Category Archives: Flora and fauna

Posts related to flora and fauna of The Caribbean.

Bahamian Critters

After three seasons in the Eastern Caribbean we have been pleasantly surprised to meet some new critters and creatures in The Bahamas. Some, of course, are not indigenous to The Bahamas but we just hadn’t seen them before, or should I say, encountered!

Mal and I were lobster-hunting at East Plana Cay, a very remote and uninhabited island, when we met Mr 10’ Reef Shark! We had only seen nurse sharks in the Eastern Caribbean.

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Mal looking for lobsters…..

I frantically tried to get Mal’s attention…

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He cruised by and then, as is their wont, circled back to take another look at us! He was between us and our dinghy but he slowly swam away and we slowly, yeah right! swam back to our dinghy, all the while keeping an eye on the four barracuda tracking us! We’ve swum with nurse sharks before but never encountered one of these big boys! So awesome!

Now, for something a little more tame. Alex, from s/v Banyan, and I were snorkeling at Jack’s Cove off David Copperfield’s island, hunting for these cute little, as yet unidentified, creatures that Alex had spied the previous day. She described them as something between a snail and a slug, well, sort of she said.

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Alex and I jus’ hangin’ before heading to the shallows sea-hare hunting!
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And, we found one, actually dozens! They’re quite gelatinous in texture and look snail-like and move snail-like but they have no external shell. They’re markings are really cute and they have a frill-like trim which waves gently in the current.

They are known as Seahares or Aplysiomorpha, a marine mollusc and this variety is known as a black-spotted seahare.

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These two were travelling together. I took a video and will upload to our Youtube channel when I get a good wifi connection.

Continuing the underwater theme, we have regularly seen this delightful little Yellow Stingray throughout the Bahamas. Pretty well camouflaged heh? It is small but if you accidentally stand on one they have a serious sting!

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Gwen from s/v Slow Waltz and I recently had the ‘ride’ of our lives! Well, three rides actually. Guillaume and Mal dropped us off at the beginning of a cut with the tide going out to view the snorkelling spot at Warderick Wells called The Coral Garden. We enjoyed it so much we did two more times! The fast-moving current carried us along whilst we gazed down on the beautiful underwater marine life. Highlights for me were several giant Nassau Groupers, Atlantic Spadefish and four Spotted Eagle Rays elegantly gliding along. But, our favourite find was this 3lb lobster feeding on a conch shell whilst a Nassau Grouper patiently waited his turn. Whilst I’ve seen all these guys before, their size blew me away!

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OK, moving on to land, this gorgeous looking spider caught Alex’s and my attention when we were on Lee Stocking Island visiting an abandoned Research Marine Centre. We’ve been told he could be a Banana Spider – I think the yellow and black legs are the giveaway here LOL! He was big and since then we’ve seen smaller ones on other islands. Don’t you just love his hairy joints! My Wikipedia research says the Banana Spider or Brazilian Wandering Spider is aggressive and venomous! Luckily we left well enough alone 🙂

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And, while still on land, get a load of this cute little dude known as the, guess what?, curly-tailed lizard.

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He preferred his left side and wasn’t intimidated by the camera at all! We’ve seen a few of these little fellas on different islands now and they are so cute.

And, now we come to the amphibious critters. Gwen and I found these superb King Helmet shells semi-buried on the beach at East Plana Cay. The photos don’t do them justice and they’re far less common than a conch shell.

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The two above are roughly 17cm (7″) high (when standing in bottom photo) and 15cm (6″) across to the widest point.

Gwen is actually a Helmet shell magnet! She has found quite a few now. Slow Waltz, Banyan and we were walking through the shallows of O’Brien’s Cay when we found the ones below. All alive! These are smaller but check out their amazing markings.

Not to be outdone, get a load of what Mal found on the same sandbar. The 1st photo is obviously out of the water and is a massive crab! The pincers were as touch as nails! The 2nd photo I tried to take holding the camera underwater and it’s not that good but you can get a rough idea of what he looks like. He could move pretty quickly too! If he’s a hermit crab, he’s the biggest we’ve seen.

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And our final pic is of a fossilized flounder, possibly the Peacock Flounder, which we see in abundance, with a live one to compare.

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As you can see, we love exploring and discovering the wildlife, marine life and everything nature-wise about our travels.

We hope we’ve been able to show you something a bit different too 🙂

Cheers, Sue and Mal xx

Postscript: We only take shells that have been vacated by their owner and are not in a Marine Park. No critters are killed to satisfy our thirst for these amazing specimens.

Our last Caribbean sailing season starts now….

This has always been a 3-year project for us and it is with mixed feelings that we head into our final season of Caribbean cruising. We will miss so many things: the amazing, fabulous, awesome friends we have met along the way; the friendly, relaxed islanders and their enviable way of life; the incredible diversity and adventures each island offers; the warm seas; fresh, cheap coconut water; amazing chicken (jerk, roti or a la St Pierre); rum punches that knock your socks off; and, the memorable sunrises, sunsets, sundowners, green flashes and rainbows all viewed from ours or other boats! I could go on and on but there’s still fun to be had and one more season to do it!

This post is a pictorial representation of our journey over the last few months and covers Grenada to Martinique.

Friends…..

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A dock gathering at Secret Harbour, Grenada

And more friends….

And friends saying farewell to cruising….

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Dalynn and Glenn (S/V Amoray)
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Wendy and Doug (S/V Nahanni River)

Mal and I enjoying the Underwater Sculpture Park at Moliniere Point, Grenada….

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The best Jerk Chicken Shop in Grenada….

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A couple of Mona Monkeys of Grenada

Leaving Grenada behind and heading north….

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And somewhere in between we fitted in a birthday celebration….

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Birthday celebrations at The Slipway Restaurant, Carriacou

Some of our underwater friends between Grenada and Martinique….

Sunrise and sunset….

And, we’ve now made it to the French island of Martinique. Hmmmm, Lorraine beer, baguettes, cheese, wine, pate and so it goes…

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Mal enjoying a 50cl Lorraine beer!

Of course, it’s not all beer and skittles.  There’s been the odd boat job, like replacing the dodger….

But, even when things don’t go the way you think they will, it’s all still fun and we are excited to still be living this life! Well, for a few more months anyway! 🙂

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We hope you follow our last journey through the Eastern Caribbean. So until next time, safe sailing, Sue and Mal xx

Indian River, Portsmouth, Dominica

When we arrive at an island we  like to investigate the local area and often hire a car with other cruisers or use a local guide to take us on an island tour. On the French islands we tend to hire a car but on  others, there are always locals readily available to show you their island. And so it was recently on Dominica.

Photo courtesy of Aussie mates, Annie and Cam on s/v Annacam

We arrived in Portsmouth on the north of the island after a brisk sail from Les Saintes and were greeted by a boat boy recommended to us, Martin, aka Providence. All the boat “boys” have nicknames: Lawrence of Arabia, Cobra, Providence. In Portsmouth they have a system where yachts are assigned a boat boy to assist you. It might be with mooring or anchoring, rubbish disposal, trips like island tours, etc. Really, whatever you want to know, just ask your boat boy and they will try very hard to help you out. Dominica is a poor country so they need yachties to stop by and inject some cash into their communities. There had been a small number of incidents in the past where yachts had been boarded or robbed and so a group of locals (boat boys) decided to set up Dominica PAYS – Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security – and provide services for yachties and this includes providing a safe anchorage. They do a great job and everyone is happy because EVERYONE loves Dominica 🙂

Martin aka Providence showing us some crabs on our Indian River Tour.

We participated in two tours with Martin: a day tour with eight other cruisers (five boats in all) visiting the northern part of Dominica and the Indian River Tour with four other cruisers (three boats).  The latter tour commenced at 6am in the morning with Martin rowing the six of us up and back down the Indian River in just over three hours.

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L-R: Rosemary and Tony (s/v English Rose), fellow Aussie Annie (s/v Annacam) and me paying close attention to Martin.

It is a magical place especially in the early morning with birds and crabs in abundance and Swamp Blood Trees (Pterocarpus officinalis) lining the river banks with their extraordinarily sculpted root systems. The river, like several places on Dominica, was a backdrop for the film Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and various skeletons adorn the banks creating a fun atmosphere (see pic below).

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Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
Reflections

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Banks of the Indian River
Crab in roots of Swamp Blood Tree
Indian River

It really was a magical few hours listening to and feeling the rhythm of the river. Martin even sang the Dominican national anthem whilst rowing back down the river which was a goose-bump type of moment.

We spent a few weeks on Dominica in Portsmouth and down south in the capital Roseau, where we watched the 1st day of the Australia vs West Indies Cricket Test. Now, that’s a story for another time!

Thanks for reading and, until next time, take care. Sue & Mal.

 

 

Wow – The Virgin Islands

We have been in The Virgin Islands for just on a month now and they are stunning! There are over 100 islands, both large and small, inhabited and uninhabited and they are a cruiser’s delight! It is very quick and easy to sail to other islands or to find a protected bay if needed.

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To the east are the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and to the south and west lie the US Virgin Islands (USVI). There are three larger islands in each country and lots of smaller ones dispersed throughout. We are currently in St Croix (bottom of the map) in the USVI and really enjoying this low-key island.

These photos are just a quick snapshot of our month here. Most islands satisfy our basic needs: good hiking, interesting flora and fauna and fabulous snorkelling.

We started on Virgin Gorda in the BVI:

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A rest from hiking, overlooking Saba Rock.
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Spotted Eagle Ray

We swam with Spotted Eagle Rays who seemed to feed under our boat! They have beautiful markings and the tail is three times longer than the photo shows. Absolutely majestic and not worried about us.

After much toing and froing through Facebook we were able to coordinate a gathering at Norman Island (six boats) so we hightailed it down the Francis Drake Channel, which I liken to a water super highway and reminds us of the Australian Whitsundays. It was great to catch up  with friends and we did some fabulous snorkelling off the back of Izzy R at a rocky outcrop known as The Indians.

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L-R: Gorgeous but crazy girls, Gagi, Sunny & Gwen
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Snorkelling preparations!

Then it was off to Peter Island for a night before heading to Jost Van Dyke Island (JVD). We were lucky to catch up with Jo and Gregg from s/v Serenade and their guests.

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Enjoying the famous BVIs Painkiller at One Love on Jost Van Dyke Island

The next day we walked to the Bubble Pool on JVD. Looks pretty calm…..

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L-R: Gwen, Guillaume & Mal waiting for the bubbles!
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Here they come…..
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Whoa, get me outta here!

Off the next day to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola. A very pretty anchorage and we enjoyed a few quiet days here.

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Very typical of the bays on many Caribbean islands.
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Pristine beach on Sandy Cay

Over to Sandy Cay, near Little Jost Van Dyke. This is a tiny island that Laurence Rockefeller owned and gave to the Brits. It’s home to the biggest collection of hermit crabs I’ve ever seen! It’s also totally untouched and a pleasure to take the short trail around the island.

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We then cleared out of the BVIs and entered the USVIs at St John. What an amazing island. Again, thank goodness for the philanthropy of Laurence Rockefeller. He bought huge tracts of land (almost 2/3rds of the island) and bequeathed it to the US subject to it gaining National Park status. It is now a National Park with fabulous hikes and underwater marine parks. This is where I swam with an endangered hawksbill turtle and saw my first nurse sharks.

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Not worried at all. Green turtles are more skittish but the Hawksbill is much more relaxed.
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Apparently it’s common practice for nurse sharks to sleep under ledges.

As with most Caribbean islands, St John has had many ‘owners’; Spanish, British and Danish. It was built on slavery and had a substantial sugar industry until sugar beet came on the scene and slaves were freed in 1848. There are lots of sugar mill ruins and plantation estates throughout the island which make for very interesting hikes. We often caught a glimpse back in time and got our minds imagining what life may have been like with some of the estates looking very grand. The US purchased the islands from the Danes in 1917 for 25 million in gold.

On St John we stayed at the following bays: Caneel, Maho, Waterlemon, Salt Pond and Little Lameshur. Each had their own beauty with hikes and snorkelling – what more could you ask for?

This cactus is common throughout The Virgin Islands and has a wonderful little fruit very high in Vitamin C. Check out the pics.

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Turks Cap Cactus at Rams Head, Salt Pond Bay, St John.

Then it was a hike to the Petroglyphs, the ruins of the Reef Bay Sugar Mill and the ruins  of the Reef Bay Estate atop a hill. The Petroglyphs are attributed to the Taino Indians and date to between 900-1500AD.

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Fabulous rock walls litter the whole island.
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Rock carvings are attributed to the Taino Indians.

Then it was Mal’s birthday. He had a breakfast fit for a king, enjoyed his present and shared a beautiful meal at night with Gwen & Guillaume.

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Birthday breakfast!
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Birthday present,  a Stand Up Paddleboard, sure comes in handy when doing the rubbish run!

Below are some underwater pics I just love taking!

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Reef Squid
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A Red Hind harassing a Spotted Moray Eel.
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The well camouflaged Peacock Flounder

We are now six as Dalynn and Glen from S/V Amoray have joined Kool Kat and Slow Waltz and we are spending a week or so here in St Croix.

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S/V Amoray
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Gorgeous corals on the Fredriksted pier in St Croix.

This is a month’s worth of news so I’ll stop here. St Croix has heaps of interesting bits and pieces too so that will have to be in the next update!

Throughout Antigua and Barbuda, and now The Virgin Islands, we have been boat buddies with Canadians, Gwen and Guillaume from s/v Slow Waltz. They have been a delight to travel with and we have shared some amazing times together and created incredible memories.

Until next time, stay well, Sue and Mal. xx

Barbuda

Barbuda is an island in the country of Antigua. It is such a contrast to all the volcanic islands we have previously been to; it’s low with the highest point just 125 ft above sea level. It is also very undeveloped and boasts a population of only 2,000. It is surrounded by shoals and reefs with beautiful long beaches, two of which we visited were 11 miles and 16 miles! We travelled with Gwen & Guillaume from Slow Waltz and had a beautiful few days.

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What can I say? Beautiful Barbuda!

The island is about 30 nm from Antigua and we had a lovely sail, averaging 6.5 kts with ENE winds up to 15 kts. We had a reef in as the forecast was for greater winds but we didn’t need it. Gwen took photos of Kool Kat and I took photos of Slow Waltz 🙂

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I’m taking photos of Slow Waltz
Good conditions
Good conditions
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Slow Waltz

On arrival we anchored in Low Bay and soon met the locals.

The next day we hired bikes and rode to Two Foot Bay on the north-east coast of the island.

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Bike owner Johnathon slept through our knocking so we rang him from outside his home and woke him up. Always ring otherwise I may not hear you!
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Easy riding with no hills.

Following our yummy hamburgers for lunch we then went with our guide, Clifford, or Guinness to his mates, to the frigate bird sanctuary. They are currently nesting so there were thousands either sitting on nests, attracting a partner or building a nest. The male can have a wingspan up to 7.5ft and even though they are a sea-bird, they can’t swim so they can’t land in the water. Clifford mentioned that they co-feed with the brown booby bird who plunges deep into the sea, herding a school of fish to the surface where the frigate bird swoops down and picks up dinner. Sounds like a good arrangement for the frigate bird!

To attract a female the male inflates his red-coloured throat pouch and makes a drumming sound with his beak. If that’s all he does she’s not particularly interested. She also requires him to gather twigs for the nest. She only lays one egg per season, both will sit on the nest and gestation lasts 44-51 days. At birth the chicks are naked but they develop a soft white down soon thereafter. It was a great experience to see these magnificent birds breeding.

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After a big day we’ve earned a Wadadli, or two!

The next day we navigated our way around the reefs to the south of the island, Cocoa Point. You definitely need your polarised lenses when coming into these areas. We spent a few days here anchored off the 16-mile beach snorkelling, collecting shells, reading and enjoying sundowners on the beach with other cruisers.

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Hawksbill turtle below sea fan coral
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One of my favourite shells, Bleeding Teeth – can you see the little teeth in bleeding gums?
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Sundowners and frisbee on the beach

During the sail back to Jolly Harbour on Antigua, Mal caught a barracuda, which we threw back, and a wahoo, which we didn’t! This is our first major catch on Kool Kat and he attributes his success to a new system of arranging the lures which Josh from s/v Cavu explained to him (the gorgeous young guy in the green/orange shorts above). Thanks Josh, we owe you!

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Mal with his 3ft+ wahoo. Woohoo!

Whilst in Jolly we caught up with friends we hadn’t seen for a few months, met some new ones and replenished our larder before heading around to investigate the eastern (windward) side of Antigua. But, that’s in the next post!

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Old friends Izzy and Jeff, Gwen and Guillaume, new friends Carol and Paul enjoying 1/2 price pizza night at Al Porto Restaurant.
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Anne and Tony from Pavo Real with Gwen, Guillaume and Mal on board Kool Kat having just finished Wahoo fish tacos! Yummmmm!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as we had living it 🙂 Sue & Mal xx

Guadeloupe Part 3: Deshaies

Deshaies (pronounced day-hay) is on the north-west corner of Guadeloupe and our last port before sailing to Antigua. In our previous post we mentioned we spent Christmas Day in Deshaies but I also wanted to highlight some areas of interest in the town.

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Customs Office –  doubling as a retail outlet, Le Pelican!
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Excellent boulangerie/patisserie
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Kool Kat (blue mainsail cover) moored in Deshaies with dinghy dock in foreground

Deshaies is the home of the Jardin Botanique de Deshaies which is beautifully laid out and offers some very interesting flora and fauna. We spied the most beautiful flower called the Dutchman’s Brazilian Pipe with its’ velvety petals along with a large variety of heliconias, orchids, bromeliads and cacti. The Talipot palm is striking and enormous and I can’t go past a favourite of mine, the Ficus tree, with it’s sombre but elegant long limbs! Flamingoes, macaws and rainbow lorikeets added some delightful colour and complimented the man-made waterfall cascading through the gardens. It was a lovely way to spend a hot day!

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Sisters?
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Mal and the magnificent Talipot Palm

Fauna:

Flora:

Fabulous fig tree
Fabulous ficus
Dutchman's Brazilian Pipe - velvety feel
Dutchman’s Brazilian Pipe – with its’ velvet petals and measuring 6-8″

Along the coast of Guadeloupe we saw mausoleum cemeteries and visited the one in Deshaies which overlooks the town. Some were very elaborate with enough room for 12 family members but the most common housed six.

Deshaies is also known due to the fact that the entire village is the setting of the popular British TV series Death in Paradise (series I and II).

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Deshaies’ church is right next to the fictional Honoré police station
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Main characters from Death in Paradise

References:

http://www.mygola.com/deshaies-d1082574
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_in_Paradise_%28TV_series%29
http://creationwiki.org/Talipot_palm

Dominica – the nature island

Well, we’re ‘full as a goog’ and slowly recovering from the annual over-indulgence known as Christmas! We hope you enjoyed your celebrations as much as we did, although it was a mixed bag for us this year. We were fortunate to have my sister with us but it was difficult being so far from loved ones at this time of year. We are grateful we could catch up with family via that godsend, Skype, over the preceding few days and Christmas morning but with a 15-hr time difference to the east coast of Oz, it’s not always possible. Needless to say we enjoyed ourselves and some of you may have seen a little excerpt of the Warner Sisters performing The Choir Boys’ Run to Paradise on Facebook. If it hasn’t already, I’m sure it will go viral on Youtube! LOL.

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Christmas Day 2014 in Deshaies, Guadeloupe.

But, back to the post. We had a great sail from Martinique to Dominica and anchored in Roseau on the south-west coast. This volcanic and stunning island of approximately 70,000 people, is one of the most naturally beautiful and untouched in the Caribbean. Whilst in Grenada, friends Dalynn and Glen from S/V Amoray, had introduced us to a Dominican, Seacat, who conducts guided tours so we picked up one of his moorings and contacted him upon arrival hoping to book him for a trip. Unfortunately, he was unavailable to take us on a hike over the two days we’d planned to stay in Roseau but organised a wonderful guide, Stowe, to take us on our last day.

So, with a spare day up our sleeve, Anne and I spent the next morning touring the town along with hundreds of others as two cruise ships had just arrived. We stopped by the beautiful Fort Hotel where there is a Warner Bar, believe it or not, and Annie fell in love with an haute couture Christmas tree! Following some helpful directions, we then wound our way left at the pink building and right at the cemetery to find ourselves at The Botanic Gardens. There were some interesting plants and trees and the Gardens are also home to a bus that had been crushed in 1979 by  Hurricane David. Fortunately it was empty at the time! Check out the pic below!

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Aida cruise ship
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Stunning Christmas tree at Fort Hotel
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Interior fountain at Fort Hotel
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I’m mad about Fig trees
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Talipot Palm
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Bus squished by Hurricane David in 1979

The next day saw us up early and off on our day’s adventure with Stowe. He was a fountain of knowledge about his beloved island and told us with pride that the tourism industry is well regulated and the government is very strict about who is qualified to conduct island tours.

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Annie & Mal with our guide, Stowe.

Our first form of exercise for the day was a 2-hr round trip hike to Middleham Falls. The paths were interesting, often created by local root systems, but we were glad to be in the cooler rainforest as it was a little more strenuous than we had thought. Stowe then drove us to Freshwater Lake where we passed a water pipe system made from oak. During our travels that day we saw the pipe snaking its way up and down the mountains.

Upwards we go
Upwards we go
Root systems formed intricate stairway
Root systems formed intricate stairway
Oak pipe carrying water
Oak pipe carrying water

We then arrived at Titou Gorge where, in the 2nd film of Pirates of the Caribbean, Orlando Bloom jumps into the gorge to escape native indians. It was a stunning gorge; the water initially was very cold but once we were swimming it felt fantastic! It has a depth of 15′ so no where to take a rest and you have to swim against the current. So, by the time we reached the 1st  waterfall, my arms were pretty tired and I was out of breath. I think I prefer the buoyancy of saltwater! Mal scaled the small waterfall to view the upper one whilst I waited below. He then dived from the top of the waterfall into the lower pool. He muttered something about doing the stunt work for Orlando Bloom! Annie sat this little part of the day out.

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Stowe, in the blue bathers, and me discussing with others the coldness of the water!
Swimming in Titou Gorge
I’m pretty tired but exhilirated!
Stunt man for Orlando Bloom
Stunt man for Orlando Bloom

And, to put the perfect finishing touch to the day, Stowe took us to Trafalgar Falls where we eased our aching bones, feet, backs, etc in some hotwater springs. What can I say but, wow, it was fabulous!

The end of the day - aaah
The end of the day – aaah

We loved Dominica and will be back again. The Boiling Lake hike is on our bucket list and we will call into Portsmouth next time too. There’s lots to do here!

So, that was our whirlwind trip to Dominica. Next it’s back to the French islands when we visit Les Saintes, part of Guadeloupe.

So, until next time keep well, love Mal and Sue. xx