DANCING PANDAS

Journaling The Journey

Dominica Nature Lovers Island

Scott's Head

Dominica is a true nature lovers paradise.  It is set in the middle of the Caribbean and is an independent country.  Most importantly this tiny nation is covered in rainforest mountains which offer incredible vistas for hikers and seekers of hidden hot springs alike.  Unfortunately Dominica has been hit hard by many natural disasters.  Consequently, the effects of Hurricane Maria are still visible.  Due to the upheaval, many of the island’s cherished trails are still not trekkable.  However, if you are a true nature lover, the island of Dominica is a must visit destination.  

The island is covered by trails which weave up and down the mountain peaks.  Thus we will cover paths that are still trekkable post Maria.  All in all some areas require guides and others don’t.  Additionally, hot springs dot Dominica’s landscape making it a true nature lovers island.

Trekking without a Guide

For the most part there are quite a few walks that do not require a guide.  However, make sure to bring trekking or running shoes with a good grip, a waterproof bag (everything gets wet here) and mosquito repellent.

Middleham Falls

Middleham Falls is a 1.5 hour intermediate out and back trek through dense rainforest and about 185 meters of elevation gain.  Most importantly, the steep and varied path will lead you into the heart of the Morne Trois Piton National Park and Middleham Falls.  Overall, the falls are 84 meters tall and are the highest in all of Dominica.  Subsequently there is a pool  beneath the falls which is swimmable but quite chilly.  However, beware of the slippery rocks.  For directions to the trailhead and map look here.

Boeri Lake

Boeri Lake Trail

Boeri Lake trail is a 1 hour intermediate out and back trek from Freshwater lake.  Consequently, this trail takes you past hot and cold springs gushing from the side of Morne Macaque, past crystal clear streams, through old gardens and  rainforest. The lake sits at an elevation of 850 m and covers four acres.

Finally walk up the ridge to Boeri Lake for some superb panoramic views of Dominica. The hike to Boeri Lake begins at Freshwater Lake and is a moderate 2 km walk. Beware – the path is rocky and can be slippery, especially in the rain.  

Trafalgar Falls

Trafalgar Falls make Dominica island a nature lovers paradise
Trafalgar Falls

These famous twin waterfalls are a 20-minute drive from Roseau. It’s a short 10 to 15 minute walk along a well-maintained path to the viewing platform, where you can photograph both falls.

As you walk the path, be sure to stop at the warm spring that flows across the trail. The more daring can continue on to swim in the refreshing waters of the smaller waterfall or find the hot springs of the tallest fall.  See below for additional instructions to get to the hot springs.  

Emerald Pool

Emerald pool is one of the top reasons that the island of Dominica is a nature lovers paradise
Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool trail is a very short nature walk which is located in the  Morne Trois Piton National Park.  Subsequently you are rewarded with the glorious vista of the emerald pool.  It is surrounded by verdant forest and offers visitors a refreshing swim.   We were very lucky to spend a couple of hours in this oasis without another soul around.

Syndicate Trail

Syndicate Trail is one of the reasons that Dominica Island is for nature lovers
Syndicate Trail

Syndicate Nature Trail is located in the National Park and is home to many of Dominica’s indigenous birds.  Specifically the Sisserou and the Jaco are easily spotted here as are 51 species of other local and migrant birds.  Therefore the abundance of flora and fauna here makes this walk one of the top destinations for all nature lovers visiting the island of Dominica. 

In short this is an easy 1.4 km loop.  Whats more, there are a number of viewing platforms to enjoy the vistas below.  In addition, the path is well marked.  However, driving here is a bit awkward as the road has many potholes and is mostly one lane.  Therefore,  look out for oncoming traffic (we only saw another car once).  Here are the directions to the trail head.

Bwa Nef Falls

Trekking to Falls on Dominica Island makes it a nature lovers paradise
Bwa Nef Falls

Bwa Nef Falls trail is in the north of Dominica.  Moreover it is an out and back loop which takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  You will pass banana plantations and thick jungle where you can spot land crabs. All of a sudden, you will see the tall waterfall tucked away from view until you are right below it.  The cascade is almost hidden behind these towering rock walls.  Finally you will see beams of light, coming around boulders and shining down through the water.  There is a small  area to swim in.  However it is chilly.

Scotts Head Trail

Scott's Head
View from Scotts Head

Scotts Head is the most southern tip of Dominica.  In particular it has historical significance for this island nation.  Because it served as a fortification in the 1700’s.  Therefore the walk is a bit over a kilometre that is mostly paved and steep .  It offers stunning scenic views to the north and south.  

As an aside, the first segment of the Waitukubuli National trail starts here.  Segment 1 is from Scotts Head to Soufriere Estate and is a 5 km moderate trail. 

Trekking with a Guide

Waitukubuli Trail

Waitukubuli Trailheads in Dominica

Waitukubuli Trail stretches for 185 km along its winding route from the bottom to the top of the island.  Significantly it passes through the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a World Heritage Site.  Undeniably this is the mother of all hikes in Dominica and is the longest trail in all of the Caribbean.  Therefore many nature lovers travel to Dominica just to do this multi-day island trek.  

In short, it starts at Scott’s Head the most southern part of the island.  Overall the trek contains 14 segments of varied lengths and difficulty and ends in Cabrit’s National Park.  After Maria some of the segments of the hike are still not fully operational.  Therefore a guide is highly recommended.

Boiling Lake

Boiling Lake hike is an epic endeavor that typically takes 10 or more hours.  As a result of  Maria and other natural disasters some parts of the hike are not well marked.  Altogether it is a 13 km out and back trek from the nearest road.  Although 13 km may sound like a short walk, due to the elevation, poor condition of the trail and the jungle it is a challenging one.  

Generally the hike can be divided into three parts that take about one hour each (each way). First part starts in Laudat, by Titou Gorge and ends at Breakfast River, where hikers can fill up with fresh water. Second part continues up Morne Nicholls which has an altitude of 966 meters, and ends at the top of the Valley of Desolation. The third part starts with a dangerous descent into the Valley of Desolation, followed by a long section past sulfur springs and hot pools, until finally reaching a peak overlooking boiling lake.

A guide for this hike is highly recommended.

Guides

Here is list of recommended English speaking guides:

 

Paid Hot Springs

Screws Hot Springs

Screws Hot Springs
Screws Hot Springs

Screws was our favorite public hot spring in Roseau Valley.  In fact it is owned and operated by a “rasta pirate” which adds to the fun.  Additionally this spa has 6 pools of varying temperatures.  Finally there are spots to sit under a “waterfall” and volcanic mud to apply for a true “spa” experience.  In essence it is a wonderful place to spend the day.  $20 USD per person for tourists and $10 USD per person for locals gets you in for the whole day.

Ti Kwen Glo Cho

Hot Springs

Overall there are multiple springs of varying temperatures, private one-person bathtubs (in the forest), mud baths, and the reception doubles as a bar and snack station.  Since the water is pumped in via bamboo pipes, the setting is about as natural (and local) as it gets. Entrance is $10 per person, and you can stay as long as you like. Bring a towel and a change of clothes!

Bongo Baths

Hot Springs in Dominica

Markedly there are multiple pools of different temperatures all sourced from local mountain springs.  The vibe is “outdoor spa” and super casual.   You will even get a fruit plate brought out to you while you relax. After a warm soak, chill underneath a waterfall in the cozy cascading pool.

Free Hot Springs

Free hot springs are a nature lovers paradise on Dominica Island
Sufriere Hot Springs

Dominica has the highest concentration of dormant volcanoes in the world.  Subsequently it has a number of natural spas and hot pools created from the healing sulfur springs which seep up from below.  We really enjoy soaking in a hot spring after a long hike.  Therefore, for us this is what makes the island of  Dominica a nature lovers paradise.

Soufriere Hot Springs

We found our favorite natural and free hot spring just wondering around the Soufriere Sulfur Springs site.  It is located here.  Just a 10 minute walk up the road from the Soufriere Guesthouse you will see a sign on the right side of the path for the Soufriere Sulfur Springs and the Waitukubuli Trail.  Walk another minute or so and you will hear the springs on your right.  The first pool is quite delightful, but there are others as you trek higher.  Beware that the path above is very slippery especially during the rainy season.

Trafalgar Hot Springs

Trafalgar Hot Springs are a delight if you can find them!  As you face Trafalgar Falls, the Father Falls are on the left-hand side and the Mother Falls on the right. The hot springs are beneath Father falls on the left.  There is no path to get there, just huge boulders to navigate.  It can be very slippery so please be careful.  Ultimately, the hot water from the stream was a well deserved reward for us.

Where to Stay

Shipwreck on Dominica
Shipwreck on Dominica

Cocoa Cottage is a good option for proximity to the Roseau Valley trails and a jungle vibe.  Accommodation options include 5 rooms and a Tree House.  They have a good kitchen that offers vegan options.

Ti Kwen Glo Cho is a moderately priced hotel located near many of the trail heads in Roseau Valley.  It also has hot spring pools which are  delightful.  

Papillote Wilderness Retreat is a pricier option.  This place has been renovated since Mick Jagger came to visit in 2014.  There are modern amenities set in a jungle setting close to all the Roseau Valley hiking trails.  There are even geothermal hot spring pools.

The Champs Hotel is a great option if you choose to stay in Portsmouth.  We stayed there for our mandatory quarantine and were delighted by the views, pool and hospitality of the staff.  The restaurant has a great view of the bay and made delicious vegan food for me.

Pro Tip

Many of the hikes and attractions on the nature lovers island of Dominica require a fee.  For one admission it is $5 USD, yet you can buy an Ecotourism Site Ticket pass for $12 which is valid for an entire week.  Passes are sold at each attraction requiring a ticket.

Wrap Up

Dominica a nature lovers island
Dominica from Cabrits National Park

Dominica is truly a nature lovers island.  The hiking, hot springs and culture of the island really stand out.  It reminded us of our amazing treks on Eua, Tonga.

Have you been to Dominica?  What was your favorite hike?  Did you make it to Boiling Lake?  And if you have not been, what would you like to visit the most there? We would love to hear from you!

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