Dominica Wildlife Highlights

This tiny Caribbean country isn’t known as “Nature Island” for nothing. The nation’s motto is Apres Bondie, C'est La Ter – “After God, the Earth” – and its people’s commitment to preserving their homeland’s biodiversity and natural beauty is evident everywhere you look. Almost 200 species of bird can be found on the island, as well as amazing creatures like bats, iguanas and boa constrictors. Still being formed by geothermal-volcanic activity, Dominica is home to the world’s second-largest hot spring and a range of mountainous peaks carpeted in greenery, with a lush habitat of rivers, rainforests and waterfalls filling the island’s interior. The surrounding ocean is also teeming with life, making Dominica one of the best places in the world to take to the waters and swim alongside the mighty sperm whale.

The Nature of "Nature Island"

Dominica is a nation that truly embraces nature. 60% of its land is covered in forest and the island also contains six national parks and reserves, one of which – Morne Trois Pitons National Park – was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. Dominica’s small size, relative isolation and lack of large invasive species makes a wildlife-spotting trip here a world away from a stereotypical safari. The largest land mammals are the manicou – a type of possum – and the agouti, a relative of the guinea pig. 

But a walk through the island’s interior will still yield plenty of interesting species to marvel at. 

Dominica is one of only two places in the world where one can see the giant ditch frog (also known as the mountain chicken) in the wild, while snakes and lizards climb through the country’s trees and a variety of bats and birds fill the skies. In addition to herons, hawks and hummingbirds, keep an eye out for the magnificent multi-coloured plumage of the Sisserou parrot, a species endemic to Dominica which serves as its national bird and appears on the country’s flag.

Marine Life

The star attractions of Dominica’s waters are its sperm whales, a group of which live here year-round (although the best time for sightings is between November and March). Despite being capable of diving to depths of 1,000 metres, they can often be seen at the water’s surface. This and their calm demeanour makes it easy to swim alongside these gentle giants. The steep underwater drop-offs along Dominica’s west coast create sheltered bays that are an ideal habitat for the whales, where they can feed, breed and raise their young in safety. The world’s largest toothed whale has the largest brain of any animal on earth, and their culture and social recognition have been key elements in the work of the Dominica Sperm Whale Project, who have been studying these mammals for years. As a result, those living around Dominica are the most well understood and characterised of all sperm whale populations.

The richness of Dominica’s waters attracts a host of other cetaceans, including humpback whales, short-finned pilot whales, false killer whales and melon-headed whales, as well as Atlantic spotted dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and spinner dolphins. Sea turtles are also regular visitors here, with green, leatherback and hawksbill species using the island’s beaches to nest between March and October. Around 70km2 of coral reef exist in the waters around Dominica, a productive marine habitat which is home to over 320 species of fish. Mercifully, these reefs have been spared the worst of the worldwide epidemic of coral bleaching that affected 90% of the Great Barrier Reef in 2016. Dominica has also established three marine reserves to protect the plants and animals that live in it surrounding ocean, making this beautiful island nation an essential destination for anyone interested in marine safaris.

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