Often called the "Nature Island," Dominica, a 29-mile by 16-mile independent nation, in the Windward Islands, is less frequented than others, like Barbados and St. Lucia, that also form part of that group of islands, but nonetheless, Dominica is a veritable eco-paradise in the eastern edge of the Caribbean for nature lovers, Tropical forests cover about two-thirds of Dominica's mountainous territory, wonderful beaches and reefs, waterfalls, numerous rivers and a number of national parks that are home to 160 species of birds and 1,200 kinds of plants.
In other words, this island, where English is the official language (and which is often wrongly confused with the Dominican Republic due to the similarity of its name) extends an open invitation to travelers to enjoy such eco-tourism opportunities as hiking, river tubing, snorkeling, diving and more.
The main cruise ports in Dominica include the one in the heart of Roseau, the capital of the island, where most of Dominica's 72,000 inhabitants live. Two other ports are the Cabrits port situated near the northwestern town of Portsmouth, and Woodbridge Bay, near Roseau. Points of interest in Roseau include the Old Market Square, the original slave market, in the old section of town. Nearby, the Dominica Museum faces the bay front in Roseau and features exhibits relating to the island's history, geology and culture. Also worth a visit is the Roseau Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Fair Heaven in Gothic-Romanesque style on Virgin Lane. Construction of the cathedral with volcanic stones started in 1841 and it was completed in 1916. Trafalgar Falls, about five miles east of Roseau, is a must-see in a lush green setting the larger of the falls, to the left, is called "Father," the smaller one is dubbed "Mother." Garden lovers may wish to check out the Botanical Garden, with 40 acres on the site of an old sugar plantation on Bath Road on Morne Bruce.
The small village of Soufriere, south of Roseau, with its palm-fringed coast, fishing boats, waterside church with murals of island life, sulfur springs and hot pools was founded by early French settlers. Yet another point of interest is Massacre Village, four miles north of Roseau, has historic interest as the site of a massacre of Carib Indians by the English in the 17th century.A visit to one of Dominica's national parks is rewarding. Parks include Morne Trois Pitons (named after a mountain with three peaks) with excellent hiking trails, and Cabrits National Park with the 18th century Fort Shirley and surrounding underwater park, the Cabrits Marine Reserve. Popular excursions offered by cruise ships include whale watching tours during which sperm whales, humpbacks and other whales and dolphins are likely to be spotted (peak whale-watching times are from November to June). Land programs generally include tours to Trafalgar Falls and the Sulfur Springs, and excursions to the Carib Indian Territory (the Caribs were a fierce indigenous tribe), The latter tour usually makes at stop at one of the most-visited spots on the island: Emerald Lagoon and Falls, a lovely grotto and waterfall surrounded by tropical greenery midway between Canefield and Castle Bruce.
Other pastimes include canopy tours, river boat tours, hiking, diving and just relaxing at a beach with the best beaches for swimming being on the island's sheltered west coast. Purple Turtle Beach, near Portsmouth, is among the most popular beaches.
Dominica's cuisine is a blend of French and Creole. Local flavors not to be missed include traditional soups like callaloo (with callaloo leaves or spinach and okra), and main dishes like Caribbean souse (pickled pork). A good place in Roseau for lunch or dinner is Pearl's Cuisine, 50 King George V Street. Try the crawfish in garlic butter or stewed chicken and the fresh-squeezed tamarind juice.
Cruise lines that visit Dominica include Azamara, Carnival, Celebrity, Cunard, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, Silversea and Windstar.
IF YOU GO For additional information on Dominica, visit www.dominica.dm.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun