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Dominica weekly is a personal weblog about the nature island of Dominica.


Once again, I will tell you some more about Morne Diablotin. But this time, it’s going to be a story about the mountain itself.

Morne Diablotin is the highest mountain of Dominica, reaching 4,747 ft (1,447 m) in height. It may seem kind of low to those who’ve been accustomed to the Alps and the Rocky Mountains, but although Morne Diablotin is no rival to Mount Elbert or Mont Blanc, it is the second largest mountain in all of the Lesser Antilles. What’s more important, it’s a beautiful terrain covered with the rainforest and the elfin woodland.

Okay, you’d like to get there. What do you need first? A place to stay. The nearest ones are Portsmouth Beach Hotel (tel. 445-5142), Coconut Beach Hotel (445-5393), and Picard Beach Cottage Resort (445-5131) at Picard.

The route to the mount is simple. When driving along the Portsmouth coast road, turn to the east when you’re to the north of Dublanc, between Dublanc and Morne Espagnol to be precise. The turn is signposted, you won’t stray. Then, proceed along the way to the shack you can see on the left. There should be the crossroads where the track to the mountain starts.

Morne Diablotin - Dominica highest mountainView of the North from Morne Diablotin – Photo by WillMcPhail via flickr

If you walk to the left, you’ll get to the starting point of the Syndicate Nature Trail in half an hour, because it’s just 0.8 mi long. It was built in 1994 in a parcel of forest bought by the government back in 1989. It’s a perfect route for those who are thirsty for birdwatching. Chances of seeing a sisserou or a jaco are good. There also are several minor ways to the higher elevations. As we are more interested in the mountain, let’s consider the other trail.

The trail to the Morne Diablotin starts on the right from the crossroads. It’s kind of flat at first, but the slope increases quickly. The path is rough and steep, it’s even worse when it’s rain, but it’s worth it. Neglect the spurs, and simply enjoy the beauty of the montane forest, which is full of life. It’s birds: Blue-headed hummingbird, forest thrush, pearly-eyed thrasher, red-necked pigeon, ruddy quail dove, rufous-throated solitaire, trembler, and many other species. It’s beasts: Wild pig, agoutis and opossums–they all are prey for local Dominicans. It’s chiropterans, which, however, you may only encounter after the sunset.

You won’t have to walk much, the forest is over after a thousand feet. Then the last section of the trail (1000 ft long, too) brings you to the elfin woodland, leading you between tree ferns and by the razor grass areas. Once you at the high ridges, you’ll have to scramble through the maze of kaklen and mountain palms. You better do this with care, unless you want to cause damage to the magnificence of these plants or even to yourself. I don’t think you do.

The walk along the Morne Diablotin trail usually takes up to three hours when you’re going up and 2-2.5 hours when you’re coming back. But you made it. You’re at the peak. What should you pay attention to?

Couple of video shots from Morne Diablotins. Video by MikeInDominica.

The misty winds won’t let grow something huge. But they make perfect conditions for mosses, lichens and flowering. Most interesting things are the endemic Chromolaena impetiolaris and Chromolaena macrodon, and Tibouchina melastomes.

If you’re lucky enough to be there when it’s clear, you will be rewarded with the magnificent view. The panorama is breathtaking. You can see the other mountains of Dominica, moreover, you can see Martinique dissolved in the air and in the ocean. Of course, the forests, plantations and villages will also be visible. You may want to bring the tripod for your camera. It’ll come in handy if you decide to take a panoramic picture or if you pick some distant object and choose to zoom in.

I hope you’ll have your best experience there.

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Dominica’s nature deserves reverent treatment because of its uniqueness and beauty. Especially, if it’s all about the mountainous terrain and its wildlife. The People in charge understood it very long ago.

Back in 1977, the Northern Forest Reserve was established, and it had an area of 8,900ha at that time. Later 3,335ha were devolved to the Morne Diablotin National Park which would include much of the mountain.

This was made as a means of protection of the natural habitat of two parrots. And to create conditions for better and non-disturbing birdwatching. Thus, as of now, the Northern Forest Reserve surrounds Morne Diablotin.

photo of the Northern Forest Reserve in DominicaPhotos by digitography

What is the coolest thing you can see there? It may be the sisserou, the national bird. That is, if you get lucky. Yes, it’s the Morne Diablotin Park which is meant to be the place for endangered parrots, but don’t you think birds respect drawn borders?

elfin woodland in Dominica

Encountering a rare bird requires some luck. What you need to find awesome flora, it’s just your desire and interest. It is the Forest Reserve, after all. Be sure, it’s worth visiting. If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing trees not just growing out of the ground, but also born by buttress roots like masts are supported by shrouds, this is your chance.

The rainforest is a nice place. The high-altitude wind wraps the mountain in clouds and the fog. It may be too humid, but the air will not be too thick. Eventually, it’s an area full of life. The rainforest and the elfin woodland meet at the higher elevations.

In the forest, such trees as the karapit, the chatanier and the gommier tangle huge piles, making home for the parrots. As for the elfin woodland, the kaklen and the mountain palm muffle it up.

When you come to the Reserve, it may look to you fantastic. The flora may seem alien, making the whole area look like an extraterrestrial landscape, so don’t get confused. And yet it’s natively terrestrial. Still looks cool, I believe.

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