Botswana has a clear “low volume, high value” approach to its tourism; they want to prevent over exposure and devaluing the quality of the experience. Dominica, in the West Indies, has a similar philosophy. Unlike many of the Caribbean Islands – take St Maarten for example – Dominica has no new, flashy international airport. You can get here by air obviously, by the ever unpredictable LIAT Airways. LIAT get a lot of criticism, much justified, but when we arrived on a late-running flight from Tortola into Antigua, and had only ten minutes from landing to taking off on the next flight, LIAT got us rushed through the airport and onto our connecting flight in ten minutes flat. No one was more surprised than us when our luggage also arrived with us. Well done LIAT – a miracle.
Dominica has a finely balanced ecosystem that they really want to preserve. Much of the island is rainforest and mountainous terrain. A serious hurricane in 1979 (Hurricane David), just after independence, caused havoc and devastation to the economy and the infrastructure is taking time to rebuild. A number of Bailey bridges still link the roads around the island and areas of road subsidence and slippage are common. Hurricanes still batter the island and the economy remains fragile. Although Cruise ships visit, their passengers contribute little and bring more pollution than wealth.
So February sees us in Dominica. It’s Carnival Time and the capital, Roseau, is alive with street theatre and live music; jazz, calypso, drums – and street food. Saturday is the carnival procession but we’re on a LIAT tour of five islands so we miss it. Much of the action is on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights but even a quiet Monday has plenty going on.
Just 12 minutes taxi ride inland from Roseau you can find Papillote Wilderness Retreat. It’s right up in the rainforest and has a restaurant and a handful of simple rooms – bright red painted buildings nestling into the hillside. The gardens are a riot of foliage and wildlife, with exotic plants and waterfalls. You can understand what the exotic gardens in Cornwall were trying to create – the warm, wet atmosphere is also strangely similar. Destroyed in the hurricane, these too are slowly being rebuilt and you can soak in hot pools amongst the trees, where the water is heated to warm bath temperature by the volcanoes, explore the gardens or walk up the road to visit the Trafalgar water falls. At night the noise from the wildlife is deafening. Food is simple and, although you can choose the inevitable MAP meal plan, just choosing from the menu is probably simplest; though not all choices will be available. Initially we had fruit for breakfast but, after deciding this was too virtuous, we added toast. No jam available, however. “We’ve run out”. Idle the time away in simple tranquility.
Eco inn Papillote Wilderness Retreat