Monday, July 5, 2010

Dominica Accommodation - Geotourism on the Nature Island

It strikes every visitor at once on arrival---a place where humanity and its impact come a poor second to the all consuming power of the natural world. The sheer profundity of the vegetation is hard to assimilate at first, such is the overwhelming effect as narrow strips of tarmac road vie for a presence amid the greenery. Pavements are non existent in rural areas and not for nothing is Dominica the self styled “nature island”. Even Columbus and his crew were taken aback one fair Sunday morn in November 1493 when their ship hoved to through a misty dawn on the eastern seaboard. Landfall was impossible on this rugged coastline and the seamen gazed in awe at the prospect before them. Not much has changed in over 500 years. Only rarely does an island stand alone in the magisterial grandeur of its landscape, and Dominica can lay claim to the most arresting mountain panoramas in the eastern Caribbean. The Morne Trois Pitons National Park was rightly accorded World Heritage Site status by Unesco in 1997.

Topography has defined its singular stance in modern day tourism too, with beach life and the regulation holidaymaker a rare commodity indeed. Instead, the hiker, whalewatcher and birder rule the roost with world class diving another major draw. Recently, community based tourism has gained strength in the wake of native New Yorker Anne Baptiste’s laudable ethos from half a century ago when setting up the Papillote Wilderness Retreat. Her seven rooms sit in two hectares of lovingly tended gardens replete with hot springs, waterfalls and a top class creole restaurant where she’s employed generations of villagers from Trafalgar in the Roseau Valley. Perhaps they should call her the Godmother of Geotourism, the buzzword that defines tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture and the wellbeing of its residents.

Fae and Atherton Martin of Exotica Cottages on a ridge 1400 feet above the capital Roseau have developed the theme in latter years, combining health and wellness, local agriculture, flower growing, traditional music and cooking demonstrations in their hugely successful Community Gardens Culinary Tour which embraces the skills of local villagers from Giraudel and Eggleston. Fourth in National Geographic’s Geotourism Awards in 2008, they’re now hoping to enlist Greenpeace in marketing the concept while Dominica is also set to host the inaugural Green Investment Conference in early October. The location for this is the remarkable wild forested mountainside development at Jungle Bay in the far south east near Delices, the brainchild of environmental activist and visionary Sam Raphael. Dominica is in the vanguard of forward thinking, sustainable development in the Caribbean and this major gathering of concerned individuals will hopefully drive the necessary implementation programme.

For more information, please see the Definitive Caribbean Guide to Accommodation on Dominica.

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