Dominica will take your breath away

first_imgLocalNews Dominica will take your breath away by: – October 22, 2012 Share Share Tweet Sharecenter_img Sharing is caring! 17 Views   no discussions Fort Shirley in Cabrits National Park is the home of history and a beautiful view. Photo: Erin MacLeod.Narrow streets that lead to deep blue waters of a busy port. French and English spoken in equal doses. Bustling groups of tourists. Look behind you and there’s a green mountainside. It could be the Old Port. But it’s fall, and the temperatures are in the 30s, so this is certainly not Montreal.This is Dominica — pronounced “Doh-min-EE-ca” and not to be confused with the Dominican Republic. It’s an eastern Caribbean island that sits about halfway down the chain of islands, between Guadeloupe and Martinique.Its history includes a bit of French, a touch of English, roots in the Kalinago native peoples, African ancestry and a pile of Caribbean charm. I first visited the island as a guest of Discover Dominica, the island’s tourist authority. The island is such an appealing alternative to the all-inclusives that I made a return trip on my own.Dominica is not a big place — 754 square kilometres — but the majesty of its green mountains is evident from the moment you land. The ride from the airport provides the first taste of the gorgeous scenery and views. It takes just over an hour to arrive in the capital, Roseau, but it doesn’t seem that long, especially if you stop in one of the cassava cake bakeries in the Kalinago territory on the way. Bakers use the traditional method of grating the cassava, shaping it in a metal mould and baking it over a fire. The slightly sweet cakes are best eaten hot.The Kalinago territory is located on the northeastern side of the island and consists of 3,700 acres of land collectively owned by Dominica’s first people. Resisting European colonialism for hundreds of years, the Kalinago are one of the original peoples to populate the Caribbean. Today, their culture is a proud part of Dominican society.At the Barana Autê centre, 20 minutes from the airport, local guides explain the history and culture of the Kalinago, providing insight into the rich native history of the Caribbean and South America. And at the nearby Touna Kalinago Heritage Village, visitors are welcomed in to residents’ homes to learn about daily life, from sugarcane juice pressing to coconut oil processing. It is all part of Dominica’s community-based tourism efforts.Dominica’s past can also be found in living colour every February, when carnival fills the streets of towns across the island. Dominicans proudly refer to their carnival as “the real mas” (“mas” meaning masquerade). Many of the costumes reflect Kalinago culture, as well as Dominica’s African roots. If friendly islanders aren’t enough to encourage visitors to jump up and take part, the beats of homegrown calypsos surely will.But even if you miss the carnival in the streets, there is more than enough happening. Take a walk through Roseau’s historic craft market. It once held public meetings and slave auctions, but over the centuries has become a place to celebrate the arts and craft talent of Dominican people. It’s also a place to find spices, essential oils and hot pepper sauce.Fort Young, a former British military installation built in 1770, is a hotel with incredible views of the Roseau oceanfront, and walks around the centrally located hotel will take you to any number of small bars and cafés that serve fresh fish, a creamy coconut salt-fish stew called “sancoche” and Kabuli — the crisp and thirst-quenching local beer named for “Waitukubuli,” the Kalinago name for the country.Walking tours are a good way to see the sights. Whale-watching trips are available from some hotels in Roseau. Many of the whales in the vicinity have been studied and named by Canadian researchers from Dalhousie University. Another boat trip along the Indian River, located near Portsmouth, at the northern tip of the island, takes you to otherworldly places with deep turquoise green water and endless winding roots of mangrove trees. No wonder Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed here. And for those who like to take a peek under the water, Dominica is home to some of the best scuba diving in the region.But if you’d rather stay on land, there’s the 184 kilometres of the Waitukubuli National Trail. It is divided into 14 segments of varying difficulty, and covers a large part of the island. The first segment is a reasonable but challenging four hours with the reward of an incredible view of neighbouring Martinique. The last segment is less difficult, but takes about the same amount of time.After a long day of hiking, Dominicans will tell you the only thing to do is relax in the sulphur hot springs of Screw’s Spa, not far from Morne Trois Pitons National Park. Neighbours thought local Rastafarian Mr. Screw had a screw loose when he started digging big holes in his property, but the resulting spa is a series of intricately designed pools of varying temperatures, each perfectly integrated into the forest surroundings. Beautiful in the day and enchanting at night, a good soak will help any aching muscles.By Erin MacLeodMontreal Gazettelast_img