Introduction
Dominica's Boiling Lake has over time achieved a mythical quality. Is it the biggest in the world? Has anyone swam in the Lake? This page is a practical guide to The Lake, and the 8-mile hike to The Lake. If you're one of 'The Few and The Proud', add your thoughts to our Boiling Lake Guestbook.

And if you've done it, add your photo to our Flickr Boiling Lake group!

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The Lake in Virtual Reality

Dominica\'s Boiling Lake


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Tips For The Hike

Wear comfortable clothing. It will be humid - and muddy!

  • Shorts or light pants
  • Sturdy sandals, sneakers with good treads or hiking boots

There is one river crossing so be prepared to get your feet wet!

The hike can take up to 6 hours, so be aware of when it will get dark.

Remove any gold/silver jewelry - it may tarnish due to the sulphur.

What to take:

  • Waterproof rain gear (a poncho protects camera gear)
  • Camera with extra batteries, and somewhere dry to keep them.
  • Plenty of water
  • Snacks
  • Leave at least a clean t-shirt or a change of clothes in your vehicle for when you finish



The Basics

The Boiling Lake is a flooded fumarole approx. 6.5 miles east of Roseau. It is filled with bubbling greyish-blue water that is usually enveloped in a cloud of vapour. The lake is approximately 200ft (63m) across. Full background to The Lake.

 

The Trail

Any page about The Boiling Lake trail should start with the cardinal rule: first and foremost go with someone who knows the way well. You can get a guide when you get to the usual launching point - Laudat - or you can ask around in Roseau in the days before you go. The trail is for the most part well defined and it is tempting to set out on one's own. But since much is along a razor-thin ridge and there are other parts where you're scrambling over rocks, the experience of One Who Knows The Way is without price (but will usually cost you about EC$150 for two).

Almost at The Boiling Lake

Related Links

New!
Get your Boiling Lake T-Shirt!

1880 report

Boiling Lake Guestbook
Boiling Lake Slideshow

Geology of Dominica




Done it?
Get your t-shirt!

"Dominica's
Boiling Lake I did it!"
Get it here



 

April 2005
As happens periodically, there are fluctuations in the level and activity of the Lake. From December 2004 to March 2005 the Lake dried up.

Lake 7-Mar-2005:photo Arlington James
Mar 7 2005
Filling up!
Jan 9 2005

Dry Lake-image courtesy Forestry Division
Dec 2004
Visitors are urged to exercise caution when they visit the Lake.
Watch this page for updates.

The trail itself is around eight miles. Officially it's around a three-hour walk each way, and that amount of time should be allowed for; do not start the hike after midday. The going is not, in horse racing terms, Good to Firm. 'Extremely Muddy' describes it better. Which leads into cardinal rule number two: wear your scruffiest clothes. The problem is that few people travel on their dream holiday to the Caribbean with the kind of clothes they'd mow the lawn in or paint the house. Nethertheless, I've seen many good (brand new, even) training shoes totally ruined by a trip to The Lake. Good walking boots are best, but any firm & comfortable shoe should suffice.

Next tip: schedule the trip so that the following day is a 'beach day'. That is, will put no demands on your body whatsoever. Such as can be had lying in the sun, or in the office.

The Trials
Expect to get very wet as well as dirty. Wrap up you camera, etc., well. Having said that, 9 times out of 10 I've got to the Lake to find it dry (the weather, not the lake). Think also of having a change of clothes for after the hike.

Go with as many people as possible! This theory suggests that with a large group there will be others with your particular physical attributes (e.g. out of condition, knackered). I have been on trips where people have literally broken down in tears and said they cannot go any further. With a big group you won't feel so bad when you do that.

The Tribulations
While large groups have their advantages, I remember one occasion when an individual, in the middle of the pack, was just far away enough from the people in front and behind not to see when he made a wrong turning. When the two groups finally converged at The Lake itself, the first question was 'Where's X?'. I was none too pleased to have to turn around straight away to find our errant sheep. He had the good sense to find his way back onto the trail and just stay put. He never did see The Lake.
A major innovation a few years ago was the introduction of wooden steps along a large part of the track. However, if the spacing is anything to go by, built by dwarfs in the middle of the night. All credit though to the Foresty Division who maintain this trail. There are points however where the track is indistinct, or takes a sharp turn up a hill when you least expect it to.

Part I: Titou Gorge to Breakfast River
Time taken: Approx 1 hour

The starting point for the trail is Titou Gorge (1,690ft). The path climbs steadily for about 45 minutes, and there are one or two points early on where you can (carefully) look down on the Gorge. This is perhaps the muddiest part of the hike, and on the way back seems to go on forever! As you descend to the Breakfast River there is a good viewpoint looking up the river.

Breakfast River

The Breakfast River is traditionally the first stop, where one takes a breather and take breakfast. You need to - it's uphill immediately thereafter and for the next hour. This is the last spot for clean drinking water, so fill up!

Part II: Breakfast River to the top of the Valley of Desolation
Time taken: Approx 1 hour

This is where the going gets tough! From the river it's steeply uphill to about 2,500ft, then a steady SE climb along the ridge to the top (3,168ft) where's there's a clearing and a good point to stop and rest. It can provide spectacular 360° views... or it can be cold, misty and miserable. Coming back it at least represents the epitome of the 'it's all downhill from here' attitidue (although it's not). The trail goes onwards for about 20 minutes to the top of the Valley of Desolation. As you descend the ridge, look on the left for your first views of the steam rising from The Lake.

What To Look Out For

Must of the trail goes through lush tropical rainforest. Look out for:

  • Jaco or Sisserou Parrots
  • Mountain Whistler

 

Part III: The Valley of Desolation to The Lake
Time taken: Approx 1 hour

From the ridge, the trail descends steeply into The Valley of Desolation, and the climb down is hard enough, until one does it on the way back!

The Valley is not covered by an ice-thin crust that can crack open and devour the unsuspecting (although one should certainly explore it with caution). It is perhaps better than The Lake, because you can scamper around and see all the different colours you never imagined water could be. A kind of interactive vulcanism lesson.

Look also for the Fumarole Vegetation - the only kind of vegetation that can survive in this environment!

 

No, really, we

At the bottom of the Valley the trail becomes vague, crossing and recrossing the stream, so be careful.

There are several places where you can bathe in the soothing warm waters of the stream, but don't spend too much time soaking - you don't want your muscles to become all mushy for the long hard hike back afterwards!

From the Valley it's generally uphill to a point where one can look down on another area of 'Desolation'. The Lake is now just 15 minutes away!

Part IV: The Lake
Elevation: 2,640ft

Made it!
On arrival at the Lake, go to the visitors centre or join the shortest queue at the McDonalds. Only kidding! Part of the attraction is that there's absolutely nothing there except the lake. And perhaps a few other weary, muddy, dishevelled fellow lake-onauts just like you.

Please exercise extreme caution at the lake: the sides are steep and though the hill above the lake offers the best views, the rocks are often very slippy.

The Way Home
Then before you know it, you're on The Return Journey. And isn't it funny how one no longer cares about getting muddy?

Think only of the hot meal that may await you at the end of the journey, or of the hot waters at Titou Gorge: when you arrive back from the walk you can do all the frolicking you want there, if you've energy left. Additionally, you can quaff a beer and rest your weary body at Roxy's in Laudat (a good base for your Boiling Lake trip).

Congratulations - you did it! Now buy the T-shirt! And add your photo to our Flickr Boiling Lake group!

The Memories
If the above evokes fond (or otherwise) memories, sign our Boiling Lake Guestbook. If you want to know more (like, is it really that bad?), a number of pages on 'a virtual Dominica are of offical guides to The Lake. There are more images of TBL here, and an account of one trip here.

The Boiling Lake, an article in The Guardian June 21, 2000, by Polly Pattullo.

Footnotes

Jan 2005: I was witness to Wolfgang from Austria swimming in the Lake! The Lake at that time was inactive and filling back up from being almost empty; he reported it was quite cold.

2003 saw the opening of a cable car which starts near Titou Gorge but goes into the rainforest, not to the lake.

The University of the West Indies Seismic Unit maintains a website about volcanic activity in the region.

For a background on Volcanic Lakes, see: http://lawr.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gpast/lakes.html


 


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