Heading north to Portsmouth Peter Dick | Posted: 14 December 2016
Walking holidays on Dominica
Walking holidays on Dominica
Walking holidays on Dominica

In this second article for The Slow Lane, Dominica resident Peter Dick (with faithful companion 'Max') continues his exploration of the Waitukubuli National Trail...

Following my previous article, the good people of Las Vegas pointed out they have over 150,000 hotel rooms while Dominica has fewer than 1,000. Exactly. And that is probably one reason why you are considering Dominica…

Your visit to Dominica includes stays at three of the nicest inns on the island. Your last home-from-home is in the North West, my favourite part of the island.

“But”, I hear you asking, “What can we do during our last few days?”

As mentioned before, the Indian River experience is a relaxing way to unwind. Or horse riding with either Rain Forest Riding or Brandy Manor.

For bird lovers, a morning spent in the company of the amazing Bertrand Baptiste, better known as 'Dr Birdy', will give you the opportunity of seeing some of the 176 species of birds who call Dominica home.

Then there is Fort Shirley at The Cabrits. A major restoration project at this 18th-century British Garrison was funded by the European Union.

Prince Rupert’s Bay offers many nice places to swim, with Coconut Beach in the middle and Purple Turtle at the northern end. This is Dominica’s greatest natural bay.

There are also river bathing opportunities in the Picard River; simply walk about ten minutes inland from The Highway.

However, the most extraordinary aspect of the North West is the existence of some relatively relaxing hikes …

The simplest is the Syndicate Nature Trail. This is a ¾ mile circular stroll through an almost flat part of a rain forest. And, being at 1,800ft above sea level, it is cool.

The northern segments of the Waitukubuli National Trail, also funded by the European Union, have some great opportunities.

Segment 10, starting from the heights above Colihaut and ending at the Syndicate visitor’s centre, which sadly is normally closed, follows an old agricultural road.

Related holidays

Secret Treasure of the Caribbean & Antigua

No larger than the Scottish Isle of Mull, Dominica boasts no fewer than nine active volcanoes and is known as ‘the nature island’. Those who visit come to explore the huge swathes of pristine rainforest that cover the island and to discover prodigious waterfalls and crater lakes. While in the Caribbean, its also worth adding a couple of nights on nearby Antigua, celebrated for its warm turquoise waters, palm-fringed white sandy beaches and rich and colourful past.

More about our self-guided walking holiday
in Dominica & Antigua >

The route is 4.3 miles, with 850 ft ascent, 700 ft descent and takes about 2½ hours. I recommend pre-arranging transport as cell phone coverage at Syndicate is limited. This is local speak for non-existent.

For those wanting a longer hike, consider continuing on from Syndicate along Segment 11 towards the Picard River. This adds another 4 miles and takes about 2 hours. When you emerge out of the forest at Ras Castle’s land, turn left and walk the ten minutes down a dirt road to the main (only) West Coast Highway. And civilisation. Well, comparatively speaking.

Visitors who continue over the Picard River foot bridge, the only suspension bridge on the whole Trail, need to appreciate the end of Segment 11 at Borne is another 5 miles and takes 4 hours.

Segment 12 is a joy as it allows you to enjoy a hike without having to go the whole way. So, from Bourne you can get to Moore Park in about two hours. Then you have a choice: turn right and follow the road to Paix Bouche (45 minutes) or turn left and follow the Trail to Vielle Case (about an hour). I normally stop at the bar at Penville, which is another hour beyond Vielle Case. The official end of Segment 12 is yet another 45 minutes along the road, going up hill, with no shade. Since there isn’t a bar at the official end, I never bother with the last bit.

Segment 13, from Penville to Capuchin, is a relatively relaxed three hour hike along an old trail that was used by North East farmers to get their produce to market in Portsmouth before the new road was built. Yep. You guessed it. Another EU funded project. Is there no limit to their generosity?

The final segment, 14, of the National Trail is in complete contrast to all the other trails on the island. It is thoroughly boring. The vast majority of this segment simply follows the road and most of the route doesn’t have a pavement. I can’t image a single reason for any visitor wanting to hike this segment… except perhaps for people who miss The Strip of Las Vegas…

While some of these northern hikes are not as challenging as others further south, such as The Boiling Lake, having a local guide will make your hike more enjoyable.

I would also recommend a hiking app called GAIA GPS for your Apple or Android phone. You can download a map in advance and using GPS technology means zero data roaming charges. Not only will the app allow you to boast to your friends and family how far you hiked, it will save you from getting lost.

In conclusion, I hope you will enjoy Dominica as much as I do. Of course, not everyone is happy with Dominica. That’s why Las Vegas has over 150,000 hotel bedrooms…

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