Volcanic island of Dominica in the Eastern Caribbean is a true nature island. As it is high upwards on mountain peaks with several national rainforest hiking trails, it is deep downwards on the seaside offering nearly thirty excellent dive and snorkeling sites. Pack your bags accordingly and enjoy the nature!
Reaching Dominica via sea from the North or South takes you either to capital Roseau on South-West Caribbean side of the island or to Portsmouth up North of the island. Travelling in land can be done several ways, out of which taking local minibuses (little Toyota Hiace vans fitting abt 7-8 passengers normally) is a convenient and least expensive mean of transportation (ok, trekking or hitchhiking are of course free, but would not do that when travelling with a child).
Minibuses drive certain routes, but not really on fixed schedules. In Roseau there are three “stations” depending on whether you go North, South or West-bound. They come and go when enough passengers are in. We personally would think twice about renting a car, since roads are rough and landslides especially after storms normal. Driving on the left on very narrow “highways” on serpentine roads filled with holes and no reelings on deep drop curves must not be very comfortable. Then on the other hand, minibus drivers know what they are doing, but many drive like crazy. Carry a plastic bag with you if you´re sensitive to movement nausea. A minibus ride across the country can be only 10-15 EC, that is 4-6 euros or USD per adult. Settle price befor you go and make sure it’s in EC currency, not US dollars.
A little rougher Roseau
City of Roseau, capitol to the soon only 40-year-old country of only about 72 000 inhabitants in total, is a compact town to get around. This home to about 14 000 was originally called Sari by early settlers; but the French renamed it after river reeds. Still and historically a center of commerce, Roseau is a lively town with fruit markets, restaurants, wholesalers and little shops in a relatively small and shallow landscape. Roseau has also managed to maintain many of the colonial style and colourful buildings – a good example is the old public library with a stunning view to the bay area just across the street from the president’s house and the pink parliament house.
One of the landmarks of Roseau is Botanical Garden, that offer a variety of fauna and flora – and the closest national rainforest trail to downtown. Jack’s walk rewards your climb with a view over the town – apparently the best for sunset spotters too. Botanical garden functions also as a ground for local festivities, as we walked right into children’s Christmas party preparations… On the way out we spotted a funny looking tree – filled with giant fruits hanging on the tree. Locals call it the “sausage tree”, but apparently its fruit is not really used for anything.
Downtown is also an obvious tourist area, since some cruise ships stop for a day. Touristic area comes with tourist prices too. Once you go further away from town, prices drop for locals – not really for tourists. Although, we were a bit overwhelmed by the prices – how on earth can locals afford just regular food and amenities? Our little shopping basket observation pointed out some heavy prices on everything imported even from neigbouring islands, not to mention US or Europe. One example: 6 apples 10 EC comparing to 6 bananas 2,5 EC. Buying on the street also means tourist prices and local prices on same products… Another, 500 grams of groung beef in a super market (downtown, where locals shop) was 20 EC (about 7,2 euros, in December 2016).
We stayed in the area of Goodwill, North part of the town. Our wonderful B&B St. James felt really safe, however, the area between downdown to our place was somewhat on the rougher side. Especially on Friday and Saturday afternoons or early evening we encountered some very scary looking and acting locals and made sure not to go out after the sunset – with a child at least. Otherwise everyone seemed very friendly, helpful and warm. And then again in the morning you wake up hearing loud gospel rythms and the parishment singing at a nearby local church. Religion and spirituality is strongly present.
All in all, Roseau seems like a lively and friendly compact little town with a little rougher scene but good vibes. Best enjoyed when no cruise ships in anchor. Easily accessible from smaller villages too in other parts of the country too.