Our impressions of Dominica were different than many visitors would have, because we were there both to sightsee and to do business. If the negotiations had worked out (they didn't) we might have had to live there for a while … so we looked at the country as both tourists and potential residents.
The people of Dominica
Dominica and its people were both delightful. Dominicans are easy to understand because they speak clear English, with a semi-British accent. The British culture has worn off on them a bit because it was a British colony until 1978.
Although they are descended from escaped slaves and dark-skinned, not once during our 10-day visit were we ever treated differently because of our skin color. It seems they don't have the same color-consciousness we've encountered in the U.S.
They're very friendly and family oriented. But because Dominica has few natural resources apart from its beauty, good-paying jobs are hard to come by and they work hard for every penny.
Yes, they work. We could never say that they are a lazy people. If they see an opportunity they'll take it. (You should see what the town is like when a cruise ship is in port!)
Tip: To avoid sounding uneducated, remember to call the country Dom-in-EEK-a, not Do-MIN-i-ka.
The country of Dominica itself
Stunning, absolutely stunning. And the saying is true: Dominica is so untouched, it's the only Caribbean island that Columbus would still recognize. That is probably the main reason two Pirates of the Caribbean movies were filmed there.
Its Atlantic side is lush and green, with dramatic cliffs and picturesque beaches.
Because mountains run down its middle (it's a volcanic island) the Atlantic side gets a lot more rain (and hurricanes) than the Caribbean side. For that very reason, years ago the Brits relegated the Carib indians to a spot on that side of the island. On the other hand, the Caribbean (western) side, where its capital Roseau lies, is hotter and drier, and its beaches are rocky, not sandy.
What we loved
- The good internet.
- The incredibly friendly people.
- Visiting the Carib territory and seeing a handmade dugout canoe drying by the side of the road.
- Never worried about our safety.
- Seeing fruit trees growing everywhere.
- Dominica Botanic Gardens in Roseau.
- Mountains, desert, hot springs, waterfalls, rivers, oceans; an untouched island, just begging to be explored.
- The brilliant Caribbean sunsets seen from the hotel's rooftop terrace.
- The owners of Calibishie Lodges who catered to our every whim.
- Swimming in water pure enough to bottle straight from the river.
- Seeing a map of all Dominica's incredible diving spots.
- Snorkeling in the bubbly water at Champagne Beach was like being in a glass of champagne.
- There's a fabulous section of road between Roseau and Scott's Head that's better than 99% of any highway in the US (courtesy of Hugo Chavez).
What we didn't like
- It's hard to get there.
- The pockmarked roads.
- Roseau, the capital city, is small and there's not much for a tourist to do in town.
- Roseau is roasting hot, even in October.
- The poverty, which is not helped by the fact that most products and food are imported so prices are crazy-high.
- Apart from the ones in hotels, few restaurants are open in the evenings.
Worth a visit?
Absolutely, especially if you're a diver or eco-tourist. You can't beat it if you love nature, hiking, photography, snorkeling or diving. It's got everything from cloud forests to deserts, mountains to beaches.
The down side is that you'll lose a couple of days of your vacation time in getting there, because there are currently no direct flights from the U.S. mainland.
There is also a ferry from St. Lucia.
That said, if you're a music fan, it'll be worth any amount of inconvenience to attend the World Creole Music Festival every October.
Would we live there?
Not our first choice. On a livability scale of 0 to 5, we'd give it a 2. Imported food is pricey. With the exception of some local bars nightlife is practically nonexistent and hardly any restaurants are open in the evening, both of which are a part of our lifestyle. I got bored in its sleepy capital city before the week ended. But then, we enjoy a bit of fast-paced city life … and we didn't have a chance to hike or do any SCUBA diving.
That said, no place is perfect. We've lived on the “island paradise” of Bali, and Dominica is both prettier and vastly cleaner. Besides, her people are friendlier. If we ever have the opportunity to visit again, we'll jump at the chance. One week in the country isn't enough because there are so many different things to do for nature lovers.Dominica is like a diamond in the rough: It just needs a bit of polish to show its true beauty and potential.