A Walk on the Wild Side Through Primal Island Rain Forest
With few beaches to tout, Dominica is the perfect island destination for naturalists and ecotourists, who come to explore Morne Trois Pitons National Park, an ungovernable refuge of huge ferns, ancient trees, wild orchids, and bright anthuriums.
Much of Dominica’s fame as the Caribbean’s “Nature Island”—and the only landfall Columbus would recognize if he were to return tomorrow—derives from this wild and gorgeous jungle movie set of a park, a 25-square-mile slice of nature that looks and feels more like Hawaii than the Caribbean.
Waterfalls (like the one feeding the fern- bedecked Emerald Pool grotto) hide among lush, steep-sided peaks that are among the Caribbean’s highest, the centerpiece being the three-pronged mountain after which the park is named.
Those who want a little less Shangri-la and a little more sulfur and brimstone can make the trek to Boiling Lake, the earth’s largest flooded fumarole. Located in the southern part of the park, it’s one of the Caribbean’s most vigorous walks. The volcanic field called the Valley of Desolation lives up to its name, with steaming vents and boiling mud cauldrons.
The Victorian-era Springfield Plantation Guest House is located close to the Emerald Pool. It’s modest but full of character, and offers home-style Creole cooking plus gorgeous rain forest views. For a more Tarzan- and-Jane experience, try the Papillote Wilderness Retreat. Located deep in the rain forest on the border of the Morne Trois Pitons Park, it’s a popular destination for nature-loving visitors. Guinea hens, geese, and peacocks stroll about freely, and the remarkable 12-acre botanical garden of bamboo, bromeliads, and begonias is the owner’s pride and joy.
Visitors can take a dip into a bubbling hot-spring pool or cool mountain river, join one of the guided walks along paths that crisscross the inn’s lush property, or take the escorted fifteen-minute hike to nearby hot-and-cold Trafalgar Falls, a remarkable 200-foot twin cataract.
At the Retreat’s plant-filled, thatched- roof terrace restaurant, meals are both unfussy and excellent. If you’re lucky, flying fish or the succulent bouk shrimp caught in one of the island’s 365 rivers will be on the menu. Or opt for crapaud—“mountain chicken” in local jargon—just remember that it’s a land frog. Rooms are simple and basic, but the accessibility of the rain forest’s landscape is the lure here.