Update: The Eco Camp is no more aftern hurricane Maria. But the S family is stronger than ever! Watch their story here on Youtube.
I’m sitting in the shade of a palm tree. In the far distance, I can see the Atlantic, the ocean that brought me to here to Dominica. There are two hummingbirds making a love dance in the tree next to me. They keep falling out of the sky. A fascinating show! Apart from all sorts of bird sounds, I can hear the river. The river where I had my refreshing morning shower. I don’t hear any traffic, rooster, or soca music. I’m off. the. grid. And I love it! I’m zipping a lemongrass-turmeric-cinnamon tea. Half an hour ago this tea fusion was still growing. I pulled it straight from the food forest.
On the hunt for vitamins
I’ve always wanted to go to Dominica. I heard it was a natural paradise. And if something lets the creative mind thrive, it’s nature! Of course, I got to experience it and judge for myself. My curiousity and desire for some fresh fruits and vegetables made me step ashore here. After weeks at sea, I need fresh produce! And I need to get some work done on writing my book. Ashore, I fuelled myself with a coconut and went on a hunt for the perfect writing retreat. I had a few requirements: it’s got to be budget accommodation in Dominica, quiet, in nature, with fresh foods around, and a working wifi connection. I found a sign ‘beyond vitality nature camp’. That sounds exactly like what I need. I googled ‘Beyond Vitality’ and the enthusiasm and vitality jumping out of their website made me determined to go there. ‘Health is good. Beyond is great!’ it says. Let’s go beyond!
On my way to Beyond Vitality
Beyond Vitality Eco Lodge
Beyond Vitality is an off the grid nature paradise in Dominica, run by the S family: Stephane & Sara, and their littles one Skyla and Sadiel. And then there’s Chia, Maca and Goji, the cats and the dog. This tropical eco paradise is close to Castle Bruce on the East Coast of Dominica. The S family discovered this gem two years ago and fell in love with the place right away. I can see why. I did too! Apart from their house made from cob, they built this eco retreat from the ground up. They ‘just’ quit their city life in Trinidad, learned about sustainable building and permaculture practices via youtube, and made the life happen that many are dreaming of. One year ago they opened for guests.
Coconut ‘o clock
So here I am, underneath the coconut tree. I’m welcome to help myself on coconuts. There is an unlimited amount of these super drinks on the six-acre plot of wilderness.10 years of globetrotting and I still never opened a coconut myself. Stephan gave me a little coconut workshop. I can be put in the wild. I can open coconuts now!
A typical day
I got myself into a little routine to stay energized for the writing.
I start the day with yoga at the viewpoint hill from which you can see the valley and the Atlantic Ocean. Next is a (skinny ;)) dip in the natural pools. Then it’s breakfast time! There’s a kitchen I can use, but I just can’t beat the delicious juices and meals Sara and Stephan are creating. For breakfast and dinner, I let myself spoil with their rainforest cuisine.Today’s breakfast: coconut bits with cinnamon and a ‘hibiscus leave – coconut milk, banana – papaya -chia seeds smoothy. Yum yum, this will keep me going for a while! Lunch I create myself with a new edible food discovery from the wild every day, where not a single chemical is used to let the plants grow.
I do my writing from the created standing desk in front of the citrus garden, the hammock hut, or I sit beneath the coconut tree on the hill. My laptop is powered by solar, and the wifi is the fastest I’ve found on the island. I’ve done more writing in the last two weeks then I did in the last two months combined. It’s nice and fresh in the rainforest. The perfect temperature to stay energized throughout the whole day. No sweaty weather. Still, I drink loads of water here. It’s like gold to me. Where elsewhere on the island chlorine has been added to the tap water, the water here is fresh from the spring and full of minerals. You can taste that! Sara told me they actually tested it to be sure it’s chemical free. It is!
Drinking a lot comes with many visits to the ‘outhouse’. Another new experience for this globetrotting so thought wilderness woman: a compost toilet. The first hut is for ‘number 2’s’ where you sprinkle some woodchips after you’re done. The second hut is for the number 1’s.
Discovering the Food Forest
As a writing break, I go for an interval run down the road, or I walk around the ‘food forest.’ Tropical fruits are the number 1 reason I go to the tropics. I knew what a banana, papaya, avocado, breadfruit, almond and coconut tree looked like. So I considered myself an advanced fruit specialist. But here at nature camp, I realized I’m a beginner in this department. There’s so much exciting stuff growing here. And so much to learn about plants, trees, and fruits you can eat or use to make soap, shampoo, tea, body moisturizer, etc. I’ve learned about plants I had no idea existed or what they looked like. As westerns, we got so disconnected from what’s fuelling our bodies in the first place. We know ginger, turmeric, noni, guava, herbs like oregano, and spices like cacao and cinnamon from what it looks like on the market. But how does it grow? What does it look like on the tree? And what is the right moment to harvest? What are the edible parts? And what do you actually have to do with it before it goes on your plate?
Then there are the edible greens Sara showed me like the Caribbean cilantro, hibiscus leaf, moringa, vervain, chadone and japane. Full with richness! I sourced my watercress from the stream, another superfood just freely available in nature here. All so nourishing and in abundance, straight from nature. The bridges can collapse, and the S family will stay sustainably beyond vital!
The scent of the rainforest diner is coming through. Another food experience is awaiting me. Tonights it’s cassava bread, plantains and a coconut curry soup with fresh vegetables straight from the land. Yum yum!
Rainforest cuisine at Beyond Vitality nature camp
After dinner, I go in chillaxing mode in the hammock and just enjoy the sounds and smells of the evening. At the end of the day, this scent comes up. I’m excited about this smell since the minute I arrived. It’s the yellow ylang ylang perfume flower. In the evening I write some more, and with the smell of ylang ylang, the fresh air and the night sounds of nature I fall a sleep after another productive writing day.
Sustainable living dreams
I really admire what this family has achieved in this short period they’ve been living on this rich land. And they have big plans! A new hut is being built right now. It’s going to be a little luxury eco lodge name Cashew, set between the cashew trees. A natural swimming pool and yoga platform will be the next project. So they will have more space and facilities for nature and wellness seekers. More souls can come over and unite in this beautiful place. Step by step they turn it into a little eco village. In a few years time, the envision to live together with more families with the mission to ‘educate, empower and support each other’ to achieve true and authentic happiness and prosperity!’
I can’t wait to go back and see the progress of the place. And just be 100% in nature in again. For now nourished, rewilded and fresh I’m ready to hit the seas again. Anyone looking to get into nature, budget accommodation in Dominica, but with the comfort of a bed and high-speed wifi, doesn’t need to look any further. Go Beyond Vitality! I’m grateful to have experienced what it feels like to go ‘Beyond Vitality.’ Thank you, S family!
DIY Beyond Vitality Nature Camp
How to book the eco lodge?
Contact Sara and Stephan via their informative website BeyondVitality.com. They are also on Airbnb but it’s more beneficial for everyone to book directly.
The accommodation options
Beyond Vitality Is one of the few budget accommodation in Dominica options. You can stay in one of the cabins, pitch your own tent, or sleep in a hammock. Soon there will be another hut. Value for money for sure!
How to get to Beyond Vitality nature camp?
You can take a taxi, rent or car or go there with the local bus.
I took the local bus which leaves in front of the market in Roseau. Tell the driver to drop you at the road entrance of ‘Beyond Vitality. They know, at least my bus driver did. Then it’s a beautiful hike about a kilometre, upwards! Pack light.
Good to know
Beyond Vitalty is wayyy more than just an eco budget accommodation in Dominica. It’s a way a living. Sara is a holistic nutritionist, fitness and yoga instructor and much more. Stephane is a singer and just won in the next round of the Calypso competition with his song ‘Dominica love‘! Learn more about the S family.
The wifi is the best I’ve found on the island!
The nearest supermarket is in Castle Bruce and they have about 10 things. There are some foodstands nearby that you can walk or hitchhike to. Bring some basic foods from Roseau like oats, grains or beans if you want to cook. I highly recommend though to try their rainforest cuisine! They prepare the most delicious organic meals with food straight from their garden. The best investment you can make.
You’ll be in the forest. There’s animals. The yellow river crab scared the shit out of me the first time. But don’t worry they are more scared of you!
The ecosystem seems to work so well here that there’s hardly a mosquito. They all get eaten before they get mature to bite you! There are klamboos but I didn’t even use them.
It’s only pure organic natural foods growing at the nature camp. That’s not so normal in Dominica anymore. We got to keep it that way so bring you biodegradable soap. I got a new favourite from of in ‘Old street’ in Roseau. Dr. Bronners is another biodegradable multipurpose soap I recommend.
More tips on packing for a healthy planet and a healthy you