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A RETURN TO THE NATURE ISLAND

HURRICANE MARIA WAS THE WORST NATURAL DISASTER IN DOMINICA’S HISTORY. A YEAR ON, THE ISLAND IS BOUNCING BACK THANKS TO VOLUNTOURISM PROJECTS SUCH AS THE REBUILDING OF THE WAITUKUBULI NATIONAL TRAIL. WORDS: NIGEL TISDALL

“Can you use a chainsaw?” Annette Peyer Loerner asks as seven of us pile into two pick-up trucks in Salisbury, a small community on Dominica’s undulating west coast. Sadly, I can’t, but that’s no problem as in the back I spy a formidable arsenal of tools ready to be employed in what seems a Herculean task — restoring the overgrown, tree-blocked forest trails that were devastated when Hurricane Maria blasted this mountainous Caribbean island on 18 September 2017.

Cutlasses, saws, log picks, bush-cutters — I feel like a gladiator deciding what weapon to choose before entering the arena, only in this case our audience is thousands of trees stripped bare as toothpicks by 160mph winds. “Maria was a hard lash,” taxi-driver Irvin Tavernier had explained as he drove me from the airport to the clifftop Tamarind Tree Hotel where my voluntourism project is based. The 90-minute journey gave me ample time to contemplate the wild interior of this mighty volcanic island, which has peaks soaring to 4,747ft and an eerie Boiling Lake set inside the World Heritage-listed Morne Trois Pitons National Park. While other parts of the Caribbean go in for golden beaches, all-inclusive resorts and mega-cruise ships, Dominica — which lies between Guadeloupe and Martinique, just a half-hour flight south of Antigua — offers an invitingly different experience with its black sands, creole sounds, potent bush rums and 365 rivers.

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About National Geographic Traveller (UK)

This month, we ditch the jeep to discover Africa from a different perspective. Whether on foot, by boat or hot air balloon, we’re showcasing the continent’s wild side on an active safari across Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and more. We go north of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland; discover Japan’s Tohoku region; and spend a long weekend in Vilnius. Other highlights this issue include Lima, Fife, Budapest, San Francisco and Turin, while our photo story unearths the tradition of gold panning in Costa Rica.