The island of Dominica is a wonderland of natural beauty, where adventures await around every corner. For over one hundred years, the Boiling Lake, for example, has drawn visitors from all over the world. But in 2017, hurricanes devastated the island.
Fortunately, just like in Puerto Rico, the tourist industry in Dominica is bouncing back and better than ever. So if you’re in the mood for an adventure, this plucky little island can provide it in spades. And the Boiling Lake in Morne Trois Pitons National Park is a great place to start.
Dominica or the Dominican Republic?
Sometimes, people confuse Dominica with the Dominican Republic. It’s easy to do. After all, they share a name and are both Caribbean islands. Christopher Columbus visited both places, and both are popular tourist destinations today. But the Commonwealth of Dominica is a different island, with different people. In addition, it has a separate history, a different language, and government. Below, you can find a Dominica map. If you’re looking for a Dominican Republic map, you can see it here.
Dominica is a young island — the youngest in the archipelago known as the Lesser Antilles. Like Hawaii, Dominica is volcanic. And this means lush plant life and fertile soil. Unlike many of the more widely visited Caribbean islands, Dominica is mostly unspoiled by industry or exploitation of its resources. It is home to acres and acres of rainforest. In addition, numerous plant and animal species that are extinct on other islands still live on Dominica.
Most importantly, Dominica is the home of several natural wonders — and that includes Boiling Lake.
The Boiling Lake
In the middle of a lush mountain forest in Morne Trois Pitons National Park sits the volcano, Morne Watt. And in a crater near the volcano is Boiling Lake. There is a fumarole at the bottom of the lake. A fumarole is a crack in the ground through which steam and volcanic gasses rise to the surface. And these gasses are what make Boiling Lake, the world’s second-largest hot lake, bubble, and churn.
Boiling Lake was created by a phreatic eruption. The heat from the magma under the surface superheated the rocks below the water table. Eventually, the heat became so extreme that it burst through the rock, and into the groundwater. The subsequent explosion of steam and rock created the crater where the lake sits today. And the continuing escape of heat from the fumarole keeps the water not just hot but boiling.
Two Englishmen, Watt, and Nichols, first documented the lake in 1870. Since then, it has gone through numerous phases and changes. At the time of their documentation, the men estimated the depth to be no less than 195 feet. Some 25 years later, a geyser would form, and the water level would drop by thirty to fifty feet. In 1988, the lake stopped boiling off and on, and the water level dropped even more. A similar cessation in activity occurred in 2016. Today, however, the lake has resumed its usual constant bubbling and churning, though the water is only around 42 feet deep.
Can you swim there?
Boiling Lake is a hot spring, but we wouldn’t recommend taking a dip there. The temperature of the acidic blue water is around 194 degrees Fahrenheit. And that’s just around the edges. It’s too hot to measure in the center, where the steam is coming up. In addition, the air is filled with sulfur, arsenic, and other nasty things you wouldn’t want to take in.
Nonetheless, the view is stunning. And getting there is an adventure you’ll not soon forget.
How to get there
This isn’t a casual trip that you can do in the morning. There are no luxury shuttles to take you there. But for the intrepid, the adventurous, and the fit, this could be the trip of a lifetime.
The adventure begins in the village of Laudat, in the south-central portion of the country, in St. George Parish. From there, the lake is an eight-mile hike through the rainforest. You should allow no less than three to four hours to make the journey, and you should not start out after midday, as you might not have time to make it back safely. In addition, conditions can be extremely muddy, so be prepared. You will scramble over rocks, tiptoe along a thin ridgeline, and, very likely, ruin whichever shoes you bring.
Also, don’t head off alone. You would do well to hire a guide who knows the area well. You can usually arrange for one through your hotel, or try to find one when you arrive in Laudat. According to A Virtual Dominica, a guide should cost around $150 East Caribbean Dollars, or approximately $56 USD.
Adventurers typically split the journey into three sections. The first section goes from Laudat to Breakfast River. Breakfast River is the last place with potable water, so be sure to fill your canteens and bottles. This segment is muddy and uphill. The second segment goes from Breakfast River to the Valley of Desolation. This section goes very steeply uphill and travels along a high ridge. The payoff, however, is spectacular views in every direction. Finally, the trail leads down through the Valley, back and forth across a warm stream, to the lake.
Other Attractions in and Around the Morne Trois Pitons National Park
Boiling Lake is by far not the only stop that must be on your itinerary. Below we list some of the most gorgeous, lifetime memories you shouldn’t live without.
The Valley of Desolation
The Valley of Desolation is a stunning, rugged section of the Boiling Lake Trail. In addition to the views, visitors can enjoy hot springs, a warm river, and boiling mud pots. There are also steam vents and fumaroles. It is an area full of elemental beauty that will be a constant reminder of the powerful forces that continue to shape the islands and the earth.
If you’re looking for something less challenging, a trip to nearby Titou Gorge may be just the thing. Titou Gorge lies outside of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, also in St. George’s Parish. The “hike” through the gorge is a very short swim — about five minutes. It starts at the base of a waterfall and leads through a series of natural rooms and ponds carved out of cliff walls by volcanic magma. A canopy of trees and vegetation sits atop the gorge. The water is cool and refreshing. This would make a terrific trip the day after a grueling hike to Boiling Lake. Have a look for yourself.
Dominica and the hurricanes
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season devastated many favorite tourist destinations in the Caribbean. Maria and Irma pounded Dominica with torrential rains and winds of up to 160 miles per hour. When it was all over, the island had lost some 90 percent of its buildings. Rains washed away roads, trails, bridges, and crops. However, The New York Times reports that waterfalls and hot springs are still open for business. The island’s clean water is still clean. And, according to the NYT author, the parrots are returning to the island.
Visitors may have to cope with irritations like food rationing. The seas around the island, still rough six months after the hurricanes, prevent some cargo ships from docking. Destruction of locally grown crops means that the mangoes, citrus, taro, and other foods that Dominica used to export, are in short supply. But life is getting back to normal in the towns. And Dominica is rebuilding. What’s more, you can help.
Like Puerto Rico, Dominica depends on its tourism industry. And this industry is leading the way to reconstruction. One exciting new development is voluntourism. That’s where volunteers enjoy all of the hospitality and natural beauty that Dominica has to offer while helping to rebuild the country. It’s an adventure you can feel even better about.
Dominica Update has a raft of voluntourism packages available. Many of these include lodging, food, transportation, and more. Some of the things you can help with include clearing debris from Dominica’s popular hiking trails, cleaning up marine reserve areas, and rehabilitating forests and trails.
If you’re looking for something a bit different for your next vacation, how about a vacation that makes a difference?
Dominica Resorts? Where to Stay
Unfortunately, many resorts fell victim to the hurricanes. If you’re traveling to Dominica, it’s important to do your research. Make sure the place you’re considering has returned to business. Many large Dominica resorts are closed for renovations. However, there are a number of smaller and privately run accommodations available, especially in Rousseau. You can check out some of these listings at Booking.Com. If you’re interested in voluntourism options, be sure to visit Dominica Update. And if you’re looking for Dominica Republic resorts rather than Dominica resorts, you can check out this listing of the 22 best all-inclusive Dominican Republic resorts.