Disclaimer: I am an older woman now and not as resilient as I used to be. I like independent travel, where I do all for myself. This island is just not "easy", and perhaps that what I'll need more of as I age. So those with a vested interest in Dominica, please note, I am truthful, even if some details are not the msot flattering.
It is the most lush, verdant island I have ever seen. Thickly draped in vegetation with mountains, oceanside cliffs and beautiful sea views. We remarked at how similar to Kauai it was. It is truly what I expected as far as an island untouched by the modern world.
It is what made it special and made it …. very challenging. I got what I asked for in spades: Old World Caribbean. Third World. No typical Americanized Disneyesque Caribbean. Wonderful but difficult as hell.
The tourism infrastructure was practically nonexistent. The majority of the island’s interest in tourism is huge armies of taxi drivers who want to drive you around the island as a tour guide. Most islanders have no idea what to do with a tourist except stare at them. Waitresses are almost shocked to receive a tip. The economy is almost fully based on agriculture and fishing. Very tough on independent travelers as finding ANYTHING takes time, patience and a sense of humor (my husband did MUCH better than me on that). I soon discovered that a smidge of modernity and ease goes a long way for a comfy vacation.
• We found two spectacular bays with snorkeling that blew our minds: the quantity and variety of juvenile schools of fish, the small life we saw, the tranquility of the bays and the lack of tourists
• A long mountainous canyon in the jungle called Titou Gorge: we did a full day of canyoning with Extreme Dominica full of rappels through waterfalls, huge jumps into deep, clear fresh pools and a glowing green canopy of jungle overhead. Absolutely spectacular.
• Waterfalls: huge, stunningly beautiful and COLD. Gorgeous jungle. Fern trees: Wow.
• Fresh tuna caught by fisherman who land their boats and blow conch shells to announce to the village that fish is for sale. Everyone comes out to buy until it is all gone. We bought many fresh pink tuna steaks! Average cost: $4 a pound.
• Ridiculously heavily-laden mango trees, bananas, tamarind, citrus, coffee, breadfruit, papaya, scotch bonnet peppers EVERYWHERE.
• Fishing with villagers: At our favorite bay, we saw the fishermen spreading a monumental gill net across the whole bay (almost trapping us inside!) to collect a giant portion of an unending school of bait fish, their predators ballyhoos as well as small tuna. Many members of the village ambled down to help pull in the huge, heavy net. We joined in. Very fun.
• Kubuli beer. I am not a beer drinker and it was good!
• Roads: You drive on the left, you veer around narrow hairpin turns, up and down steep mountains and dodge the maniacal local drivers who go 60-65 MPH, all the while keeping a sharp eye on the 18-inch wide, 2-foot deep concrete drainage sluiceways that are on either side of the road. Every day had this stress for me……relaxation? Not so much. More white-knuckles in ten days than a whole Vermont winter. So freaking tense.
• Supplies: We did not go out to eat for dinner because driving at night on those roads was NOT an option, especially not after a few umbrella drinks, so we ended up eating most of our big meals out at lunch and self-catered our dinners. Provisions are very hard to come by on that island. LOTS of expired canned goods. Fresh food can only be found on market days which means braving the abject disorder of either of the two big towns and the stark, relentless heat of the streets. We ate a LOT of beans and rice with some fruit, some fish and some chicken. Luckily there’s a lot you can do with coconut milk and spices! (The Bird in the Hand adage: Market stock was always so slim, if you saw something you wanted, BUY IT NOW, you may never see it again. We are so SPOILED with our mega-markets in the USA).
• Inefficiencies: Constant ATM failure thanks to ancient bank software and transaction timeouts. Renting a car on arrival only to be told that there are no more required temporary driver’s licenses. “Come back in a week.” WHAT???? Required site licenses for tourist attractions, but they have none to sell you and you really can’t go look at that waterfall until you have one. “We may have one tomorrow to sell you.” WHAT????
• We found a good portion of the local people tricky. Not real welcoming, some friendliness after quite an effort by us, but for the most part, we gave the populace a C for attitude towards tourists.
• Trash and island dogs: Trash everywhere. Island dogs everywhere, skinny and badly neglected. Sad.
• Cruise ship days clogged the roads, the towns and made everything difficult. But it’s good for the island.
Overall, an intriguing trip, plenty of wonder and beauty! Could have been more relaxing. Maybe next year we cave in and order up a smidge more luxury?