When I moved to Dominica I joined a facebook group called Girls Love Travel (GLT). I wanted to connect with women who shared my wanderlust and who also might be looking for some place to get away from it all, recharge, explore, be adventurous and feel safe even while traveling solo – which is how I found Dominica in the first place. I was hoping to participate in a global conversation about travel, and find others who like me are looking for an experience close to nature, in the water or who might be headed my way! I’ve enjoyed reading up on other’s traveling, and appreciated recommendations and information I’ve received on my own posts, so far I’ve loved my GLT experience.
Just recently I posted about doing a little island hopping for Rich’s first trip off island since we moved. We are going to Saint Martin/ Sint Maarten and I needed recommendations of where to stay, eat and explore, what is worth doing on our short trip vs what to skip. Among the responses was one from Alexis, who told me that she and her partner live/work on a catamaran and had not only just spent 3 months on St Martin, but that she was on her way down island and would be stopping on Dominica for a few days!
We were able to connect on facebook and make a little plan. Monday morning we picked them up from Madiba beach bar on Prince Rupert Bay, where we all jumped into our car for a ride to Syndicate Falls. Driving up into the mountains passing plantations and farms along the way we pointed out some of our favorite flowers and vistas while talking exchanging and comparing island experiences and getting recommendations for StMartin. We had perfect weather for this leisurely trail, warm and sunny with a cool breeze through the mountains. We pointed out all the native & wild fruits and plants along with the farmed produce along the trail, all the sights we’ve come to know and love since we arrived here. The river was clear, cool and rushing but easy enough to criss cross up to the falls.
We sat in the water as long as our muscles would allow, dried off in the sun on the rocks while eating bananas and kennips. Alexis (american) and Willo (Dutch) told us about their experiences crewing / captaining boats around the world which really sounds like a dream! They are such passionate and free spirited people and you can tell how much they appreciate their lifestyle. Its always inspiring and motivating seeing other people doing what they love.
We talked about food on the walk back, trading favorite preparations of tropical foods, and lamenting about foods we missed having regular access to. The guys picked up some bbq plates from the shacks as we passed through Picard on our way to their boat. We were picked up by tender from Cobra Tours and delivered to the stunning 62′ Bella Principessa. Alexis and Willo gave us a quick tour then dropped the dingy into the water for a quick ride across the bay to the mouth of the Indian River.
Rich and I have joked for years about not taking the ride down the Indian River because it seemed like too much of a tourist trap. We would be hollered at daily as we crossed the bridge over the river going to or coming from Portsmouth. We joked about how long it would take the guides to recognize our car as ‘local’ an stop asking. In the back of our minds we knew we would end up on the river eventually, but figured it would be down the line with guests or family. We wanted to know what made this tour worth it? Did people go just to see the location of Calypso’s shack from Pirates of The Caribbean Dead Man’s Chest? Was it all to drink by the riverside at the “Bush Bar”? Well … we were about to find out!
The dingy tied up, we met our guide Ajahlie (Ah-jah-lee), and hopped on his boat to start the tour. Ajahlie’s huge smile is welcoming and his attitude upbeat and oozing with a love for his beautiful island. He began to row us up the river, through jade green water, milky with sediment from the previous day’s rain.
Ajahlie tells us the names of all the flowers and trees along with stories about why they are special, and we look on in awe because no matter how many times you’ve been here, or if you live here, Dominica is beautiful from every angle, and it changes every day.
You will always notice something different in the shades of green. Colored by great company and ideal weather even the familiar crabs seemed more interesting! We wound through the bush, sometimes only a few inches above the riverbed and I wish I’d had a notebook to write down the names for some of the birds I see from our verandah that were finally identified for me! The canopy of trees above provide shelter from sun or rain until you cruise up to the dock at the Bush Bar.
Order a punch, and some plantain chips, and make sure you’ve got bug spray on! We ordered passionfruit punch, coffee punch, dynamite & spice and got to talking with Rocky the bartender who lives on site in a lofty cabin, nestled behind the garden that surrounds the bar. Alexis was on a hunt for crayfish, and after a lot of talk about finding someone to hunt them for her, Rocky pulled out his little spear from behind the bar and proceeded to tell Alexis the 3 main ways to catch crayfish!
It was quite the show, and although we didn’t go back the next night to hunt with him, I have a feeling we will take him up on his offer to show us soon!
While Rocky demonstrated Ajahlie was busy weaving some palm fronds into a fish and bird, the perfect souvenir for those that don’t like souvenirs, they are beautiful, delicate and – if we coat them in clear nail polish – will apparently last a lifetime.
There was an extra bird left over that we gave to Rocky as thanks for his storytelling and willingness to teach us to hunt. The rain that had come and gone while we were nestled under the cover of the Bush Bar, where we enjoyed the view of the gardens and river and the feeling of a place that was literally cut from the bush.
It was time to head back, and on the way we would veer off to another branch of the river where some locals had built a replica of Calypso’s shack in the location where the set had once stood. If you didn’t already know, one of Dominica’s claim to fame is the magnificent scenery it provided for Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man’s Chest.
The thing about this tourist attraction is that it just feels so right, you wish this little river was lined with cute little wooden shacks like this because the story it tells and feelings it evokes transcend a movie, or a set, or a replica of one. It looks meant to be.
The tour behind us, we were looking forward to the evening and the promise of a fantastic meal! Another short dingy ride across the bay to Bella where we hopped on, disrobed and Alexis and I jumped in the water for a sunset swim. Cocktails were flowing and we were joined by a wonderful Australian couple who have been sailing around the world for the past year on their Catamaran Kefi. Alexis and I took apart a banana flower in hopes to use it for a salad she was inspired by. But after each of us tasted it and couldn’t figure out how it would be edible, she was able to turn it into a delicious asian inspired banana flower ‘sauce’ that is hard to explain but delicious to eat! There was vegetable green curry, sticky rice, mint/cumin cabbage salad, local tomatoes, ribs all prepared by Alexis, an island made conch curry and the garlic & sun dried tomato bread I had baked for the occasion. What a feast!
The Aussie couple told us stories of their catamaran travels, and dives because of course they are divers with a compressor on board! And of course I come to find them on their last night in Dominica, which just means I can only hope that they might let us know when they reach our little corner of the world again! Their verve for life is contagious and their wanderlust driven leisure lifestyle is the stuff of dreams.
The night played out like all great island days do, more drinks, a game of Taboo (which Alexis and I won in a landslide) and Cards Against Humanity followed by dancing with the occasional dive or dip into the warm sea, lit by a glow from under the boat.
That day could have gone on forever! I hope this is just the beginning of experiences like these, making friends with strangers, connecting with people from all over the world. There is something about Dominica that attracts certain kinds of people, and they tend to be just the kind we are looking for. If people say ‘your vibe attracts your tribe’ Dominica has a very strong vibe and you can tell by those that come here to visit and even more by those that come to stay.
Stay Salty !