Major hurricane Maria devastated Dominica in September 2017 when Kalunamoo was in Trinidad. Afterwards we sailed to Dominica in February 2019 and in February 2020. On both of our visits, the evidence of hurricane destruction was clearly evident. Large sections of forest were leveled, houses were ripped apart but the population was coping and rebuilding efforts were seen. New bridges and roads were being built (with aid from many countries, especially China) and so the country was slowly getting back to what it was pre-hurricane.

Chinese solar and wind powered street lights

This year we visited again and spent almost 2 weeks there when the Salty Dawg Sailing association scheduled a rendezvous of their members. We are also members, and our good friends Lynn on ROXY and Bob on PANDORA (president of the SDSA) did a great job of organizing activities for the 25 or so member boats that joined in. This was all done in conjunction with the local Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services (PAYS) who really appreciated the appearance and support of the cruisers at the rendezvous. Dinners on the beach at night, live music, island diving, tours and hikes, were offered every day and it was great fun, if exhausting, for everyone. One acitity that was planned was an organized visit to the local Saturday market to buy local produce followed by a cooking demonstration. It was a great way to learn about the local cuisine and enjoy local produce. A dinner serving Lion fish helped keep that invasive fish in check.

We took two “easy” hikes, one thru a rain forest (yes it rains there!) and a one to the Syndicate Waterfalls. Both tested our endurance. The first for the wet terrain and the second was for the eight quick water calf high streams, that that had to be forged to see a very Caribbean waterfall. Both well worth it.  But exhausting (at least to these two of a certain age). We also took a van tour to Red Rocks (unique red clay like landscape), the Chocolate Factory (a locally grown and produced chocolate) and the Cold Springs (a pond bubbling with foul smelling sulfur).

Syndicate Falls
Red Rocks
Chocolate FactoryLocal Beans to Bar
Cold boiling sulfur springs

All of this was great fun and highlighted how Dominica is quite different than most of the other Eastern Caribbean islands. The reason stems from colonial times when Dominica and St. Vincent were the only 2 islands in the Lesser Antilles that were not “dominated” by European powers at the time (Spanish, Dutch, English or French). These two islands were left to the natives as the other islands were exploited for their agricultural riches (mostly sugar). The rugged topography, rich volcanic soil and ample rainfall all lent to maintain the natural beauty of this tropical island. Of course, eventually even European agreement fell apart and Dominica did become a pawn in the English/French rivalry and was somewhat developed, but not to the extend of the other islands. All this to say that Dominica was “on its own” for quite some time and perhaps that left it much like the islands before Columbus – without the imperative to develop for European’s benefit. The veneer of modern civilization certainly covers the island, cell phones are ubiquitous, a few high-end resorts are here, decent roads, but I get the feeling that modernity is not at the heart of the island. More importantly, they realize that their natural environment requires protection from the encroachments that would destroy it.

This is certainly true in the town of Portsmouth and Prince Rupert Bay where we, and most cruisers anchor. The big cruise ships dock on the other end of the island in Roseau, Dominica’s capital. The original site of the capital was Portsmouth but the threat of malaria from the surrounding mangroves was too great to ignore. Fortunately, that threat no longer exists. So, oddly enough the only “cruise” ships that visit seem to be tall ships.

In addition, marine areas are set up – Cabrits/Toucar Marine Park – which restricts water access to only guided tour boats. No dinghy or anchoring by cruisers are permitted. This enhances and supports the local economy and controls the impact on the environment. The dependence on small local operations, such as the PAYS organization demonstrates this. PAYS provides moorings while it’s two dozen or so members provide tours and other services on an individual basis.

We have seen this also when we took a tour through the mountains. As I wrote at the beginning of this blog entry, major hurricane Maria devastated tracks of forest with its winds and rain. Since then, the government took advantage of nature’s “clear cutting”. It encouraged and sold these parcels to locals to farm these areas and produce fruits and vegetables both for local consumption and export. Dominica does export to other islands now and this will add to their exports. No one expects this to develop into a “United Fruit/Chiquita” type economy but these small scale local initiates may be a good way forward for the island. Keeping profits on the island to reinvest for themselves seems the best way ensure a more stable and prosperous future. Eco tourism will continue to be a major influence and, of course, foreign investments, will also play a part. One hopes that with more income locally generated, Dominica remains one of the more unique islands in the Caribbean. Dominica is truly the Nature Island of the Lesser Antilles.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: