Bois Cotlette Estate

Today we did some more snorkeling in some pretty intense water at Scotts Head. I finally saw my first wild sea turtle! 🙂 That was amazing. I also got stung a few times by some jellyfish, which obviously wasn’t so amazing. I got to see an adult stoplight parrotfish which was also incredible to see. Next we moved on to our second stop for the day.  

img_1758.jpg

There, we visited a plantation called the Bois Cotlette Estate in Soufriere Valley. The plantation got its name from the Bois Cotlette tree (Citharexylum spinosum), which is common in the area. Michael Didier owns the estate, which has been passed down through his family since the 18th century. They are believed to be related to Empress Josephine of Napoleon.  In its hay day (the 1820’s), the plantation grew coffee and sugar, was 300 acres and utilized 20 slaves. In the 1890s the production of sugar had been deserted and the economy was shifting toward growing cocoa, which along with limes was seen as recovery for the economy of Dominica. The old sugar boilers on the plantation were modified so that they could boil lime juice. 

img_1761.jpg

Didier’s own background is in agricultural science, and he spent a lot of career working for the Dominican Ministry of Agriculture, where he developed sustainable banana harvesting techniques.  Currently, he is using the plantation grounds to cultivate and produce compost for local farmers.

It was a very educational and fun day. 😉

img_1756.jpg

 

A Great Day In Dominica

Today was another amazing day. First we started out with a bit of snorkeling. I saw some species that I have not seen yet on our trip but, was unable to get any pictures of them. I saw a spotted drum, a pair of French angelfish, a blackbar soldierfish, a princess parrotfish, and a stoplight parrotfish. I found several different schools of fish that I pretended to join as they swam away from me. The school of brown chromis was the most excepting of me allowing me to get within a chromis body length of them. We continued to a plantation where we were given a history lesson about the plantation. The only standing windmill on the island is located here.

dsc00119.jpg

When we got back to ITME I was able to play basketball with some of the people in the area. This was the second time I got to do this. The competition was very good and provided for a lot of excitement. This was a great experience for me to see the culture of Dominica up close and in person. I had some stimulating conversations about what people do for recreation on the island. This was also a good chance for me to make some friends in basketball. Tomorrow will be another fantastic day in Dominica.

Northeast Dominica

calibishie

Today we spent our first day over on the East side of the island. This is the Atlantic coast, and is the windward side of the island so it was much windier and had large waves. It also has some very interesting reef structures, such as fringing reefs. We first went snorkeling just south of the town of Calibishie. There was a not so friendly yet very photogenic young bull near where we were snorkeling, he posed nicely for some photos.

bull

After that we continued a little further south to Woodford hill beach. There were tons of kids all around some in their underwear and some even naked playing cricket, wrestling, swimming, and everything in between.

kids

Sascha and Demian were very surprised to see this much activity because usually the beach is empty. This week because of Palm Sunday and Easter the schools spend most of the days on “field trips”, such as this one to the beach. Either way it was cool to see all the kids, and we got to talk to and play with some of them, and Karen even let them bury her.

karen

Brian, Kate, Demian and I walked aways down the beach to a point of rock where we got in and began snorkeling. There was a huge reef structure in the middle the water. It had cliffs on all sides of it, and they were covered with beautiful corals, and zooanthids. It was really incredible, it would have been even more incredible had we had been permitted to use scuba equipment that would have allowed us access to the rest of the cliff, but apparently the school won’t allow us to use scuba equipment for whatever reason. I got some very nice closeup photos of the corals.

coralcoralcoral

An Ameiva Capture and Dominican Basketball?

Dominican ameiva’s (Ameiva fuscata) are a large lizard species in the family of Teiidae which also includes several other extremely fast lizards such as the tegu’s, and other whiptail species. We have seen several on our trip thus far, but as all members of the Teiidae family which are known for their speed they have until today eluded our capture.

We went back to Batalie Beach today where we got our introduction to the Dominican fisheries. We were going to do some actual scientific marine surveys while we were snorkeling. As soon as we got there, we saw several nice sized ameivas scurry off. Mark and I (Clayton) dove out of the truck (Big Bubba) and began chasing them around like crazed madmen. I saw 2 of them dash into a small closet/building, where I had hoped they where trapped, and didn’t have a secret escape route. Before entering I summoned my faithful herp catching steed Mark, and Karen came over to assist as well. They blocked the door, while I overturned some metal roofing stacked inside. I could still hear them scurrying around under the metal roofing, even over my pounding heart. All of the sudden one of them makes a mad dash by Karen, she makes a grab and misses. The next one dashes towards Mark, he frantically grabs for the slender powerful turquise body of the ameiva. He got it!!!

Tirzah+AmeivaClayton+Ameiva
Mark+Ameiva

After much hard work, and many disappointing chases a Dominican ameiva was finally captured. Much to our surprise he was a wounded individual and we felt very sad for him, even though we had nothing to do with the injury. One of his rear feet was very torn up, and most of his toes were hanging on by threads. It was a previous injury, possibly from another individual or even a bird or other predator. He most likely will lose all his toes on that foot, but will still be plenty mobile with a stump. Even after the sadness of discovering his injury we (Mark and I) were happy to complete one of our goals of the trip. We got some nice photos and released him back into the wild.

We then went snorkeling and compiled some quantitative data out on the reefs. Which we then brought back to the ITME hacienda (home base) analyzed our data and wrote up presentations of the data. After completing our data analysis and preparing a presentation we decided to take a nice a stroll into the town of Mahaut. The people everywhere are very friendly and enjoy just chatting with foreigners like us. We talked to several very nice people who asked how we liked the island and invited us into their stores, or restaurants. Obviously they consider most tourists as consumers, and most of them probably are. Most of the money that comes into this island comes from the outside, and it is very obvious.

Basketball in Dominica

On our way back we (Bryan, Mark, and I) asked if we could join a game of basketball with some middle aged teenage Dominican boys. They excitedly agreed, and a quick game of 3 on 3 began. We tried to keep Bryan from using his mad sick basketball skills, but he just wouldn’t listen. We played for a good 10 minutes or so, but unfortunately we had to leave to do our presentations. It was a very awesome cultural barrier crossing experience, I think for all parties involved, and of course lots of fun.

Puppy

After that we got attacked by the cutest little vicious puppy who tail waggingly excited ran out onto the road to greet us. Everyones hearts melted as only a puppy can do, and they dove to the ground to greet him with open arms. We tried to get him back onto his property but he kept trying to follow us. Finally we were able to run off without him following.

We got back and everyone gave their presentations of the data they collected, their methods, and a conclusion of the data they collected. The presentations were thoroughly constructively critiqued by the audience (mainly Demian, and Sascha). It was good for all involved and we learned lots of valuable information.

Another day ended fantastically, with a perfect balance of education and fun, or maybe just maybe they might be exactly the same thing here in Dominica.

Food, Glorious Food

img_1383.jpg

One of the goals of our group was getting the chance to eat local food.  We thought, if we were lucky, we might be able to stop by a restaurant or stand on a non-research day to sample local delicacies like goat milk and breadfruit.  We hoped we might get to find out if a meal influenced by French, African, an Indian food might be as good as it sounds. What we didn’t know is that ITME has a phenomenal chef named Miss Connie, who would be cooking us local delicacies three meals a day. 

Breakfasts here will seem very familiar to readers in the U.S.: yogurt, granolas, eggs, and toast.  The local flavor comes from the special extras like papaya jelly, fresh pineapple, and passion fruit juice.  Most of our lunches have been on the road and have consisted of interesting sandwich combinations like tuna salad with ham, or cheese with garlic mayonnaise.

The real event of the day for many of us, though, is Miss Connie’s dinner.  Each night she creates truly incredible buffets consisting of a main dish such as slow-baked chicken legs or tuna steaks.  Accompanying them are Indian-influenced side dishes including curried lentils with fried dascheen (a root vegetable akin to potato), or chickpeas in tomato sauce served on saffron rice.  Side dishes span from traditional produce, such as plantains, and newly-cultivated crops including cabbage, carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes.  Miss Connie has the ability to make these basic ingredients seems special each night by creating infinite varieties of salads ranging from plantain, fig, and corn, to cabbage dishes that seem a little like a coleslaw. 

As good as all this food is, many of us have picked a new entree as our favorite dish: Giraumon Soup.  This broth-based soup begins with chicken or vegetable stock.  Miss Connie purees it with roasted pumpkin, then adds cubed potatoes, green beans, and homemade dumplings.  Her secret ingredient for this and other dishes is what she calls “naturals”.   Each day, Miss Connie fills a large blender with chives, onion, garlic, celery tops, cilantro, and a few secret ingredients.  She purees this mixture until it forms a thick paste, then adds it to the soups or tops our fish with it.

Out of respect for limited natural resources and the island ecology, ITME has a “Clean Plate Club.”  Sascha, the director, warned us that there would be public shaming for anyone who took a greater portion than he or she could eat.  So far, that has most certainly not been a problem!

img_1679.jpg

Random Pictures from Dominica!!!

FernHeliconiaWild Orchiddsc05520s.jpgBoeri LakeBoeri LakeBoeri LakeTrafalgar FallsTrafalgar FallsTrafalgar FallsHot Spring!Hot Spring!Hot Spring!Dominican AnoleHot Spring!Tropical RainforestThe Guns of Dominica at Fort Shirley

Hot Springs and Botanical Garden

On our way back from the falls we stopped at Wotten Waven Hot Springs where we saw all sorts of things–ginger, cocoa, and coffee plants.

  dsc00662.jpg

We also saw Roseau wheat which sorta reminds me of bamboo or sugar cane, and this is what Roseau was named after.  The hot spring was bubbling and around 140 degrees.  There were three minerals found here–iron, sulfur, and calcium.  Along the way we had an opportunity to place our hands up to vents to feel how hot it was–one of them was so hot food could be cooked on it!

After the hot springs, we stopped quickly at the Botanical Gardens in Roseau.  Here there were Red-necked Amazon Parrots, also known as a “Jaco” Parrots.  After seeing the parrots we could walk around a little bit and saw some flowers–a nice quiet ending to a very fun filled/packed day!!