Dominica The Beautiful

There is a lot to love about the beautiful island of Dominica. We spent 5 days in two anchorages on the west coast: Portsmouth in the north and Roseau in the south. We loved it so much we want to return, and maybe we will next season to explore more of Dominica the beautiful, our stop after Guadeloupe.

Map of the Eastern Caribbean islands including Dominica
Dominica on a map

Boat Boys

As a cruiser, you hear about them first. Boat boys are different things to different people. Love em or hate em seems to describe boat boys in the Caribbean. So far, Brian and I choose to embrace them.

Let me explain what boat boys are. These are the local entrepreneurs who ride around harbours in small sturdy boats who make a living by assisting cruisers.

boat boy
A PAYS ‘boat boy” zooming through Portsmouth Harbour, with a mountain in the backdrop

Boat boys will find you a mooring, get you fuel or water, clean your boat and lead or arrange tours. These are only some of the tasks they do.

Some boat boys are more helpful than others and some give all boat boys a bad name, causing some cruisers to hate them. We haven’t met any of these, we’ve just heard of them.

Dominica is the first island where we’ve encountered boat boys on this trip. We’ve seen them before when chartering in the Grenadines, so they seem to be isolated to the southern Caribbean.

PAYS in Portsmouth

We read that the boat boys in Dominica used to be a serious issue for many cruisers: aggressively promoting themselves, providing poor service, and charging exorbitant sums.

Happily, the boat boys in Portsmouth, Dominica, are great! Smart people organized them into a collective called PAYS, each boat has an assigned guide, and they are very helpful and provide services at affordable prices.

PAYS also has an office on the beach with free wifi and they’ll take garbage from boaters for a small fee.

PAYS Dominica
PAYS sign on the beach in Portsmouth Dominica

Natural Beauty

Dominica differs from a lot of the Caribbean islands I’ve seen. It’s green and lush. The towns themselves are rundown and not attractive but they are not the reason to visit. The countryside is what brings people here and why Dominica is known as the nature island.

Naturally Beautiful Dominica
Beach view in southern Dominica

I think much of the disrepair in the towns is from hurricane damage. It’s a sad reality that we are visiting these countries only one full season since the destruction of 2017. Even many of the natural sites, the mountains and waterfalls, were badly affected. The trees and shrubs are growing back and eventually the towns will rebuild too.

Dominica has 365 rivers: one for every day of the year. The fresh water provides a plenitude of produce.

We had fruit handed to us on several occasions in Dominica – starfruit, mangoes, all kinds of fruit is growing everywhere. In fact, Dominica supplies much of the produce to neighboring West Indies islands.

Produce Dominica
Fresh produce is bountiful in Dominica

The rivers and mountains of Dominica are excellent places to tour. In 5 days, we rode a riverboat, swam a cavern, hiked to waterfalls, saw parrots fly, saw steaming hot natural baths and learned a lot about the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean 2. We still didn’t cover much!

Dominica map
We only had time for a few stops in naturally beautiful Dominica

Indian River

The Indian River runs into Portsmouth Harbour, so we and our friend Chuck signed up with Marcus for a tour.

Power boats are not allowed on the river, so Marcus rowed us from the mouth and up to the stopping point, a jungle bar.

Indian River
A ride on the Indian River, Dominica

The river cruise part was relaxing and calm. Marcus pointed out herons and other birds, and showed us where Johnny Depp visited a voodoo woman in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. I haven’t seen the movie, but now feel like I should!

Bush Bar Indian River
The Bush Bar at Indian River

The ride was beautiful, and the Indian River Bush Bar is so cool. They serve rum infused with different herbs and flavors.

Titou Gorge

One of our favorite tour stops ever is the fresh water swim through a cave to a waterfall. There’s a bit of a current here, so they make you wear a buoyancy belt around your waist so no one drowns. The water was “refreshing” but once we started swimming we warmed up.

Getting ready to go in the cave!
Getting ready to jump in!

Titou Gorge is a beautiful place and pretty close to our second anchorage, Roseau, Dominica. We visited as part of a larger tour to a few stops in the region.

Titou Gorge
Titou Gorge

Cabrits National Park, Fort Shirley

A few attractions are common throughout the Caribbean islands, and one of them is the forts. We are seeing a lot of forts built mostly by the English and the French in the 17th and 18th centuries. Fort Shirley, the mostly intact fort in Portsmouth Dominica, is another stellar example of a massive structure with beautiful views. They host events here, including a jazz festival which would be awesome to attend! Look at the view!

Fort Shirley Dominica
View of Portsmouth from Fort Shirley

Pointe Baptiste Chocolate

pointe Baptiste chocolate
Chocolate Factory!

Dominica’s only chocolate company is run by a very nice man who led us on a tour of the grounds, his chocolate making process, and gave us starfruit off his trees and chocolate samples. We also bought a few bars because we couldn’t resist dark chocolate with cocoa nibs.

chocolate making
Tempering the chocolate

Parrots

Dominica is home to two parrots which are protected species and very rare. The national bird, and the symbol on the country’s flag, is the Imperial Amazon parrot. The other parrot is the Jaco, or red-necked parrot.

I didn’t think we would, but we got to see a few parrots! I am 100% certain one of them was the Jaco, but otherwise, they were way too high in the trees to see clearly. We saw parrots fly in the wild, which was very cool. No talking though. Here is my best parrot photo from Dominica. You can tell it’s a bird but not much else!

Dominica parrot
This is my best parrot photo in Dominica

Hot Baths

The volcanic activity on this island creates hot bubbling steaming natural baths, which you can visit and soak in. It reminded me of Iceland!

We didn’t do it, but we saw some really hot ones that you don’t want to touch, and some which are a more welcoming temperature.

Why We Need to Return to Dominica the Beautiful

There are many rivers and hikes we didn’t see in Dominica, so we hope to return. We didn’t do any scuba diving or snorkeling nor did we dip into any of the hot springs. We hope to go back and do it all!

Author: Mel

Living aboard a sailboat, scuba diver, cat parent, cyclist, blogger, love the water and exploring new places.

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