OverviewMorne Diablotin is the highest peak on the island nation of Dominica. It is a beautiful peak, but usually shrouded in mist.
Some sources say that Diablotin is the toughest climb in Dominica, but we (Scott and Shaylee) found it to be slightly easier than Morne Trois Pitons. Never the less, the climb is challenging and we were constantly wading through deep mud (sometimes nearly knee-deep) and climbing over roots and logs. This is what is known as a jungle-gym climb because you are often climbing over roots several feet above the ground. There were some slippery rock scrambles as well. The going was quite slow and because of the mist it was quite slippery as well. It was also the muddiest climb that I have ever done.
Dominica is the most mountainous of the Caribbean's Lesser Antilles. It lies between Martinique (to the south) and Guadeloupe (to the north), the two anchors of the French West Indies. At 29 miles long and 16 miles at its widest, it is the third largest of the Windward group. The formal name is Commonwealth of Dominica--not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, which lies 1000 kilometers northwest.
Dominica is a precipitous, volcanic island, containing nine of the Caribbean's sixteen active volcanoes. The geology gives the island deep valleys which are fertile green and dense with a abundance of plants and life, and water streaming everywhere from rivers that plunge down as waterfalls or run quietly like a creek. It's humid and hot and full of sounds, and it rains a lot. Every afternoon the island is showered.
On Dominica, there are several peaks over 3,000 feet, the tallest of which are Morne Diablotin and Morne Trois Pitons (4,551 feet/1387 meters). But all those wonderful streams need water to feed them, and these mountains are almost perpetually shrouded in clouds. They say that on a fine day, the view is magnificent. We wouldn't know, because none of us were there on a clear day!
There are other very interesting places on the island. See the other mountain pages for details on other hikes and climbs. Dominica is also acknowledged to be both one of the best dive sites and as a prime whale-watching location in the region. The snorkeling at Soufriere, an undersea volcanic crater, is second to none.
Most of the beaches are black or silver (thanks to the volcanoes), and there are only a few big hotels and not so many tourists. A few come in cruise ships and take excursions to the Emerald Pool. Dominica is at its best for those who "are nature buffs, like to hike, climb, kayak, snorkel or SCUBA dive". I read that as a description of the island somewhere, and it's true; it’s a pretty unspoiled Caribbean island.
"English is the official language but a French-based Creole (kwéyòl) is widely spoken, especially in the 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, and vice versa. To the present day, the original inhabitants, the Caribs, tried to coexist with the newcomers from Europe and Africa. In 1903 they were assigned a 3,700 acre Territory in the northeast where around 3,000 live today. "
The Northern Forest Reserve is a nature reserve mostly covered with oceanic rainforest. The park is the home of Dominica's national bird, the Imperial or Sisserou Parrot, the the largest of the Amazon family of parrots. The more common Red-Necked Amazon (or "Jaco") Parrot is also there to see. Best times for parrot watching are dawn or dusk. You will both see and hear them from a distance and you will also be able to distinguish them. Bring binoculars for a better look. The Sisserou Parrot has a modulated call that rises and falls, while the Jaco has a high-pitched squawk. The sounds of the rainforest...
The parrots are right on the slopes of Mount Diablotin and are an added attraction that is very nice to do at the same day... parrot watching and climbing.
Morne Diablotin is actually named for a different creature, a pelagic bird also called the black-capped petrel. It got the name "diablotin" from its devilish cry. It's now thought to be extinct.
Getting To Dominica
From Europe British Airways flies into Antigua, St. Lucia and Barbados and Air France serves Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Martin.
From the US, Seaborne Airlines provides a link from San Juan/SJU and the US Virgins to Douglas-Charles/DOM. American Eagle has exited the market. Regional Caribbean airlines LIAT and Windair have direct or indirect flights to DOM from Antigua, Barbados, Saint Lucia, and the French islands.
(In order to get the best view of the island from your flight as you fly in - when going north to Douglas-Charles Airport (from Saint Lucia, for example), sit on the left side of the aircraft. When flying southward (from Antigua), sit on the right side. Sit on the opposite side if flying into Canefield Airport.)
There is an inter-island high-speed catamaran ferry service connectng Dominica to both the neighboring French islands and St. Lucia. This is a relaxing and gorgeous way to make your way to Dominica from the more popular islands. L'Express Des Iles.
There are three main sea ports. Woodbridge Bay, north of Roseau. Both the Roseau Ferry Terminal and the Cruise Ship Berth is in Roseau itself. (Cruise ships sometimes stop at the Cabrits near Portsmouth.)
Taxi fares from the airport are set by the Government and displayed at the airport. Melville Hall to Roseau is for example EC$45 (2010). Expect to pay more if your final destination is a village beyond Roseau. As you exit the immigration/customs area you will be greeted by an official who will direct you to an appropriate taxi. Taxi drivers should be uniformed. License plates of taxi vehicles should contain the letters “HA” or “H.” Sample fares per person are found here. If you are a number of passengers going to the same destination, negotiate! Note, that taxis can be difficult to find after around 6:00 p.m., which means that you have to arrange transportation for a set time beforehand. The public minivan buses are typically more affordable than taxi fares!
If you rent a car, it's left hand traffic. The roads are very narrow and often they have deep drainage trenches right along the sides. So you'll need to have a strong heart and calm nerves. We did that... after awhile I (Lolli) refused to drive, but sitting on the passenger's side, when the wheels are hanging out over an abyss in order to meet another car, is no mercy on your nerves, either.
Visitors from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and most European countries do not need a visa to enter Dominica. Nearly everyone (except French nationals on a short visit) will need a passport for entry and again for re-entry to their home country.
Climbing Morne DiablotinTo get to the trailhead: From Roseau (the capital of Dominica), take the main west coast road (Ross Blvd) north toward Portsmouth. Before Portsmouth, and just north of the village of Dublanc, there is a turn to the right. There is a sign post at the turn. It takes about half an hour to drive from the turn to a small hut, situated on the left hand side of the road in the Syndicate Estate. This hut is a mark for crossroads for several trails, for us two major interesting ones: a short walk on the Syndicate Trail for the Parrot Lookouts and the Morne Diablotin trail. Take the left fork for both the Syndicate and summit trails.
It takes approximately 20-30 minutes to walk from the car park to the beginning of the Syndicate Trail. From this point, it is about 3 hours for the 2500-foot climb to the summit of Morne Diablotin and another 2 hours back--I think. (I didn't bring a watch, we used the entire day.)
Route Description: Before heading for the summit, go look at the parrots! It's worth it. It's cool. They are endangered species, the two parrots of Dominica. At least, the Sisserou is endangered. Within the Syndicate Parrot Preserve, there is a loop trail. It's a short walk to the first Parrot Lookout, but the entire loop is little more than a 1 km (0.8 miles). The path follows the Picard River gorge, and has 3 overlooks where one can see the birds, if lucky. The Imperial parrot (the Sisserou) and the red-necked Jaco parrot are what one wants to see.
Best times for parrot watching are dawn and dusk. You will both see and hear them from a distance. Bring binoculars, for a better look. The Sisserou Parrot, the larger bird, has a modulated call that rises and falls, while the Jaco has a high-pitched squawk. The Jaco is the sound of the rainforest...
After the parrot walk, the Morne Diablotin trail continues on to the summit from the turnoff to the parrot preserve.
The path starts nicely and gradually turns steeper and steeper, all the way to the summit. It steep hiking at its finest, in a hot, humid rainforest. One has to crawl over roots and under and through branches and trees. There are no big difficulties, except the steepness in itself, and at the end, quite close to the summit, there is a bit scrambling. A very enjoyable trek, I say. Morne Diablotin, with her 1447 meters, is Dominica's highest peak and the second highest in the entire Lesser Antilles.
You'll have beautiful and spectacular surroundings, as the climb changes from one kind to another kind of forest. Thicker rainforest becomes montaine forest and turns into woodland, not as dense. This lovely route is full of birds. Do you like hummingbirds? There are blue headed hummingbirds. If you are lucky, you'll see agouti and wild pig. (If you don't see them here, at Trois Pitons it's quite easy to see agouti, if in a quiet spot, or when most people have left. They are down in the gorge beside the information hut, looking for food.)
A clear day at the summit, one is supposed to see the mountains of Trois Pitons, Portsmouth, Rupert Bay and the Cabrits peninsula. The islands Guadeloupe (to the north) and Martinique (south) may also be visible. I didn't, it wasn't a clear day, and it rarely is.
Essential Gear: Gear...? Bring water, for the higher parts. Otherwise, the water is drinkable in the creeks of the mountains of Dominica.... Other than water bottles, we did not use any gear at all. We climbed it in sandals (or gym shoes) and shorts, being the tourists we were. Long trousers would have been a little better, though, but only at some spots.
The danger on the trek is twisting an ankle by slipping. Getting injured is a risk even for an experienced hikers because of the poor footing, so do be a bit careful, please.
You can, but don't have to, hire a local guide. One who is popular is local birding expert Bertrand Jno Baptiste (767-446-6353 or 6358).
Red TapeTo do this hike you are supposed to have a National Park Site Pass which is available for purchase in many locations in Roseau, Portsmouth and Laudat. The cost is $5 US for one day or $12 US for a week and is good for Morne Diablotin, Morne Trois Piton, Boeri Lake, Boiling Lake, Emerald Pool, Middleham Falls and Trafalgar Falls.
Where to StayOther than a few private campgrounds (one of which is in Laudat), camping is not allowed on Dominica. Another campground is at Rivers Dominica
There is plenty of lodging. On this page nearly all listed I believe, with links to their webpages etc. Many cottages and guest houses on the islands maintain a basic standard and are not luxurious. They are adapted to the nature and one is perfectly comfortable.
If you are the kind of traveller who prefers a mountain breeze to canned air conditioning, and you'd like to stay right among the hot springs and waterfalls, see if you can get into Papillote Wilderness Retreat. And for dinner, ask them to serve you some "rum provisions." You won't regret it.
When to climbThere are no real dry seasons in this region, but some seasons are certainly wetter still than others. Needless to say, this region is very wet and heavy rains are possible at any time.
On average, February, March and April are the driest months, followed by December and January. June through November are wetter, although the difference from the dry season is not always dramatic. From about mid-December through early May is the best time to climb, but even in the driest seasons, it rains almost every day up high.
Mountain ConditionsA supposed weather forecast is below, but it seems to be based on Roseau which is a much drier and warmer location:
In reality, expect rain (sometimes heavy) almost every day.
Weather averages for the Camp Jacob (Guadeloupe) at an elevation of 1750 feet/533 meters are below. Information is from the book World Weather Guide, page 323. Although Camp Jacob is on Guadeloupe, weather conditions at Camp Jacob are more representative of Morne Diablotin than the weather station at Roseau on Dominica. Expect cooler and even wetter conditions near the summit of Morne Diablotin than at Camp Jacob.
|Month||High (° F )||High (° C)||Low (° F )||Low (° C)||in. Rain||mm Rain||Rain Days|
Miscellaneous infoThe local currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$). If you exchange to it - change back before you leave the island. It is almost impossible to exchange it anywhere else, nobody wants it.
Click Here for hikes and other interesting nature places on the island, divided by difficulty. (They classify the Morne Diablotin trek as hard - everything is relative, but of course there are easier and middle easy treks to chose too.)
Here is another very good page on the same website about things to do.
We (Lolli) went whale watching twice. It was a lovely boat, but there were no whales, but plenty of playful dolphins and many birds.
The Waitukubuli National Trail is a long distance trail running the length of the island, passing near the top of Morne Diablotin.
Click Here for more about Waitukubuli.
Milton Falls is a short hike from Syndicate for less ambitious members of your party, while they wait