Dominica, the Nature Island of the Caribbean

The nature island, Dominica was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 on a Sunday, and named for its Latin translation of the day of discovery. Dominica has long been officially and unofficially referred to as the “Nature Isle of the Caribbean” for its obvious unspoiled natural beauty.

The Nature Isle- is an island nation which is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. It marks the northernmost of the Windward Islands.

The country is approximately 289.5 square miles. It is lies between the French Islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. English is the official language of the Nature Island, however, because of notable French occupation, and Dominica’s geographic location between the French-speaking territories, a French-based Creole language called Creole Patois largely spoken.

Dominica is a nature island still in infancy, formed by and developing by dynamic volcanic activity. This is evident in the many lakes, the bubbling sulfur springs and geysers, mud spots and thermal vents found island-wide. Dominica prides itself on being geographically identified for the second largest boiling lake in the world, second to New Zealand’s. This natural resource of geothermal energy is currently being studied as a powerful and unlimited source of renewable energy for the country.

The nature island’s mountainous terrain is draped in indigenous dense, lush vegetation. Peaks soaring past 4,500 feet are found toward the central part of the island. An astounding 365 rivers and streams (one for each day of the year) coil their way through gorges giving way to spectacular waterfalls, lakes and pools. Appropriately, Dominica was called “Wai’tu kubuli”, which means “Tall is her body” by our ancient native inhabitants, the Caribs, and called Kairi by the Arawaks.

The Nature Isle’s dense rainforest is home to some very rare plant, animal, and bird species. Vibrant flora and fauna can be enjoyed where nature trails flourish. Some plants and animals thought to be extinct on surrounding islands can still be found in Dominica’s forests. The Imperial Amazon, also known as the Imperial Parrot or Sisserou Parrot is an Amazon parrot endemic to the mountain forests of the Nature Island, where it is the national bird and is featured on the Dominican flag.

The volcanic make-up of the island means the Nature Isle does not have many white sandy beaches, but black sand beaches can be found primarily along the west coast, while a few “white” sand beaches and craggy coves are scattered along the east coast. The scarcity of white sand beaches does not hinder the Nature Isle, as the rugged terrain above sea follows through into the depths of our oceans creating one of the first class rated dive sites in the world. Here you can find steep drop offs (underwater cliffs) , coral reefs, rock reefs, as well as underwater volcanic arches, caves, caverns and pinnacles to dive from. Geothermal activity gives way to distinctive diving prospects as well.

The Nature Isle is also referred to as the Whale Watching Capital of the Caribbean. Favorable for whale watching due to the resident population of Sperm whales, Pilot, Pygmy, and False Killer whales, Spinner, Spotted and Bottlenose Dolphins which call our waters home.

This beautiful island is populated with just over 70,000 Dominicans, and is proud to boast of its growing number of centenarians (22 +) and a literacy rate of 94%. Regrettably, although we boast having a high life expectancy of 74 years on average and a low death rate, the population has a slow growth rate, primarily due to emigration to UK, USA, and neighboring islands. The population is 90% black, most of African ancestry, with the other 10% made up of a melting pot of Ameri-Indian, white and other.

The people are predominantly devout Catholics, while the remaining 35% is divided among many religions including Methodist, Jehovah Witness, Pentecostal, Baptist and Rastafarian. The social practices and activities are still heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic Church, and the country enjoys many public holidays which are tied directly to Catholic religious holidays: Carnival, Easter, and Pentecost to name a few.

Dominica, the nature island, is the only Caribbean island to have a surviving population of Carib Indians who were migrants from South America. Before the Carib Indians, Dominica was inhabited by the Arawak people. The Caribs exterminated the Arawaks and dominated the region for a long period, before being annihilated in most other islands by the occupying French, Spanish and British armies. On island, the Carib Territory is an area where their culture and lifestyle is preserved and protected. The area is now a primary tourist destination where the replica of a traditional Carib Village and the customary daily activity of a village are on display. The Carib Indians were exceptional canoe builders and canoeist. They strive to carry on the talents of the forefathers and still practice the ceremonial canoe building and other traditional handicrafts such as carving and basket weaving as their ancestors did. The sale of these products is a main source of revenue.

Dominica is the largest in the windward island chain, stretching 29 miles long and 16 miles wide. Due to its mountainous interior, most of the settlement is coastal. The country’s capital, Roseau is located on the western coast and is the hub of government, commerce, health services, education, communication and information for all of Dominica. The decentralization of these services is slowly gaining progress as the country aims to streamline business services while maximizing on a tourism product development. The Capital of Roseau is a tourist center rich in historical structures and architectural landmarks.

Dominica’s stable economy is dependent most on tourism and agriculture. Tourism has been on the increase since the country has been designated an “ecotourism” destination. However, with increasing competition and globalization, diversification from a one-crop economy is necessary to facilitate and stimulate the country’s growth. As a result, offshore services, agro processing, manufacturing, and service oriented industries are fast becoming contributors to economic growth and stimuli.

The country is a developing country with communications, health, commerce, banking, education and information services that rival first world and other fast developing countries.
After gaining independence from the United Kingdom in November of 1978, the country adopted the multi-party democracy. It is a parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth of Nations. The president is head of state, while executive power rests with the cabinet, headed by the prime minister.

The nature island’s weather is typical of a tropical zone, with a non-arid climate in which all twelve months have temperatures above 18°C (64.4 °F). Rainfall varies with elevation and is sometimes “seasonal” with more rain falling at certain times of the year. Warm, moist trade winds which maintain our lush rainforest blow consistently from the east. The country experiences two main seasons, the wet season and the dry season, though in the last decade, weather patterns have not been consistent with patterns recorded previously. So one can expect it to either be raining, or sunny, or both. Dominica is especially vulnerable to hurricanes as the island is located in what is referred to as the hurricane belt.

This exotic, undiscovered nature island is a rare gem in this hemisphere. Its location, its people, their culture, and its one-of-a-kind landscape make it unique, non-dimensional, and rare. It is an investment for the future of its people to be protected and cherished. Dominica continues to be the most unique country in the world where visitors and investors are welcome providing they understand and respect this country’s great value in the world today and into the future. It’s natural resources such as water, and geothermal energy will soon be commodities in demand worldwide, and for a country so blessed we are likely to become even more well known for what we have.