Day 5 – Monday, March 4, 2024 (Cabrits, Dominica)

Happy Birthday to John!!!!

Today we had a Love & Chocolate tour in Dominica. We enjoyed a scenic tour of the island on our way to Pointe Baptiste Estate, located near Calibishie Village. The estate is a private domain covering over 25 acres. There is a historical guesthouse from 1930, the chocolate factory with a cottage above it and a beautiful garden with a variety of flowers.

The story goes two British aristocrats met and fell in love. They discovered Dominica in 1931 when on a Caribbean cruise, they moved there the following year and settled near Calibishie, building a house they name Pointe Baptiste in the midst of inaccessible virgin forest.

Their grandson grew up there but also spent time in England and France where he developed a passion for fine chocolate. Back in Dominica, he studied the art of chocolate to produce himself, building a few drying racks and making a small amount of 80% dark chocolate from cocoa beans grown on the estate.

It is a small family run business; the cocoa beans are grown and harvested on the Pointe Baptiste estate using ecologically sound, sustainable practice. They make dark chocolate (60%, 80%, 90%, and 100%) and flavors with ginger, coffee, spice (nutmeg, cinnamon & cloves), hot pepper, lemongrass, tangerine, mint and milk chocolate. We were able to taste all but the spice as they were out at the time.

Fun facts about Dominica from our driver Ben and guide Eden:

  • It is a volcanic island with the last eruption in 1808
  • It claimed its independence November 1978
  • Population of about 70,000
  • The rainy season is June-October and the higher elevations (rain forest) can get up to 300 inches per year
  • Hurricane Maria, which was a Category 5, hovered over Dominica for 8 hours and devastated the island in 2017
  • There are no traffic lights on the island but there are streetlights which run by wind/solar power
  • Education starts at age 2 ½ -3 years
  • One hospital on the island but each community has a doctor and care is free
  • They have two airports and two rum distilleries
  • Parts of The Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed in Dominica
  • There are 365 rivers (they say one for each day of the year, except leap year)
  • Hibiscus is abundant and the petals are used for rum punch and the leaves are used to make hair conditioner
  • They have a very low crime rate
  • The town of Calabishie is known for its lobster
  • They harvest sugar cane and make sugar cane juice, which is used as a sweetener

After we arrived back at port, we also went and checked out the Cabrits National Park. It was an 18th-century military installation. Fort Shirley is famous for a revolt by African slave soldiers in 1802. It was built within a volcanic crater and part of a network of defenses. Much is still intact and/or has been rebuilt.  It was built by the British in 1765 to defend north Dominica.

After returning to the ship, we met up with Marguerite, Joe, Scott and Catherine for drinks and small bites. We all sat together for dinner and the wine flowed. John was surprised with cake and ice cream from the crew along with a chorus of Happy Birthday. We were having such a good time that we were the last ones to leave the dining room and then head to the Tropical Bar to continue the celebration. We hung out until about 1 a.m. and knew things might be rough in the morning, but we all had a great time and enjoyed celebrating John’s birthday!

Excerpt about Dominica from our daily flyer:

Christopher Columbus discovered this island on a Sunday, hence the name Dominica. Little has changed since that fateful day and it is said that if Columbus were to visit the Caribbean today, this is the only island he would recognize. Contemporary visitors will find an island that is unspoiled and rich in natural beauty. The only characteristic Dominica shares with its Caribbean counterparts are that the French and the British fought for control of the island. The British finally succeeded and controlled the island until is was granted full independence in 1978. The similarity with its neighbors ends there. Dominica is 29 miles long and 16 miles wide and does not conform to the typical image of a Caribbean Island. It is lush and mountainous with few beaches and no overdeveloped tourist spots. The whole atmosphere of Dominica centers on its forest landscape. The mountain ranges stretch from one end of the island to the other, averaging 3000 feet and peaking as high as 5000 feet. The mountains provide not only a geographical backbone, but an ecological one as well. Their sides are covered with dense rain forests and foliage and spawn some 365 rivers and streams with numerous waterfalls and natural pools. Dominica is a real island paradise with natural beauty all its own.

It rained overnight and we were blessed with a beautiful rainbow.
The biggest ship in the Star Clippers Fleet, the Royal Clipper, who sailed along with us to Dominica. Our first trip with Star Clippers, back in 2006, was on the Royal Clipper and we fell in love with it!
Dominica in the distance.
The building to the left is where you go through the gates to visit Fort Shirley and for tours.
Calibishie is the main village on the north coast of Dominica. The coast is one of the few areas in the world where the distance from the shoreline to the rain forest is a little more than a mile.
Our tour guide, Eden. I took notes on all of the facts her and Ben, our driver, were telling us.
A beautiful variety of hibiscus.
Family run business, very small production. Located near Calibishie Village, Pointe Baptiste Estate is a private domain of 25 acres.
Sophia is the owner of the factory and the property surrounding. She is telling us how the cacao beans are being soaked in the box with a covering and the “juice” from the beans drips to the box below, which is used for other things. Once this processed is finished, it goes to the drying racks.
The drying racks.
A view from the veranda of the guesthouse on the property.
Sophia made up some different types of juice using leaves/flowers for the left/right bottles and cacao in the middle bottle. The chocolate was my favorite!
Our purchases!
Up at Fort Shirley looking out at the Royal Clipper in the back and the masts of the Star Clipper up close.
No idea what type of tree this is, but it’s gorgeous!
Surprised to see a crab up on land, but there are water runoff areas so guess he was taking a break.
The Royal Clipper taking off to it’s next stop!
Happy Birthday, John!!! Herry, our main waiter in the glasses, was amazing!
Our crazy, wonderful group!
I think we were about spent by this picture, lol!!!! What a fun night!
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