Dominica is known as the Nature Island of the Caribbean: dazzling greenery, towering mountain ranges, extensive rainforest (including a UNESCO World Heritage site) intersected by rushing rivers, waterfalls, volcanoes, bubbling hot pools (for relaxing) and the second largest Boiling Lake in the world (‘I survived the Boiling Lake hike’ is a website in itself). So forget the stereotypes of a Caribbean beach holiday – there is so much more to explore here!
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This island nation has a tiny landmass of 750 square kilometres, of similar size to the pacific island Tonga. As of 2015, the Caribbean nation had a population of 74,000 people, with around 17,000 living in the capital Roseau. The former British colony is sandwiched between the neighbouring islands Guadeloupe and Martinique, and has been independent since 1978. Dominica also has a strong Afro-French culture – the Creole language, dance, music (home of zouk) and food (where else does the airport café stretch to fresh mandarin juice?).
The Caribs (or Kalinagos), the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean who, only on Dominica, survived the arrival of the Europeans, live on the northeast coast: fishermen and farmers, they are also great basket-makers. Roseau, the capital, has some charming French colonial architecture, an excellent museum and a Saturday morning market to die for. Villages are dreamy places, on breezy hillsides or tucked into hidden coves.
In 2013, Dominica welcomed 78,000 international visitors through its doors – slightly more than the national population. Tourism is based around locally owned guest houses – small scale, unpretentious, with an emphasis on environmental well-being. Photographers, artists, botanists, gardeners, hikers and divers (it has some of the best diving in the world) go mad in Dominica, seduced by its wildness and natural exuberance. And watch out for glimpses of the island in Pirates of the Caribbean (series 2 and 3): it provides a spectacular backdrop to Johnny Depp’s antics.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Cruise ships & workers rights:
In the Caribbean, for example, which is the world’s busiest cruise zone, many cruise lines employ European officers, with North American and Western European staff in the business and entertainment jobs, supported by a crew from the poorest parts of the developing world. These workers are often paid low wages and labour in shoddy working conditions. ‘Conditions for workers below deck haven’t improved in decades’, said an inspector with the International Transport Workers Federation.
‘Many are reluctant to come forward and complain. To most people, workers on cruise liners are nonentities. They have an almost invisible existence.’
Cruise ships are also caught up in issues relating to the economic exclusion impacts on port destinations, along with various environmental issues. The Cruise ship industry has a poor reputation for its waste-dumping practices which can create pressure on small countries with limited refuse sites, or can contaminate the sea.
According to the Bluewater network, now part of Friends of the Earth, a typical one-week cruise generates 50 tonnes of waste and thousands of gallons of grey water (waste from sinks and showers and so on) and sewage. Almost all is dumped: some is treated, some is not. And while the powerful cruise companies claim that they have done much to reduce pollution, the laws are lax, regulations often ignored and the majority of the big companies have convictions for dumping. Environmentalists are also increasingly worried by larger and larger cruise ships visiting such pristine environments as Antarctica and the Galapagos.
To learn more, check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Cruise ships:
Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of friendly local people can be a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on ethical photography: https://tourismconcern.wpengine.com/ethical-photography/
Marine Life & Diving:
From Egypt to Australia to Dominica, snorkeling and scuba diving have long been popular tourism activities. Coral reefs are very delicate ecosystems and can be upset by the smallest change in ocean temperature or human contact. According the WWF, coral reef’s occupy less than one quarter of 1% of the marine environment, yet they are home to more than 25% of all known marine fish species.
Dominica boasts some of the best diving in the world, with amazing underwater vistas that draw tourists from afar. A relatively young island, much of its coral reefs are in good condition, and the country has picked up several awards from diving organisations.
Increasing ocean temperatures from human induced climate change and toxic run-off from sewage or agricultural waste have the ability to alter the balance of a coral reef ecosystem and result in coral bleaching. In many cases, inexperienced divers cannot control their buoyancy or improperly secured gear can damage the coral.
If you are considering a snorkeling or diving trip, look for ‘coral friendly operations’ that practice reef conservation in a number of ways. These include giving environmental briefings, using available moorings rather than anchoring to fragile reefs, using wastewater pump-out systems and participating in local conservation projects. Anything that you take with you on the boat should be kept safe and disposed of once you return to the shore, not in the water, including cigarettes!!
See more at Right Tourism; http://right-tourism.com/issues/marine-activities/diving-snorkelling/#sthash.P0Ald51J.dpbs
Climate Change & increased severity of hurricanes:
Like many of its Caribbean neighbours, Dominica is prone to being hit by hurricanes, with Hurricane David hitting in 1979, and Hurricane Dean in 2007. A recent summit in the area reported that climate change was the main cause of an increase in the number of hurricanes hitting the area. Among the human and natural cost of hurricanes is ‘bleaching’ of coral reefs, which can lessen the appeal to divers and thus reduce tourism. A photo of coral bleaching can be seen here – an lifeless underwater desert of white coral with no colour.