Humbled and Healthy in Dominica

I’ve had the opportunity to travel to a couple of places in the Caribbean. Never have I been so close to the natural beauty that attracts us all to the islands in the first place. The jungle was right there. We were in the heart of a rainforest at a little place called Roots Jungle Retreat. Not once was I bitten by a bug. The rain was refreshing and cool. The sun was warm and inviting. The birds sang, the crickets strummed their wings. I slept like a baby. There isn’t a plant on the property or the island for that matter that isn’t used for something. If it’s not a delicious fruit, a healthy root, or a medical remedy, well then it will produce the most beautiful flowers for your eyes to enjoy. Roots Jungle Retreat brings you back to just that: Your roots. I left humbled by the beauty of the island and the sheer human spirit of the people. I was warmed by our hosts’ love for their home and respect for the people they call neighbors. I was healthier for hiking to see the most amazing waterfalls and eating the best food ever prepared from someone’s backyard. If you are considering a tropical get away, I cannot think of a more pristine island in the Caribbean, as a large part of Dominica’s interior is a protected preserve.

If you plan on going, the first thing to know is how to properly pronounce the island name, as Dominica is often confused with the Dominican Republic. The name is actually pronounced like the female name Dominique, with an ‘A’ on the end. ‘Dominique-a’. The locals will appreciate your proper pronunciation. Once you have your tongue worked out, a few factoids to make your trip a better one:

Currency – The current exchange rate is about 1 US Dollar to 2.7 ECD (East Caribbean Dollar). Most stateside exchanges will only give you about a 0.4 to 0.45 exchange ratio which means you’ll spend about 45 cents to get 1 EC plus any fees involved. US dollars are gladly accepted on island, and every place I went exchanged at about the going rate. When receiving your change, the best way to know is every dollar is about 2.6 to 2.7 ECs or every 10 bucks equals 26 or 27 ECs.

Locals – The people are especially friendly and greet you with a warm rutas de senderismo smile and an ‘OK OK’ which simply means hello. With the exception of the local Carib Indians, rather than a handshake, most people will meet and greet with a simple and light ‘Daps’, also known as the ‘fist bump’. In western cultures, this has just become a cool way to shake hands, but the people of Dominica are actually very concerned with cleanliness and prefer this method to avoid the spread of germs or dirt. However you are greeted, you will find they are uncommonly friendly, and rarely push goods or services on tourists as is often the case in most high-traffic Caribbean locations. Be ready, they all carry machetes; it’s just a tool to help them walk home.

Attractions – 365 rivers, one for every day of the year flow down from the peaks of the youngest and most geo-thermally active island in the Lesser Antilles. There is pristine untamed beauty with every turn of the head. You can hike through the jungle to gorgeous waterfalls, or spend lazy days at the beach. Go snorkeling and diving, dining, and just spend the day relaxing on island time. Pretty much anything you think of doing on any Caribbean Island awaits, without the hustle and bustle of over visited ‘hot spots’ and Cruise ship destinations. The Waitikubuli Trail starts at the very South point and crisscrosses across the island to the far North. Any segment of this can be challenging or fairly easy but promises a sight to see at every corner.

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