What makes Dominica so different? To mention just a few of the island's unique offerings, there is Dominica's historic heritage as the last home of surviving traces of the once proud and warlike Carib race; two endemic parrots; and mountain chicken. The latter is actually a breaded frog-leg culinary delight. The special parrots, both endangered, are the purple and green imperial parrot which appears on the national flag, and the smaller red-necked amazon or jacko, which provides bright streaks of scarlet as it flies through the rain forest for which Dominica is world-renown.
The island is so rugged and mountainous that it was the last to be developed by Europeans. Today, it remains the least developed of the larger Caribbean isles. The island's interior evokes the romantic beauty of Kauai, Hawaii's Garden Isle. Like Kauai, it is almost always raining somewhere in the ubiquitous rain forests. Chances are, you will see quite a number of rainbows at just about any given moment while exploring the jungle-clad interior. Also, as in Hawaii, whale watching is an option.
Caribs called the island Waitukubuli or "tall is her body." And tall the island is! The island's peaks rise higher than any in the mother country: England. The interior is chockablock with trails, rustic but comfortable mountain lodges, a national park and some magnificent public gardens. Little wonder, then, that the island is called Nature Island of the Caribbean. Dominica is what Christopher Columbus might have had in mind when he described West Indian topography by crumbling a piece of parchment and throwing it on a table where sat Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.
Dominica beaches tend to be dark volcanic grey or jet black, except for the golden sands in the far northeast. Beachcombers prefer the area around Portsmouth where beachfront bars and water sports are available.
Roseau, the island's capital, is located on the protected east coast. The only sizeable town on the island is framed by magnificent mountains and looks out over a wide expanse of colourful Caribbean water. Despite extensive hurricane destruction, Roseau has been rebuilt without losing its Caribbean flair for quaint architecture and a charming atmosphere. Friendly townspeople are apt to greet you in a French patois, the French having been first to settle on the island. Like so many Caribbean Windward Islands, Dominica has switched back and forth from French to British jurisdiction. It ended up being a British colony, but French patois can still be heard and most of the people are Catholic. The people are mostly poor but intensely proud of their island's beauty. There are said to be no purebred Caribs left. However, you often see the fine black hair and Amerindian facial features of many Dominicans who are obviously of Carib origins.
Dominica took its independence from Britain on November 3, 1978, just 485 years after Christopher Columbus sailed by on a Domingo, or Sunday in English, hence the name: Dominica. At one point, Dominicans elected Eugenia Charles as the Caribbean's first woman prime minister. Among the island's world-class writers and artists are: Jean Rhys, author of a novel about colonial Dominican society; Phyllis Shand Allfrey, author of The Orchid House; and Agostino Brunias, an Italian who lived on the island for many years and painted many canvases depicting Dominican everyday life.
Dominica was once the world's No 1 producer of lime juice. At one time, limes brought in half the island's export earnings. The island's most famous beverage is called Rose's, the lime juice that provided Britain's Royal Navy with a scurvy preventative. Today, bananas are the main export earners.