Friday, March 27, 2008

Selected Pics (89)

We arrived in Dominica at approximately 7am and departed at approximately 4pm. Jonathan and I were the first to head out for the day. Our 3.5 hour ATV Safari with Highride Nature Adventures started at 8am with a bus ride high into the mountains. Many of the group members had never ridden an ATV, so the orientation was slow and thorough. After some detailed instructions, they had us practice/prove our skills by driving a couple of laps around a warmup course. It wasn't long before we were on the trails in single file. Jonathan and I had a great time and really enjoyed the scenery. I snapped a few decent pictures and got some pretty cool video footage. At one point I was coming around a curve, driving with hand and filming with the other when I noticed that there was a pretty steep drop-off to the left. That video got cut short in a hurry as I grabbed the handlebars tightly with both hands. We stopped and had a snack and drinks at a scenic overlook and Jonathan convinced one of the guides to let him pose with his machete. We also took a couple of nice pictures there and then began our treck back. Some trails were obviously older than others - they had ruts so deep that the 4-wheelers sometimes bottomed out. The ride itself was only about an hour and according to my GPS we only covered an area about two miles across - that's a lot of cut-backs.

Martha, Mark, and Christy left shortly after Jonathan and I for their whale watching with IslandStyle. Their tour departed at 8:30am and was due back around 12:30pm. They saw dolphins within 15-30 minutes of their trip. There were lots of them, even some juveniles. In addition to the great pictures Martha and Mark took, Mark also got some nice video footage of the dolphins, who hung around for about 20-30 minutes before moving on. Then came the relaxation... for Martha and Christy anyway. Mark involuntarily fed the fish a few times. Apparently during the stops the captain made to listen for whales on his homemade microphone the boat moved a little too much in the surf for Mark. It was 2.5 hours later before they finally saw whales. They were well past their scheduled end time, but everyone agreed to keep searching when the captain offered to do so. Their patience paid off when he finally found a couple of pods. The captain knew their habits well enough that he would warn everyone to get cameras ready when they were about to dive and their massive tales would pop up out of the water. Martha got some decent breaching shots too. If the sitings last any longer than 3 minutes, Martha must have been too intrigued to snap pictures since that was the duration of her shots. Mission accomplished, they began their hour-long trip home.

Meanwhile, back at the ship, I had already sent Jonathan and Jessica ahead to Champagne Beach (part of the Soufriere Scott's Head Marine Reserve), offering to wait a little longer for the whale watchers, who were due back around noon. I must have waited about an hour before giving up and heading out on my own to meet Jonathan and Jessica for some snorkeling. By 1:30, I was in the water with Jonathan snapping pictures of sea turtles, reef squid, fish, and coral. The depth in the area we were free-diving was probably about 20-30 feet. There was even a group of scuba divers when I first got there. The strong current wore me out a little quicker than usual and it was a good thing I saved some energy for the difficult return to the beach. The toughest part was the last 10 feet. Although there were barely waves, the water was pushing and then retreating about 15 feet with each pass. You really need to take your fins off before you go in and you have to be careful not to get drug over the coral while you're taking them off. Once you get your fins, you let the waves take you in and stand up fast before they rip you right back out to sea. Exciting!

During our departure, I took a set of pictures from the back of the ship that Photosynth did a great job of stitching together. Here is a preview that I smashed together myself. Click the image to see the full Photosynth.

Jessica was thinking about going to the Twin Falls and Emerald Pool, but I'm not sure she ever made it. Other options we considered include...
    WackyRollers (multiple options)
    Dominica Challenge Course Adventure ($99, 12-3:30)
    Dominica's Ultimate Adventure Tour With Lunch ($189, 7:30-3:30)

Web Sites ( Lonely Planet Review, Frommers Reviews, Cruise Critic Review, Cruise Critic Board, Destination360 Review,, AVirtualDominica, Visit-Dominica )