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East Coast Tour - Indian Chief Travel
DOMINICA  |  Dominica, Dominica Travel Guide
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
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6 Of 7

East Coast Tour

Pennville to Delices

Some of Dominica’s best-kept secrets are along the windward coast. This area of the island hasn’t changed much since the earliest settlers arrived, and it is the least visited by tourists. You’ll enjoy deserted beaches, travel-poster views from rugged cliffs and untouched forest. It’s perhaps the best place in the world to get away from it all. For this very reason, escaped slaves once hid in this region, and a community of Carib Indians now live on designated land midway up the coast.

There’s a cross-island road from Portsmouth to the east coast that begins near the mouth of the Indian River on the Caribbean side, meanders through coconut plantations, and ends near Sandwich Bay on the Atlantic side. At the junction of this east/west road with the north/south east-coast road, you can turn left (north) toward the village of Pennville and zigzag along the steep shoreline. (The roads don’t go by proper names, and although this description sounds confusing, it’s easier to follow once you’re there!) It’s a beautiful up-and-down ride to secluded villages perched daringly on cliffs overlooking isolated bays on the Atlantic.

Vieille Case & Pennville

The villages of Vieille Case and Pennville were established by French settlers from nearby islands in the 1700s and their influence is evident today. Guadeloupe’s outer islands can be seen from the hilltops here. French Créole is spoken among the villagers, and some residents cross the channel to work on the French islands during the day.

One of the most picturesque churches on the island (the Vieille Case Village Church; Catholic) sits at the foot of Morne aux Diables in Vieille Case. Its stone façade is very old-world, and its red roof and tower contrast dramatically with the deep green grove that surrounds it. Take time to walk along the shore on Autrou Bay, where fishermen wrestle with their boats in the crashing surf.

If you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle or want to hike, it’s possible to continue around the tip of the island to the west coast. The landscape and views are marvelous here. When you’re finished, turn back south at Pennville to tour the rest of the east coast.

South Along the Atlantic

The east coast actually faces due north for a short distance between Cheval Blanc Point at Sandwich Bay (west of Hampstead) and Crompton Point (east of Calibishie). This curve in the shoreline allows the sandy beaches to be sheltered from winds by the mountains and from raging waves by reefs and rocky outcroppings. Woodford Hills Bay, Pointe Baptiste, and Batibou Bay all are excellent spots for swimming and snorkeling. Stand on the red-rock cliffs of Pointe Baptiste for a look at Marie-Galante and Guadeloupe across the channel.

Calibishie is one of the most beautiful villages on the east coast. A mile-long barrier reef shelters its lagoon, residents take pride in tending their colorful flower gardens, and you can enjoy a drink at a seaside bar.

The two rocks jutting up from Calibishie Bay are now called “glass window” or “open door” by young islanders because they seem like an opening into the underworld. Old-timers still refer to the boulders as Porte d’Enfer because they once supported an arch said to resemble Hell’s Gate. On the night of October 26, 1956, the top of the natural arch collapsed and fell into the sea. Nevertheless, visitors still stop to photograph this captivating spot.

When you turn southward after Calibishie, there’s a striking change in the coastline. The road runs inland for a while, then emerges at dazzling Londonderry Bay, where palm trees grow out of rocky cliffs that drop down to gleaming black sand beaches on the rolling Atlantic. Melville Hall, the island’s main airport, and the town of Marigot are nearby.

Marigot

This area of the island was built up in the late 1800s when an English firm took over rundown plantations and began producing cocoa products. The new company was unable to hire enough local workers, so they brought in residents from other English-speaking islands. Today, descendants of these workers still live around Marigot and the nearby village of Wesley, so very little French or French Créole is spoken, the residents tend to be Methodist rather than Catholic, and English rather than French traditions are observed.

Carib Territory

A few miles farther south 3,500 descendants of pre- Colombian Caribs live on 3,700 acres along the Atlantic coast. In actuality, the eight Carib villages are not much different from any other small community on the island, and few of the residents, who call themselves Kalinago, resemble their bronze-skinned, straight-haired South American forefathers. However, there are a few traces of their original culture remaining, and the settlement is well worth a visit.

On the main coastal road you’ll find small craft shops that sell baskets woven from rain forest larouma reeds. This craft, which focuses on intricate brown, black and white patterns, was handed down through many generations. Turn inland to the little hamlet of Salybia, where the altar inside the A-shaped mouina (Church of Sainte Marie) is a canoe. A traditional oval-shaped Carib meeting house, called a carbet, is nearby.

Caribs are, by tradition, expert boat builders, and still construct each canoe by hand from a single gommier tree. You might see a dugout filled with rocks and water to expand the trunk. The Caribs can sail these canoes long distances, even in rough Atlantic waters.

L’Escalier Tête Chien

Below Salybia, at the mouth of the Crayfish River, a pretty waterfall cascades over large boulders into the sea. A mile south, L’Escalier Tête Chien crawls up the hillside out of the ocean near Jenny Point in the village of Sineku. Tête chien means “dog’s head” in French, and is the islanders’ name for a boa constrictor (they thought the snake’s head resembled a dog’s head). L’escalier means “the staircase,” so l’escalier tête chien is the snake’s staircase – and the name fits the geological formation quite well. Carib myths involving the snake-patterned rocks have been altered over time, but they probably were based upon a pilgrimage up the formation in order to gain special powers or blessings.

Castle Bruce

At Castle Bruce is the magnificently dangerous Saint David Bay (also called Anse Quanery). Sit under one of the palms and watch Carib fishermen heading out to sea in the morning or riding the surf back in the afternoon. It looks effortless, but a strong current runs just offshore, and the water is not safe for swimmers or inexperienced sailors.

Petite Soufrière

Driving south, you’ll pass banana fields, forested slopes and tiny villages on breathtakingly beautiful coves – every one worthy of a stop and a photo. Eventually, at Petite Soufrière, the paved road ends and you must retrace your route to the intersection where the northern fork of the cross-island Transinsular Road leads inland. Hikers can take a trail at the end of the coastal road that climbs into the hills between Petite Soufrière and Rosalie.

If you want to drive along the far southern end of the east coast, go back to where the Transinsular Road forks, east of the Pont Casse junction near the trailhead to Emerald Pool. At this point, take the southern turn toward Rosalie, where the Rosalie River offers swimmers a chance to cool off in several freshwater pools. Between Rosalie and Delices, the road winds up and down near the coast with many opportunities for ocean views and seaside picnics.

Last updated December 6, 2007
Posted in   Dominica  |  Dominica
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