Get ready for an exciting journey as we explore the captivating wonders of Dominica, aka the Nature Island of the Caribbean aka the tiny island the majority of my family is from!
I've already covered the best way to travel around Dominica, but in case you were left wondering just exactly what is Dominica known for, I wanted to write out this comprehensive list of 10 fun facts about the island. In this comprehensive guide, we'll dive deep into the island's natural beauty, cultural heritage, and the best experiences it has to offer!
Dominica: Why Does that Sound Familiar?
The name Dominica might sound familiar to you, but you may be wondering why I'm not calling it by its full name. If that's the case, you might be mistaking it for its larger neighbor also in the Caribbean - the Dominican Republic.
Officially known as the Commonwealth of Dominica, this small island nation was named in 1493 by Christopher Columbus (aka the OG colonizer) after the Latin name for Sunday - they day the Spanish first laid eyes on the island...super original I know.
Funnily enough, the Spanish were unable to properly colonize Dominica and got pushed out by indigenous refugees from nearby islands. Even though the Spanish left, the name stuck and here we are today with the island of Dominica (officially the Commonwealth of Dominica).
For the curious-minded who want to know which was named first - the Dominican Republic was known as Hispaniola until 1697 when the French called it Santo Domingo when it became known as Saint Domingue, the earliest known version of its current name*.
*This info comes straight from the Dominican Republic embassy's UK website.
How Do You Pronounce Dominica?
You may be tempted to say Duh-MIH-nih-kuh when you see the name Dominica. And I completely understand why - see above. However, the emphasis actually goes to the third syllable here. So Dominica is pronounced Daw-mih-NEE-kuh. Similarly, the demonym, Dominican, is pronounced Daw-mih-NEE-ken.
And now you know!
Whale Watching: Sperm Whales and More
Dominica is actually the only country in the world where sperm whales live year round! The warm waters attract these gentle giants (and also me), and offers visitors a unique opportunity for whale watching. Humpback whales also grace the Dominica waters during their migration, adding to the marine spectacle that defines Dominica as a prime destination for nature lovers.
And in November of this year, the country established the world's first sperm whale reserve - pretty cool feat for such a tiny island, right?
Why is Dominica Called The Nature Island?
Geologically speaking, Dominica is one of the youngest islands in the Caribbean and its terrain is still being shaped by volcanic activity to this day.
In addition to the abundance of whales, Dominica is home to a plethora of tropical species, marine life, and other wildlife such as the sisserou parrot, nearly a dozen lizard species, and sooooo many chickens, goats, cows, and similar farm animals. Pretty much everywhere you walk, you'll find some kind of animal lazing/swimming about.
Dominica isn't just home to a number of animals, but incredible greenery and incredible landscapes as well. From twin waterfalls to the world's second largest boiling lake to winding rivers and grassy mountains, the island has an abundance of natural scenery to hike through and appreciate.
At the heart of Dominica lies the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that showcases the island's commitment to environmental preservation. This park is a playground for nature enthusiasts, featuring the iconic Boiling Lake, a geothermal wonder surrounded by mist, and dramatic landscapes that have helped earn Dominica its nickname—the Nature Isle.
It's difficult to sum up in just one post all that the magical island of Dominica has to offer, but just know that it is indeed dubbed the nature isle for good reason. And while you're there one of the best things to do is indulge in one of the island's many natural hot springs.
Cultural Riches: Roseau and Beyond
The capital city of Roseau is a melting pot of cultural influences, with history deeply rooted in its colonial history. Here you can immerse yourself in the island's history at Fort Shirley in Cabrits National Park, where remnants of the past stand against a backdrop of lush greenery.
Roseau's architecture exhibits influences from both the British and the French given that both nations had a hand to pay in the shaping of the country's history (and certainly the languages the locals speak - French patois and English). You'll also notice a unique blend of Creole architecture, characterized by vibrantly colorful buildings with intricate wooden balconies.
Roseau is where all the energy is during any big cultural event. Of course all of the villages have their own celebrations, but Roseau is one of the best places to be during Independence day celebrations and Creole festival which happens every year. You will hear music blasting all day every day as you walk through the streets - even as early as 8am!
What Languages Are Spoken in Dominica?
SURPRISE! Spanish is not an official language in Dominica. It's not even remotely widely spoken. Remember how I said the Spanish failed at colonizing? Yeah...they failed bad.
The actual official language is English, though French and French creole (also referred to as French patois) are widely spoken throughout the country. The creole spoken here is mostly French vocabulary (as you might have guessed) with heavy influences in syntax from various African languages as well as the Kalinago language.
Who are the Native People of Dominica?
The Kalinago people originally known as the Caribs are the indigenous people of Dominica. They are the last remaining tribe of the pre-Columbian Carib Indians going back to about 3000 B.C. With the arrival of Columbus and European settlers, the Kalinago were forced to the Eastern side of Dominica, which was relatively isolated at the time. Eventually, they were formally given their own designated territory on this side of the island encompassing 3,700 acres, called the Kalinago Territory.
Today you can visit the Kalinago territory and see their traditional architectural style as well as purchase their unique crafts often made from coconuts, bamboo, and wood. Kalinago women are particularly well known for their basket weaving skills and their weaving is known for its intricacy and beauty.
What Kind of Food is Dominica Known for?
No exploration of Dominica is complete without indulging in its culinary delights. Treat your taste buds to local specialties like callaloo soup and rum punch.
Personally, my favorite Dominican dish is pelau, a simple one pot dish made up of rice, lentils, and chicken - that's it. But even though this super simple dish is only made up of 3 ingredients, the beauty is in the seasoning. Every family's pelau tastes completely different, so you're in for a treat each time.
Another local favorite is callaloo, which is a tasty soup usually featuring crab or smoked pork as the main protein though you can use any meat or make it a veggie alternative. I have no words to describe the flavors of this soup, just know that if you are ever presented with the opportunity to try it, take it!
As for drinks, you can't go wrong with a rum punch - but consider yourself warned, it really packs a punch.
Volcanic Activity in Dominica
NINE of the sixteen active volcanoes in the Caribbean islands are located in Dominica's mountainous interior! But don't worry, they are live but not technically super active. The last eruption was 1997 and they don't show signs of erupting again any time soon. Of the nine, Morne Diablotins is the highest mountain on the island and offers breathtaking views. You can actually see Dominica's neighbors Guadeloupe and Martinique from the top of Morne Diablotins.
Hurricane Maria, a formidable force of nature, left its mark on Dominica. However, the island's recovery and rejuvenation are awe-inspiring. Dominica emerged from the aftermath stronger, showcasing the resilience of its people and their dedication to preserving the island's natural beauty.
A River for Every Day...Literally
Dominica actually has a river for every day in the year - there are an estimated 365 rivers sprawling across the island. The most famous of these rivers is Indian River which is where portions of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were filmed!
In conclusion, Dominica stands as more than a tropical paradise; it's a testament to nature's artistry, a celebration of cultural diversity, and an invitation to explore the uncharted. Pack your bags, embrace the warm waters, and embark on an odyssey through the Nature Isle of the Caribbean. Dominica awaits, ready to enchant and captivate your senses in a journey that transcends the ordinary and immerses you in the extraordinary.
What Makes Dominica's Flag so Special?
Dominica's national flag is one of only four which use the color purple. The purple comes from the sisserou parrot in the center which is the country's national bird. I might be biased for thinking this is really cool only because purple happens to be my favorite color...
Dominica is more than a tropical paradise, it's a literal dream! You won't regret your visit here especially once you uncover all its hidden gems. Run, don't walk to your nearest airport and hop on a flight here ASAP.