A Whale of a Tail

The island of Dominica (pronounced “doe mee NEE kuh”) is a volcanic island rich in natural beauty and vastly undeveloped to date. Like most of the eastern Caribbean islands, tourism is the main economy, but at Dominica the focus is on eco-tours to the rainforest, hot springs, and waterfalls as well as small mom ‘n pop hotels and restaurants plunked down in various elevations of the jungle-covered volcanic mountains. There are no large chain resorts at all. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly that it’s just plain hard to build on an island where the mountains cover everything right up to the shoreline.


Many locals live in poverty, but this existence is accompanied by a fierce pride in both governmental independence and the lush beauty of the island. Dominicans are also proud of their cricket pitch, which is substantial enough to house international matches. The international West Indies Islands team is playing South Africa at Dominica on June 4, and many locals were discussing the match during our visit.

We started our day with a whale watching tour, where we were lucky enough to see a big female sperm whale breach 3 times followed by a spectacular fluke and dive. Our guides are part of a whale research team on Dominica, and they were very skilled at scanning the horizon for irregular waves to find these beautiful creatures. The sight of the whale itself filled the entire boat with energy, but the enthusiastic shouts and yells of the whale team’s crew took us over the top. “Whale comin’ up at 1 o’clock!!” “There’s one breach, here come another!! Let’s haul ass to get over there!!” They even recognized the change in her swimming pattern seconds before she dove and shouted out, “Here it comes! Get rrreeady for it!!!” That gave me just enough notice to be able to snap the following pics:

A female sperm whale off the coast of Dominica

A female sperm whale off the coast of Dominica

Sperm whale fluke and dive

Sperm whale fluke and dive

We also did some snorkeling at Champagne Beach, where the volcanic activity under the reef causes hot streams of water full of tiny bubbles to flow out of the coral continuously. It fees like you’re snorkeling around in a big glass of champagne.

For the second half of the day we hired a taxi driver to take us up up up into the mountainous rainforest. It was a short wet hike to a couple of beautiful waterfalls, and then we had a shrimp and plantain lunch at tiny little restaurant in the heart of the forest with a breathtaking view of the river. Full success.




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