The Eco-Tourism Island
article was written in February 2004 for inclusion
in the summer 2004
64 of the liat islander, the quarterly
of Air Liat, our local East Caribbean inter-island
Though the article was lightly edited for publication, this did little to detract from the content.
Eco tourism is a subject which has generated growing interest around the globe in recent years. But what does it really mean and what is the 'eco tourist' seeking? Quite simply, the opportunity to appreciate and enjoy areas of unspoilt natural beauty which are nurtured and protected, and where development is handled sensitively, causing minimal impact upon the natural surroundings. Many eco tourist destinations are emerging, but it would be difficult to find areas more interesting and diverse than the magical rainforests of the tropics. And where amongst these is a more enticing choice for the English-speaking than the mountainous and sparsely populated East Caribbean island of Dominica?
Due to its terrain and lack of development funding Dominica has so far escaped the level of development which we have seen in so many of our neighbouring islands. Once embarked on this course, there is no turning back! It has, in fact, rather gone unnoticed in the mass tourism marketplace.
Dominica is for the discerning - nature lovers, twitchers, hikers and divers.
tree orchid on the Boiling Lake trail
An abundance of rivers act as the island's natural cooling system, whilst providing our water supply and hydropower for about half the island's electricity demand. A mere 29 miles long by 16 miles wide, Dominica feels much larger due to indirect roads over rugged terrain. Many mountain peaks exceed 4,000ft. in height and much of the island is is still cloaked in primordial rainforest, with large
tracts protected as National Parks and Forest Reserves. Of these, Morne Trois Pitons National Park attained UNEP World Heritage status in 1997. A large portion of the Northern Forest Reserve surrounding the highest mountain, Morne Diablotin, was recently upgraded to National Park status. This also encompasses the Syndicate Forest, one of the prime habitats for the unique native parrots, the Sisserou and the Jacquot. These are just two of 175 species of bird to be observed in Dominica.
Our natural heritage lies also in the surrounding oceans. Not only is this prime whale spotting territory due to the massive outflow of freshwater, but the tranquil waters off the entire west coast, sheltered by mountains from prevailing easterly winds, makes this island a 'must' for snorkellers and scuba enthusiasts. Prince Edward's Bay in the north and the submerged volcano of Scotts Head/ Soufriere Bay in the south are both designated Marine Reserves.
Scotts Head / Soufriere Bay
Dominica has long been regarded as the 'Nature Island of the Caribbean', the national motto: 'After God – The Earth!' It is this wonderful, unique, natural environment, so far minimally impacted by the effects of human habitation, which makes Dominica so very special. That it has no tourist 'mega resorts', with most visitor accommodation small, individual and personal in nature, makes it doubly so. The way forward is crystal clear - nurture and protect. This does not mean simply sitting back and doing nothing, but taking a pro-active roll in conserving Dominica's unique heritage whilst employing it to the island's advantage. This could be achieved in several ways:
1) Resist eco hostile development: There is currently talk of an external company building an oil refinery on Dominica's north east coast. Why choose Dominica, we all wonder? Could it be to avoid expensive safety and environmental regulation it would have to comply with back home? Even ruling out the scenario of accident or natural disaster, it would impact negatively on the environment and make a mockery of our Nature Island concept.
2) Go Organic: It would be to our great advantage if our farmers could be persuaded to cater exclusively to the growing demand in consumer nations for organically grown produce. Dominica could become an example to the region, attracting interest, cash and assistance from sympathetic nations and societies wishing to develop and promote this method of farming, eager for the opportunity to showcase the benefits. Granada and St Lucia have already taken meaningful steps in this direction. Progress in Dominica has so far been limited, though small private initiatives, such as those of Springfield Plantation, have encouragingly confounded critics with their successes.
Dominica's most recent (and by far the largest) lake - Mathia Dam, formed by a massive landslide in 1997
which blocked a tributary of the Layou River (also known locally as Miracle Valley)
3) A program of Renewable Energy: Whilst around half of Dominica's energy needs are satisfied by hydropower, an admirable goal would be to satisfy the island's entire demand in such ways, lessening dependence on imported and costly fossil fuel. Today's technology offers many exciting possibilities - wind, solar, hydro etc. Individuals could be encouraged to install their own personal sources of renewable energy.
Dominica has a new Prime Minister, The Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, as of January 2004. First impressions are encouraging and it is to be hoped that he and his Government will steer Dominica on a course of sustainable, eco friendly development and prosperity, thus preserving Dominica's heritage for generations to come.
Colin A Lees is proprietor of Nature Island Destinations Ltd., a locally run business which promotes Dominica via the internet as a tourist destination, providing a free island-wide booking service with a personal touch. For more information go to: www.natureisland.com or contact him by email.
contact us by email or tel: (767) 449 6233
Nature Island Destinations Ltd.
P.O. Box 1639, Roseau,
Commonwealth of Dominica,