RETURN TO PARADISE

Rarely does anyone get to see an island just as pristine as the day that Columbus sailed by. On his way back to the New World on his second voyage in 1493, the first land that Columbus sighted was Dominica (pronounced Dom-in-ee-ca). Dominica was so named by Columbus because it was discovered on Sunday. The following is a description from Columbus' log, "In this island, the trees were so dense that it was marvelous, and there were such varieties of trees, unknown to anyone, as was astonishing... there appeared a waterfall as broad as an ox which discharged itself from so great a height that it seemed to fall from the sky... it was the loveliest thing in the world..."

Maureen and I have visited Dominica three times. We were lucky enough to be on one of the first cruise ships to make regular stops at this beautiful island. Our first visit was at the remote harbor of Cabrits, located on the northern end of the island. Unfortunately, so many tourists complained about the remoteness, that the ships now mainly use this port as a service call for shore excursions. Today most cruise ships dock in the capital town of Roseau.

Roseau is a very rare sight. This town retains its Caribbean soul. The wooden French Creole structures have been lucky enough to survive over the years. This architecture was very prominent throughout the French controlled islands. Most buildings of this type have been destroyed by fires, war or the ravages of time. As a tourist walking the streets you will be transcended back to a different era. Many people on our ship commented on how dirty and old the town looked, and were afraid to walk around. Looks can be deceiving. Maureen and I spent a day walking around and exploring this unique place. Sure we met one beggar (we were not harassed), but we also met some interesting locals.

The city of Roseau is not like the other "Shopping Meccas" found in the Caribbean. Don't expect to find many tourist shops. The many stores that are located here are for the locals. Yes there is a flea market set up for the tourists with all those great tacky souvenirs, but Roseau is genuinely for the people of the island and not totally focused on the tourists (tourism is beginning to grow). In my opinion this is what makes Dominica special.

What's there to do on this lovely island? The most interesting thing we did during our first visit was to take a scenic tour that covered most of the island. One of the highlights of this tour was driving on the tops of the mountains along a dirt road and seeing breathtaking vistas. On our left was the rugged windward coast and on the right was a large tree covered valley made up of coconut palms and bananas. Riding through the Carib Indian Territory was also another great thrill. Dominica has one of the last Carib Indian reserves in the world. There are about 3,000 Caribs that still live here and their way of life is rapidly disappearing. Maureen and I consider ourselves lucky to have seen a canoe being carved the same way as in the time of Columbus. The Caribs were the Indians who were known for raiding other Islands in the Caribbean to steal women from weaker tribes and eat the flesh of the males whom they killed. Unfortunately the Caribs will probably disappear within the next few generations.

Another exciting thing to do is to hike the rainforest to see a waterfall. Because of the high mountains and climatic conditions, it rains often. Thus here's an island that has a beautiful rainforest and 365 rivers and streams. The locals brag that there is a waterway for every day of the year. This is what makes the mountainous islands of the Southern Caribbean (Lesser Antilles) special, many streams. Keep in mind that you will not find a river on many popular islands, such as Grand Cayman, Cozumel, St. Thomas, St. John, St. Martin, British Virgin Islands or the Bahamas to name a few. As we passed a few streams in Dominica we observed the local women doing their laundry. The old ways still exist here.

I took this picture in the Carib Indian Territory. This is a canoe used for fishing.

Because of the island's volcanic origin there are hot springs and lakes. Some of the beaches even have black sand from lava deposits. Another thrill for Maureen and me was snorkeling. Some of the best rated snorkeling and diving is located just off of Dominica. We spent a morning snorkeling at a spot called Champagne Rocks. Because this is a volcanic region, trapped hot gases make their way up through the ocean floor. We were snorkeling in an area that was like snorkeling in a glass of soda pop. Tiny bubbles effervesced through the rocks and sand. Swimming through this was unusual indeed. The thousands of bubbles tickled our bodies. What I found to be extremely eerie were the sounds that these bubbles made. It sounded like hundreds of computers or office machines beeping away. In this area the ocean becomes extremely warm because of the hot gases. The quantities and varieties of fish found here make snorkeling or diving a very rewarding experience.

Unusual buys on Dominica are items made by the Carib Indians. These are mainly woven items like baskets, etc. there are some beautiful woodcarvings as well. The only legitimate place to buy these items in Roseau is a place called Tropicrafts. Most of the monies raised from the sales of these crafts go to the Carib Indians.

There are so many interesting things to do on this fabulous island. Let PAK-N-GO Cruises and Tours be your guide through paradise. -Kris Krenz MCC Comments kkrenz@cruisepakngo.com

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