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Dominica: The Nature Island

Welcome to Dominica, an island truly unique in its lushness and natural beauty. Its mountains are the highest in the Caribbean; its evergreen oceanic rainforest is one of the last in the world.

Dominica, the Nature Island, is also Dominica, the Water Island. The clarity of the waters and the sheer drops due to the volcanic nature of the island make it one of the world's best dive and snorkel destinations. On the southern tip is Scott's Head-Soufriere Bay Marine Reserve, the most popular dive area. This is a popular spot for diving instruction. Champagne, the famous underwater hot springs where you can swim through warm bubbles, is found here. A portion of Douglas Bay, north of Cabrits, is also a marine park and great for snorkeling and diving.

Whalewatching is also popular off the shores of Dominica. The World Wildlife Fund and other conservation groups have based documentaries and conferences here, and so the whale population has been observed extensively. The playful dolphins often accompany the whale-watching boats. Check with your hotel regarding whale-watching tours.

For the sportfishing enthusiast, charters are available that journey into the Martinique Channel, a migratory route for many species. The local waterways, fed by the many rivers on-island, are abundant in bait fish such as jacks, bonito and small tuna. Catch the Dominica International Sportfishing Tournament held annually in May.

Inland, water again takes center stage. The beautiful rivers invite swimming and exploring. At Indian River (Dominica Map B-2), north of Portsmouth, tours are available (opt for a quiet row boat) for a close-up look at frisky crabs, bird species, rare plants including orchids and ferns along the bank. Waterfalls, large and small, abound. Emerald Pool (Dominica Map G-5) is a small one (only 40 feet) where you can bathe under the spray. Impressive Trafalgar Falls (Dominica Map I-5) is actually two falls cascading down 200 feet, with pools for soaking at their base. Morne Trois Pitons National Park (Dominica Map I-6) is made up of many natural wonders, including waterfalls, boiling lakes, one of the island's highest peaks and four vegetation zones. A system of trails is maintained by the Division of Forestry and Wildlife, best experienced with a guide. Hiking tours in the Park or throughout the island can be arranged, as strenuous or easy as you like. Ask at your hotel.

Friendly Roseau is fun to explore, too. Old Market Plaza (Roseau Map G-2) is home to the tourism office and busy craft shops. Nearby, the Dominica Museum offers a good introduction to the history and culture of the island. Don't miss the New Market (Roseau Map E-1), a lively spectacle Saturday morning, with mouth-watering produce sold by farmers. Watch fishermen blow conch shells to announce fresh fish for sale. In town you'll find local crafts including wood carvings, pottery, and some of the best straw goods in the Caribbean. At Tropicrafts (Roseau Map F-4) you can watch the weavers and purchase baskets and vetiver grass rugs, which can be made to order. The Carib Territory (Dominica Map E-6), 3,700 beautiful acres and home to descendants of the island's original inhabitants, is also a good source for straw items, reed baskets and other Carib handicrafts.

In the town of Portsmouth, shop at the market (Portsmouth Map C-3) for local wares, fresh produce and spices. Columbus was known to have moored in Prince Rupert Bay and the Spanish Council of the Indies secured the bay as a station for their treasure-seeking ships. Take a stroll through the somewhat overgrown Fort Shirley (Portsmouth Map B-2) and stop in at the small museum to see a layout of how the original fort actually looked.

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Dominica Pocket Map $2.00

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