Dominica, or Waitukabuli – meaning “tall is her body” in the indigenous Kalinago language – is considered by many intrepid travellers to be one of the world’s best destinations to be immersed in nature.
With 180 species of birds, the Boiling Lake in Morne Trois Pitons national park and the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the rarely spotted beaked whale, its status as a nature haven is well founded.
Despite Dominica suffering extensive damage from the Category 5 Hurricane Maria at the close of 2017, things are slowly recovering six months on, explained Colin Piper, chief executive at the Discover Dominica Authority.
“We accept the fact that product is compromised but we have done remarkable work in terms of getting the country to where we want now.”
All airlines are back although some are operating with reduced schedules, while ferry services remain unchanged. Roads are 95% operational and 80% of the island’s water supply is back to normal.
“Electricity is still an issue but crews are working to power the main grid. The goal was to have power up and running by April but that may be pushed back a few months,” said Piper.
Piper explained that Dominica has learned from its exposure to natural disasters and is planning to create a sustainable tourism strategy that will ensure the nation will become the “first climate change-resilient nation”.
“We have to look at factors such as where properties are built, their access to electricity and water and whether the hotels can act as community shelters too. This needs to be a long-term plan but the vision has been articulated. This should impact our tourism product and give some indication of what visitors can expect in the future. We are looking at being less reliant on our natural resources by adding creative and natural tourism offerings.”
Piper advised that 19 out of the 23 Division of Forestry sites were open, including Champagne Reef and Boiling Lake. However, Scotts Head would remain closed.
Before Hurricane Maria voluntourism was a “developing niche” said Piper, adding that the storm had merely “accelerated” its establishment.
UK operator MotMot Travel is selling voluntourism packages at the Tamarind Tree hotel, which has adopted a segment of the Waitukubuli National Trail and is offering guests the chance to help clear the path of fallen vegetation. The island will welcome new hotels throughout 2018 and 2019 too.
Cabrits Resort Kempinski and the 120-room Anichi Resort & Spa are to open in the second half of 2019.
Scheduled festivals for 2018 will go ahead, including the Jazz ‘n Creole celebrations in May and the World Creole Music Festival in October.
“Mother Nature dealt the Nature Island a blow. But, if people want to see a rainforest in the fledgling stages of growth then they can. If we temper people’s expectations then we can still sell our nature experiences,” said Piper.