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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dy-na-mite Time on the Indian River


Our guide, Alexi, begins rowing us down the Indian River.
“Ya gotta hire Alexi when you go to Dominica and take the Indian River Tour!” Dave (a fun Canadian we met in St. Lucia; click here for more about our adventures with Dave) insisted. 

We’re kinda cheapskates and normally avoid paid tour guides like the plague, but decided to trust Dave.  Good call!

Dominica’s Indian River
mangroves cast an otherworldly
aura, filled with unique flora
and fauna that twists, slithers
and flies.
Dominica offers and promotes a training and certification program for tour guides; it makes a difference.  Guides are also part of Dominica’s strategy to keep their natural areas pristine, while still providing tourist access through trained guides.  Indian River, Portsmouth in Northwest Dominica is one of those areas.  Travel down Indian River is by guided rowing; no engines.

White egret, along the
Indian River, Dominica.
Dominican guides respect your choice to not work with a guide in non-guide required areas, and once you’ve chosen a guide, they will respect your choice.  Soufriere St. Lucia could learn a lot from Dominica’s program!

Alexi loaded us up with a veritable bounty… passion fruit,
star fruit (aka “five finger”), sweet orange, grapefruit,
green beans, okra, lemongrass, bay leaves….
Alexi’s roots run deep in Dominica; his memories stretch back to when he hunted in the forests he guides.  He’s reluctantly let romances wither as they would have taken him away from Dominica.

NPR Splendid Table’s Lynne Rosetto Kasper once mentioned using bay leaves was a waste of time, that most cooks are better off just adding lemon juice instead.  Fresh bay leaves, she explained, are lemony, bearing no resemblance to those dusty dark olive-green dried leaves most of us are more familiar with.  Now, thanks to Alexi and his brother,  I know, firsthand what she means!

Like a Pied Piper, Alexi leads us through
his brother’s sprawling plantation,
where a variety of fruits, vegetables
and herbs are grown.
Alexi shares the literal roots of his brother’s place on his tours; a plantation.  There, we drank the best fresh passion fruit juice we’ve ever had, and tried our first homegrown rum punch, “Dynamite.” 

While “Dynamite,” Alexi’s
brother’s homegrown rum
concoction sounds more
like white lightening or
Everclear, it’s much more
juicy than rum-y and we’re
saving it to share as a special
treat with other cruisers for
a “sundowner.”
Bottom line:  Alexi’s Indian River tour is not that expensive, about $50 total USD for the two of us (~$37 USD for Alexi plus an additional park access fee ~$5.00 USD each, we’d have had to pay regardless of whether or not we had a guide).  The tour ran about 3 hours; well worth the time and the money, even for cheapskates like us.