Dominica (pronounced "Dom-in-eek-a") is an island of volcanic origins located between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Eastern Caribbean, at approximately 15 degrees North latitude and 61 degrees West longitude.
It is the largest and most mountainous of the Windward Islands, with an area of 289.5 sq. miles (754 sq. km). It is 29 miles long and 16 miles at its widest. The formal name Commonwealth of Dominica is often used to distinguish it from the Dominican Republic, while the Zip code 00109-8000 ensures mail isn't miss-sent there. It has several peaks of over 3,000', the tallest of which are Morne Diablotin(4,747') and Morne Trois Pitons (4,600').
Dominica is famous for its tropical rainforest, and the many rivers and waterfalls which result from the high rainfall in the interior. In addition, its volcanic origins manifest themselves most noticeably in the Boiling Lake (one of the largest of its kind in the world) and many other smaller fumaroles around the island (including at least one underwater). Moreover, it is widely acknowledged to be both one of the best dive sites and a prime whale watching location in the region (if not the world).
There are a number of National parks or reserves on the island. Our World Heritage Site, the 17,000 acre Morne Trois Pitons National Park contains perhaps the majority of Dominica's above-water famous sights - several crater lakes and waterfalls, including the Emerald Pool, 14 miles from Roseau.
The Northern Forest Reserve is another fine example of oceanic rainforest and is also famous as the home of Dominica's national bird, the rare Sisserou Parrot. The Cabrits National Park, just north of Portsmouth, is home to the partly-restored Fort Shirley. It is also a marine reserve, as is the area around Scott's Head/Soufriere at the south-western tip of the island.
Dominica's population is around 69,625 (2001 census), of which about 14,500 live in the capital city, Roseau(pronounced 'Ro-zo'), which is located on the south-west coast. Roseau was named after the French name for the reeds that grow by the river (interestingly, there is a Roseau in Minnesota named for the same reason).
The second largest city is Portsmouth in the north-west. Other towns of note include Marigot in the north-east and Grand Bay in the south. English is the official language but a French-based Creole (kwéyòl) is widely spoken, especially in outlying villages. This reflects an often turbulent history in which the island would be assigned to Britain by a treaty with the French, who would promptly break it and try to regain control of Dominica. Throughout and to the present day the original inhabitants, the Caribs tried to coexist. In 1903 they were assigned a 3,700 acre Territory in the north-east where around 3,000 live today.
The original Carib name for Dominica is Waitikubuli, and many of the villages still retain (or at least know) their Carib name.
The currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (of which there are 2.7169 to the US$). Office/Shop and banking hours are generally 8 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday; shops close at 1 pm on a Saturday.
Dominica's cuisine is based on our local wildlife which includes agouti, crabs, crayfish, crapaud ('Mountain Chicken') and manicou, but there is a Closed Season for game and freshwater fish from March 1 through August 31.
Because of the decline in the aforementioned species, the close season has been extended all year round.
Other regulations visitors should bear in mind is that the import and export of fruit, vegetables and flowers are restricted; you will need to obtain a license to take out flowers, for example. The purchase of Coral is forbidden so please resist the temptation to buy coral from vendors.
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