The Nature Island of the Caribbean
Roseau, capitol of Dominica
Dominica (pronounced doe-min-EEK-uh) was the island I was most interested in visiting on this trip. Leon and I visited previously about 15 years ago. We had planned a trip to Jamaica, then did some reading and were charmed by the descriptions of Dominica, termed the "nature island of the Caribbean." We went there instead, loved our visit, and looked forward to our return.
Our day in Dominica began auspiciously. I was unable to sleep, and got up before dawn. I went out on deck and watched the sun come up while we cruised the length of the island while the skies grew light and the sun rose. Just before dawn, a dolphin swam alongside of the boat and jumped several times off of the port bow. At breakfast, we were treated to a rainbow. Readers of UrSpo's blog will probably recognize the "standing together under the rainbow" pose. It’s very appropriate that Someone (UrSpo's partner) took this photo.
It turns out that we overestimated how long it would take to get off of the ship and on our way. If we had gotten up early, and left as soon as the ship opened for disembarkation, we would have had time to hike all the way up to the boiling lake and the Valley of Desolation. I’m not sure that UrSpo and Someone would have come with us, as they don’t do as much hiking as we do, and that’s a pretty intense hike. So it’s just as well that we opted to do a trip to Soufriere Valley, what the guidebook termed a "mini Valley of Desolation" and had a wonderful time with good company.
Inside the caldera at Soufriere
We hired a cab, expecting a quick pickup and drop-off. Instead, we got a tour guide for the day. We began at Soufriere. The hike is fairly short. It begins in a caldera, and leads up a watercourse flowing with volcano-warmed water. We enjoyed topical vegetation, birds and lizards, but few insects. Dominica is the Caribbean island that has the most volcanic activity, and also the island that has retained the greatest proportion of its native vegetation, which in this case means rainforest. It’s a great choice for Leon and I since he’s a geology geek who loves volcanoes and there’s plenty to entertain my biophilia.
Fumes and heat prevent vegetation from growing on this slope. The small stream at the base of the rocks was too hot to touch here.
The hike culminates in a small, barren valley. The water is emerging here as hot springs, too hot to even touch near the spring’s source. The heat of the water and sulfurous fumes severely limit plant life. There are also fumeroles dotting the valley floor. I did get nice photos of a millipede and a robber fly here.
Following the volcanic hike, we climbed Scott Head, a rocky headland that just out of the southwest corner of the island. There were expansive views of the island, sea, and sky. A large flock of frigate birds filled the sky. And there were HUGE grasshoppers everywhere. They were clearly bird grasshoppers (genus Schistocerca, though I don’t know which species this is), so named for their very strong flight. I managed to get some nice shots of an individual that was about 2 1/2 inches long with a wingspan closing in on 5 inches.
The view from Scott Head
The larger but lovely Schistocerca sp.
I got out for a while in the afternoon to go insect chasing. This was fairly disappointing, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s touch to get out of the capital city of Roseau on foot. About all I saw as a bunch of blue lizards. As we sailed out of port late that afternoon, I was treated to beautiful views of the island in the late afternoon light. We’ll definitely be back when we can again spend more time there.
Blue lizard. Probably a Dominican ameivas (Ameiva fuscata).
Bye, Dominica. Scott Head is the rock at the left side of the island.