Dominica, The Leeward Islands. ‘’Mountainous and Impenetrable’’ March 2007


Although Columbus sighted and named Dominica one Sunday in 1493, he didn’t stop, probably put off by the volcanic activity and the steep, deep shoreline. This didn’t stop us! Aboard Double Waters we anchored off the main town of Roseau and then later in the bay off Portsmouth in the NW.


Highlights of our time in Dominica included trekking to the Boiling Lake, a trip up The Indian River (you’ll recognise this from Pirates of the Caribbean), and exploring the ex-British Fort Shirley fast being consumed by the jungle.


Our trek into the impenetrable jungle was along a trail that was pretty well maintained with log steps and small bridges across the streams, none-the-less it was arduous, with a climb of 600 steps in one place (accurately counted by Jed who led the assault). Up around 1000m, in lush, damp jungle, with towering gum trees and vines, we were occasionally refreshed by a downpour. The walk in was about 3 hours and included crossing Desolation Valley, so named as the sulphurous fumes have limited the growth of many plant species, and the hot steaming springs give the area an inhospitable, unearthly atmosphere. Our destination was the Boiling Lake, a bubbling caldron with vertical sides, about the size of a tennis court, with swirling steam rising above the jungle. In addition to the spectacle of the volcanic activity the views across the top of the island away to the coast were wonderful.


We went up the Indian River, a big river that runs inside a vast rain forest, we went with a guide who rowed us up into the river, the whole trip took about 2h. We stopped for 10mins at the place were the river was too shallow to follow in a boat, some people were making a bar there (it was still being made) so we walked up a track beside the river and saw loads of lizards, some snakes, birds etc etc …….

On the way back we went alongside the bank for a second and our guide put his hand in the water and pulled out a big crab with big claws and red eyes. The next day the river was shut, we think they were filming some final bits of Pirates of the Caribbean. Its’ Indian River in Dead Mans Chest with the bit when Jack Sparrow rows up the river to see the mystic witchdoctor who gives him some dirt ( ‘I’ve got a jar of dirt, I’ve got a jar of dirt’).   


Fort Shirley was fascinating, particularly for the way the crumbling fort has been virtually overcome by the jungle trees and vegetation. Also a feature of Portsmouth is the rusting wrecks that line the shore the trademarks of several successive hurricanes.