Read Jad Davenport's "The Real Treasure of Dominica" (p. 46 - April/May Issue, 2008), and you may find yourself longing to hunt for buried treasure. But before you pack your compass and embark on a search for doubloons, here are some tips for making the most of your voyage.
BEFORE YOU GO
EXCHANGE U.S. dollars for Eastern Caribbean Dollars (XCD). READ up on the infamous swashbucklers of the Caribbean Sea. In The Republic of Pirates (Harcourt, $27), Colin Woodard recounts the rise and fall of the Flying Gang. For a more colorful history, check out Real Pirates (National Geographic Society, $19.95), a fully illustrated guide to the Wydah voyage and shipwreck. STUDY your bird watcher's field guide; the island of Dominica is home to about 167 recorded species of birds, including the Sisserou parrot and Jaco parrot. PACK your rain gear if you plan to travel during hurricane season (June to November), when rainfall more than doubles. FLY on American Eagle or Leeward Island Air Transport. Both airlines connect through Puerto Rico and travel to Canefield Airport or Melville Hall Airport. aa.com; liatairline.com
WHILE YOU'RE THERE
PURCHASE a local driver's license from Immigration for $12 and rent a car to navigate the island's accessible roadways. STAY at Beau Rive, a colonialstyle guesthouse with polished wood floors and shuttered windows. It's on the east coast between the villages of Castle Bruce and Sineku. Rates start at $160. beaurive.com DISCOVER why Dominica is called the Nature Island with a sojourn at Papillote Wilderness Lodge or Jungle Bay Resort & Spa. Luxurious guesthouses are perched on stilts among the trees. Rates start at $110 and $209 respectively. papillote.dm; junglebaydominica .com HIKE through Morne Trois Pitons National Park with Ken's Hinterland AdventureTours. The Waterfall Melange offers a guided trek to Trafalgar, Sari Sari and Victoria Falls. Tour rate is $80. kenshinterlandtours.com VISIT the Kalinago Barana Aute, just south of Atkinson on the eastern side of the island, and mingle with local Carib people. Site pass is $80. kalinagobaranaaute .com RELAX at Turtle Bay on the northeast coast, one of the few beaches on the volcanic island that is fit for swimming. LEARN MORE at dominica.dm.
3 MORE PLACES TO TREASURE HUNT
GASPARILLA ISLAND FLORIDA
Pirate Jose "Gasparilla" Gaspar supposedly took his own life to avoid being captured by an enemy ship. He left a lifetime's worth of riches (about $1 million) to 10 of his men, who buried at least 10 barrels and chests full of treasure throughout Charlotte Harbor. Look for Gaspar's legacy on the appropriately named Gasparilla Island, off Florida's southwest coast.
With proximity to both the Indian Ocean and Red Sea trading routes, the island was constantly used as a pirate base, especially after pilfering the Caribbean became old news. Other attributes, like friendly, welcoming natives and quiet coves, not only add to the list of pirate must-haves, they also make for a pleasant treasure-hunting holiday.
Spain stole from the Incas, then pirates would steal from Spain and retreat to the Galapagos. The island was hospitable in the best ways, offering outlaws plenty of tortoise meat and limited fresh water. Look for coves that still bear buccaneers' names, based on the first map by famed pirate Ambrose Cowley.