Climbing boulders to reach thunderous waterfalls, hiking through clouds to ascend to far-reaching views, and forcefully swimming through rushing water to climb through a gorge carved out by God himself—these are the types of adventures one encounters when visiting this hidden gem of an isle, Dominica.
Aptly referred to as “The Nature Island,” Dominica did not disappoint with its lush exterior teeming with life. As our plane began its descent and the tree-covered island came into view, I couldn’t help but notice how green it appeared. However, as we drove, swam and hiked through the villages and rain forests, a much more vibrant landscape came into focus. The flamboyant trees bursting with fiery red-orange blooms provided a mesmerizing focal point and stark contrast to the abundant coconut trees and other palms. A plethora of colorful and unique tropical vegetation span the length and depth of the mountainous island.
Expect to hear hummingbirds singing and unseen reptiles rustling through the leaves, accompanying you as you hike—be it a well-marked trail or the thicket of an off-the-path journey. In an age of globalization and industrialization, Dominica remains unspoilt. Everything requires a little more leg work. Everything is an adventure.
Our adventure started with a trip to Trafalgar Falls, one of the most-visited sites on the island. Trafalgar Falls is located in the Roseau Valley, home to many of Dominica’s natural wonders, including the Emerald Pool and Titou Gorge. After a short walk from the parking area, you will arrive at a beautiful view of two cascading waterfalls. The waterfall to the right is the most forceful, but the one to the left is higher up and isn’t quite as forceful—making its pool perfect for a refreshing swim. There’s just one catch: there’s no easy way to get to the pool of that waterfall. I stood admiring the view, soaking up the rays of sun and the hypnotizing sounds of water ferociously crashing on rocks. I was informed that we would be climbing the boulders leading up to the pool of one of the waterfalls. I thought this was a joke. Many of those boulders were several feet wide and tall. And none of them looked too stable. It looked like if one rolled away, they could all come crashing down.
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It was at this moment that I finally understood what unspoilt really meant. It meant that cleared paths are few, and be ready to climb if you want to get anywhere—be it the top of a coconut tree or the base of a waterfall. I decided to just go for it. As we crossed the rocks leading to where we would begin our vertical ascent, I took a hard fall. I had four questioning eyes on me, wondering how I could manage the vertical ascent if I had already stumbled on the rocks that lay squarely on the ground. I’m no quitter so I jumped up, thankful that my iPhone 7 was waterproof, and continued on the way. Along the way, I gave up all of the possessions I was carrying—including my shoes, littering them along our path as we made our way to the top. There are no photos of this climb because all of my attention was focused on putting one foot in front of the other.
Much of the ascent resembled a Twister game as I crossed one leg over to the far left and placed one hand to the right in an effort to maneuver around the boulders. In those moments, I was grateful that I was blessed with flexibility. But I was even more grateful for our guide, Nigel, and my hiking companion, Mark. Nigel was very attentive and did his best to ensure that I didn’t get hurt. Plus, his strong grip helped me during some of the steeper transitions from one boulder to the next. Mark was behind me—making sure I didn’t come crashing down. There were only two occasions when Nigel put so much energy into helping me that he almost lost his footing and took a tumble. But, I eventually found my stride, lunging around like a ninja, keeping my center of gravity as low to the rocks as possible, testing each step for stability before transferring my weight.
All of this was made much more challenging by how slippery some of the rocks were that day due to rain and the numerous clouds. But, we made it—with all bones in tact! We all jumped in and took a refreshing swim before finding smaller pools all over with much steamier water. The area was dotted with mini hot tubs—easy to spot because they had traces of orange in places where the water was hot. We took a long, much-deserved soak in the mini hot springs. I’m not sure how much time went by, but I could have stayed forever. Plus, I wasn’t all that eager to make my way down since I knew that it would be even more difficult than the way up.
The trip down was definitely a little more challenging. Several leaps of faith were made as my foot didn’t always reach the rock I was transitioning to. And there was one particularly memorable moment with Nigel in front of me, Mark behind me, and me repeating “I’m not okay!” as I struggled for my foot to find the rock below.
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Our day didn’t end when we left the falls—it was only beginning! Our next stop in the Roseau Valley was Titou Gorge. Titou Gorge was truly a unique wonder to behold. I had never seen anything like it and felt like I was in the set of a movie. The gorge itself was a narrow waterway carved between two towering rocks, with the sun overhead peering through. To enter the gorge, Mark and Nigel jumped from about 30 feet high. I do consider myself “adventurous” compared to my peer group, but there was absolutely no way I was making that jump. It was such a narrow waterway—a few inches off and you’re landing on rock instead of water!
I took the easy way in and swam through the narrow pathway and entered into a large pool area. The sun was still peering overhead, making it a totally serene experience. We continued swimming through the gorge, but the swim became more and more difficult. There was water rushing from about five feet up at the end of the pool, creating a mini waterfall with rapidly moving water. To help me fight the current, our tour guide tied a rope to himself, and I held on. Both of my traveling companions then climbed the mini waterfall and jumped into the next pool. Apparently, the gorge just continues with small openings leading from one pool to the next.
When it was my turn to climb the waterfall, I surprised myself by how far I got. There are no real grips to hold onto, so I held on to wet rock with one hand, and the rope tied to my tour guide with the other. But as he was being helped to the top, the rushing water overtook me, knocking me over and sending me rushing back through the gorge. I gathered myself, despite the amount of water I inhaled, and found a corner protected from the rushing water. Unfortunately, this was the end of our Titou Gorge excursion! Apparently the recent rain made the rushing water much more forceful, making it more challenging to conquer. But, I’m so grateful for the parts of it that I did get to experience.
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It’s not just the island’s top sites where you’ll encounter adventure. Even the beaches in Dominica are adventurous. Just getting to some of the best ones, like Batibou Beach, requires 4-wheel drive and someone with local knowledge to navigate the bumpy path. Although Batibou Beach was incredibly beautiful and peaceful, it certainly has adventurous elements. For example, if you stand to the far right, you just might be greeted by baby sharks. We were there right around dusk, standing in inches-deep water very close to the shore. Baby sharks that were 12-18 inches long swam right up to us, weaving between our ankles.
And that was just a single day's worth of adventure on this incredible island.