No, this is not the Dominican Republic; that episode is coming after this one. However, don’t click away! You’re gonna love seeing what this place has in store — I promise. ♫ It’s time to learn geography! ♫ NOW! Hey everyone, I’m your host Barby, and I’m gonna have to call it out again, guys; this is a tripster nation — I’m not even joking. You will want to come here, I guarantee it. Alright, first off: Dominica is an island nation located in the Lesser Antilles region, between North and South America, right at the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The island is southeast of the French overseas territory islands of Guadeloupe and northwest of the territory of Martinique. The country is split up into ten parishes, with the capital and largest city, Roseau, on the southwest, leeward side of the island. Speaking of which, Dominica is kind of like right smack dab in the middle of the Leeward and Windward Antilles, each region kind of claiming that Dominica is their northern- or southernmost point. Now, the slightly frustrating thing is that it’s kinda hard to get into Dominica. There are only two regional airports, Canefield on the west side and the larger, more often-used Douglas Charles airport on the eastern side. If you come to Dominica, you will most likely arrive at Douglas, however, Douglas is located on the complete opposite side of the island from Rouseau, so if you’re planning on going to Rouseau, you’ll have to take an hour-long car ride through the thick rainforest and mountains until you reach Pringles Bay, where Canefield Airport is located, which will make you wish you could’ve just flown there instead in the first place. “Oh yeah, a drive through the lush, beautiful, unswelled rainforest — how torturous that must be!”
Shut up, handsome Luke! Fun little side note: if Rouseau isn’t your thing, you can always go a little up north to the pleasant town of Massacre. Now, like Barbados, that we studied before, Dominica is a single island nation. I mean, there are a few rock stacks and islets off the coast, and there’s that weird little disputed island with Venezuela, that’s about two hundred kilometres west. However, none of them are really big enough to inhabit, and everybody just pretty much lives and operates on the main island. In the northeast side of the country, just below Douglas airport, you have the Kalinago territories, where indigenous people live and build their traditional homes, trying to preserve their way of life as some of the last remaining indigenous Carib peoples in the entire world. All over the country, you see the cultural residue left from the former European colonisers; first, it was part of France, then the British came in in 1763 and then they finally gained their independence in 1978. Unlike other colonies, though, it never became a Commonwealth realm, and immediately became a republic upon independence. The funny thing is, though: Dominica was the last island in the Caribbean to be colonised, and was therefore under no European jurisdiction, which attracted pirates and adventurers from all over. For a while, it was a huge haven for pirates, and to this day, there are stories of sunken ships and hidden treasure in caves all over. But that’s not the only treasure you can find in Dominica! Dominica is nicknamed the “nature island”, as it is the most rugged and densely forested of all the Carribean islands. Despite being only three hundred square miles in area, only about twenty percent of the landmass is flat enough and suitable for development. This leaves a lot of room for the inland mountain areas to remain untouched and well-preserved. And holy craspberries, is it well-preserved! I mean, a huge chunk of the Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 were filmed here. Yeah, remember Pelegosto? Dominica! The voodoo lady’s house? Dominica! Isla Cruces? Dominica! Lots of plants and animals that are believed to be extinct on other Caribbean islands are still thriving well in Dominica. Such as: various bats, reptiles, birds, including the endemic Sisserou parrot, the national bird, which can be found on the flag, making Dominica one of the only few countries with purple on their flag, which will be explained in the next episode of Flag Friday. Stay tuned! And get this: even though it’s so small, Dominica is one of the most rain-drenched lands on earth, giving the country over three hundred and sixty natural rivers, creeks, waterfalls, and ponds that meander through the thick rainforest. Like many other islands in the Antilles, Dominica was formed out of intense volcanic activity from the two opposing tectonic plates, the Caribbean and the North American plates. However, the craziest part about this country would have to be the active volcanism. Although there are other places in the world that have more volcanoes, Dominica is the world’s fully sovereign state with the highest concentration of active volcanoes per land area, with around ten. This changes everything on how the island functions and operates. Take a hike and you’ll find a ton of hot springs and thermal pools all over, including the second biggest hot spring in the world, Boiling Lake, the largest one being Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand, which, no promises, and you didn’t hear it from me, but you might hear a little more about in another future episode of— “Uh! Quiet! They’re not supposed to know that yet!”
Not only that, but the geothermal activity even penetrates the coast on Champagne Bay, a popular snorkelling spot where the sea is warm and literally bubbles up like champagne, due to the escaping gas particles from the volcanic activity below. The interesting thing about Dominica is that the whole country is deliberately less focused on attracting mass tourism, and prefers to nurture and maintain its equal outlook. This means the government encourages traditional industries such as agriculture and fishing. About twenty-two percent of the land is arable, and employs about forty percent of the labour force, making twenty percent of the GDP. Pumice, clay, and volcanic ash are easily extracted from the ground and used in export, as well as lumber from around three hundred acres of governmentally allocated commercial lands, that produce mahogany, mahoe, and teak wood. Even more so than the land makeup, though, the most distinguishable part about Dominica would have to be the intriguingly culture-clashed inhabitants that live on the island. Now let’s Domi-knock on the door, and see who’s inside, shall we?
See, I still got it. Just like some other states in the Caribbean, Dominica has a culture and heritage that is noticeably fused and alloyed from the former European colonisers, with a hard dash of Africa, and a pinch of indigenous tribal influence. First of all: the country has just over seventy-two thousand inhabitants, and is the only Eastern Caribbean island that still retains a population of pre-Columbian native Caribs. The country is about eighty-five percent black, ten percent mixed, and about four percent of the country is native Kalinago, and the remainder is mostly white Brits and French. Dominicans are quite unique in a number of ways, but let’s rewind and talk about the Kalinago. The Kalinago are the indigenous tribe that speak their own language, and primarily inhabit the Carib territory on the east side of the island. These are the original Dominicans. Although in the past, the number has almost windled down to five hundred, today, they’ve been trying to revive their people and culture, and are about three thousand strong. You can even visit them and learn all about their way of life and culture, which has miraculously been preserved, even after centuries of colonisation, disease and crossfire conflict. One reason why it’s speculated that the Kalinago of Dominica survived for so long, is because of the heavily mountainous terrain that gave them the advantage to hide and survive from outside drama. Otherwise, the rest of the country is heavily French and English-influenced, as they were colonised by both European entities respectively. English is the official language, however, most people speak Kweyol, which is a French-derived Creole language. It was originally used as a language in disguise against the European colonisers, handed down from their ancestors. Although most Dominicans don’t speak French fluently, they can use their Kweyol to help communicate with neighbouring French-speaking islands, like Martinique and Guadeloupe, as well as many French-speaking tourists that come. Kweyol still thrives in households all over, especially in the south by Scotts Head. “Wait, Scott’s head?”
Uh, no, it’s the name of a place, and that’s not Scott, that’s Brandon. “Wait, so, who’s operating the camera?” Dominicans are known for having a festival or party for pretty much any kind of animal, person, place, or food, like, seriously, there are way too many to list. Dominica’s also home to the largest concentration of Centerians [sic] in the world. Research is still being done, but the reason why is most likely attributed to the quality of life and access to fresh vegetables and fruits. People in Dominica don’t have to exist in a rat race environment, which, in return, makes people generally happy, and relaxed. Dominicans are very chill, and they don’t really care too much for mass tourism, but nonetheless, they still know how to invite other people in. Let’s talk about whom they mingle around with. Now, Dominica may seem a little reserved, just like the shy Sisserou parrot who tarries ever so delicately through the rainforest, but they are far, far, far from socially awkward. As a member of CARICOM, of course Dominica always had an intensely close relationship with all the other Caribbean states, and treats most of them like family. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia are pretty similar in the whole “starting out as French and switching to English” thing, and of course, who doesn’t want Trinidad and Tobago at a party? France is like a divorced parent that has very restricted visitation rights — they still hold an interest in Dominica, and have signed numerous bilateral agreements with them in the past. Outside of the family, though, the closest friends would probably be the US, the UK and newcomer China. A huge portion of their economy comes from the US and UK investments, as well as tourism, especially from the British. The US and the UK also hold the largest populations of Dominican immigrants outside of Dominica, and over four thousand Americans live in Dominica, either permanently or studying abroad. China kinda swept in in 2004, and was like: “Hey, can I build you guys some schools and community centres? All I ask is that you don’t recognise Taiwan, and do some light business with us. Cool?” In conclusion, while all the other members of the Caribbean were squabbling, Dominica was kinda like the calm, rational sister, that slipped outside and went to the greenhouse to read her book. Her book about greenhouses and how to read books in them. Stay tuned; the Dominican Republic is coming up next!