It takes a whole lot of time and effort to get to the Caribbean island of Dominica, our destination for a week-long holiday, as the island hasn’t got an international airport. You either arrive by domestic flight or by ferry from one of the neighbouring islands. Nevertheless, it is certainly worth the extra trouble.
Dominica, not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, is a true paradise for families with a passion for adventure and nature. Wedged between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the modern times seem to have passed the island. Here, no mass tourism, popular hotel chains, water parks or shopping malls. On the contrary, the island looks more like a setting for the next Jurassic Park film. With its steep jungle-covered mountains, not your typical tropical Caribbean island with waving palm trees, cruise ships and dazzling white-sand beaches. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most authentic islands in the entire region.
After a slightly chaotic disembarkation of our ferry, we spot the local agent of our car rental company on the quay. We go through all the formalities at a leisurely pace before we hit the road in our mini version of a 4-wheel drive jeep. Our luggage and kids barely fit in, but this only heightens the charm of our off-the-beaten-track destination. We are on our way to our accommodation Crescent Moon Cabins.
En route, we mostly see the jungle mentioned earlier, as a large part of the island is still covered with primary rainforest. Our little jeep needs to work quite hard to climb the steep terrain – the highest peak on Dominica is Morne Diablotins with an altitude of nearly 1,500 metres. By now, the asphalt road has changed into a gravel path and just as we begin to wonder whether we are on the right track, the gravel path turns into a mixture of sand and large stones in which we vaguely recognise the contours of a route. Below on our left, the river La Croix winds its way while we are surrounded by centuries-old giant trees, enormous ferns and other plants in a sea of greenery. Our phone has lost signal completely a couple of bends ago.
Just when we conclude, by mutual consent, that we have definitely taken the wrong turning, a sign with ‘Crescent Moon Cabins’ shows the opposite. Let’s be clear: this is not a luxurious accommodation. If this is what you come for, you will fall short of expectation. But, oh, how beautiful it all is. Owners Ron and Jean left the US to teach on Dominica, fell in love with the island and built this paradise after their contract had ended. By now, with the help of their daughter Tiana and her husband David.
It is a true paradise: the only handful of cabins and the restaurant have a spectacular view of the jungle and the Caribbean Sea. To complete the picture, the jungle is alternated by centuries-old volcanic rock formations and expansive savannahs. Bring along your binoculars as you can easily spend half a day in the hammock and watch the most amazing exotic birds. The complex grounds measure no less than eleven acres of jungle, fruit trees and water gardens and is crisscrossed by all sorts of steps and pathways. For kids, the perfect place to play hide-and-seek or to explore the grounds – not only the habitat of turtles and fish in the ponds but also of goats, chicken, cats and dogs. There are even parrots in the jungle part of the terrain.
The cabins and the interior are made using local materials and all have a full width balcony. Lying in your bed or hammock, you look straight out over the jungle and the ocean. Windows and doors are fitted with mosquito netting, so you can leave them open for a natural air conditioning. In general, the cabins are very simple, have a hot/cold shower, one or two beds and closet space. Yet, the rooms are tidy and clean. As it is, there is no need to stay in the cabin when there is so much beauty and so many things to do outside. For families with teens, there are various organised hikes in the surroundings. Tour guide David loves to take you along for a hiking tour. Or, do what we did and rent a jeep to visit one of the beaches, mostly with black lava sand, stand at the edge of an actual boiling lake or explore the inlands and discover the tiniest of villages where life moves at a different tempo. It may seem like an enormous expedition, but Dominica is just a small island and the capital is only a 40-minute drive. Don’t expect any big-city entertainment here. On the contrary, its smallness and friendly local population are precisely the reasons you will feel at home in no time.
Whoever feels like relaxing with a book or meeting some of the other guests, the library is the place to be. It is also the place for a reasonably fast internet connection to the outside world. Then again, who needs Netflix or Spotify when you can watch such a spectacular starry sky after sunset? The game ‘Who is the first to see a shooting star?’ was an instant hit with our daughters.
After our first night, during which we drifted off to sleep while listening to the hypnotic sound of a tropical downpour in the background, Ron is in the kitchen making the best espresso of home-roasted and freshly ground Dominican coffee beans. Followed by freshly baked bread, home-made goat cheese, fresh fruit juices and farm fresh eggs. Once our bellies are filled, we see how the jungle slowly awakens over another espresso. Lunch and/or dinner are being prepared using local and organic food. The dishes are simple yet mouth-watering. The drinking water comes from a spring – seldom tasted such good water. Most of the food is home-grown in the vegetable garden or in the enormous greenhouse.
Later on, our daughters discover the ‘jungle playground’: a makeshift collection of vine swings, climbing rocks and slides made from giant leaves. Another fun activity is clambering onto a mini waterfall near Crescent Moon Cabins. Moreover, there is a small, natural swimming pool next to the restaurant.
Really unique is a visit to the school where Jean teaches Tiana and David’s children as well as some local kids. The school building is filled up to the brim with all sorts of educational materials and what child has such a spectacular view of the jungle during his lessons meanwhile hearing the sound of screeching parrots?
# If you are not the type to stick to the well-beaten track or to put your towel on a sun lounger long before breakfast so as to reserve the best place at the swimming pool, you’ve come to the right place. Only few people will be able to pinpoint your holiday destination on the map, so there is only a small chance you will come across fellow countrymen. Instead, there is quiet and nature in abundance.
# What hotel doesn’t market itself as eco-friendly nowadays. Crescent Moon Cabins certainly lives up to this label. Without any frills, Ron, a professional chef, conjures up a variety of delicacies for his guests.
# Not only Crescent Moon Cabins and its direct surroundings are magnificent, the entire island is perfect for making daytrips. Don’t count on any form of public transport, you need to hire a jeep or make use of the services of tour guide David.