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


It’s time to learn some more about the Syndicate Trails. Let’s begin with the Syndicate Nature Trail.

The Syndicate Nature Trail is a relatively simple route. It’s easy, because it’s well signposted and flat. It’s short, so you won’t get tired. It’s picturesque, the forest is unspoilt and full of magnificent trees. It’s perfect for beginning hikers and it’s the best destination for birdwatchers, so that most birdwatching tours of the island are offered there.

The trail loops through the forest, and it’s almost clear of spots where one could look down. However, there is one lookout point above the Dublanc River valley. You can see the forest from above, so it’s the best place to spot a jaco or a sisserou–the national bird. Not just them, the forest is full of the other life forms. Like, four species of hummingbird. And note, a typical walk is no longer than an hour, so the concentration of impressions during it may be really amazing. I recommend you to have a guide. You’ll need the site pass anyway.

The Syndicate Nature Trail is comfortable. It’s a mecca for tourists who like service and civilization, even though the number of facilities is far from enormous.

Image of a tree in Syndicate Trail RainforestTree in Syndicate Trail Rainforest – Photos by photonooner via Flickr

The Morne Diablotin Trail is a harder nut for inexperienced hikers. But for those who have some practice or just are enthusiastic, it’ll be the sheer pleasure. This trail is more difficult, reaching 5 points on difficulty scale (while the Syndicate Nature Trail has 1 point) and typically lasts about two or three hours each way. That is, five or six hours altogether.

You may want to bring some food with you, besides your usual equipment. Additionally, I strongly recommend you bring dry clothes; don’t underestimate the difficulty of the route. You may get wet and dirty. You’ll have to scramble up the mountain and make your way through the kaklen. And when you’re done, you may find yourself in a cloud driven by the strong cold wind, not on a sunlit cliff.

How does it feel to be at that trail?

Initially, you already feel you’re climbing the mountain. At first, you have to get over the lower elevations. It usually takes an hour of climbing through the rainforest. It’s exceptionally beautiful and untouched. The songs of the local birds including the sisserou and the jaco are charming. You may stop and get lucky enough to spot them as they fly above your head. Besides birds, you will see magnificent chatanier trees which have buttress roots supporting the trees, bwa mang whose prop roots hold their stems in the air, tree fern which are truly giant, straight gommier trees reaching for the sky, air plants clinging the other trees, and plenty of epiphytes.

Image of a creek at Syndicate FallsCreek at Syndicate Falls

Then, the path gets harder. You’ll have to scramble up slopes and boulders for the next half hour, the mud may cover your clothes. You’ll have no time to look around when moving, but whenever you stop, try that. You’ll find out the vegetation is different. It’s no rainforest anymore, it’s the montane forest. The trees are shorter and narrower.

One more hour and you’ll enter the elfin woodland. This is when the kaklen comes up, taking the place of the rocks. It’s more challenging. The branches may be sharp, watch them carefully as you scramble through (which is going to take one more hour). The floor is not hard enough, from time to time, you’ll have to clamber the branches. Don’t forget to test them and use your arms and hands.

Finally, you’ll get to the summit. The kaklen may obscure your views to the south and the north, the other directions are clearer. Anyway, you can try and see through it, you may even see Martinique. And here’s a reason to be proud: Dominica’s highest mountain’s peak is under your feet.

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The Syndicate area contains many wonderful things. Like, the mountain and the visitor center, the Northern Forest Reserve and the birds. For the tourists, the Milton (Syndicate) Falls are next in line for visiting. Their other name is Syndicate Falls, they are named after the area.

The waterfall is exceptionally beautiful, and it’s not hard to get there. All the way takes about twenty minutes.

The reference position is Dublanc, the coastal village. To the north of it, there is the signposted road. Watch the right side of the road, that’s where the Milton Falls sign should appear in around ten minutes. Go along the track to the fork, where you choose the left branch. At the next bifurcation you also go left. The path leads uphill, and it’s kind of muddy.

The trail to the fall starts in the small parking area, where the second Milton Falls signpost and a large mango tree are. You’ll have to pay the fee of 2 US dollars per person to the co-operative called Banana Topia Inc. The reasons to pay are like these: You’ll be going to pass through private land and the co-operative is maintaining the trail and developing facilities. For paying, walk to the building where the vehicle track leads.

Milton (Syndicate) Falls in DominicaPhoto by Heather Bratulich

After you do, proceed. There’s going to be one more fork. That’s right: You take the trail to the left, again. Follow it along the river until you find the small tributary. Then walk along its bank, it’ll be the right side and it finishes with a dead end. Just before the end, you’ll see the trail appear on the opposite bank. Cross the tributary, so you could follow the trail over the shingly left bank. Then, you will reach the waterfall.

I don’t recommend you bathe in the falls. There is a sign at the head of the track. It informs the tourists that the Milton Falls are a water source for several settlements; so if one introduces pollutants to the falls, it will affect those who depend on the water. Polluting the falls is an offence punishable by a fine and imprisonment. The law is not mean; in fact, it is necessary. So the tourists have to content themselves with simple observing. It’s great fun, too.

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