Waitukubuli Trail 2023
Cody & I hiked the Carribeans only long-distance trek that spans the entire length of The Commonwealth of Dominica. The Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT) is 184 km (115 miles) long and is made up of fourteen (14) segments established May 10, 2013.
Hurricane Maria in 2013 devastated the island–you’ll hike past many abandoned, roofless homes. A local shared with us before Maria it was easy to hike and navigate in the jungle as the canopy kept the undergrowth down. The winds from Maria wiped out much of the canopy therefore the undergrowth has flourished and will continue to flourish until the canopy has time to reestablish and the undergrowth time to decompose. This has contributed to landslides from erosion in vulnerable areas that have wiped out parts of the trail. Majority of locals in general do not participate in hiking the trail unless they are guides therefore this trail was created almost exclusively for tourists and subsequently infrequently trafficked. The jungle is quick to reclaim areas of low use which complicates trail maintenance. We suggest calling the forestry center for the most reliable trail status update.
This is backpacking in a RAINforest. Expect rain every night & every day on/off and in spurts of downpour. The island is humid, the overhead canopy and frequent clouds do not offer much daily sun, and the vegetation you walk through is more than likely wet so strapping your socks to the outside of your pack to dry during the day is not effective. Basically nothing truly dries out overnight or during the day unless you have a good chunk of road walking. Let this information dictate your gear choices. When reviewing the trail before starting I was bummed to see the amount of road walking and towards the end I was looking forward to having a reprieve from the jungle.
This trail can be done with a tent or hammocks–camping in the “bush” or “Zion” (as referenced by Dominican’s) is fine. Finding a flat spot for a tent would be easier on people’s property which is more likely to have flat ground. The Dominican people who live near the segments are the most kind, generous people you will ever meet so asking permission is not intimidating. In fact, many people will be concerned when they find out you’re camping and offer/insist you stay in their home (generally for a fee). There are gazebo shelters that may or may not be standing that usually have a picnic table on flat ground. Specific concerns related to vegetation are razor grass and tiny venomous red ants that may fall on you when bushwacking. Mosquitos were not as bad as we anticipated when on the trail. Razor grass can be dealt with by wearing long sleeves, pants and gloves. Our cutlass/machete did not easily cut through the razor grass.
We brought a machete with us that had a saw blade on the backside of the blade (or cutlass as called by locals) which we found to be necessary. FYI if you buy a cutlass on island, they do not come sharpened. Trail markings we found to be on/off in consistency. It is easy to get lost in towns & through farms that may have re-directed the trail through their land–we found having a .gpx track essential.
There are little snackettes in towns along the way. There are not many options for classic backpacking food/supplies in the mini-marts/grocery stores. We opted for an alcohol stove and used isopropyl alcohol we bought at a pharmacy in Roseau. The food you can find along the way are dumplings, fishcakes, fried chicken, reserves (dasheen, plaintains, rice, beans). Mini-marts may have packaged cookies, bagged lentils, rice, and canned goods. The trail weaves through farmland which I would discourage taking any kind of food from–however there are many wild fruit trees along the trail that are fair game. When we hiked there were wild options of cacao pods, grapefruit, banana, star fruit, noni fruit (which is gross). Depending on the season you may come across avocado, papaya, mangos.
Camping // Accommodation
Due to limited beta, we opted for hammocks thinking this would allow for more options along the trail. The trail was created in partnership with the EU (why the tag colors of yellow/blue) and therefore designed in Euro style trekking. The un-updated (as of this writing) website lists accommodations after each Segment. Dominica utilizes WhatsApp and local phone numbers for most accommodation arrangements–not all have embraced online booking, especially those that are cheaper i.e. local’s personal homes/rooms for rent which are booked first-come or asking around a village. We stayed at one hotel in Castle Bruce – if you do plan on accommodations between segments you will have better options for drying your clothes out. We got by without a sim card on the island but one would be convenient for calling local numbers.
I was able to find a .gpx track from 2012 which we found essential especially for Segment 6.
Our Trail Ratings, rated section by section.
Condition: Poor, Fair, Good
Difficulty: Easy, Moderate, Hard
Section 1: Fair | Moderate
Section 2: Poor to Fair with small sections of good | Sections of Hard
Section 3: Fair | Hard
Section 4: Good to Fair | Moderate with sections of Hard
Section 5: Poor / Impassable | swampy section Moderate to Hard
Section 6: Good to Fair | Moderate
Section 9: Good | Hard
Section 10: Fair to Good | Easy
Section 11: Poor to Fair | Moderate to Hard
Section 12: Good | Moderate
Section 13: Good | Easy
Section 14: Fair to Good | Easy
Got lost on segment 2 and had to turn around and find our way up the switchbacks. Glad we brought hiking poles. Sweaty & humid.
Walked through Tete Morne, filled up water from the faucet by crucifix. Trail was bushy at times–the trail took you through farming estates. Ate cacao & yummy star fruit. Had lunch in Bellevue Chopin from a roadside cafe. Old slave trail cut through the side of the mountain/volcano gave beautiful views of Bellevue Chopin. Slept next to River Claire which was warm enough to wash in and danced in the moonlight.
Woke up with a puddle on the rain tarp. Various church services were in session in the cities we walked through with beautiful singing. Walked to Tralfalgar & Sulphur springs in Wotton Waven. Caught in downpour rain multiple times. Saw endemic land crabs for the first time today.
Camped between Trafalgar & Laudet over the trail. Section 4 trail was in good condition until the bridge was out–then turned swampy. Ropes and slippery roots towards the end were exciting. Stopped at Ron's Farmacy–very kind man–got bananas, avocado, bread. We made and ate dinner there. He discussed with us that Dominica should be named Waitukubuli which means "tall is her body" in Kalinago. Offered to let us sleep there but we carried on. He has a set up for hikers next to the food stand and free wifi. During camp set up we both sliced our thumbs on the razor grass, both our ankles were bit/stung up from the red ants. Section 5 so far is swampy.
Rained through the night–had a brief break in the morning long enough to pack up and eat breakfast. Started raining, then pouring as we got to Emerald Pool. Cracked open a coconut–difficult but delicious. One bridge was out, the trail was nice and then progressively worse until we reached a landslide we had to hack our way around above. We completed maybe 80% of Section 5 and when we linked back with the road, saw the degree of the landslide damage. Section 5 may not be reestablished for a while I feel. We rented a night at the Sea Breeze guest house. Had our stuff out on the porch to dry–and of course, it started raining so they did not dry out very well.
Slept well at Sea Breeze Hotel in Castle Bruce. Woke up to more rain–purchased bread at a local bakery and started on section 6. Walked through beautiful towns and Kalinago territory. Trail took you up and down between villages/ravines. More road walking today but was a welcome change from the intense bushwhacking of section 5. Everyone continues to be incredibly kind and exchanges pleasantries with interactions. Last part of section 6 there were hardly any markers and we relied heavily on the .gpx track. Hitched a ride from a local up to Pont Casse and spent the night hammocked across the trail. Cody tried noni juice fruit and it was apparently nasty–luckily there was a guava on the ground to get the taste out. They give off a weird smell.
Camped at Batali River. Took a bus to Roseau, restocked on cash & food. Took a bus to St Joe/Mero and hiked the road to the start of section 9. Long hot day–got 1 ride up the hill that was glorious. Snacked on sugar cane and chatted with workers all day. Banana tree fact; the first plant produces 1 banana and then the baby plant is what produces bananas.
Camped at a shelter, Cody on the picnic bench. On and off rain today. Terrain was a "roller coaster" of up & down slick muddy sections. Angie fell 3 times, one resulted in a bent trekking pole. Angie got funn'd out. Cody fell multiple times as well. Came up on a boa constrictor snake skin on the trail about as long as Angie is tall. Detour to Kachibona "secret of the rainforest" lake that was not impressive–more of a little swamp. Multiple sections of fixed handlines. Grateful to get to the road section but the road section was steep. Found some grapefruit at the end of section 9 when we hit the road.
Camped next to Indian River in a coconut grove. Rest of section 10 was a mud bog– succumbed to the fact of wet feet for the day. Saw parrots today. Section 11 had lots of razor grass on the summit/trail. We refreshed under the suspension bridge that is in disrepair, felt nice then got all sweaty again with the up&down muddy/slippery trail. Crossed some pretty river beds. Cody spotted a giant white crab with different sized pinchers and one crab missing both pinchers. Locals shared that they are able to drop their claw and regrow them, which is why you'll see them with different sized arms which look silly. Found a couple grapefruit off the trail and we both fell multiple times today.
Finished a whole section in one day today! Got off trail/lost twice today. Camped just into section 13. Trail was well maintained and easy hiking with one long climb and some fixed handline sections. Met a nice man on the road who led us to the Mini Mart in Bourne where we re-stocked on food. This section seems to be windier but still continues to rain. Good views of the coast. Started with dry shoes and with rain and walking through wet plants–ended up soaked again.
Day 11: Camped just after the start of 13. Saw our first couple hiking the trail, they're from Switzerland, speak French – doing a year of travel as well. Rest of the hike was relatively easy and enjoyable. Hiked out to Point Reposoir, worth the detour. Stopped at Cannor Point and saw the cannon, explored the site. Walked along the ocean on "beach" which is rock–difficult but cool to see the chunks of coral and dried sea fans. The original trail from that section is overgrown, walked around it to the resort and finished!
Cody's Thoughts: waterproof boots, bring a tent, should have bought another pair of liner socks
Angie's Thoughts: hammocks are better for options related to rain. Camp shoes to help dry out feet.
Mosquito net was not needed–red ants, razor grass and slippery mud were the biggest foes.
Cutlass, pack cover, long pants/shirt, gloves, trekking poles essential.
Food resupply points tough between 3 and 5.
Angie didn't use her jacket because she gets too hot, an umbrella a consideration for road walking portions otherwise just know you're going to be wet and nothing is going to dry out.
Plan on your clothing not drying out. Would make it more enjoyable knowing you have a warm shower and bed at the end of the day with opportunity to dry clothing out.
Driving in Dominica : Hitchhiking is safe, "bus" system is an excellent form of transport
Flow cheaper than Digicel for sim card
Lots of places have free wifi, most banks had free wifi
Dry season it still rains a lot
The Bank of Dominica does not like foreign cards at ATM
ATM's are not readily available all over the island.
Link to funds page
Link to fruits/foods on the island
Alcohol Cooking Stove
Using a pot you’re ok with getting soot on – few drops of water helps decrease soot, used highest concentration from pharmacy 99% isopropyl.
Link here for .gpx track.