Located halfway between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, Dominica, officially the Commonwealth of Dominica, is a small island nation of the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea. The country is an anomaly in the Caribbean as it isn’t home to powdery white beaches and doesn’t see mass tourism as such. Instead, Dominica lures eco adventurers due to its great natural beauty, especially its spectacular mountainous topography and sulfurous hot springs. Here are some interesting facts about Dominica.
Facts about Dominica
1. Dominica is the 174th largest nation in the world.
Dominica has an area of 751 km² (290 sq mi), which makes it slightly smaller than the total land area of New York City. The island is just 47 km long (29 mi) and has a maximum breadth of 26 km (16 mi).
2. Dominica was settled by the Kalinago (Caribs) in the 11th century.
Dominica was first settled by groups of South American warriors called the Kalinago (Caribs) sometime in the early 11th century. The Kalinago named the island Waitikubuli, which means “Tall is her body”, in reference to the island’s towering mountains that jut steeply out of the ocean.
3. Dominica was named by explorer Christopher Columbus.
One of the interesting facts about Dominica is that the island nation gets its name from the famous Italian explorer Christopher Columbus named the island after the day of the week on which he spotted it – a Sunday (‘Domenica’ in Italian) – which fell on 3 November 1493 on his second voyage to the region.
4. Dominica was the last Caribbean island to be colonized by Europeans.
Intriguingly, Dominica was the last Caribbean island to be colonized by Europeans due to the ferocious resistance shown by the Kalinago people. The island’s mountainous terrain also helped provide sanctuary for the Kalinago people during attacks from the early colonists.
5. Dominica is a former British and French colony.
Dominica became the object of a political tug-of-war between the British and French, resulting in a land battle that continued throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. While fighting each other, the Europeans also had to contend with the aggressive Kalinago.
Dominica was initially a French possession from the 1690s to 1763. In 1763, Britain gained possession of Dominica following the end of the Seven Years’ War. However, the French continued to be an important part of island life and vied for political power at every opportunity.
The French finally gave up all claims to Dominica in 1805. However, because of the lengthy French presence on the island as well as the proximity of the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, the cultural influence of the French has endured.
In the late-18th century, Africans were brought over by the British to work on the island’s coffee and sugar plantations. During the last years of the 19th century, Dominica became a modern farming and fishing community.
Gradually, Dominica took steps to become autonomous. The British granted Dominica complete internal autonomy by 1967 and the independent Commonwealth of Dominica came into being on 3 November 1978.
6. Dominica is known as “The Nature Island of the Caribbean”.
Dominica is an eco-paradise due to its varied flora and fauna, and remarkably unspoiled natural beauty. About two-thirds of the island area is covered with verdant tropical forests.
Dominica also boasts numerous bubbling lakes, deep river gorges, emerald pools, cascading waterfalls, jagged jungle peaks, and more than 480 km (298 mi) of hiking trails. Visitors can take advantage of everything from bird-watching to canyoning, hiking, diving, and whale-watching.
7. Dominica’s highest peak is Morne Diablatnis.
The highest peak in Dominica is the volcanic Morne Dialatnis. At an elevation of 1,447 m (4,747 ft), Morne Dialatnis is the second highest mountain in the Lesser Antilles, after La Grande Soufrière in Guadeloupe.
8. Dominica has the highest concentration of dormant volcanoes in the world.
One of the fascinating facts about Dominica is the sheer presence of volcanoes. Whereas all the other volcanic islands of the Lesser Antilles have only one dormant volcano, Dominica has nine.
Dominica last suffered major steam explosions (phreatic eruptions) in 1997, and before that in 1880. Luckily, there has been no major magmatic eruption since Columbus sighted the island.
9. The capital of Dominica is Roseau.
Roseau is Dominica’s compact, yet chaotic and vibrant capital, situated on the southwest coast of the country along the Roseau River. It is also Dominica’s largest city and economic hub.
10. The national bird of Dominica is the Sisserou Parrot.
The imperial parrot, or sisserou (Amazona imperialis), which is endemic to Dominica’s dense mountain forests, is the country’s national bird. However, the large, shy creature is critically endangered and it is estimated that only about 50 mature individuals are left in the wild.
11. Dominica is home to the Caribbean’s first long-distance hiking trail.
One of the lesser-known facts about Dominica is that the island nation is home to the Caribbean’s first long-distance hiking trail. The Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT) is 183 km (115 miles), spanning and twisting the length of Dominica, and is divided into 14 segments.
12. English is the official language of Dominica.
Being a former British colony, English is the official language of Dominica. However, locals prefer to speak a hybrid French-based patois known as Lesser Antillean Créole French. While Dominican Creole is a distinctive language unique to Dominica, it has elements in common with the creole dialects spoken in Grenada and St. Lucia.
13. Christianity is the most popular religion in Dominica.
Well over 90% of Dominicans are Christians. The majority of the population is Roman Catholic, but there are also Evangelicals, Methodists, Pentecostals, and Seventh-day Adventists.
14. Dominica is home to the largest indigenous population in the East Caribbean.
One of the most unique facts about Dominica is that it is home to the largest pre-Columbian population in the East Caribbean. The Kalinago (Carib) population numbers approximately 3,000, most of whom live on a 3,700-acre reserve called the Kalinago Territory in the northeast of Dominica.
The Kalinago, whose language is no longer spoken in Dominica, are striving to preserve the remaining vestiges of their culture, which has been eroded by intermarriage and the introduction of Western religion and customs to the island.
15. The vast majority of Dominicans are of African descent.
Approximately 80-85% of Dominicans are of African descent. The rest of the population of mixed descent, with smaller minorities of Kalinago or European ancestry.
16. The currency of Dominica is the East Caribbean dollar (XCD).
Dominica is one of the six independent nations using the East Caribbean dollar. It has been pegged to the US dollar since 1976, at the exchange rate of 1 USD = 2.70 XCD.
17. Cricket is the most popular sport in Dominica.
The most popular sport in Dominica is cricket. Internationally, Dominican cricketers play for the West Indies cricket team. Shane Shillingford and Adam Sanford are two of the most notable cricketers from Dominica.
18. The national flag of Dominica is one of only two national flags to use the color purple.
One of the obscure facts about Dominica is that the country’s national flag is one of only two national flags to incorporate the color purple (the other being the Nicaraguan national flag). The Dominican national flag features a Sisserou Parrot that has purple feathers on the underside and the crown.
19. In Dominica, there’s a river for every day of the year – 365 in total.
For a small nation, Dominica has a huge amount of rivers and it’s not only the quantity that is surprising. Many of Dominica’s rivers offer amazing opportunities like canyoneering and river tubing in the clear, cool waters.
20. Dominica is home to the world’s second-largest boiling lake.
Discovered in 1875, the aptly named Boiling Lake is a flooded fumarole from a volcano in the area known as the Valley of Desolation. Measuring 60-75 m (200-250 ft) in diameter, it is the second-largest hot lake in the world after Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand.
Boiling Lake is heated by gasses escaping from the molten lava below the Earth’s crust. It is filled with bubbling grayish-blue water at temperatures of around 90°C (194°F) and is enveloped in a vaporous cloud.
21. Dominica is part of the hurricane belt.
The hurricane belt is an area in the Atlantic Ocean that is likely to get hurricanes during the Atlantic hurricane season. Dominica is one of the Caribbean islands that is most vulnerable to hurricanes.
On 18 September 2017 Hurricane Maria, a category 5 hurricane, swept across Dominica. Its passage left catastrophic destruction in its wake—80% of the population was affected and more than 90% of buildings were damaged or destroyed—as well as 31 people dead and 37 missing.
22. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was filmed in Dominica.
The 2006 film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest starring Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, and Orlando Bloom was filmed in Dominica. The movie’s popularity helped put this lush tropical island on the tourist map.
The film’s “Cannibal Island” is Dominica; the place where Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and his shipmates are hanging in bone cages is Titou Gorge in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, and the “Pantano River” is Dominica’s Indian River.
23. Dominica is one of the poorest of the Caribbean countries.
Agriculture remains the most important sector of the Dominican economy, in terms of both employment and contribution to the gross national product. Bananas accounted for nearly half of Dominica’s export earnings in the 1980s, but in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, banana crops were sporadically destroyed by hurricanes.
The Dominican government has attempted to diversify the economy by promoting the country’s ecotourism industry and a small offshore financial sector. In 1993, the government initiated a controversial scheme to offer “economic citizenship” to investors from other countries.
24. Dominica has never won an Olympic medal.
Despite having regularly competed at the Summer Olympics since 1996, Dominica has yet to win any medals at the Olympic Games. Quite surprising for a tropical nation, Dominica has also competed once at the Winter Olympics—in 2014.
25. Despite being a tropical nation, Dominica has competed once at the Winter Olympics.
This unique phenomenon occurred during the 2014 Winter Olympics when the husband and wife team of Gary di Silvestri and Angelica Morrone di Silvestri spent nearly $180,000 USD to register as Dominican citizens and enter the 15 km men’s and 10 km women’s cross-country skiing events, respectively.
In what was seen as a publicity stunt, Angelica didn’t even start her race (she was the only one of the race’s 76 entrants who didn’t start), and Gary pulled out several hundred meters into his race, claiming illness.
26. Dominica is home to one UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Morne Trois Pitons National Park is the one and only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Dominica. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. This national park dominates the southern half of the island and contains many of Dominica’s most spectacular attractions including the Titou Gorge, Boeri, and Freshwater Lakes, Boiling Lake, and the Middleham Falls.
Amazingly, the Morne Trois Pitons National Park covers roughly 9% of Dominica’s land area.
27. Many of Dominica’s beaches are covered with black sand.
Due to the number of volcanoes on Dominica, the island is the Caribbean’s de facto capital of black-sand beaches. Some of the most famous black sand beaches in Dominica are the Number One Beach, Mero Beach, and Rosalie Bay Beach.
28. Dominica is home to an endangered species of frog known as the “mountain chicken”.
The giant ditch frog is known as “crapaud” or “mountain chicken” is one of only four amphibian species on Dominica. One of the world’s largest frogs, adults can reach 1 kg (2.2 lb) in weight and up to 22 cm (8.7 in) in snout–to–vent length.
Found only in Dominica and the nearby island of Montserrat, the giant ditch frog was regarded as Dominica’s national dish and was a delicacy among locals as it tasted like chicken. However, the species is now protected after the virulent chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) wiped out nearly 80% of the island’s population in the early 2000s.
29. The national flower of Dominica is the ‘Bwa kwaib’ or Carib wood.
The Bwa Kwaib grows wild in dry coastal areas, and bright red flowers bloom along its branches.
30. Dominica drives on the left.
Perhaps not surprising for it is part of the Commonwealth, vehicles in Dominica drive on the left side of the road.
31. Dominica doesn’t observe daylight-saving time.
Daylight saving has never been observed in Dominica.