An ass-slapping hello from Dominica Before we kick off this episode, I have a suggestion: Get your headphones on! 3D AUDIO RECORDING If you prefer to read about my awesome adventures here on my travel blog rather than listening to my sultry voice in my travel podcast, that’s awesome. But...you’re kind of missing out on the true Radio Vagabond experience – hear me out... When doing my travel podcast episodes, I try really hard to create an immersive audio experience for the benefit of my loyal listeners. I record a lot of live-action elements and add music, interviews, and diegetic sounds for an up-close and personal listening experience. For example, after reading this blog post I highly recommend you give this episode a listen as I used a special binaural recording technique [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binaural_recording]. It’s also known as 3D recording, so I suggest you put on headphones for this one to get the best experience. Ready? Let’s jump into it. My name is Palle Bo, and this is The Radio Vagabond episode 210. Welcome to Dominica in the Caribbean Sea. HANGING WITH MY BEACHES IN ANTIGUA Before I got to the island of Dominica, I revisited another one of my favourite islands in the region where I spent a week prior – the beautiful Antigua in the island nation Antigua and Barbuda [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antigua_and_Barbuda]. Since I have already seen every corner of the island known for its 365 beaches, I decided to do a trip around the island on a catamaran ship and see the beaches that way. The trip was amazing. We took a long stop at one of the beaches where we got to snorkel in the corals for a few hours. I absolutely love this place and the people. They are so chill and have a great sense of humour, perfectly encapsulated by our hilarious tour guide. If you haven’t heard the three episodes [https://www.theradiovagabond.com/?s=antigua] from the last time I was here, I highly encourage you to go back and listen to them. But not right now because we’re about to arrive in Dominica. DELIGHTFUL DOMINICA When I saw in the cruise itinerary that we were going to visit Dominica [https://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominica], I thought it was the Dominican Republic [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominican_Republic]. But Dominica is not the Dominican Republic – it’s a separate island and independent country over 1,000 km (600 miles) away in the eastern Caribbean Sea. The official name of the country is The Commonwealth of Dominica, but people mostly refer to it simply as Dominica. It was named by Christopher Columbus after the Spanish word for Sunday, the day of the week on which he first spotted it. Our cruise ship docked in the capital city of Roseau, located on the western side of the island. And the island is small: only 47 km (29 miles) from top to bottom and 26 km (16 miles) at its widest. That makes the tiny island only 750 km2 (290 sq miles) in total. Technically, you can drive around the island along most of the coastline in 5-6 hours but driving on the island of Dominica is not for the faint of heart. Of the 780 km (484 miles) of highways in Dominica, nearly half are unpaved. And cars are driven on the left-hand side. I didn’t drive myself. I booked an excursion and went on a bus with local Alvin as our guide. We headed to one of the many stunning waterfalls on the island – Jacko Falls [https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g147284-d12219347-Reviews-Jacko_Falls-Morne_Trois_Pitons_National_Park_Saint_Patrick_Parish_Dominica.html]. I got to chat with Alvin which I’ll tell you about, but first let’s learn more about Dominica. 5 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT DOMINICA 1. There’s a river for every day of the year While Antigua and Barbuda has one beach for every day of the year, Dominica has over 365 rivers – one river for every day of the year. With so much water running around, it’s no surprise that Dominica is also a dream destination to chase waterfalls. 2. It’s home to the second-largest boiling lake in the world Dominica is home to the second-largest boiling lake in the world after New Zealand. It’s one of the most famous places on the island, especially for hikers. But this is no easy stroll – you’ll need 6 hours to get there and back. 3. There are nine active volcanoes Dominica has nine active volcanoes – the world’s highest concentration! But don’t worry, there hasn’t been a major eruption since 1997 and before that, it was in 1880. So, being a volcanic island, the beaches are black. 4. Two-thirds of Dominica is covered in rainforest Gorgeous tropical rainforests cover over two-thirds of the island. And these rainforests are home to more than 1,000 different plant species – so hiking here is great. 5. The Pirates of the Caribbean movies were filmed in Dominica Dominica is one of the filming locations used in Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3. The place where Will Turner and his shipmates are hanging in bone cages (called “Cannibal Island” in the film) is right here in Dominica. As you heard, Dominica is home to endless rivers, waterfalls, rainforests, and volcanoes – and for that, they have earned the nickname ‘the nature isle of the Caribbean’. ALVIN OUR DOMINICAN TOUR GUIDE When we arrived at the stunning Jacko Falls, I took the opportunity to get to know our warm and friendly tour guide, Alvin (“like the chipmunk” he jokes). “This beautiful Jacko Falls is part of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park [https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/814/] which is named as a World Heritage Site. We are about 2,000 feet above sea level.” I spoke to Alvin about a study I came across that stated that out of 22 Caribbean islands tracked, Dominica was the least visited by tourists. But this study is from 2008 and this has changed a bit since then. “Yes, back in 2008 not many cruise ships visited Dominica. But since then, a lot has changed thankfully, and we receive many tourists visiting from the cruise ships. In fact, before 2008, banana harvesting, and exporting was Dominica’s main source of wealth. Since then, our tourism industry has overtaken. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing fewer visitors to our island nation”. Everybody on the island has their part to play in terms of keeping our tourism industry the country’s main source of income – the shops, bars, restaurants all come together to make it a magical place. “We are all very appreciative of tourists coming to visit and we all try our best to make their visit as pleasant as possible, so they leave with only the best memories”. THE QUEEN, COMMONWEALTH, AND CRICKET Alvin tells me that Dominica is still part of the Commonwealth, although they got their independence in 1978, so the Queen still features on Dominican currency and the drive on the left side of the road – like they do in Great Britain and most other former British colonies. Their national sport is cricket, too. Speaking of sport, Dominica only had 2 people competing in the Olympics in Tokyo. Dennick Luke in the Men's 800 meters event and Thea LaFond in the Women's triple jump. And no… they did not take home any medals to this tiny island nation. As we drove back to Roseau, we could see the city from above and the fairly new multi-purpose Windsor Park Stadium. It serves as the national stadium and is used mostly for cricket matches. It cost $17 million (€12 million) to build and was paid for by China as a gift to the people of Dominica. DOMINICAN FOOD IS SUPER HEALTHY I noticed that all the restaurants offer such incredible food that is also so healthy. I asked Alvin more about the local cuisine. “Yes, the Dominican diet is very healthy, like most local Caribbean food. We are a great place for vegetarian travellers as most of our dishes are packed with loads of vegetables and greens. We also eat a lot of seafood, a lot more than red meat and pork. That keeps us healthy” But Alvin ended with an important piece of information… “But most importantly, we enjoy a little sip of rum now and then. In Dominica, we don’t call it rum, rather we have a few names for it: “Grandma Medicine” and, my personal favourite, SMACK MY ASS AND TAKE ME TO BED”. I really love this place. SMACK MY ASS TO LIVE LONGER The mix of clean food and ass-smacking clearly has its benefits. Dominica was home to one of the longest-living humans in history. When Elizabeth Pampo passed away in 2003, she was 128 years old and the World’s oldest living person [https://www.thedominican.net/articles/pampo.htm]. And almost even more interesting: there were at least 17 other people older than 100 years in Dominica at the time (with 4 of them living very close to Ma Pampo). With a population of only 70,000, Dominica has the highest concentration of people older than 100. Alvin’s own grandmother is one of them. “My grandmother is 105 years old. She is still going strong: she loves to potter in the garden every morning and loves spending time with her family and friends. And gets a shot of rum every day”. VISIT DOMINICA AND MEET ALVIN FOR YOURSELF You can reach Alvin at Hibiscus Eco Tours [https://discoverdominica.com/en/places/131/hibiscus-eco-tours]. You can call them on +1 767-615-8281 or send them an e-mail [http://firstname.lastname@example.org/]. When saying goodbye to Alvin, I said that the only bad thing about my visit was that it wasn’t long enough. And I wasn’t even kidding. Dominica really is one of those places where I would have loved to spend some more time. I felt right at home and would love to come back. Soon... After waving off Alvin, we headed back on the cruise ship. For my health, I decided to finish off my Dominican experience at the pool bar with a little sip of rum – or, as I will now forever refer to it as, an ‘ass-smack’ before taking myself to bed. My name is Palle Bo and I gotta keep moving. See you. COVID-19 TRAVEL and TOURISM RULES FOR DOMINICA (SEPT 2021) Is Dominica open for travel? This episode is recorded in August 2021 and Dominica was open for travel. For the latest COVID-19 travel restrictions and tourist regulations, please visit their official website [https://dominica.gov.dm/]. Make sure Dominica is open for tourism before booking your trip. PODCAST RECOMMENDATION If you love listening to The Radio Vagabond, then you will definitely enjoy the travel podcast Far From Home [https://farfromhomepodcast.org/#:~:text=Far%20From%20Home%20is%20an,Iran%2C%20Chernobyl%2C%20and%20Mongolia.]. It is produced by long-time radio producer Scott Gurian who travels around the world to some extreme faraway places.