I ended up with a riverside suite at Rosalie Bay boutique eco-resort, rather than a room oceanside. I was immediately glad it worked out that way. The view and chortling of the rocky Rosalie River was soothing and oh-so apropos for the mountainous east Caribbean island of Dominica, which claims 365 rivers all told.
In two years’ time the new resort has become an inextricable part of the Dominica landscape and culture, despite the fact that it was conceived by a housewife from Minnesota, name of Beverly Deikel. Folks in Dominica call her “Miss Bev.”
Besides providing a livelihood for a good part of the local population, Miss Bev’s greatest contribution to Dominica has been saving its endangered sea turtle population.
“The locals were camping on the beach, just waiting for the turtles to come up and lay their eggs,” Bev said. “They had to dig up the eggs in the first hours to be able to eat them.”
Besides selling the eggs, which they believe hold aphrodisiacal powers, poachers would slaughter for food the leatherback, green, and hawksbill sea turtles that nest on the sparkly coal-black sand beach of Rosalie Bay.
Bev solicited help from agencies abroad to found the Rosalie Sea Turtle Initiative (RosTI) and raise local awareness and money for conservation in 2002, years before she even began building her resort.
In Your Bucket Because…
- Sea turtle sightings are practically guaranteed in season.
- Dominica is the old Caribbean.
- Great for adventurers and nature-lovers
Today, as per her original plan, local agencies have taken over the outreach education and conservation mission, but Bev continues to offer resort guests opportunity for learning about and experiencing the birthing process via the spinoff Nature Enhancement Team (NET).
Sea Turtle Experiences
I met Simon George in the dark of a moonless night on Dominica, rain spritzing the clotted jungle that envelopes the resort. Simon, a scientist and turtle-lover born on Dominica and educated in Virginia, was on sea turtle patrol that night for NET. The organization charges a small fee for resort guests to tag along.
We headed immediately to the beach, where we scouted for incoming mothers and outgoing hatchlings. In early July, we were in the midst of leatherback season and patrollers had reported 52 nests. The only activity we saw that night, however, was one nest unfortunately swept open and violated by erosion.
Simon showed us the pens to where patrollers usually relocate nests too close to the water, but this one had been left where it was. Relocating a nest greatly reduces the likelihood of survival for the approximately 100 eggs in each nest, so it isn’t executed lightly, our group learned.
In his hut on the beach, Simon taught us more about the sea turtles that nest each summer and showed us reports on the various nests from the current season.
If tour participants don’t get the opportunity to witness the nesting of a turtle or the hatching of a nest, they can, as can all resort guests, request a wake-up call when either event occurs.
I wasn’t lucky enough to receive such a call during my five-night stay because of the approach of a tropical storm, but other guests at the resort shared their experience of getting close up to a mammoth momma leatherback. The largest of all sea turtles, it grows up to 2,000 pounds.
Dominican by Nature
I did find plenty more in the way of nature experiences, however. Lizards of every shape, color, and size scurry among the gardens, planted against a backdrop of peaks that make up the nearby Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One morning I power-walked up the side of one mountain with Laura, the fitness and spa guru for the property, and Patris Oscar, a native Dominican who is partner in the resort enterprise. Folks in Dominica call him “Pop.”
The steep one-hour walk ended with a tropical morning shower to refresh the group. Showers, especially in summer, are the norm throughout the day, thanks to the mountainous topography of “The Nature Island,” as promoters have dubbed Dominica.
Hiking is big on the island, an island lush with waterfalls, springs, a boiling lake, and protected subtropical forest. The 115-mile Waitukubuli National Trail circumnavigates the 29-mile-long island, segmented according to various degrees of difficulty. Resort staff arranges various daily forays out around the 298-square-mile island and its waters.
The 22-acre resort itself lies at the intersection of Rosalie River and Atlantic Ocean. Owners make every effort to reflect the Dominican culture in every way – architecture, flora, staff, and cuisine included.
The restaurant and pool bar use mostly foods sourced from the breadbasket island and its seas. From shrimp Creole to roasted duck with tamarind glaze and sweet potato-pumpkin mash, the health-conscious menu injects the influence of French, British, and African cultures that make up Dominica’s complexion.
So ostensibly, when you are staying at Rosalie Bay eco-resort, you are effectively tasting all that’s delicious and ruggedly gorgeous about Dominica.
One reason Dominica remains so unspoiled and lovely is that it’s not easy to get to. You must fly into Puerto Rico, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Martin, or Antigua and catch a connecting small-plane flight. American now partners with Seaborne Airlines, so you can book a flight straight through via San Juan, Puerto Rico.