by Linda Baudoin | Jun 20, 2020 | Hiking, Nature, Travel Tips
Unlike many Caribbean islands, Dominica is blessed with several lakes, Freshwater Lake is the largest of Dominica’s four lakes. It is located at just over 2,500 ft above sea level and is the natural source of the Roseau River. The lake has been dammed to provide water to generate electricity. This body of water forms part of Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the largest lake on the island, and the second deepest after nearby Boeri Lake. The lake and surrounding area can be mysteriously shrouded in mist or gleaming in full sunshine, often changing between these climates within minutes.
A hike along the Freshwater Lake Trail provides an opportunity to study Dominica’s higher forests. Montane forest, which can be recognized by its short, thin trees and open canopy, covers the majority of the area surrounding the lake. The shallow soils and strong winds do not permit the luxuriant growth that is so characteristic of the rain forest. The Freshwater Lake hike requires a steep climb but the views are worth it. It is a beautiful spot in which to cool off since it’s at a higher elevation.
You have to take your way towards the path by the hydro-electric building (to the right of the parking lot when facing the lake). A few minutes further along, you plant your feet on carefully constructed steps as you make your way to the top of the ridge on the eastern side of the lake. As you make your way along the ridge, you will admire the views of the lake, abundant wildflowers, birds, verdant precipices and the mighty Atlantic in the distance.
The circuitous groomed track around Freshwater Lake takes an hour on average, or a little more if you wish to admire the spectacular views and/or catch your breath!
You can combine this hike with a hike to Boeri Lake or a visit to Middleham Falls to enjoy your day in the nature to the fullest…..
by Linda Baudoin | Jun 6, 2020 | Hiking, Nature, River, Travel Tips
A nice walk in ‘the backyard of The Champs’ is to the viewpoint over looking the bay in Portsmouth and Cabrits. You can just start your walk at The Champs and walk up the hill, before the water tank you go left on a small trail. If you are lucky you can spot parrots here!
After about 10 minutes you will reach a gravel road, take this road up to the banana plantation. Each banana plant has one bunch of bananas covered in a blue plastic bag. The bunches are covered with plastic bags for three reasons: to provide a suitable microclimate for the bananas to ripen more quickly, to protect the bananas (at least to some degree) from insects and other pests and to prevent the bananas from being bruised when it is windy and leaves may brush against the bunch. If you are interested you can take a look at the shelter were they sort the banana’s before taken to the market.
Just before the shelter on your left hand side you’ll find a small path winding down through the banana plantation (marked Waitukubuli trail). This path will lead you to the Picard Bridge where you can go swimming in the river or just continue hiking along the trail. This is part of the Waitukubuli trail, which spans 115 miles across the island of Dominica and the Picard Bridge is just a tiny portion of it. The bridge is a little unstable, so be careful when crossing it.
You will follow your way up, some parts are quite steep, there are ropes to help you up. After about 45 minutes you will reach the viewpoint. There is a small shelter to enjoy the view or have a picknick break. From here you can just take the same route down and back to Hotel The Champs where we wait for you with a nice cold beer or cocktail……
by Linda Baudoin | Apr 30, 2020 | Hiking, Nature, Syndicate, Waterfall
Nestled on the foothills of Dominica’s tallest mountain, Morne Diablotin, and close to the Picard River Gorge is the Syndicate Nature Trail. From hotel the Champs it is just a 10 minutes drive on the main road before you take the turnoff just before Dublanc into the mountains for another half an hour. The easy loop trail through the rainforest on the western slopes of Morne Diablotin is beloved by birders for the good chance of spotting Dominica’s endangered national bird, the Sisserou parrot, and its cousin, the Jaco parrot. The best spotting time is in the early morning and late afternoon. Also watch for hummingbirds and several dozen other feathered species. If you are a bird lover, we can also arrange special guided bird watching for you in this area.
Syndicate also has a diverse array of flora. It is a key location for research and educational purposes and has lovely view points along the walking path. Once on this trail there are incredible high, prehistoric-looking trees, beautiful varieties of textures and patterns. There are areas with large clearings and nice lookouts where you can experience how beautiful this ecosystem is.
After you hiked this nature trail, you start your way down again by car. On the way down you stop for the second hike to Milton Falls. The other name is Syndicate Falls, named after the area.
The trail to the fall starts where the Milton Falls signpost and a large mango tree are. At the beginning of the walk you wander through farm land. In them you can spot peppers, coffee, passionfruit, grapefruit, papayas etc.
Before the next part of the path you finally see a ‘gate’ and a little house which takes your $5 or $10EC donation for entering private land. After passing the final bit of farm land the path take you into thicker bush, high grasses, citrus trees dripping with moss and vines with mystery green fruit. You find yourself in a green valley surrounded by high peaks and flowing rivers. You make your way up rocky banks, crisscrossing the river, finally spotting the waterfall through the trees. It is absolutely stunning and a nice spot to take a swim and have lunch!
After some relaxing it is time to move forward. Another nice stop on your way down the main road is the Free up farm. Free Up Farm is a 7-acre farm where they have over 300 trees planted, an assortment of unique fruit and medicinals including Cacao, Mangosteen, Soursop, Moringa and Neem. The farm will serve as a demonstration site for the sustainability and profitability of permaculture and organic farming methods. The owners Aubrey and Lulu are more than willing to welcome you (www.freeupfarm.com)
After this food and veggie experience it’s time to go back; your cocktail at Hotel the Champs is waiting for you…..
by Linda Baudoin | Apr 23, 2020 | Hiking, History, Nature
Cabrits is the name of two steep block-like summits that are the remnants of a large collapsed volcano. Despite their elevation, the two Cabrits, West and East both provide fine views and they rise directly out of the ocean in a rather spectacular manner.
From Hotel the Champs it’s only a 20 minute ride to the entrance of the park which is located north of Portsmouth. Once you get to the park there is a $5 (US)/ $13 (EC) entrance fee. Turn right at the main entrance and you’ll take a path up to the trailheads. To the left and up the hill is Fort Shirley and the West Cabrits Trail. To the right is a trail that leads to the Commandant’s Quarters and the Douglas Bay Battery on the East Cabrits Trail. Both are well graded and only moderately steep.
Fort Shirley is a large 18th-century British garrison which once housed 600 soldiers. The Officer’s Quarters has undergone a major renovation. The Fort is now used for various functions such as Weddings, Receptions, Concerts and other events on the island. From here you have a gorgeous view of Prince Rupert Bay.
After a visit to Fort Shirley you can continue on one of the trails. You can walk them both easily in half a day and discover the old ruins covered in vines in this small jungle. Wildlife is abundant on the trails you can see many land crabs, hermit crabs, lizards, snakes, iguana and many birds. Although the area is heavily forested, this is probably one of the driest areas of Dominica. While the higher mountains to the east are bathed in almost perpetual cloud cover, often the Cabrits stay bright and sunny.
After your visit to the park you can decide to walk back to Hotel the Champs (if your legs are still fine) or to take a taxi ride. If you are going to walk you will pass Purple Turtle Beach, a nice sandy beach were you can take a swim or stop for a drink. After this relaxing break you will pass the small city of Portsmouth and will arrive at Hotel the Champs after another 30 minutes’ walk……
by Linda Baudoin | Apr 15, 2020 | Nature, River, Travel Tips
Dominica is known as the island of many rivers. The most beautiful one is certainly the Indian River, which became famous for filming movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean.
From Hotel the Champs it’s only a 10 minute ride or 30 minute walk to the bridge just south of Portmouth where experienced boatmen in hand-oared river boats will take you silently past many types of wild life and plant life along the swampy river bank. The 1½-hour return boat ride along this shady mangrove-lined river glides past buttressed bwa mang trees with a chance to spot egrets, crabs, iguanas, hummingbirds and if you are lucky even a flock of Jacko parrots.
The Indian River got its name because Kalinago (Carib Indian) lived along its banks and used it as an access route to the Caribbean Sea. The river was important to their livelihood as they used it to transport goods for trade with sailors and along the island chain.
After rowing for at least an hour you get to a pretty little bush bar where you get a lot of local, exotic rum punches, the most special one is the Dynamite. It’s a mix of sorrel and passion rum, the locals like it a lot!
From here you can make a nice walk through a small garden with different plants, flowers, fruits and if you are lucky some more wildlife. The guides can tell you a lot about the plants and for what medical reason they use it here on Dominica. If you walk long enough you will reach another bush bar for another Dynamite, but this is up to you….
After your walk and maybe a few drinks it is time to go back to the boat and step in and relax for your way back on the river…….