Forget the fluffy white robes, flotation tanks and expensive room service bills from the luxury spa hotel – wellbeing holidays on the Caribbean island of Dominica are all about harnessing the islandâ€™s natural resources to create a balance of mind, body and spirit.
Here, from â€˜the Nature Island of Dominicaâ€™, are five steps to the ultimate natural wellbeing vacation.
1. Travel – with a clear conscience
2. Get fit and healthy in the â€˜jungle gymâ€™
3. Enrich your spirit
4. Expand your mind
5. Embrace new challenges
1. Travel â€“ With a Clear Conscience
It is impossible to ignore the global warming debate and its links to overseas travel, but at the same time, it is important to remember that tourism is essential to the economies of many countries as well as for promoting understanding and developing cultural links.
In Dominica, visitors can be assured that they have chosen a destination that has gained worldwide recognition for its efforts in sustainable tourism. Dominica was the first country in the world to be benchmarked by Green Globe 21; the highest ranked Caribbean destination in a survey of sustainable islands by National Geographic Traveler; and recently nominated in the Best Green Destination category at the World Travel Awards.
Most hotels, guesthouses and tourism enterprises in Dominica are locally owned and run, so by staying on the island, making use of tour guides and taking part in the activities on offer, visitors are making a vital contribution to local businesses and the islandâ€™s economy as a whole.
Responsible travelers can offset their carbon emissions via companies like the Carbon Trust or Carbon Neutral.
2. Get Fit and Healthy in the â€˜Jungle Gymâ€™
The beautiful, rainforest landscapes of Dominica are far more inspiring than any gym. Forsake the rowing machine for an ocean kayak, or the treadmill for some brisk hikes in the hilly landscape to make exercise enjoyable. Swimming spots are also plentiful, with numerous freshwater rivers on the island. Some are even naturally heated due to the islandâ€™s volcanic nature.
For a more intense work-out, take a dip in the pool at the base of Victoria Falls, or in Ti-Tou Gorge, where the pressure from pounding waterfalls creates a strong resistance to swim against.
Relieve aching muscles with a dip in one of Dominicaâ€™s many hot springs, where the water temperature is comparable to a hot bath. Hot spring pools occur naturally across the island â€“ including at the oceanâ€™s edge near the town of Soufriere – and can also be found in the grounds of some guesthouses.
These springs are caused by the islandâ€™s volcanic nature, another result of which is mineral-rich mud. Volcanic mud is used across the world in spa treatments to draw toxins and impurities out of the body â€“ in Dominica, visitors can take advantage of abundant supplies in areas including the Valley of Desolation. Indulging in a natural mud face pack will leave skin feeling instantly glowing and healthy.
Healthy eating is relatively easy in Dominica. Most hotels and restaurants offer locally sourced produce, including organically grown vegetables, fresh seafood and a delectable variety of tropical fruit juices. Cookery classes and tours are also available for visitors to learn how regional specialties are prepared.
3. Enrich your spirit
Itâ€™s official â€“ Dominica is the fourth happiest country in the world according to the Happy Planet Index, a survey conducted by the UKâ€™s New Economics Foundation. Visitors to the island should embrace this positive frame of mind, brought on by the friendly locals and the sheer beauty of the island.
Unlike some Caribbean islands, it is easy to find a retreat in Dominica â€“ perhaps a corner of the rainforest, a deserted beach, or a stretch of river where you can remain tranquil for hours without being disturbed by another soul, except the wildlife. Make the most of the solitude to contemplate and appreciate the verdant, pristine beauty of the Nature Island, which has hardly changed since Christopher Columbus sailed past over 500 years ago.
Yoga fans might also like to take part in yoga classes or residential courses in other holistic pursuits that take place at selected hotels and guesthouses. Classes take place in purpose-built studios or terraces, surrounded by the forest or overlooking the ocean.
4. Expand Your Mind
A holiday in Dominica offers not only the chance to experience a new country, but also to learn about the culture and history of the people who shaped the whole of the Caribbean region over hundreds of years. Dominica is the only island with an indigenous population of Carib Indians, known as the Kalinago. Many Kalinago live in a government-designated Carib Territory in the northeast of the island, where traditional crafts such as basket weaving are still prevalent.
The island offers a number of community-based tourism activities that will teach visitors about past and present life in Dominica, including a visit to Touna Village in the Carib Territory and a community gardening and cookery tour.
5. Embrace New Challenges
Holidays often bring with them the confidence to try something new, or push personal boundaries. The opportunities for this in Dominica are numerous. Abandon traditional comfort zones by trying a new activity – perhaps scuba diving, horseback riding, rappelling down a waterfall, or swinging through the jungle canopy on zip lines and rope bridges. Challenges could even be as simple as trying fresh seafood for the first time; facing a fear of flying with a scenic flight over the island in a small plane; or learning not to flinch at the creatures and insects that WILL be seen in the jungle.