Dominica was named for the day – Sunday (Dominica, in Latin) – on which Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ it in November of 1493, on his second trip to the New World. It was the first bit of land he and his men saw since leaving the known world some weeks earlier, but as welcome a site for sore eyes as it must have been, they were unable to make a landing. Everything was too steep, jungle clad, inaccessible and forbidding. Indeed legend has it that when Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand asked him to describe the topography of this newly discovered island, the good Admiral crumpled up a piece of parchment and lay it on the table – the idea being that the island of Dominica was prodigiously steep and hard to get to. And so it remains, more than 500 years later.
Nowadays Dominica is known as the Nature Isle of the Caribbean because of its unspoiled natural beauty. The same topography that turned away Columbus has kept away the glitzy resort developers and intercontinental airports – only small turbo-prop planes come here, and a regular flow of cruise ships which put in at the island’s capital Roseau for the day and whose passengers go ashore to marvel at Dominica’s waterfalls, rainforest and tropical birds.