Most cruise passengers balk at the Caribbean country Dominica. It’s not built up, there are practically no beaches (5 to be exact), and is, without sugar coating it, very poor. Our recent cruise stopped here, and it turned out to be our favorite destination of the whole trip, if not the entire Caribbean. This impressed even our dinner hostess who exclaimed that we were in the very slim minority of those who even like the country. But whats not to like? Not being built up means that there are no Diamonds International, no large hotels interrupting the views, and my personal favorite, no McDonald’s. Those sound like good things! No beaches? Well, our cruise stopped at 5 other islands to cover our beach needs. And for being poor, I can at least feel better knowing that my cruise dollars went to helping a country that really needs it, rather than those who are already ahead.
Our eight hours in Dominica only let us see a small sliver of the country, and with no beaches in the nearest area to the port, we had to head inland. Thankfully, Dominica has often been referred to as the only country in the Caribbean that Columbus would recognize if he were alive today. So into the jungle we went, booking an independently operated trek from Levi Baron’s Bumpiing Tours on the ‘Roseau Valley Best’ hike that visited Middleham Falls, Titou Gorge, and Trafalgar Falls. On this particular day we were lucky enough to have Levi himself as our tour guide, rather than a random employee. Hearing the owner of the tour company admit that this was one of his favorite tours was an easy way to max out the excitement level.
Middleham Falls – Not for the Faint of Heart
Getting to Middleham Falls was the main battle of the trek. Starting with a 25 minute+ car ride up and around narrow roads full of construction and steep drop offs to one side was a great way to set the mood for the day. After that, a 40 minute hike through the rain forest was required and is not for the unfit. The first 15 minutes are entirely uphill, followed by another 15 minutes across the forest, before another 15 minute steep descent to the falls. We got lucky and were there during a six week dry spell, as hiking across the forest during the normal 1-2″ of daily rain could spell disaster for some less agile hikers. The reward for all this activity? Well, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world with an amazing swimming hole is all, completely devoid of visitors. It wasn’t until leaving that we witnessed the true benefit of booking with Levi on a separate tour – the 60+ person cruise group that arrived as we began the return trek. Now, the waterfall is a great spot, but with 60 people crowding the area, good luck getting good pictures, let alone enjoying the look out platform built for 20 max. The return trek was, of course, the same route in reverse, only a bit easier after the refreshing dip under the waterfall.
Titou Gorge and Trafalgar Falls – Okay, A Lot Easier
Suffice it to say, Middleham Falls was the highlight of the tour, as half the day is spent getting to and from the magnificent spot. The next destination on the island tour was Titou Gorge, a filming location of Pirates of the Caribbean 2. For those who are Pirates fans, Titou Gorge is shown when the cast is running across the cannibal island in their makeshift bone cages and fall into a gorge while being pursued. The subsequent scene with the native tribe shooting blow darts in the water at the characters was filmed at Titou Gorge. (For those truly obsessed, check out around the 40-42 minute mark). Floating around inside the gorge was especially neat as remnants of the film are still embedded in the walls for camera and light holders. Unfortunately, inside the gorge is fairly dark so getting a good picture was more difficult than it should have been.
Trafalgar Falls was the final stop along the action packed tour. Like Titou Gorge before it, minimal hiking was required to get to the falls themselves, and a few minutes after leaving our vehicle the dual falls at Trafalgar came into view. We saw another company in Dominica known as “Extreme Dominica” rappelling down the larger of the two falls and made a mental note for our list of things to do in Dominica if we ever return. While not as impressive as Middleham Falls, the waterfalls at Trafalgar were still pretty stunning. I mean, how can a massively tall waterfall not be stunning?
Overall, going with Levi on his Bumpiing Tour was the best decision we could have made in going to Dominica. It is not that the cruise sponsored tours are bad, even though I refuse to ever book one again, but cruise companies tend to be cancel happy for the most minimal of reasons. Rain is the first one that comes to mind, which is pretty shocking considering it rains 300+ inches a year in Dominica. A rain forest hike getting canceled on account of rain means that they are canceled very, very frequently. Our group of about a dozen people versus the 60+ in the Carnival group was not so bad either. Not only could we see our tour guide at all times, but it made the experience much more personable and a lot less cookie cutter.
So, if you’re going to Dominica and want to get out for some great hiking please go book with Levi on his Bumpiing Tours, and even if you aren’t cut out for the Middleham Falls hike, he has several other less strenuous hikes for those wanting to see some breathtaking scenery.