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The Lazy Traveler’s Guide to Waterfalls in Dominica

Dominica is known as The Nature Isle with good reason.  Boasting a multitude of rivers and waterfalls, rainforests, and virtually untouched terrain, Dominica oozes flora and fauna. Adventurous and energetic travelers hike mountains, canyoneer, river raft, and do all manner of active tours. But what’s a lazy person to do? Or someone with physical limitations? We aimed to find out by taking a tour off of the Holland America Noordam called Accessible Dominica.

A comfortable van took twelve of us from the port to three stops: Morne Bruce for a hilltop view of the port of Roseau; the Dominica Botanical Gardens; and finally, way up the winding road to the rainforest and our ultimate destination of Jacko Falls.

Our tour guide dropped us off at a rustic outcropping of Rastafarians in the midst of the rain forest. And I mean rustic. And remote. A hand painted sign announced the location of Jacko Falls.  “Refrshing” and “One Humn Famly” it proclaimed. A very happy dreadlocked man greeted us and offered us rum shots, fruit juice, or fresh pieces of papaya and coconut “for a small donation.”

Modern bathrooms were easily accessible and made changing into and out of swimsuits easy work. Locals sold beautiful handmade jewelry, bird feeders, and other items from bamboo huts located adjacent to a cement sidewalk and metal guard rail. Thunderous sounds of water drowned out conversations as we peered over the railing into the rainforest jungle, trying to sneak a peek of Jacko Falls.

A sturdy set of rather steep cement steps descended some seventy feet to the base of the falls. Steps were slippery in spots due to the moisture, but they made the falls accessible to the lazy traveler, as well as those with physical limitations.

Once at the base of the steps, a beautiful stream materialized out of the greenery. It caught the water overflow from the falls and meandered on down the mountain through the rainforest. It’s quite a picturesque scene, but does not prepare you for the beauty of the falls itself. Suddenly the air became mistier, heavy with moisture. It smelled clean and fresh. The sound of the waterfall was deafening.

As you turned towards the sound, the Garden of Eden emerged. It  was exquisite and surreal in its beauty. Crystal clear torrents of water crashed into a shallow pool lined with smooth river rocks. To the side is a cave where, no doubt, the Rastafarians hold “religious ceremonies” once the tourists leave. Remnants of a fire were visible. Imagine what this scene would look like at night, by firelight!

A short walk over a gravel path and then some smooth stones led to the pool below the falls. The water was warmer than you might think, and a light blue hue. The entire scene is surrounded by encroaching greenery of all types. The rainforest fauna thrives here and threatens to swallow up the falls and the river it created.

It is all reminiscent of an old Tarzan movie. Huge vines dangled down, seemingly in midair. You wonder if there is another cave behind the waterfall filled with treasure, just like in the old movies.  Maybe you want to let out a Tarzan scream as you splash around in the waterfall pool. Do plan to take the plunge at Jacko Falls in Dominica. It is easy to walk in and out of the pool, and it may be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Luckily, the opportunity is available to even the less energetic, less phyically- able adventurers among us.

Allow me to arrange your cruise or land vacation to the Nature Island of Dominica. Call me at 561-841-2224 or e-mail at susan@susanmcdanieltravel.com.

Dominica has many other waterfalls you might also enjoy. Among them are Emerald Pool. This one requires more physical effort to reach than Jacko Falls but it is not a strenuous hike. Experienced tour guides are available through your cruise ship or I can make arrangements for you. You will find the beauty in Dominica stays with you long after your vacation is over.

Soar Through the Rainforest in St. Lucia – No Zipline Required

St. Lucia’s rainforest tempted us away from our usual quest for the perfect beach. Instead of a sand and surf excursion, we booked the “tranopy” tour or aerial tram. How surprising it was to experience a deep serenity and relaxation here. The air was unlike any other place we have ever been. They say the extra oxygen from the plants, or the coolness from the altitude, makes the air feel special. To us, however, it felt primordial. Life and nature enveloped us, washed over us, and soothed us.

 We soon learned that the tram was actually like a ski lift. A nine-person gondola, or “gon-DOE-la” in native parlance, lifts you up the top of the forest and gently glides you back down again. In between, you feel the temperature change, feel the sensation of the air brushing past you, feel exhilarated from the inside out, and learn about this unusual habitat. Our knowledgable tour guide, Kizzy (pronounced Kee-zy) stood in the back and narrated. She pointed out plants, wildlife, and vegetation. She also strategically inserted silence into our trip up the mountain. This allowed the small sounds of the forest to rise up. The tweet of the birds, the gurgle of a stream, the rustle of leaves became audible.

Ferns grow into trees here. The ones in the picture are at least twelve feet tall. Vines dangle like in an old Tarzan movie. Orchids grow in unlikely places, like the enormous one growing up the tree (see picture). Trees bloom and palms form forests of their own. Waterfalls cascade and streams rush.

My only complaint about the experience was that this area is also used by zipliners. Their noise definitely disturbs the wildlife. You can zipline anywhere. Perhaps the serenity of the forest should be experienced and the adrenaline rush of the zipline saved for another, less sacred, location.

After the aerial portion of the tour, an optional 20-minute trek through the forest was offered. Only half of the tour participants came along on this little hike, but I highly recommend it. Being on the ground gives you an entirely different perspective of the rainforest. You can see things from the ground up and appreciate the small plants on the forest floor, the tiny animals scurrying about, as well as the height of the trees. Plus, there’s free rum punch waiting at the gift shops.

This tour is a wonderful way for less mobile, less adventurous, less motivated travelers to experience the wonders of a rainforest. If more people experienced the intangible, peaceful feeling we enjoyed, perhaps worldwide efforts to preserve the remaining rainforests would be more successful.

FYI: If you are cruising, the tour is only a 30-minute drive from the dock at Pointe Seraphine, near Castries. It arrives back in plenty of time for you to peruse the shops at Pointe Seraphine, get back onboard, and enjoy the scenic cruising to Soufriere.

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