Sargent Major fish are such fun.

17th April 2022

Fort Du France, Martinique – Portsmouth, Dominica via Roseau & Salisbury, Dominica

A tag line should encompass everything that an organisation stands for and the best ones create differentiation from competition. ‘Uzbekistan Airlines’ wish all their customers ‘Good Luck’ when flying, while ‘Sunglasses Hut’ have been ‘Sitting on your face since 2001’. Dominica’s tagline perfectly sums up everything about the high verdant green hills, the oceans that team with fish and the people who ooze friendliness. Dominica is ‘Nature Island’.

Ruffian blasted her way north leaving Martinique in her wake and the high volcano was soon dwarfed by the jagged coastline of Dominica. Everywhere we looked land rose steeply from the sea before plunging into deep ravines that could have come from a time before man. Every nook and cranny was covered in dense impenetrable vegetation hiding secrets but giving breath-taking views. From afar Dominica was living up to its tagline.

Before we could take to the oceans and hills we had the bureaucratic task of checking-in to complete. In covid times this is always a worrying affair as there are always questions about testing, agents, and procedures. In true Ruffian form, we sought advice and then rocked up to a closed customs dock with our Martinique clearance document, boat papers, passports, vaccination certificates, sailclear reference number and most importantly smiling faces.

The Dominican people were living up to their friendly reputation as we were ushered through locked gates, through an empty ferry terminal and to a large imposing door that was firmly shut. After a gentle knock we were allowed entry where a resplendent customs officer greeted us like long lost friends, charged us the grand total of 8EC$ stamped our document as “Cleared” and filled in a cruising permit to match our plans, and then wished us great adventures on his ‘Nature Island’.

To sample the first delight of ‘Nature Island’ Brock was employed to whizz us down the coastline to the aptly named Champagne Beach. Diving in, warm volcanic and cold sea water washed over us and our ears were assaulted by the noises of the deep. As we snorkelled, long steams of bubbles escaped the sea floor making their way to the surface making us feel like we were not swimming in the sea, but in a glass of the finest champagne.

The fish in this champagne were completely unaware of the beauty they were swimming in as they went about their business of being colourful and hiding under rocks as cuttlefish and barracuda floated around menacingly.

The journey north continued to where the nature could really shine. In the busy Caribbean, where boats are everywhere and crowd every picture perfect bay we found ourselves alone in a picture perfect bay. In this quiet, Frigate birds flew around Ruffian and their song echoed off the cliffs while underwater shoals of Sargent Major fish swam around soft corals and swarmed around anything that would provide protection from the dangers that surrounded them.

Once into Prince Rupert Bay we could leave the nature of the coast behind and sample the delights of the interior and as usual Iain had a cunning plan. Assured by Iain’s confidence we jumped onto a bus full of friendly ladies and the fruits of the market and were whisked into the back and beyond. Along the way raw chicken was delivered to empty looking houses and bags of yams deposited randomly in the road where people would emerge from the bush, we then jumped out of the bus in the middle of nowhere and started hiking into the dense forest.

The verdant green of the jungle enveloped us as we walked past trees brimming with bananas, bushes dripping with cocoa and trees heavy with breadfruit. Soon however, with the light was cut out by the high walls of the gorge we had only moss for company and the sounds of the forest were drowned out by a spectacular waterfall that cascaded down vertical walls and made little rainbows everywhere we looked.

Fully refreshed from the waterfall extravaganza we started the walk back knowing, ahem hoping, that at some point a bus would pass and whisk us home. As the sun beat down on us, we trudged mile after mile along the high hill roads. No cars passed us, no busses came and everyone we saw wished us the best of luck, and it seemed that luck would be the only way to get home.

After many long hard miles, we heard the distant sound of an engine struggling up the hills and its breaks screeching as it descended. Hoping that lady luck was on our side we got our thumbs out and a pickup, held together with gaffa tape and good luck, came into view. As the driver grinned and slowed, we leapt in the open flatbed and could now enjoy the nature that was all around us as the wind ruffled our hair and the sun warmed our tired legs.

Dominica’s tag line sums up the island perfectly. We have seen nature underwater, nature in the skies, nature in the hills and everyone we have met is naturally charming. Dominica is ‘Natures Island’.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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