DOMINICA (PRONOUNCED Dom-in-eek-a)
Dominica, the largest of the Windward Islands, covers 289 square miles and has approximately 91 miles of coastline. The island is characterized by very rugged and steep terrain. Dominica, formerly a British colony, became independent in 1978 and remains a member of the British Commonwealth and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. Dominica has a population of approximately 70,000 people, including 3,000 indigenous Caribs. Everyone speaks English. An English Creole dialect and French patois are widely spoken. See a map of Dominica.
The “Nature Island of the Caribbean”
Dominica boasts a variety of natural attractions including 365 rivers and streams, waterfalls, hot sulfur springs, a boiling lake (considered the world’s second largest) and four cold freshwater lakes, two of which are situated more than 2,500 feet above sea level.
FLORA AND FAUNA
The island’s relatively high range of altitude, coupled with its rainfall, has given rise to a wide variety of vegetation. Native flora includes over 1,000 species of flowering plants including 74 species of orchids and 200 ferns. 22 endemic species of plants have been identified, one being the bwa kwaib, officially designated as the island’s national flower. Dominica is also home to a wide variety of tropical wildlife. To date, 172 species of birds have been recorded including two endemic and endangered species of parrots – the Sisserou (Dominica’s national bird) and the Red-necked Parrot. The opossum, agouti, iguana and other lizards and many other land creatures including a large variety of nonpoisonous snakes have made a home in Dominica.
MORNE TROIS PITONS NATIONAL PARK
Dominica’s Morne Trois Pitons National Park is the only UNESCO World Heritage site in the Eastern Caribbean. Luxuriant natural tropical forest blends with volcanic features of high scenic appeal and scientific interest… With its precipitous slopes and deeply-incised valleys, fifty fumaroles and hot springs, freshwater lakes, a “boiling lake” and five volcanoes… Together with the richest biodiversity in the Lesser Antilles, Morne Trois Pitons National Park presents a rare combination of natural features of World Heritage value.
BELOW THE SEA
Dominica’s underwater terrain is as diverse as the island’s terrestrial areas with a wide variety of marine life and dramatic underwater features including sunken volcanoes and deep drop-offs. More than a half-dozen types of whales and a dozen types of dolphins have been identified in Dominica’s waters. Due to the deep depths of the warm West Coast waters, a variety of whales use the Dominican coastline to seek food, mate and give birth, making Dominica the Whale Watching capital of the Caribbean. Imagine having a 30-to-45 foot-long sperm whale stare you down, or glimpsing a cow sperm whale nursing her calves – there’s no better place for this than Dominica. Scuba divers from around the world experience award-winning dive sites with unique underwater springs, caves, and volcanoes, while they observe the abundant and colorful marine life like tropical fish, sponges, sea horses and coral.
In addition to natural attractions, Dominica is very rich in cultural heritage, with long standing traditions in music, dance, theater, craft, art and the plain, simple life of its people. Everywhere on the island reminders remain of this heritage: the Creole language spoken by so many, the mix of French and English village names, the infectious Jing Ping music that makes you tap your feet, the aromatic creole cuisine, and so much more. The last of the indigenous Caribbean people still live in a 3,500 acre, semi-autonomous area of Dominica called the Carib Territory. The Kalinago people maintain a strong bond to their Pre-Columbian past, which is evident in the baskets they weave from the l’arouma reed and the wooden fishing canoes still carved in traditional fashion from the trunks of Gommier trees.