vibrant capital plus snorkeling at famed Champagne Reef.
Snapshots from the picture-perfect seaside town of Soufrière, Dominica.
Six hours and 14 miles later, we survived the hike to Dominica's Boiling Lake, the second largest in the world.
Some thoughts from our experience exploring Dominica's Macoucherie Rum Factory.
Day one in Dominica, exploring Trafalgar Falls, the Emerald Pool and zipping around the southern part of the island.
In 2009, I embarked on a journey. I left my home in California to begin graduate school in the UK and at that moment, life changed. Since that time, I have had an amazing opportunity to see the world, meet incredible and inspiring people, and enjoy experiences that I never thought possible. As you’ll see from my experiences, it doesn’t take a lot of money, just some planning, a bit of flexibility and willingness to take everything – even the one-star hotels in Istanbul — as an exciting learning experience….
After our day of hiking on Friday, we decided to stretch our legs a bit less intensely on Saturday by exploring Roseau, Dominica’s capital city. Set on the island’s western coast, Roseau is home to a bustling market on Saturday mornings where you can purchase fresh fish, homegrown fruits and vegetables, or grab grilled plantains and breadfruit from local street vendors. With no cruise ships in the port, the vibe is mostly local; we were two of a handful of visitors exploring the area.
Even on an average low-key Saturday, Roseau provides a captivating backdrop melding distinctly Caribbean, European and African flair. We’d walk by an old building that could easily be set in a charming Italian town only to bump into a burst of vibrant Caribbean colors next to it: green, yellow and red-painted doors allowing entry to a restaurant serving up local BBQ. If we had a kitchen in our hotel room or had been staying in a villa, this would have been a perfect opportunity to stock up on fresh produce and fish for the week. We purchased grilled plantains and sampled breadfruit from a roadside BBQ stand; two plantains set us back $1 EC.
On Saturday, after our time exploring vibrant Roseau and snorkeling in Champagne Reef (more on that later!), we headed to the postcard-perfect town of Soufrière, en route to Scott’s Head. Many locals had recommended the area for snorkeling, but we ended up just taking in the scenery, astounded by the natural beauty of this little coastal town. Soufrière is a village on the southwest coast of Dominica with a population of less than 1500. We drove by fisherman preparing their nets and children splashing in the water. In some ways the town reminded me of the Amalfi Coast, with candy-colored homes built into the cliffside and stunning views of the sea below. We were mesmerized from the moment we began driving in – beautiful vistas and sweeping views of the town below.
We had read about Rodney’s Wellness Retreat and happened upon it while driving through the town of Soufriere. We went in for lunch and felt like we had stumbled into an oasis. This space is so much more than a restaurant; it’s a campsite, it’s a garden space, it’s a resting place. In truth, it’s difficult to define. We ate lunch at a table for two under a cashew tree while the owner/chef made up a custom lunch for us (there’s no menu). There were tents popped up across the way from us available for rent for budget or adventure travelers looking for an incredible eco-friendly experience within Dominica. The tents – single or double occupancy – can be rented for $100 EC per night (a little over $37 per night for two people). Like the rest of the island, Rodney’s is lush, and is home to mango, papaya, grapefruit, cashew, orange, lime and lemon trees among others. As someone mentioned to us, one of the incredible things about Dominica is that plant life thrives in the nutrient-rich environment. If a tomato seed falls to the soil, a fruit-bearing plant will undoubtedly sprout in a short period of time. If you’re in Soufriere, this place is a must, whether just for lunch or for an entire afternoon of lazing in a hammock.
xoxo from the islands,
It was 7:15AM and we were in front of Jungle Bay’s activity center, picking our walking sticks for the day’s adventure. We were heading to the Boiling Lake and had enlisted the help of a resort guide to help us navigate the notoriously extreme trek. From our experience in Saba, we knew walking sticks, which we previously dismissed as an accessory for avid Austrian hikers, were a must.
Judy, our guide for the day, worked for Jungle Bay and originally hailed from New Hampshire. After years in the Peace Corps based in Dominica, she began leading tours with Jungle Bay last December. We never asked her age, but she’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 years old and more active than Scott and I combined. This woman, who had hiked the Boiling Lake around a dozen times, was a snowboarding and skiing instructor for over twenty years, plus an aerobics instructor and a yoga teacher. She was about 90 pounds and she was about to kick our asses. Read More
During our first day in Dominica – the same day that we visited Trafalgar Falls, the Emerald Pool and Mero Beach – we also made a pit stop at the Macoucherie Rum Factory, a destination that I thought would be a good way to balance the otherwise health and wellness-focused getaway. A lady that we spoke with at lunch prefaced our tour of the rum factory by gently letting us know that we shouldn’t expect a distillery a la Martinique, but rather a local, old-fashioned production center. We were a quick five-minute drive away so we were up for a visit, regardless of the outcome.
Armed with the new knowledge that the distillery was non-descript, we spotted the small sign designating the entrance into the factory. We were the only car in sight and had apparently come after the standard tour times. Still, one gentleman – the wearer of all hats and jack-of-all-trades in the organization – kindly gave us a tour. If you’re planning on doing the tour, don’t let the less-than-friendly receptionist put you off from the get-go. The rest of the people that we came in contact with were welcoming and knowledgeable. For $3 each, we were on our way to learn about rum production in Dominica. Read More
We landed in Dominica on Wednesday night after a quick (albeit delayed) one-hour flight from St. Maarten on Winair. We were headed to Jungle Bay, on Dominica’s Southeastern side, about a two hour drive from Melville Hall Airport. The roads were dark, the night was crisp and I was dozing in and out while we journeyed to our cottage, zipping by the National Park, Kalinago Territory and small villages along the way. When we arrived at our hotel, somewhere between 10 and 11PM, we quickly fell asleep to the scent of Bay Oil and the sound of the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the beach outside of our bungalow.
Neither Scott nor I had been to Dominica, so we tempered our somewhat ambitious goals with managed expectations. We bound ourselves to a no alarm rule during the trip (sans one notable day), sleeping in until the sun woke us through our windows. We woke up on our first day at around 7:30AM, too late for me to join Jungle Bay’s morning yoga class, but early enough for us to fuel with a healthy morning meal and get a good start on the day. After breakfast to kick-start our morning, we headed to the lobby to retrieve our rental car, a two-door RAV4 with 220,000 miles on it – perfect for getting through the rugged terrain of the island while still small enough to zip around the tight corners fairly easily.
We set off, map in hand and iPhone compass at the ready to help us explore the island. I’d read tales about the potholes in Dominica’s roads being big enough to practically swallow a small goat. That’s only a slight exaggeration. The roads are windy and narrow – sometimes big enough for a single car, and dodging the potholes is like playing a game of Mario Kart. Throw in left hand driving with a right hand drive car and people naturally get a little intimidated about exploring solo. Still, there are so few other cars on the roads that it’s not as horrendous as it may sound. Plus, you’ll have the ability to really get to know the island and what it offers – it’s extremely spread out and even by road it’s not overly well connected. Read More
Our bags are packed and we’re jetting off tonight to explore one of our fellow Caribbean islands, Dominica. Bearing the nickname Nature Island, Dominica is a stark contrast to the white beaches and flat topography of Anguilla. When we initially began our planning for a mid-season getaway (see here), we had heavily debated between St. Lucia, Dominica and Nevis. After surveying fellow island residents, the clear winner was Dominica. We wanted an island that felt worlds away; that offered something totally different from Anguilla (e.g. Turks & Caicos wasn’t even a consideration). At the same time, we preferred something a little more raw, and perhaps a little less touristed. Without a doubt, Dominica fit the bill. Dominica is a veritable jungle; covered in green and home to a palpable health and wellness scene. They’ve been designated as one of the ‘world’s most ethical countries‘ and boast incredible initiatives to move towards wind and solar energy as a part of their sustainability mission. I’ll be taking part in morning yoga sessions while we’re on the island, plus we’ve identified a slew of hikes that have piqued our interest.
We booked a total of four full days in Dominica, giving us enough time to explore without being away for too long. After doing some research and reading reviews from fellow bloggers, we quickly discovered that four days in Dominica barely scratches the surface of the island. Four days anywhere doesn’t really scratch the surface, but there are typically stand out itinerary items that come to the fore. With this getaway, I find myself still trying to prioritize the places I want to see and experience during our time on the island. In part, we hope that advice from the staff at Jungle Bay Resort will help guide our journey. Here’s what we’ve put on our priority list — we’re hoping to create an itinerary that allows us to experience all of these things during four short days.
1Dominica’s Boiling Lake, the world’s second largest, is perhaps one of the most famous sites on the island. Second in size only to New Zealand’s Frying Pan Lake, the lake is a flooded fumarole within Dominica’s Morne Trois Pitons National Park. To get to the lake, one must embark on a strenuous hike — around 8 miles round trip — that by most accounts takes around 6 – 8 hours depending on your pace. While most who have done the hike have remarked on how difficult it is (lots of steps, muddy terrain, etc.), nearly everyone has mentioned the hike being worth the sore muscles afterwards. In this case, it’s not just the destination that’s worth the experience, the entire hike takes visitors through stunning greenery with incredible views. In planning our trip, we’re allocating a whole day for this experience, with a massage to follow!
Guest post by Steve Ewins
Mykonos Panormos Villas
We travel for a number of reasons. Some of us travel just to get away from it all, some of us travel in search of new friendships and adventure, and some travel for the sites and the history. Whatever our reason for traveling, almost all of us try to take beautiful pictures of the places we’ve been to as a way of capturing and sharing our experiences. Heading to Greece? If you haven’t found your inner photographer already, here are some of the best places in the land of gods and mythology to help unleash the photographer in you. Brace yourself because your Flickr or Instagram feed aren’t going to know what hit them.
1No matter what time of day you get your camera out and start shooting, the Greek capital provides an endless landscape of natural resources mingled with temples and ruins ensuring that your compositions will never be dull. Why not take a walk up to the Acropolis in the evening or at nighttime to try a couple of shots of the city from a slight aerial perspective? The Acropolis itself is worth a few shots as well especially if it’s a bright sunny day, a sure thing in this part of the world. Other ruins scattered around the entire city such as the temple dedicated to Zeus, the god of thunder, will keep you trigger happy for the rest of your stay.
2If nature and limestone buildings tend to rock your boat more than anything else look no further than Kefalonia, an island in the Ionian see. Get on a boat and visit some of the coastal caves or the more remote beaches. Take your zoom lens — or your underwater casing if you’ve got one! — and you might be able to capture one of the loggerhead turtles, an endangered species the island is most famous for. Read More
Newsflash: you can’t fly direct from Nairobi to St. Maarten. To get home from Kenya, we had a scheduled connection in London and then in New York before making our way back to the Caribbean. There was no way we were going to pass through London without stopping to explore. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you probably know that I started documenting my life through this platform when I knew that I was moving to London. It marked my first international move, the beginning of a distinct period of my life, and the moments when my wanderlust was first truly ignited. London is, and always will be, an incredibly special city for me; incomparable in many ways.
We had to have at least a handful of hours in the city based on flight schedules so we chose to stretch out our layover in London and give ourselves an entire day (6:30AM to 6:30PM) to explore. Our original plan was to be in London on a Saturday, the most perfect day to be in this city for all of the things that I had planned. As fate and terrible flight mishaps would have it, our day in London was postponed until Sunday when many of the items on our loose itinerary didn’t exist. As a note for anyone that has a Saturday in London, my original itinerary included starting at one of my favorite markets, Borough Market, south of the river. It also included a stop in Westminster Abbey for a requisite tour (I’ve gone on this tour twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times – I thought it would be a solid dose of history for our day). Sadly, Borough Market isn’t open on Sunday and Westminster Abbey is closed to tours as they offer services.
Thursday marked the last full day on the coast for Scott and I, and was also his mom’s official birthday. We’d gotten out on the Indian Ocean on Wednesday for a morning of deep sea fishing (you can read about my catch here) and were planning on spending another day in the water on Thursday. This time, we were headed north, past Watamu to Malindi where we were going to snorkel at Malindi Marine National Park. I had read on numerous sites that the snorkeling in Malindi was pretty spectacular so I was excited to take a dip and see what existed below the surface.
We arrived at the marine park, where they collected an entrance fee and charged a fixed rate to allow us to rent a boat (and guide) for the morning. Ali, a local fisherman, was our captain for the day, and took us out beyond the reef to take a dip. Snorkels and fins on, we jumped in.
My experiences with marine preserves haven’t been the most awe-inspiring. I had relatively high hopes about the snorkeling in Kenya but I tried to manage my expectations. When we pulled up to our snorkeling spot in a glass bottom boat, there were schools of fish surrounding the small wooden vessel. When Ali through out pieces of bread, brightly colored varieties — neon almost — were quick to jump up and grab a bite. The sheer number of fish was mesmerizing. Read More