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Purely Dominica

Purely Dominica

Image of the boiling lake in Dominica

Dominica is one of many the Caribbean islands formed on the site of volcanic activity. Its population (mostly blacks) grows bananas and nearly one-third of the labour force works in agriculture. Dominica’s mountains, rainforests, freshwater lakes, hot springs, waterfalls, and diving spots makes it an attractive Eco-tourism destination.

One of the many unique natural attractions in Dominica is the Boiling Lake, the second fumarole lake in the world (after New Zealand’s Waimangu if to speak about sizes). Though this comparison is rather relative – unfortunately for tourists the lake is used to drying from time to time, resembling a muddy pool then rather than a lake. Since 1887 there have been registered several such cases. Since then the Forestry Division and enthusiasts have been regularly monitoring the lake taking photos and trying to measure its depth and diameter at least approximately.

 Am image of valley of desolation in Dominica

Staying in the vicinity of the lake may cost you life because of sulphurous gas and steam from the empty crater. It should be noted that the temperature there is estimated at 92 ºC. Some even boil eggs in the lake as legends say. Sometimes during rains the temperature of the water goes down to 10ºC and some brave hearts dare swimming despite the fact it is strictly prohibited for the lake is unpredictable.

In its normal state (i.e. the enormous bubbling cauldron) the diameter is measured up to 200 ft (66 m) and its approximate depth exceeds 195 ft (64 m). This cauldron is surrounded by glib rock walls with the height of 60-100 ft. Sulphurous steam often conceals half the lake which has milky white surface then. When its bubbling and steaming activity is lower you can see grayish-blue waters below. The smell, it should be said, is skanky. Still many tourists from different parts of the world seeking adventures dare hiking to the Boiling Lake.

Image of breakfast river on the boiling lake in Dominica

The word “hiking” means you can reach the place only on foot. Since Dominica has become a popular place with tourists the locals offer services of hiking guides. You can find guides either in Laudat, the nearest village to the lake, or in Roseau, the capital of Dominica. Even do not keep it in your mind to go there alone. For some hotshots this trip happened to be one way. The distance between Laudat, initial stage of the trip, and the lake is about 8 miles. The two-way trail may take you 6-8 hours. You should soberly evaluate your physical abilities. If you hardly remember your last visit to the gym, you’d rather stay in the hotel.

The trail starts early in the morning. People, experienced it, advise to put on your cheapest and most comfortable clothes: shorts, sturdy sandals, hiking boots. Extra batteries for your camera, snacks, water-supply, waterproof rain gear, and some extra clothes will not be excessive. Leave all the jewelry in your hotel room.

The trail starts with Titou Gorge. There you can cool off, enjoy a soak in hot mineral spring if you are a good swimmer, of course, for you’ll have to enter the deep Gorge with few places to grip. This stage is also the muddiest one. From that point the path will lead you through the rain forest to the Breakfast River. It is the only spot where you can have a snack and provide you with clean drinking water. The run from the village to the Breakfast River is rather easy and pleasant notwithstanding the mud and sulphurous springs.

An image a natural pool on the trail to the boiling lake in Dominica

The next run from the river to the Valley of Desolation gets rather tough. First you go through the Elfin Woodlands where you can enjoy exotic plants, palms, shrubs and grasses, then you will climb, and climb, and climb along the ridge to the very top (3,168 ft) of the Morne Nicholls. At this point you may rest a bit and have a spectacular view: Morne Micotrin, Roseau, the Caribbean Sea, Morne Watt, Laudat, and Cochrane. Then you’ll have to descend from the ridge to enter the Valley.

It is a volcanic valley with hot sulphur springs and vapour columns. There you can admire the Fumarole Vegetation – the only plants that can survive there – and various colours resulting from volcanic activity. From that point the path gets vague. You will have to carefully cross and re-cross the stream, climb and descend the mountains before you get to the lake. The run from the Valley up to the lake will take you about 40 minutes or more.

An image Dominica boiling lake

At this final stage of your trail it seems that you have enough strength and will to make a way back to the village. But it just seems. The only fact making you continue your trip is absence of any means of transportation. No one will get you to your hotel room but yourself before it gets dark. Finally you return to the village, get a portion of hot meal, and have a soak in the bath.

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Comment by Dan
2010-09-12 11:46:14

Very interesting & well-written, Helen. Seventeen years ago, when I was only 52 I set out for the lake with my wife and then 15-year old daughter. I was carrying the backpack. Ar the Valley of desolation my wife declared she could go no further and asked us to let her stay there while we pressed on and get her on our return. I was not about to leave her where one misstep could lead to a scalding. So I’ve never seen the Boiling Lake. Now I’m 69 and reluctant — to say the least – to even consider making the hike. In the ensuing years I lost a quadriceps muscle in my right leg and have had several coronary artery stents implanted. So, I don’t think I’ll ever go. Our daughter might when she next visits. I’ll make do with her pictures and videos.

Comment by Veselo
2010-09-14 08:56:17

I have done it twice.
First time I was in good shape (I ran everyday) and the track was easy for me. I even wonder why people put it in the dificult level :)))
Second time it was 3 years later and I just came back from visiting my homeland, where I got lazy during several months and ate a lot of my Mom’s tasty food :))) so the track was not easy :)) My husband done it with me in second time and he told me one time is enough for him 🙂 But I am dreaming in some day to go there again with him and our child/ren :))), because it is definitely worth to visit!!!

I would only suggest for people, who are not very strond, but got there: do not swim in sulphur baths, because they make you so relax that you lose all your power to going back. But it is no other way to come back :))

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