Dominica – the nature island

by Adrian on January 11, 2015

After leaving Bequia, we’ve sailed overnight to reach Dominica in one hop. After weeks of short day sails between islands it seemed a big thing to sail 140 miles overnight. It wasn’t, and it went fine. Sailing north is always a bit more tricky as you’re invariable tight on the wind. Fortunately the wind played ball and we were able to manage close hauled at 40-50º apparent in the open stretches between the islands in 15-20 knots of wind. In the lee of the islands, the wind dies to 5 knots, so the motor goes on for a few hours of flatness.

The approach to Dominica heralded an island with large volcanic mountains covered with lush rainforest – should be interesting…

Dominica calls itself the nature island, and this is what we came to see. There are two main ports. Roseau to the south and Portsmouth to the North. Dominica seems to be quite organised in terms of private tours to the island’s attractions, so armed with a few recommended names, we decided to pay for a mooring buoy and pay for a guide for the day to get the most out our experience.

In the Caribbean, people are mostly known by monikers or nicknames. We wanted our tour to be arranged by Seacat, who had been recommended by a number of people and books. As luck would have it, the first wooden speedboat to come racing out to us when we approached the moorings bore the name “Seacat”, so we let ourselves be guided to a buoy and were ably assisted by Desmond (or Smokey), one of Seacat’s guys.

Desmond was very personable, and quickly arranged a tour with a local guide called Gordon. As it turned out Gordon was the son on the ex-police chief, so knew literally everybody he met on the island. We loaded into his minibus taxi and headed off with him for a few hours to tour the town, hike up to waterfalls and see as much of the interior of the island as we could.

Our tour started with a trip around the capital, Roseau.


Dominica gained independence from Britain in 1978 and most of the island was hit by hurricane David the following year. Much of the island was devastated due to poor infrastructure, communications and lack of warning, and a huge proportion of the island’s rainforest was completely destroyed.

Dominica Hurricane

This brand new school bus was parked in a “supposedly” safe place next to a building when the hurricane struck!
School bus

We drove up through the mountains and hiked an hour into the amazing rainforest up to Middleham falls, one of the largest waterfalls on the island. Here we were able to climb down to the pool and swim. The force of the water hitting the bottom and the wind it created was astounding so we just about managed to dip into the freezing cold water. It felt very refreshing immersed in fresh water – the first time in 3 months.

  • Middleham falls

    Middleham falls

  • Hiking


  • The stinking hole

    The stinking hole

  • Middleham Falls

    Middleham Falls

  • Rainbow at the bottom

    Rainbow at the bottom

  • Swimming in the Titou gorge

    Swimming in the Titou gorge

  • Chilly selfie

    Chilly selfie

  • Our tour group and guide

    Our tour group and guide

After hiking out, the next stop was the Titou Gorge, which is a cave you can swim into to another waterfall. Dominica has 8 active volcanos, so we then toured a few of the numerous hot springs and boiling pools before finishing the day with a local food at a charming roadside restaurant. It was a great introduction to the island, and we finished feeling tired, but satisfied we’d experienced a flavour of Dominica.

To Portsmouth

The next morning we left very early (0430) to motor up the island to reach Portsmouth for 8am so we could get a full day’s activities in. As we entered the anchorage early in the morning we spotted an Allures 44 in the distance, so snuck up and anchored nearby to surprised them when they got up. It turns our it was owned by an American family from Maine. S/y Strider (formerly Soleil) was bought in Florida a year ago by Colin and Blaire. They have completed a major refit and are now cruising with their two kids. They seem really nice and we had lots of experiences in common. Hopefully we’ll meet up again as we head north up the US coast.

Strider and Vagaris

In Portsmouth, we met Martin, who gave a talk in St Lucia to ARC crews about Dominica. He looked after us and took us on the Indian river tour. This is a sedate tour where he rows up a river inlet directly from the anchorage up into the rainforest. This 2 hour tour took us into the cool, silent rainforest canopy past towering mangroves, complex root systems, vines and all kinds of crabs and wildlife. Martin is a botanist, and has been conducting tours for 25 years, so knows pretty much everything there is to know about the rainforest and the island. We’d thoroughly recommend you look him up if there – he can take you anywhere in the island and is thoroughly knowledgeable and personable

  • The Indian River Tour

  • The Indian River Tour

  • Palm Trees

  • The Indian River Tour

    Rainforest canopy

  • Tree Roots

  • The Indian River Tour

    Soft shell crab

  • Crane

  • Winding river

  • Martin

Portsmouth Anchorage in Dominica

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