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Dominica: Welcome to the land of the Kalinagos!

Dominica: Welcome to the land of the Kalinagos!

La Dominique

You will not come here for the show or for the glitter but rather to reconnect with nature, to source for refreshing energy in all the senses of term. It is a small volcanic country with 365 rivers…and almost as many waterfalls and hot springs! It is the green pearl of the Caribbean, probably the most preserved of all the islands that compose the archipelago. Even its first inhabitants, the Kalinago Indians, have survived the weight of history. Here, Mother Nature reigns supreme and will not leave you indifferent. Welcome to Dominica, the nature island!

Some people come here for whales watching – Dominica is indeed one of the hot spots in the world where you can approach these marine mammals and other cetaceans almost all year round. Others converge here for scuba diving – one of the most breath-taking sights is Champagne Bay, named as such because of the volcanic gas bubbles that rise to from the depths of the sea to the surface like thousands of tiny diamonds. Some others see it as the perfect play ground to impersonate the pirates of the Caribbean – several scenes from the famous Disney franchise were shot in this enchanting natural setting steeped in mystery.

Taboui ou Carbet traditionnel en territoire Kalinago
Légende : 1. Exemple de Taboui ou Carbet traditionnel en territoire Kalinago
Crédits Photo :Shutterstock

But, if you have the chance to visit this small country, part of which – Morne Trois Pitons National Park – is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the immersive experiences not to miss is being introduce to the Kalinago culture. It is an intangible treasure that only Dominica can offer visitors as they embark on a journey back in time.

“Great is her body” or Wai’tu kubuli in the language of the Kalinagos, this is the name that these first inhabitants gave to their island, certainly in reference to its relief mainly composed of massive mountain ranges coved with lush vegetation. They allegedly arrived there sailing up the Caribbean arc by canoe from the coasts of present-day Venezuela 3000 years BC. One day in 1493, a Sunday precisely, Christopher Columbus and his men landed on the island and renamed it Dominica referring to the day of the week in question. Then began a long series of fierce territorial battles for the native Indians, the outcome of which was unfortunately unfavorable to them. During the same period the island went from the Spaniards’ control to the French’s in 1635 before the British took over in 1763. However, unlike the other islands of the Caribbean where these indigenous populations were totally exterminated, in Dominica they owe their survival to an exemplary combativeness and to their knowledge of this steep terrain often impracticable for the settlers. This is how the Native American culture survived in the Caribbean and remained accessible to us until this date, several centuries later.

Rivière de la Dominique

Although it only approximately amounts to 3,000 souls, the Kalinago community of Dominica is nonetheless the largest in the Antilles archipelago. They are administrated by their own governance and live in the North-East part of the island on a 1500 hectares territory which was allocated to them following a series of treaties – the last of which dates from 1903 – with the British crown. It is now possible to visit hamlets or to stay in an eco-lodge, for a total immersive experience in the Kalinago culture and thus experiment first hand their art of pottery and basketry, their mastery of woodworking, their knowledge of plants and their life in communion with nature.

And this is one of the good reasons to visit the island of Dominica today.

From there it is possible to indulge in one of the island’s main recreational activities: hiking. Those who feel adventurous will certainly join the 184 km of the Wai’tu kubuli National Trail which crosses the island from north to south. A good 14 days expedition altogether through the heart of the tropical forest. On your way, many wonders await you… Natural pools with emerald reflections. Lakes, such as Fresh Water Lake renowned for its pristine water or Boiling Lake – a bubbling high altitude lake located in the crater of a dozing volcano. But fear not, there are other hikes accessible to less experienced walkers, such as the one leading to the majestic Trafalgar waterfalls which pierce through the greenery in a soothing din.

Back in your lodge, you will certainly be greeted by traditional Kalinago chanting and dancing performances which will prolong for sure your experience of “zenitude” made in Dominica.

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