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Voyaging

Destinations To Die For: Plymouth Harbor, Dominica

Some Paradise Regained | January

This English-speaking island is often mistaken for the Dominican Republic.

Without exaggeration, the best fruit I've ever had was in Dominica. It was piled onto our deck, within minutes of anchoring, by a Rastafarian who had rowed out to us on a surfboard, saying, "Enjoy de island." We were at Plymouth, on the northwest coast. A spit of land juts out from the mainland, both protecting the southwest-exposed harbor from the trades and marking the entrance from miles out at sea. While many onshore facilities are nonexistent, one ramshackle beach bar does offer Internet service and maintains a 24 hour-anchor/security watch, although dragging is unlikely, with the fine holding in a bottom of sand layered over mud.

Dominica has been called "the last gem of the Caribbean" due in large part to the extensive acreage of protected rainforest; but a reputed 365 rivers, generally hospitable islanders, and its bevy of eco-tourism activities don't blemish this rock, either.

When exploring an island with so many hidden pleasures, a personal guide is important and can be retained for a small fee; the more reputable ones have national-park credentials. In Plymouth they can be found gathered at the mouth of the Indian River. They will, as a point, offer you an oar-powered trip through the mangroves, and although this is a relaxing outing (bird-watchers should have a field day), the real feathers in Dominica's cap lie inland.

A hike to the Boiling Lake is pretty, but tough.

The hottest attraction on Dominica is Boiling Lake, set in the caldera of an active volcano. It's a place ripped from Dante's cantos, and as you follow the flow of sulfur-rich streams through the Valley of Desolation, stepping around pockets of steaming debris, you'll think twice about skipping Sunday services. Since this is a trek almost as arduous as Dante's, you'll need to be in top physical shape to even attempt it, and—as the poet had Virgil—you'll also need to hire an aforementioned guide to show you where to tread. But where else on this earth can you bathe under a hot waterfall?

For those who aren't up for a full day on the trail, a short swim up Titou Gorge is one of the more surreal experiences on any Caribbean island. With your body immersed in brisk water, the moss-coated cliffs fold in above as you swim toward the waterfall at the head of the gorge. A small hollow in the rocks allows you to lounge at the base of the waterfall and photograph your companions.

Other natural wonders dot this 290-square-mile island. Victoria Falls, Trafalgar Falls, and the Emerald Pool are just a few, but remember to experience these when the cruise ships aren't docked in Roseau (an abysmal town; avoid the capital at all costs). When the crowds are in, head to the cliffs on the eastern shores of the island; to the Caribe Indian Reservation for hand-woven reed hats, valises, and jugs; or out to sea. The waters around Dominica are one of the premiere calving grounds for sperm whale, recognizable from afar by their bifurcated spouts of water.

Destinations To Die For

January: Plymouth Harbor, Dominica
February: The Spanish Virgin Islands
March: Mazatlan, Mexico
April: Man-O-War Cay, Bahamas
May: Southport, North Carolina
June: Greenport, New York
July: New York, New York
August: Penobscot Bay, Maine
September: Block Island, Rhode Island
October: Panama City, Florida
November: Key West, Florida
December: Staniel Cay, Bahamas

This article originally appeared in the December 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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