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Phoenix Area Hiking: Boulder Canyon Trail #103

Phoenix is a great city for hiking, if you have some common sense about heat exposure and keeping water on hand. There are many amazing mountain preserves throughout the city, one of the most famous of which is Camelback Mountain. What is less known to visitors is that the city is also ringed by several man-made lakes. Every one is unique, and they all offer a variety of outdoor activities. Canyon Lake is my favorite. And Boulder Canyon Trail is the best trail to get views of the lake, and surrounding mountains. Hike far enough, and you will also be able to see the Superstitions and Weaver’s Needle.

Boulder Canyon Trail

Level of Difficulty: Moderate; rocky trail, with consistent inclines. Easy to navigate within 3 miles of the trailhead.

Cost: $0

Where to Park: Canyon Lake Marina, dirt parking lot

Accessible to…: All vehicle types; the road leading up to the trailhead is paved, although windy and narrow at some points.

Necessities: Water, snacks, small first aid kit, map and compass, camera

Boulder Canyon Trail

Suggested Route: Unless you are very experienced with desert hiking and navigation, I would suggest just doing 3 miles in and then another 3 miles out (or less; out and back). This is straightforward and will afford you some amazing views. This is not a loop trail, but it does connect to the network of Superstition trails.

Trail Description: Boulder Canyon Trail starts across the 88 from the marina parking lot. You will be faced with an immediate junction, one trail to the left and one to the right. Follow the sign for Boulder Canyon to the left (if you go to the right, the trail is short and just follows the edge of the lake).

Boulder Canyon Trail

Once you get started, you will have to deal with a steady climb up Frog Peak. This mountain is quite rounded,  and more like a hill than anything else, but the trail is rocky and the climb is consistent. The plant and bird diversity is wonderful in this area, and even the rocks are little rainbows of lichen forests. When and if you find yourself puffing on the way up, be sure to pause and enjoy both the scenery and the unique ecosystem around you.

At the top of Frog Peak you will get some very beautiful views of Canyon Lake. The dam, marina, and canyon that gives the lake its name will all make an appearance. The colorful mountains that encircle this area are breathtaking as well. Honestly, I just can’t say enough how much I love this area. It is the epitome of desert beauty.

Boulder Canyon Trail

If you keep going past the cairn on the peak, the trail will wind you to the south along the mountains for a way. There are a few ups and downs here, but overall, nothing as strenuous as the trek up the first mountain. If you are feeling up to it, I highly suggest continuing on for a while. This is the part of Boulder Canyon Trail where you will get the best views of Weaver’s Needle, and you will have the opportunity to experience some of the lesser known mountain vistas in the area.

After this stretch, the trail will dip down towards a creek bed. This is where I typically turn around, either at the top of the descent or at the bottom if I want more of a work out coming back up. You can keep going, but Boulder Canyon Trail is quite long and connects with other trails, so for casual hikers or visitors, I wouldn’t suggest it. Plus, if you turn around, you will have more time to stop by Tortilla Flats for Prickly Pear ice cream!

Boulder Canyon Trail

For more info on the trail, read through Hike Arizona’s guide.

And if you are looking for more ideas for things to do in Arizona, our guide to the state will help you find unique events, hikes, and restaurants to visit.

 

Five Great Things To Do in Santo Domingo

 

things to do in santo domingo

Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic. It is also the largest city in the Caribbean, and has a population of 3 million people. Santo Domingo is the oldest continuously inhabited European city in the Americas, and was once home to Columbus’ family. It’s a city full of history and mystery, with beauty around every corner. All the being said, tourists hardly visit the capital compared to Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. If you want a taste for some of the places that make the Dominican Republic special, Santo Domingo is not a city to be missed. When I lived there for a summer, these were the five things to do in Santo Domingo that I enjoyed the most (not arranged in any particular order).

Contemplate the Mystery of Columbus at Faro a Colon (Or Columbus Lighthouse)

things to do in santo domingo

The Dominican government began construction on this massive, cross-shaped monolith in 1986. El Faro was completed six years later on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ first journey to the Caribbean. The memorial houses a museum with artifacts from all over the region, and what is said to be Columbus’ remains. There is some debate about this, however, as DNA tests have proven that Columbus is housed in the Seville Cathedral of Spain. Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic did not allow its own holdings to be tested.

things to do in santo domingo

When I visited, I marveled at the stark building. I have read that its cross shape is in reference to the coming of the Christian religion to the New World. The bulky, grey mass of the monument wasn’t cheerful in aesthetic or in its meaning… at least not to me. The Caribbean (and many other regions of the world) are still recovering from the colonialism that this symbolizes. Even so, I don’t think this is a place to be missed. History, even regretful history, is something that we should never forget. And there is no arguing that Columbus played a major role in shaping the world we live in today, for better or worse. There is no where else like this in the world.

Walk El Malecon

things to do in santo domingo

The Malecon is a stretch of Santo Domingo that runs along the water. If you enjoy the ocean, this is about as close to a beach that you will get in the city. Rocky cliffs are otherwise the norm in this area. There are some shops and food to be had here, as well as some more of the city’s monuments.

things to do in santo domingo

The Malecon is a public space, and its somewhere just as enjoyed by local residents as visitors. With large swaths of grass areas and small places to eat, it was full of families and weekend festivities when I went. It’s one of those unique things to do in Santo Domingo that is the perfect place to mingle with city residents.

Ponder the Past in La Zona Colonial

things to do in santo domingo

La Zona Colonial is a part of Santo Domingo that has a very high concentration of historic buildings, and which is honored on a global scale as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, you can visit Christopher Columbus’s son’s home, as well as colonial forts and churches, and museums full of antiquities. Santo Domingo was the first major bastion of European influence in the “New World” and that is still preserved in this beautiful part of the city.

things to do in santo domingo

There is really something very enchanting about La Zona Colonial. It encompasses so much Dominican, Caribbean, and European history in one small area. Colonial buildings, carefully preserved and protected, are nestled between traditional Caribbean architecture. The colorful store and home-fronts are sometimes interrupted by the result of garrish Western architectural fads, and tragic evidence of past conflicts in the region (such as the US occupation of the Dominican Republic).

Enjoy Nature at Los Tres Ojos

things to do in santo domingo

Being that I am both a nature and national park lover, Tres Ojos was by far, my favorite place in the city and I visited it multiple times. Here you climb down into an interconnected system of three lakes which I would describe as cenotes or sinkholes, although I am not sure that that is technically correct. Most are accessible on foot, but one you can pay a little extra to see the final after a short boat ride. It’s worth the fee just for the ride, in my opinion, but the view after is pretty unbelievable as well.

things to do in santo domingo

The Dominican Republic has some of the most beautiful caves that I have ever seen, and I was lucky enough to explore a few of them. Even so, Tres Ojos was probably one of the most captivating of all of them. The expanse of the park, with its twisting trails through the forest and subterranean world was a great place to mingle with other travelers, or find little spots to contemplate the beauty. The sparkling blue water, ringed by capes of green, or made utterly clear by encapsulating stone was unforgettable. If you see nothing else in Santo Domingo, Tres Ojos is the place to go. You would never expect somewhere so beautiful to be in the middle of a thriving city.

Eat and Drink Amazing Things

things to do in santo domingo

The capital is home to some extremely amazing food. So, exploring its restaurants is one of the best things to do in Santo Domingo. In La Zona Colonial, you can get anything from traditional Dominican dishes to global flavors. Artful chefs who put their own unique spin on all sorts of culinary delights also call this part of the city home. I’ve never heard of the Dominican Republic being known for its assortment of perfect restaurants, but it should be. Santo Domingo might just be one of the best places in the Caribbean for foodies (up for debate!).

things to do in santo domingo

Some Notes on Safety

things to do in santo domingo

Santo Domingo isn’t without its dangers, and I think (like any big city) travelers would be well advised to be wary and careful. Theft and violent assault can be common in some areas, and travelers are always a target for scammers no matter where you go. That being said, I never had a bad experience here. Not even when a bus dropped me and my friends off in a bad neighborhood, and not when a friend of mine got dropped off at the wrong building by a taxi when she came to visit. The worst I got was a taxi driver who thought he could charge me more than standard fare. Even so, here are some tips to keep in mind (which could honestly be applied to any city, but nonetheless).

Hide Your Valuables (Especially Your iPhone)

iPhones were in demand among thieves when I was living in Santo Domingo due to the extremely high price of these phones on the island. However, flashing any valuables is something I would suggest avoiding. It just gets the wrong sort of people interested in you.

Avoid Problem Areas

There are some parts of the city that even local people prefer to avoid. Stay in touristy and highly developed, vibrant areas, and you should be safe. These things change over time, so be sure to do a bit of research before you start your trip. Worst come to worst, hotel staff should be able to help you figure out where to stay away from. And trust your instincts, if something feels off, just turn around, flag down a cab, or call an Uber.

Expect to Get Attention

The Dominican Republic is a musical, romantic place. People are not afraid to let you know if they find you attractive. Sometimes the attention is more than just a fascination with foreign visitors, however. The Dominican Republic has a notably large sex tourism industry. Again, not something I had an issue with.  These sex workers did harass a friend of mine, though, so it happens.

The Roads Are Crazy

The Dominican Republic is known for being one of the most deadly places in the world to drive. Be aware that driving there is nothing like the US or Europe. The infrastructure is present (traffic lights, stop signs, and nice roads), but people don’t follow rules that they find inconvenient. This is especially bad at night. Even if you are on foot, don’t expect cars to stop for you. Don’t trust that everyone will stop at lights or signs.

For more ideas about things to do and see in Santo Domingo be sure to visit Live Love Voyage’s Santo Domingo Guide.

If you want to find out about more off-the-beaten path destinations in the Dominican Republic, be sure to look through our guide to the country!

Learn About Seven Namibian Cultures

Namibian culture includes many traditions, ways of life, art, and more. To talk about all of them in detail would take a few books at best, and I can’t hope to cover all of that information here. However, I want to give you a taste for some of the interesting facts about the people of the beautiful nation of Namibia. They are organized alphabetically below, and cover only some of the larger groups. I tried to vary the kinds of information, and provide further resources for you to learn more.

The Damara

(1) Unlike many groups in Namibia, the Damara did not traditionally have a chiefdom, but rather chose wise people for consultations in decision-making processes.

(2) Traditionally, the Damara people bury their dead far from their villages, because spirits are thought to have the power to take a loved (or hated) person with them into the next world if they can find their way back to the village.

(3) The traditional Damara religion believes that the next life is similar to this, but with more success in hunting and gathering.

You can learn more from the Damara Living Museum tourism project by the Damara people.

The Herero

Namibian cultures

A beautiful Herero woman (c) Pixabay.

(1) The Herero can trace their roots back to Angola in semi-recent history. It is believed that severe drought forced their ancestors to move into Namibia.

(2) The Herero people are well known for the Victorian style dresses that the women wear, along with their characteristic headdress. Although this style comes from German missionaries in the 19th Century, it is now a unique part of Herero tradition.

(3) Christianity is common among the Herero people, and they developed their own Christian church in 1955.

You can learn more about Herero dress on this article accompanying a photographic installation.

The Himba

Namibian culture

A Himba woman (c) Pixabay

(1) The Herero and Himba people were once one group, and they only split shortly after their ancestors entered Namibia. The Himba have maintained more of their shared, traditional belief systems.

(2) The Himba people are well known among Namibian cultures for their unique dress. They wear ochre colored butter that people use to stain and protect their skin. Hair styles and jewelry have particular meanings.

(3) Ritual fires are traditional to both the Herero and Himba, and most Himba villages still maintain them. Ritual fires have complex meanings, but are a connection to the spirit world and must be carefully maintained.

You can support and learn more about the Himba people from the Otjikandero Village.

The Kavango

(1) The Kavango people have five different and distinct tribes that are believed to have moved onto the land they live on currently between 1750 and 1800.

(2) Matrilineal descent is used among these tribes, and people of the same generation often refer to eachother and brothers and sisters.

(3) Subsistence farming is a common way of life among the Kavango people, and it is traditional to only grow enough food for a year. Trust is held in Nyambi (the creator) to provide for the people year to year.

The Kavango people run a cultural center called the Mbunza Living Museum.

The Nama

(1) The Nama are the descendants of Herero prisoners of war that developed their own language and culture.

(2) Traditionally, the women of the Nama people had power among the people, and the household was considered to be owned by them. In that way, they developed a partnership with their husbands.

(3) Like many people that were introduced to Christianity, the Nama people practiced a mix of traditional religion and Christianity.

You can learn more about the Nama cultural group, Suide Maak Vrede.

The Owambo

(1) There are eight different Owambo tribes and each has its own dialect.

(2) Traditionally the Owambo traced their families through their mothers. More recently, this has slowly changed, with more assets being passed from a father to his children.

(3) The traditional religion of the Owambo people has a supreme god called Kalunga, although this entity is not actively involved in people’s lives. Ancestral spirits are believed to play a great role in the world of the living, however.

You can learn more about Owamboland!

The San

Namibian culture

San people (c) Pixabay

(1) The San are the first people of southern Africa, and the lands encompassed by Namibia. They are also most likely the longest continuous line of humans on the planet, and their ancestors appear to have given rise to the rest of the humans on the planet.

(2) The San people have maintained a hunter gatherer lifestyle for thousands and thousands of years.

(3) Although they were the first to live in this part of Africa, the San have been discriminated against by other African groups and Europeans that migrated into their traditional lands.

If you’d like support the San people, check out Naankuse.

Namibian culture

Backyard Discoveries: Liberty Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

Just south of the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport is Liberty Wildlife – a hidden gem, nestled away from the hustle and bustle of traffic and planes flying overhead.

I can’t remember this owl’s name and I feel like he’s judging me for it.

Liberty Wildlife is wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center, that specializes in avian, reptile, amphibian and small mammal species. Though they are kept busy caring for animals seven days a week, they open to the public on Wednesday, Saturdays and Sunday for us curious visitors.

This lil’ guy had part of his left wing amputated. 🙁 The hardest part of visiting Liberty Wildlife is hearing what happened to some of these guys before they arrived.

Tips to Know Before You Go to Liberty Wildlife:

  • As mentioned above, the visiting window is limited each week. The facility is open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Admission is very reasonable! Adult – $6, Seniors (65+) & Veterans – $5,   Children K-12 – $4  and Children Under 4 – Free admission.

A feeding demonstration with one of their Bald Eagles, Sonora.

  • Primarily, you’ll be seeing the birds that they are rehabbing or now live at their facility. They also have a couple big windows that let you catch a glimpse into the rescue rooms, where they work on and keep other animals that they take in.
  • If you visit earlier in the day, you have a better chance of catching their programs and feedings – where you get a closer look and learn more about the wildlife that they rescue.

Sonora was full of sass.

  • If you come upon an injured wild animal (no matter how small), you can call their Wildlife Hotline at 480-998-5550 for further assistance and information about animal drop-off and tours. The Hotline is manned to return calls from 8 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • Consider them for your next creative event or party idea! They actually had a kids’ birthday party going on the day that we visited.

Aside from just enjoying seeing all the birds at Liberty Wildlife, I was impressed by how knowledgeable the staff and volunteers are and how good they are with the animals. You can tell that they truly care about conservation and their work.

Having a bit of an afternoon snooze.

It’s worth noting that they are a non-profit and could use your support in a number of ways! Check out their website for more information on how you can donate, visit their facility, attend one of their upcoming events or even volunteer.

This is a Golden Eagle adorably puffing up her feathers so they lay back down in a way that would impress her audience of admirers, said a staff member.

Be good to each other!

xo,
Katie

Backyard Discoveries: The Tucson Rodeo

tucson rodeo

La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (or Celebration of the Cowboys) is a time-honored Tucson tradition. What started at just three days of events and competition all the way back in 1925, has grown to a nine-day celebration every February, with its main draw being the Tucson Rodeo.

tucson rodeo

La Fiesta is such a large part of Tucson culture that the schools close for two days just so Tucsonans can go to the rodeo! After hearing that, Nightborn Travel had to check it out.

tucson rodeo

Tips to Know Before You Go:

  • You’ll want to visit the Tucson Rodeo website – there you’ll find a detailed schedule of events and a way to purchase your tickets online.
  • We went on Saturday of the opening weekend and were able to get cheaper general admission tickets (meaning you could sit anywhere in the stands) – we think it was because these were only qualifying rodeo events. You could always call their box office to be sure.
  • Seats are basically open bleachers, meaning that it might get a little toasty if the weather is nice and sunny. Bring hats/sunglasses and sunscreen. We also saw some very smart and prepared people who brought blankets/cushions to sit on.
  • Basically any bag larger than a wallet or clutch isn’t allowed in, UNLESS it’s a clear bag. If you think they’re joking about bag size, they’re not, so you can find a full list of DOs and DON’Ts here.
  • In our humble opinion, you don’t need to know anything about rodeo sports to enjoy it, but it sure helps.
  • In addition to the rodeo, there’s the Tucson Rodeo Parade, which apparently the world’s longest non-motorized parade.

tucson rodeo

Gates at the rodeo don’t open until 11 a.m., so if you make it down to Tucson next year for La Fiesta and the rodeo, we humbly suggest that you give this hike at Tanque Verde Falls a try in the morning and then reward yourself with some tasty lunch at Guilin.

tucson rodeo

Keep Tucson weird!

xo,

Katie

Our Favorite Spot for Tucson Chinese Food: Guilin

Whenever my friends and I travel to or through Tucson we all insist on going to Guilin Chinese Restaurant. Considering that most of us spent at least 4 years living in Tucson, this is pretty telling. We all have different tastes, and between the group of us, we’ve tried many of the restaurants in the area. Guilin is just one of those special, unassuming places that never disappoints. So, if you are looking for Tucson Chinese food (or are just in the area) consider giving this little place a chance.

Tucson Chinese Food

Aireona’s Thoughts on Guilin:

I had not had really good Chinese food until I had Guilin. While my husband would argue that there is nothing special about it, I just find that their food is delicious while not being heavy like some of the other places that I have eaten. Their ingredients are consistently good, and I have never had a disappointing meal here. Service here is also fast, and while there are usually people in the restaurant, it’s rare that you have to wait at the door. Not only is this my favorite place for Tucson Chinese food, Guilin beats any where else that I have been.

Pro Tip:

Go during lunch for some amazing deals! Lunch at Guilin includes soup and either an eggroll or ragoon, plus your entree and rice.

Favorite Dish:

Mongolian Beef

Tucson Chinese Food

Katie’s Thoughts on Guilin:

There are so many amazing restaurants in Tucson – El Guero Canelo, Zemams Brooklyn Pizza and Bobo’s – to name a few. But Guilin is the one I visit every time I go back to Tucson, without fail.

Aside from the nostalgia of it being one of my frequent broke college kid haunts, I’ve never been able to find a comparable tofu dish anywhere else. I think about this dish from time to time. I have dreams about it. Any attempt I have made to make this tofu doesn’t even come close. And honestly, it’s probably for the best, because if I knew how to make it, I would eat it ALL the time. Bye, bye balanced(ish) diet. Besides, this way, I have an excuse to visit my old stomping grounds and support a local business.

Pro Tip:

Try the veggie dumplings – they’re the perfect light appetizer. Crispy outside with a soft cabbage filling, served with a tasty dipping sauce.

Favorite Dish:

Tofu with Black Bean Sauce

Location:

4445 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85711

Tucson Chinese Food

A Hike Worth Hollering About: Tanque Verde Falls

It’s rare for us Nightborn Travel gals to pass up a chance to hike. On our recent trip down to the Ol’ Pueblo (or Tucson, as normal people would call it) we decided to venture out to Tanque Verde Canyon for our first time hiking Tanque Verde Falls.

View from the top of the trail – close to the trailhead.

This trail is located east of Tucson, just barely outside of the city – maybe 15 to 20 minutes. Take note that the paved road leading to the trailhead becomes a dirt road, so take that into consideration if your vehicle isn’t suited for dusty and slightly bumpy (but still driveable) terrain.

A comically angry-looking cactus near the creek bed. You’re welcome.

The hike itself is only about 2 miles long, but if you want to actually make it to the falls, there’s one BIG thing to take into consideration, and that’s water. Should you bring it? Yes. But also, has it rained lately? Because if it has, the creek along the trail will be running and while it will be beautiful, it will make your hike to the falls less of a hike and more of an… attempt.

Mmmm, sweet brown rainwater. (We did not drink this water, nor do we endorse drinking this water.)

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s exactly what happened to us. We made it about halfway up the trail before a mini-waterfall blocked us from going forward. We talked to a couple locals who told us that if the creek is dry or at least more of a trickle, you can scramble your way up the falls.

The mini-waterfall that hike-blocked us.

And here’s another thing to consider, the trail going down to the creek bed is relatively easy going, but from there on you’ll be encountering rock pile after rock pile and some times it will feel less like hiking and more like bouldering.

Rocks on rocks on rocks.

That being said, the area the trail is in is wonderful and the falls are said to be worth seeing, so there’s a pretty good chance we’ll be back. And, keeping what you’ve read in mind, we’ll hope you visit, too (if you’re not a big hiker, it’s a great little spot to find a rock along the creek and relax).

Happy hiking!

xo,
Katie

Original Chai Tea In Phoenix: Copper Star Coffee

Phoenix Chai Tea Adventures

I am building a guide for Phoenix chai tea for anyone else who might be as enchanted by this tea as me (or anyone looking to experience Phoenix coffee shops and cafes). My third spotlight is for one of the most unique coffee shops in the area, Copper Star Coffee, which is one of the few coffee shops with original chai tea in Phoenix.

The Tea!

downtown phoenix coffee shop

Food and chai tea out on the patio (c) ABR 2017

Reviewer(s): Aireona (the sugar-lover)

Brand: Copper Star has a house chai!

Flavor: You can’t get this chai anywhere else, because the lovely people at Copper Star have a house chai! Even as much as I love Maya, there is something wonderful and unbeatable about a chai that you can’t get anywhere else. Luckily for me, since I love the sweet, fakey chai that’s all over the US, this is a nice sugary latte. But Copper Star’s tea has a very nice balance of spice to help counteract the sweetness. While not quite as spicy as Maya, I really enjoy the smooth flavor of this chai, and on top of it, I think it has a complex of spices that really make it interesting and enjoyable.

original chai tea in phoenix

The Locale

original chai tea in phoenix

Location: 4220 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013

WIFI: Free wifi provided!

Atmosphere: Copper Star Coffee is situated in a repurposed gas station. I think this is pretty awesome, because there are few mundane things more sad than an abandoned building. The inside of their shop has a rustic warehouse feel, with original art work, and a few long tables for work. There is also a nice patio to enjoy the awesome Arizona weather in the spring and fall. Parking is a bit scarce, but there is a little dirt lot behind the psychic that the coffee shop shares with them. There is also street parking that you might be able to snake into. No worries if there aren’t any spots though, they have a sweet drive through so that you can enjoy their rendition of chai at home or on the road.

The Best of Copper Star

original chai tea in phoenix

Staff: The people at Copper Star are wonderful. They can get pretty busy there. This is quite the popular spot, but they work as fast as they can crafting your delicious drinks. Busy or not, they are friendly, and seem very genuine to me. This isn’t an equation for friendly baristas that we see at Dutch Bros and Starbucks. These are cool people at a legitimately unique spot in our little suburban expanse.

Pros: Copper Star is one of the few places with original chai tea in Phoenix. I love visiting for the taste I can’t get anywhere else. On top of that, they also have a great assortment of pastries (cupcakes, pie, lemon squares and the like) and lunch food. I have yet to try their lunch food due to my schedule, but I love their desserts.

Cons: There is a lack of parking that I think could be a problem at times. The coffee shop is also a little cramped and a bit loud when it is busy. I find it a little distracting as a place to work, but I like hanging out with friends there.

original chai tea in phoenix

Want to see the rest of the guide? Check out Your Guide to Phoenix: Chai Tea Adventures.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Culture of Dominica

The Caribbean gets sold as a single location, especially  by the cruise industry, and this is a major disservice to the region and all its beautiful cultures. Dominica was the first place I ever traveled in the Caribbean, and as a hiker, it is my favorite island so far (although, they are all amazing!). This island nation is special for more than just its natural beauty, however, because its people are warm, artful, and part of a resilient society. Strap in and get ready to learn 10 things about the culture of Dominica that you didn’t know before.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

Dominican Culture and History

(1) Most people in Dominica are Roman Catholic, and a small number of people also have a unique set of beliefs called Obeah that is a mix of African, European, and Kalinago traditions.

(2) The national dress of Dominica is called wob dwiyet. Women primarily wear this during celebrations, and includes a colorful scarf worn on the head. The dress itself has a white, collared shirt with beautiful embroidery as decoration.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

(3) Dominica is serious about taking Sunday off. Almost everything on the island is closed on Sunday except for hotels. If you need to go grocery shopping for the weekend, be sure to go on Saturday, but go in knowing that the lines will be out of this world. The longest grocery lines I have ever seen were in Dominica.

(4) Dominica is home to one of the large medical schools that US and Caribbean students alike attend. Traditional remedies are also still practiced by a few. These address the presence of evil spirits, called jombies, and makes use of medicinal plants.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

(5) Dominica was passed between France and Britain for a long time, and this struggle is evident in the mix of French and English names on the island. Shortly after Britain abolished slavery in 1834, Dominica was the first of its territories to have a black legislature. It goes without saying that African traditions and resilience have played a key role in the unique character and culture of Dominica.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

Kalinago Culture and History

(1) The Kalinago people once lived throughout the Caribbean, but retreated to Dominica when European colonization and war decimated their population. The mountains of Dominica protected them from the colonists for a long time and the island is now home to the world’s last community of Kalinago people. Although native cultures aren’t often acknowledged in outside materials about the Caribbean, the culture of Dominica and the region were founded on their civilizations.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

(2) The Kalinago people make up a little less than 1% of Dominica’s population, but they have their own region of the island. They offer some very genuine tourism experiences, as well as traditional handicrafts.

(3) Kalinago society was far more egalitarian than European culture. Women held as much power as men, and although both genders did different work within their civilization. In the past, they were governed by a chief, but they now have a council that helps run their communities.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

(4) The traditional Kalinago religion held the volcanic peaks of the Caribbean to be the source of life for the islands of the region. The people created statues out of stone and conch shells which were called zemis and represented the peaks. Volcanic peaks are, in fact, the heart of these islands, having formed them. The Kalinago people also believed that it was essential to maintain the balance between good and evil in the world, and maintain the close relationship between humans and nature.

(5) The Kalinago people were expert navigators on the water and originally colonized the Caribbean from the Orinoco River Basin of South America. They were also powerful warriors that fought against the Taino people that had built a civilization in the Caribbean before the Kalinago arrived. They also fought valiantly against European colonists, but they were greatly disadvantaged by smallpox and other “old world” diseases.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

Learn More About Kalinago Culture

Experts on Kalinago Culture:

Karina Cultural Group

Karifuna Cultural Group

Lennox Honychurch

List of References for Further Reading

Chances for Travelers to Learn More From the Kalinago People:

Kalinago Homestay Programme

Experiential Learning

– Living Village Experience at Touna Kalinago Heritage Village

For more information on travel in Dominica, be sure to read through our guide.

Everglades Hiking: Mosquitoes, Birds, and Biodiversity

Everglades National Park is one of the crown jewels of the American national park system, and Florida’s only UNESCO world heritage site. It is best known among outdoorsy folk for the water trails that facilitate long canoe and kayaking trips, but it has plenty to offer the hikers among us as well. I spent some time in the Everglades exploring by car and foot, so I will provide a quick guide on several short Everglades hiking trails (and Big Cypress hiking too!).

everglades hiking

The grasslands that make up most of the Everglades (c) ABR 2016

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE EVERGLADES

The Everglades is the watery heart of Florida; it is home to a huge variety of native flora and fauna, and its water ways have served as a byways for humans since their arrival in this part of the world.

The growth of the European colonies in the “New World” and the eventual rise of the United States took its toll on this spectacular landscape, however, and by 1923 people started calling for its protection. A man named Ernest F. Coe headed this charge, in spite of his background as a land developer. He envisioned a park of 2 million acres, including what we now know as Big Cypress. Although the Great Depression made it difficult for Coe’s dream to come true, in 1934 the Everglades National Park was declared at 1.3 million acres.

everglades hiking

(c) ABR 2016

Interestingly, much of the land that got left out of the original park has since been protected in other forms, including Big Cypress National Preserve and Biscayne National Park.

EVERGLADES HIKING

SOUTHERN TRAILS

Most of the trails that I am going to discuss here are along the main road in the park, which runs from the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center to the Flamingo Visitor Center. Shark Valley is the alternate entrance and requires an entrance fee as well as money for a tram ride. General entrance into the park is $25.00 per vehicle.

everglades hiking

The marsh and the ocean meet (c) ABR 2016

If you start by heading down to Flamingo, there are several trails that follow the coast. The Coastal Prairie Trail heads west from the visitor center to Clubhouse Beach, where camping is allowed. As with all the trails in the Everglades, this is a flat, out and back walk that is 11.2 miles round trip. The Christian Point Trail is a shorter walk to the ocean, at only 4.2 miles roundtrip, but it is one of the more challenging trails in the area.

Snake Bight Trail and Rowby Bend Trail are near Flamingo as well, but I gave up on walking either due to the inordinate amount of mosquitoes that were swarming me every time I stepped out of my vehicle.

SHORT MIDDLE TRAILS

There are three very short, but beautiful walks in the middle section of the main park road. These include Mahagony Hammock, Pa-hay-okee Outlook, and Pinelands. Of these, my favorite is Mahagony Hammock, because it is the best place to learn about the diversity of landscape in the Everglades. Before coming, I really imagined that this place was just a giant marsh, but driving through and hiking for the day taught me the truth. The short walk out to Mahagony Hammock (0.4 miles) takes you out through grasslands that look to stretch on infinitely, to an island of drier forest, which is called a “hammock.” There is something very special about trekking through an open ocean of grass to take refuge in a forest island. A spot of green in an expense of yellow.

everglades hiking

Mahagony Hammock’s mote, which separates the hammock forest from the grasslands (c) ABR 2016

Pay-hay-okee is similarly located in a hammock, although much larger, and there are many platforms from which to observe the landscape and its unique bird species. Pinelands isn’t quite as diverse, but this 0.4 mile walk through the forest introduces the pineland ecosystem. There is also a longer trail in this area called the Long Pine Tree Trail, which is 7 miles long in one direction, and connects to 22 miles of trail. I did not do this particular Everglades hiking trail, however.

everglades hiking

The drier hammock forest (c) ABR 2016

ERNEST F. COE HIKING

The Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is right near the entrance, and it is one of the more busy hiking areas in the park due to the ease of access and exceptional biodiversity here. In fact, they provide tarps so that you can keep the vultures from tearing up your car, and I saw my first wild alligators just a few feet down the trail.

everglades hiking

Lily pads in a wetland (c) ABR 2016

This area feels very garden-like, or it did to me. There were huge, glassy ponds complete with lily pads, and open skies. With lots of tall grass, and wooden walkways give you great views of the water and any of the animals that might be calling it home when you visit.

There are also some short paths through some more tropical forest here. Some of the biggest trees that I saw in the park were here and I really enjoyed the shade after exploring in the open and observing alligators for a while.

BIG CYPRESS HIKING

The Florida National Scenic trail passes through Big Cypress and is easily accessible from the road via the Oasis Visitor Center. I was not properly equipped for the amount of mud on the trail when I visited, but for drier times of the year, or people with more waterproof equipment, this would be a great trail to turn into a shorter, out-and-back journey.

everglades hiking

Cypress trees (c) ABR 2016

For those of you in my boat, check out Kirby Storter Roadside Park, where you can take a short walk through the Cypress swamps. This was one of my favorite spots in Florida, due to the fact that I absolutely love Cypress trees. I think they are otherworldly and they have always characterized what I imagined the Everglades to be.

SAFETY TIPS

(1) Alligators! Were really not as much of a problem as I thought they would be. I actually never saw one on the trail, but if you do see one, keep your distance. Also, just pay attention and keep your wits about you when you are near the water while on the Everglades hiking trails.

(2) Mosquitos are more of a discomfort than a danger if they aren’t carrying disease, but the odds of disease are getting worse and worse, so its best to avoid them. In my experience, bug spray is absolutely NOT enough in this area. If you are going to be hiking in a mosquito-infested area, you will need some special clothing to keep them off of you.

everglades hiking

Pineland (c) ABR 2016

(3) Hiking solo is one of my favorite things, but it definitely has its particular risks. As with any solo hiking venture, let people know where you are going and when you will be back. Check in with the park rangers to get updates on the trail and let them know where you are off to.

(4) Finally, remember, you are always responsible for yourself on the trail. Your safety is up to you. Conditions change day to day and everyone has different hiking abilities. You need to take all of that into account before you leave, and to insure that you have all the equipment, water, and food you will need.

If you want to know more details about these trails, Florida Hikes! is a great resource for individual trails, safety and more. And if you are in need of more Florida travel inspiration, be sure to read through our Guide to Florida.

everglades hiking

everglades hiking

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