Where The Wild Things Are – Dominica

IMG_1616 copyIf there were a candidate for the Garden of Eden, Dominica (pronounced Dom-i-Knee-ka) would top the list I reckon. Wild, stunning and bursting with life, it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

The view from the front porch

The view from the front porch

The island was originally populated by the native Caribs, whose descendants still live in part of the island. It was colonized by the French in the 1700’s and later taken over by the British. Since 1978 it’s been independent but with its history of slavery and colonization it’s a fascinating microcosm of cultures, with most locals being bilingual in French and English.

local kids having sunday fun on the dock

local kids having sunday fun on the dock

Because of its relative under-development there were issues in the past with petty crime and theft against visiting yachts. Thankfully this is now greatly improved with the efforts of the local ‘boat boys’ who’ve formed themselves into an organized group called PAYS (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services). They each have their own boat with their name brightly painted on the side, and one of them will come out to greet you as you enter the anchorage in Portsmouth, helping you pick up a mooring if that’s want you want, or organizing tours, laundry, garbage and any other needs. They are all, without question, delightful and helpful, with wonderfully quirky names like Lawrence of Arabia, Eric Spaghetti, Uncle Sam and Andrew Cobra.

Alexis, one of the many yacht helpers in Portsmouth

Alexis, one of the many yacht helpers in Portsmouth

Our yacht helper was Jerome, working for the Cobra group. We decided to take a mooring to support the good work they do, and at US$10 per night it’s pretty reasonable. Jerome also offered to go to customs to clear us in – as the customs building was way down the end of the bay we gladly accepted his offer, expecting to have to pay for the service, but he never charged us. Maybe it was a good ploy, because we ended up doing two tours with them.

The stunning mountains of Dominica

The stunning mountains of Dominica

Our first tour was a day-long trip around the northern end of the island, with our tour guide Uncle Sam, and a young Englishwoman from another yacht. It became a bit of a botanical extravaganza, with Uncle Sam pointing out all the different fruit trees – grapefruit, papaya, breadfruit, soursop, plantain, guava. Everything and anything seems to grow here, including coffee beans and cocoa which are a major export item. Every now and then Sam would stop the car and disappear into the bushes, only to return with handfuls of wild herbs for us. It became a bit of a game of “guess what he’s collecting now” but we were all stumped when he started carving bits of bark off a tree. Turns out it was a cinnamon tree, so I now have two very handsome pieces of cinnamon bark, in addition to a big bunch of lemongrass (which has made delicious lemongrass tea), basil and two types of bay leaves.

my wonderful wild herbs courtesy of Uncle Sam

my wonderful wild herbs courtesy of Uncle Sam

We also hiked for a short way to have a refreshing swim at the Chaudiere Pool,

The big splash was Sam jumping in from the rocks - just missed him!

The big splash was Sam jumping in from the rocks – just missed him!

stopped for lunch on the Atlantic side of the island,

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with Charlie, our english companion from another yacht

The wild atlantic side of the island
The wild atlantic side of the island

and then returned via the volcanic crater to see (and smell!) the cold sulpher springs still bubbling away. On our return through the mountains we passed through lots of small villages – Sam seemed to know everyone, lots of smiles and waving. One group that he stopped to chat to were celebrating the recent electoral victory by barbecuing a possum and drinking rum!

The cold sulpher springs - very smelly, we didn't stay long!

The cold sulpher springs – very smelly, we didn’t stay long!

The next day we spent working on the boat, installing our booster wifi antenna at the top of the mast. Several long, hot hours later it was in place but it was hard work for Bruce being thrown around by the swell coming into the anchorage (and hard work for me winching him up to the top). So the following day we relaxed and went on the Indian River tour with Roy, our rower and guide.

Roy, one cool dude!

Roy, one cool dude!

This is an amazing, magical river with huge bloodwood trees making a canopy over the water, their intricate roots looking like something out of a film set.

Bloodwood trees in Indian River

Bloodwood trees in Indian River

In fact, this was the setting for one or more scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3, and Calypso’s hut is still there adding to the spooky atmosphere.

Calypso's hut, Indian River

Calypso’s hut, Indian River

the mysterious and magical Indian River

the mysterious and magical Indian River

At the end of the navigable part of the river (approximately 1 mile) the Cobra group have installed a bar where we stopped to sample the local rum cocktail Dynamite.

The bar in Indian River with pretty tropical garden

The bar in Indian River with pretty tropical garden

While we were enjoying our drinks, Roy constructed a little souvenir for the ladies on the boat, a beautiful little palm leaf weaving complete with hibiscus flower. How gorgeous!

My souvenir from Indian River

My souvenir from Indian River

That night we attended a beach barbeque put on for cruisers by PAYS, one of their regular fundraising ventures. It was a fun night with the rum punch flowing and the opportunity to meet other cruisers from around the world.

More Indian river shots

More Indian river shots

We loved our time in Dominica – the people were exceptionally friendly and laid back, even down to the fruit seller Christian who rowed his little boat around the anchorage with his greeting of “Welcome to Paradise”. It was indeed, and we would have loved to stay longer and see more of this beautiful Island, but we needed to press on. But there is a little bit of our hearts that will always remain in the Nature Island.

The east coast of the Nature Island

The east coast of the Nature Island

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10 Responses to Where The Wild Things Are – Dominica

  1. Joe says:

    Hi Guys! Especially living vicariously through you on our first snowy day! Your photos and descripts are gorgeous. Certainly looks like the land of milk and honey! I’ll share your news with John. Should you require any photos of the snowy marina……:). Hope you had a wonderful Christmas season.
    Joe (Nap Town)

    • svtadmin says:

      Hey Joe, great to hear from you. Sounds like it might be time to settle in with some movies and all that popcorn we left you:) would love to see some photos of the snowy marina! Stay well and best regards from us both

  2. Michael Chamberlain says:

    Happy New Year to you both! What a fabulous island Dominica seems to be – hope you have similarly beautiful stop-overs ahead!
    December was wonderful for us – nearly 200mm of rain, and a lovely Christmas with all our family and Margaret’s (23 adults and Paddy!)
    This year has started with a bang. Big thunderstorm last night which gave us another 28mm. The place is looking great, with feed everywhere!
    Lots of love, Michael

    • svtadmin says:

      Thanks Michael – happy new year to you lot too!! Glad you finally circumvented the firefox problem, we’ll try and put up the fix for it for others who may want to comment. glad to hear the rains have come – we could also send you some from here, it seems to rain quite a bit! lots of love to you all xx

  3. Chris Lester says:

    Have a great Christmas Day wherever you are! Will raise a glass to you both at lunch time. Family lunch today at Paul & Jill’s then seeing Anne and her family on Sunday. All ok here and weather not too bad – it has actually stopped raining for a while!

    All my love to you both
    Chris xxxx

    • svtadmin says:

      Thanks Chris! Sorry we’ve been unable to do xmas cards this year, but much love to you all and hope you’ve had a great family time together. lots of love from both of us xx

  4. Ross Trembath says:

    Hi Di and Bruce,
    We have just been catching up with your amazing adventures as we sit here in LA awaiting a crowded Qantas flight full of excited Aussies heading home for Christmas.
    We love the blog and all the stories. We left Wend and Graeme a few days ago in Armenia, the coffee region of Colombia as they headed off to meet you.
    We have had the most incredible time away in the US, Colombia and of course Sim and Natalia’s wedding was simply awesome ….. the Wedding of the decade possibly…the Colombians sure know how to throw a fiesta!
    Colombia is a fabulous surprise packet, gorgeous people, stunning & diverse scenery, colour, music and great food , hospitality and fun at every turn.
    We left Cartagena yesterday on the edge of the Caribbean so we feel we had a taste of your Toucan adventures ….lots to catch up on and notes to compare. It has been a very hectic whirlwind over the last 6 weeks but we will post some photos on our return.
    Happy Christmas & best wishes for an exciting 2015 to the Toucan family & friends.

    Love from Ross and Jan

    • svtadmin says:

      Ross & Jan, sounds like a wonderful time was had by all! We’re looking forward to exploring Cartagena too. Hope you guys had a fabulous Christmas, we’ve loved having Wendy & Graeme with us but sadly the time has gone far too quickly. All the best for a wonderful year ahead, love from us both xx

  5. Rosemary Malone says:

    All I can say is wow, and wow! Such a perfect stop over in such an amazing place. Living the dream you are! x Happy Christmas! xx

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