Highs and Lows on the Nature Island of DominicaAuthor: soliteyah (More Trip Reviews by soliteyah)
Date of Trip: December 2009
Afterward we toured the teeny little Dominica Museum (don't go in there hoping for air conditioning -- you will be disappointed), which had a few interesting exhibits about the geological and cultural history of Dominica.
And then it was back to the botanical gardens to climb to the top of Morne Bruce, where there used to be some sort of garrison. The climb only took 15-20 minutes or so and the trail was mostly shaded, but it was about 90 degrees out and incredibly humid, and the trail was all uphill. SO and I were drenched in sweat about five minutes in. There were a ton of lizards of various sizes (some as long as a foot!) along the trail, skittering up and down the hills and across the path.
The sweaty walk was worth it for the views from the top of the hill. There was a large cross/monument there as well as a cannon (the remains of the garrison), overlooking some spectacular views of the city and the Caribbean Sea. There was a bit of a breeze stirring up there too, which helped the cause.
Going back down was infinitely easier, and it wasn't long before we were back at the Garraway. We did a quick (and free!) internet check in the hotel's business center, with has a computer for guest use Monday through Friday.
We ate dinner that night next door at the Fort Young Hotel, on the lovely second-floor veranda overlooking the water. It was one of our best meals: crabback appetizer (a spicy Creole crab mix stuffed in a crab shell), pasta primavera for SO (creamy and delicious), mahi mahi for me (with rice and veggies), and passionfruit creme brulee for dessert (sadly not quite as good as it sounded). It was pricey but not too ridiculous, especially for the lovely setting.
We got up early this morning to call around to various dive shops; we were hoping to take a snorkeling trip down around Scotts Head in the southwestern part of the island. We ended up going from the Fort Young Hotel with Dive Dominica, which left around 8:30 a.m. and cost $35 US for each of us (it was a half-day tour). Most of the folks on the boat were divers, but there was one other guy who snorkeled with us. The two dive masters onboard chose two diving sites based on the clarity of the water and the quality of the site for both divers AND snorkelers. (We "kiddie poolers" appreciated the consideration!)
Our first stop was the Scotts Head Drop-Off (according to my guidebook), which was pretty cool -- several types of coral plus a decent selection of fish. We had about 45 minutes there, then went around the corner to Scotts Head Point, which was even better -- tons of sea fans, healthier-looking and more colorful coral, more varieties of fish, etc. We could also get a lot closer to the coral and fish at this site, and the drop-off to the deeper sea was quite dramatic. We had an hour there.
Back in Roseau, we ate lunch at Cocorico's again and then wandered around the waterfront in search of souvenirs. No dice ... everything was tacky and touristy, and nothing seemed to actually be made in Dominica! Sad.
We had dinner that night at the restaurant in the Garraway. We were pleasantly surprised by how good our main dish was (tuna with tropical fruit salsa, accompanied by a corn cake that tasted like a hash brown and a bunch of grilled veggies). And the coconut ice cream for dessert was divine.
We visited another popular tourist site this morning: Trafalgar Falls. The parking lot was just as crammed as the one at Emerald Pool, and the little visitor center was bursting at the seams with people. Ugh. The trail to the viewing platform was very easy, but the view -- of the "mother" and "father" waterfalls -- was excellent; these were probably the prettiest falls we saw.
We escaped the bulk of the crowd by scrambling out onto the large boulders near the foot of the mother falls. The climb was a little precipitous over slick rocks, but the views and fresh air were worht it ... at least until one of the guides motioned all of us off the rocks. Apparently there's danger of flash flooding there, so we withdrew as directed.
It was only 11 when we finished up at the falls, so we drove a minute or two downhill to the Papillote Wilderness Retreat, a lovely little eco resort with lush gardens and a restaurant. We took a guided tour of the gardens, which was a relaxing way to spend an hour. Our guide, Evelyn, pointed out dozens of flowers and plants and herbs -- bromeliads, ginger flowers, heliconias, tree ferns, calabash, papaya, cinnamon trees, cacao, coriander, verbene, etc etc. It was nice to get more of an appreciation for all the flora we'd seen already on the trip. The resort also had great hot spring baths, which looked like a relaxing place for a dip!
The tour was followed by a really tasty lunch. We both ordered the "local lunch special," which was baked chicken, macaroni and cheese, beans, and salad. Possibly the best part was the fresh passionfruit juice, so delicious! We were the only ones in the restaurant (which was outdoors and overlooked the beautiful green surroundings), even though van after van passed by en route to/from Trafalgar Falls.
We headed back to Roseau via Wotten Waven, which is supposedly a "wellness" village. (There are hot springs and sulfur spas here that are supposedly good for health.) It looked pretty but we passed quickly on through, neither of us being much interested in spas.
We decided to drive down to Scotts Head for the afternoon. The ride down the coast from Roseau was the usual mess of potholes, twists and turns, one-lane stretches, and towns full of chickens, dogs, parked cars and people in the road. But the views when we finally reached the southern tip of the island were worth the drive. We drove through Scotts Head village (which was very colorful, with lots of fishing boats tied up in the sea) and out onto the thin strip of land separating the Caribbean from the Atlantic. There we parked the car on the rocky beach and followed a short path up the hill to Cachacrou, where we got some really nice views of the village, the sea, and all the way up the coast to the cruise ship in Roseau.
We sat on the Caribbean side for 20 minutes or so, perched on a rock with our feet dangling in the calm water. SO enjoyed checking out the little snails and crabs on the mossy rocks, while I just sat and enjoyed the view, the shade and the warm water.
We had our final dinner at the Fort Young Hotel again. I ordered the vegetarian special (stuffed christophine with a side order of spinach and broccoli), while SO went big with a shrimp dish that came out steaming and sizzling on an iron skillet. Both were yummy, as was the tall dish of coconut ice cream for dessert.
We checked out of the Garraway and drove across the island to the east coast and the Kalinago Barana Aute, a traditional native village by the sea. The scenery as we drove along the Atlantic coast was spectacular. The Kalinago village wasn't large, but it had a lovely setting and the traditional buildings were very cool to see. We were shown around the grounds by a Kalinago tour guide. (Don't call them Caribs -- that's what Columbus called them, from the word for cannibal. Apparently the Kalinago worshiped their ancestors; when they died, their bones were put out into the sun, then brought back to their houses to worship. Columbus saw the bones and thought the Kalinago ate people. Oops!)
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