After a very long summer in the excruciatingly hot days of the Caribbean my husband and I were happy to take a trip to one of the vacation spots on our bucket list, Dominica.
I cannot tell you how exited I was to take this trip as I heard so many good things about it from people I met in the Caribbean.
In October 2013, my husband and I went to Dominica for 5 nights and stayed at a beautiful property called Jungle Bay. It was a memorable time that we will both remember for the rest of our lives.
First things first, some general information on Dominica:
Dominica, officially called the Commonwealth of Dominica, is an island nation in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea. It is located in between Guadeloupe and Martinique.
It is a 290 square mile island with a population of close to 80,000 people. Christopher Columbus named it after he spotted it on a Sunday, which is “Dominica” in Latin.
Throughout the years after Columbus found Dominica, it first became a French and then a British Colony. Finally in 1978, it became an independent nation.
The official language is English. However, because of the French invasion throughout the history and being so close to two French-speaking islands (Guadeloupe and Martinique), a French based creole language is spoken by many people on the island.
Because of its natural, unspoiled beauty Dominica is considered to be the “Nature Island of the Caribbean”. From the minute you land on the island you can’t help but be mesmerized by the luscious green flora made up of tropical plants, waterfalls, springs, mountains, rivers, and ocean.
Dominica is a volcanic island*. The island is still being formed by geothermal-volcanic activity as evidenced by the world’s second largest hot spring, Boiling Lake.
*Volcanic islands are the remains of undersea volcanoes, which have reached and exceeded beyond the sea level.
As we landed at the airport, we were welcomed by the kind of rainfall that I have never witnessed before in my lifetime.
Brother, an employee of the Jungle Bay, picked us up from the airport. After a long hour and 45 minutes we made it to our hotel, Jungle Bay.
It was particularly difficult for me as I had terrible motion sickness on the narrow and windy roads of the island. If you are like me and suffer from motion sickness, I would highly recommend you to take some medicine in advance.
Jungle Bay is located on the Southeast side of the island. Sam, the General Manager and owner, will tell you in the Jungle Bay Story how he built the Jungle Bay on a wasteland.
The mission of Jungle Bay, as mentioned on their website, “is to enhance the natural environment and improve the livelihood of surrounding communities so that the region is improved in a sustainable way, while providing quality, comfortable nature-based experiences for our guests.”
As a guest we witnessed how they did everything possible to create a peaceful environment by being respectful to nature and protecting (and preserving) their natural resources in an exemplary way.
After a quick check-in, we were escorted to our room and were given a detailed room orientation. Rooms are not like typical hotel rooms. I should not even call it a room. It is more like cabins or tree houses scattered throughout the hillside overlooking the ocean. Be prepared to climb many stairs to get to your room.
It seems like these stairs are mentioned as a main caveat on some of the comments I read on Trip Advisor. I can definitely relate to it. However, as cumbersome as it may be, I cannot imagine a better way to build houses so that guests can wake up to a beautiful sunrise every morning.
The view from the room is (above), simply put, spectacular. We were so high up that all we could see was the Atlantic Ocean and the green trees.
Our cabin was simply decorated, spacious yet cozy. As Jungle Bay is, what I call an eco-friendly “Zen Hotel”, there are no TVs or air-conditioning in any of the cabins. Our cabin had an outdoor shower with an opening overlooking the ocean.
The sound of the ocean and the birds is what you hear as you lay on your bed. At first I was surprised how loud it was, but in time I got used to it and eventually found it quite calming.
Food in Jungle Bay is amazing. They use local produce and change the menu daily based on what they have available. Menu consist mostly of vegan and vegetarian items (including fish) but chicken is available for meat eaters.
If you are a fish lover, you are in for a treat. They prepare the fish of the day for you in any way you prefer. If you are, like me, into soups and salads, you will not be disappointed.
The dishes are flavored with local fruits and vegetables like coconut, pumpkin, pineapple, tomatoes,plantains etc.
In the morning, the breakfast buffet offers you freshly cut tropical fruits, a selection of breads made from coconut, banana and pumpkin as well as the usual pancakes and cereal selection.
My favorite part was the freshly squeezed juices from fruits like tangerine, passion fruit, orange, and coconut. They serve it both sweetened and unsweetened.
We booked the Jungle Spa Adventure Package which includes accommodation, all the excursions and activities the hotel offers, all meals, a daily 30-minute massage at the spa, and airport pick-up and drop-off.
Everything except alcohol is included. However, we thought that the alcohol was not overly priced like in most other resorts. For example, a glass of French Pinot Noir was priced at $4. Quite reasonable…
While you are there make sure to taste their local beer, Kubuli. The name is coming from Dominica’s indigenous name “Waitukubuli” which means “tall is her body”. They are very proud of their local beer.
Dwight and I thought that it was quite tasty.
The service at the Jungle Bay was very good. Employees are friendly and attentive. After the first couple of interactions they know you by name. As a team, they offer an environment that you feel comfortable and welcomed.
The spa, Spa du Soleil, has 4 rooms (including a room for couples massage) with windows overlooking the Atlantic. As you get your daily massages all you hear is the sound of the ocean and the sound of the birds on the island. Spa staff is very accommodating and they genuinely care about your wellbeing.
By now, you probably understood that this is not the kind of vacation where you would lay on the beach and read your book.
And it definitely is not your average Caribbean get-away.
It is mostly an adventure where you have to walk through rainforests, climb through large slippery rocks, and cross through fast flowing rivers for hours to be able to see some of the most beautiful sights and scenery that nature can offer.
As we were anxious to see as much as we can, we took full advantage of the excursions that are offered through Jungle Bay.
As you are getting ready for this trip, I would highly recommend packing hiking shoes and clothes that you do not mind getting wet and dirty. When I say hiking shoes, I mean real hiking shoes.
Not Crocs, not sandals, real hiking shoes.
You will need good shoes during these excursions to be able to climb some of the slippery rocks, walk in the rain for a long time, and cross through the fast (at times, wild) rivers.
There is no need for any fancy clothing. Everyone is dressed in comfortable clothes, even in the restaurant. I brought a summer dress with me but did not even wear it. Mostly shorts, t-shirts and swimsuits will do it for you.
They offer yoga classes in the morning. If you are planning on attending these classes you should bring your yoga clothing as well.
Brother, Keith and Justin were our guides throughout the excursions. As the locals of the island, they are very friendly and helpful people. Not to mention how experienced they are when it comes to guiding these excursions. I think it is important to have a guide every step of these trips.
For every trip a guide drives you to the location in an open-air van where you get to enjoy the fresh air as you cruise through the winding roads.
At the end of an hour and a half drive we made it to Trafalgar Falls. The hike to get to the falls is quite easy with handrails to help you up and down the small hills.
In less than 20 minutes you find yourself at the observation deck where you can see the famous twin Trafalgar Falls. Both waterfalls are running cold water but we were told that the water from the one on the left goes through an offspring where it comes out as hot water. At the bottom of each waterfall, you can enjoy natural hot tub size pools and relax under the flowing water or sit under the rushing waters of the falls.
It is simply breathtaking.
If you are planning to take photos, I would recommend you to take your camera with you. As it is raining frequently a waterproof camera cover would be ideal.
Roseau and the Roseau Market Tour
Roseau is the capital city of Dominica. My husband and I were very interested in going to Roseau because of the local open market. We both love going to local markets because we believe that the best way to experience the culture of a place is by going to places where locals go.
This one did not disappoint.
The market, as most markets, was pretty crowded with people shopping for fresh produce or just simply hanging out with their friends. It was quite a scene. As we walked around the market, watching locals sell their freshly cut, colorful fruits and vegetables to their customers, I thought to myself one way or the other we all do the same thing in our daily lives regardless of where we are in the world.
We felt safe and welcomed by the locals. I could not help but wish that I could purchase some of the local produce that I had never seen before and use them in my own kitchen.
Still, we bought ourselves a coconut, which was freshly cut for us, and enjoyed drinking its juice as we walked around the market.
It took us almost a 15-minute drive to get to the Victoria Falls. Victoria Falls is an incredibly beautiful waterfall. The water of it originates from the Boiling Lake. The hike to get there is somewhat strenuous as you walk through several rivers, under and over slippery and large rocks for close to 2 hours. At times crossing the river was challenging because of the heavy force of the water coming down the river.
We thought that this was the hardest, but the most beautiful of all the hikes we did. It was really an awesome experience.
When we finally reached to the top we were mesmerized by the beauty of the waterfall and the pool underneath it. Due to the extensive spray and the wind of the waterfall it was a little hard to swim but I enjoyed being in that water more than anything.
For this trip having a guide with you is very important. I cannot imagine how would we find our way (and climb through the rocks) to the falls without a guide.
If you are an amateur photographer with a DSLR camera, I would strongly suggest thinking twice about bringing it with you for this trip. Especially if you are not an experienced hiker. The lighter your load, the easier it is to complete this excursion safely.
If you still want to bring your camera you should purchase a waterproof case that can be used to take pictures under the water.
This, DiCAPac WP-S5 Waterproof Case for Digital SLR Cameras – Waterproof Camera Case, is what I used and was very happy with it.
Glasse Trail is only a 15-minute driving distance from the hotel. Originally a launching site for fisherman, it was damaged by hurricane David in 1979 and is now being used as a trail for visitors and locals.
The actual hike is fairly easy. As you walk along the oceanside cliffs you get to experience the active culture and taste fruits like grapefruit, avocadoes or whatever is available in the season.
This is where Brother, our tour guide, showed us a cinnamon tree. Come to find out, scraping the bark of the cinnamon tree produces cinnamon and when it is dried under the sun it naturally curls into sticks.
It takes around 30 – 35 minutes to get to the beautiful volcanic pools that are at the end of the trail. The scenery is breathtaking and is great for photography.
The volcanic pools are alongside of the ocean and whenever the tide comes in it fills them up.
On the day we went there it was raining very heavily but on a sunny (or not so rainy) day you can swim in the pools.
Perdu Temps Hike
It took us 30 minute drive to get to the Perdu Temps Hike. This hike is a part of the historic Perdu Temps Trail. However, instead of completing the trail we were taken to the house of a local family, which I thought was very interesting.
The hike takes about an hour and a half through a mainly flat terrain and some river crossings. At times it got steep and narrow but at the end when we reached Pump’s house, it was all worth it.
Brother told us that Pump and his family uses this trail to go to the nearest road to go to Roseau to sell their produce. Can you imagine having to walk an hour and a half just to get to the road? Fascinating…
Pump, with his family, welcomed us to his house for us to explore the nature around his house and have lunch with them.
Prior to going there, we were told that as we finally reached to Pump’s house we will witness what “paradise” may look like.
Whoever came up with the term “in the middle of nowhere” must have been to Pump’s house. Imagine a house in the middle of a huge yard full of trees that are full of fruits. We were told that we could eat all the fruit we wanted.
Brother, our tour guide, gave us a tour of Pump’s organic farm, which includes exotic fruits and vegetables as well as his “healing garden” with an assortment of healing plants as natural medicine.
Brother not only explained these plants and what they do in detail, but also allowed us to taste them.
In the meantime, Justin, the other tour guide, made us lunch; a soup made of vegetables from Pump’s garden.
We were served in cups that are made from calabash. As we enjoyed our meal, we got a chance to chat with Pump and his family.
If you are a city girl like me, you will find this trip very interesting. It is a three-hour hike (roundtrip) and well worth the trip.
There is plenty of opportunity to take photographs. If you like food photography this is a great opportunity because of all the different and colorful fruits and vegetables.
Caribbean Cooking Class
When I heard about the Caribbean cooking class I was so excited as I was hoping to get recipes of some of the delicious food that we had during our stay.
The Caribbean cooking class was held by the Food and Beverage Manager, Joanne, who, with her team in the kitchen, is the creator of most of the dishes we had been enjoying.
During the class she introduced us to some of the local vegetables and gave us information about the culinary culture of Dominica. In addition, with the help of her chefs, two dishes were prepared; pumpkin ginger soup and fried coconut coated plantains. They both were very easy, quick to make, and tasty.
I have already posted the recipes of the Pumpkin Ginger soup and the Ginger Ice Tea that we had in Jungle Bay. They are both easy and quick to make. If you want to experience some of the Caribbean flavors you should try making them at home.
The Story of Jungle Bay
Sam Raphael, the owner, developer, and general manager of the Jungle Bay sits down with his guests to tell the story of how Jungle Bay came about. He is a remarkable man with a clear vision that is inspiring. Within the story, he tells you some of the things that Jungle Bay is doing to help educate the island’s young generation as well as how it contributes to the local economy.
I would highly recommend attending this not only to meet a man with a real entrepreneur soul but also to see how you contributed something very good by just staying there.
All in all this was an amazing trip with experiences that we will talk about for the rest of our lives. I wish we had more time to do many other hikes around the island as well as the world famous Boiling Lake. I think what we did was the tip of the iceberg.
Hopefully next time…
Throughout the trip I took close to 2,000 pictures, but to be honest, none of these pictures do it justice.
You have to go there and see it with your own eyes.
Disclaimer: All of the places mentioned in this post are my personal favorites. The pictures are taken by me and should not be used without my permission.
The recaps are my own views and opinions. I am not paid by any of these places to mention their names on foolproofliving.com.