From my window seat, I was treated to an aerial view of Dominica's mountainous coastline. Lush, tropical rainforest covered much of the hilly terrain, which dropped off steeply into the cobalt blue sea. Suddenly, without warning, the pilot veered directly toward one of the tallest peaks. Passengers looked about the cabin nervously as the tree line seemingly brushed the bottom of the plane. Next we went into a steep dive. Palm trees, houses and goats whizzed by my window at break-neck speed as we dove deeper and deeper into the valley. Ahead was the ocean and it was approaching fast. Before I had a chance to brace myself, the tires hit ground and we had arrived ... safely.The thrilling approach to Dominica's airport is only the beginning. Exciting things abound in this little-known island, which is often confused with the Dominican Republic.Dominica is a volcanic island located between Guadeloupe and Martinique in the center of the Eastern Caribbean. It boasts one of the region's largest rainforests and provides adventurous tourists with everything from extreme hiking to whale watching, kayaking and, of course, scuba diving.Our group stuck to the southern underwater sites of the Scotts Head area. The entire reef there is based around a submerged volcanic crater. At Champagne we swam through hot springs where bubbles trickled up through the rock to create a natural bubble bath.Scotts Head Pinnacles and Swiss Cheese each offered colorful walls and enjoyable swim-throughs. On calm days we ventured out around Dominica's southern corner into the Atlantic, where we had a chance of encountering bigger game.While the diving was excellent, it was the island's unique topside adventures that really got our adrenaline flowing. Dominica's ultimate topside challenge is the strenuous, all-day hike to Boiling Lake, a gigantic, bubbling cauldron of volcanic heated water.That morning we set out early and hiked through the beautiful rainforest, up and down mountainsides. At the highest point of the hike, the omnipresent cloud that loomed over the rainforest was just feet above our heads.After we hit the peak, we descended into the Valley of Desolation, a volcanic hot spot where sulfur springs boiled away, and streams of strangely colored mineral water oozed from the earth. It was like a scene from Dante's Inferno, complete with stories of those who had fallen off the trail.But as if that wasn't enough, we then ascended one last hill to our perch above Boiling Lake. Creeping cautiously to the edge of the cliff, we peered down into the hot, bubbling water. All in all, the roundtrip took us six hours and it was worth every second.For those seeking something less intense yet just as beautiful, Dominica offers less taxing hikes, such as the tours to Traffalgar Falls, Titou Gorge and the Freshwater Lake. For more information about Dominica dive vacation trips, click onto the Caribbean Aventures home page below.
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