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Johnny Mango and I hiked the full Waitukubuli National Trail in Dominica. It was a wild, super-rewarding, and epic long-distance trail. In this blog post, I share our experience and tips so you, as a hiking adventurer, can do it too and make it part of your next long distance hiking bucket list.

Hiking film about our Jungle Adventure

Curious what this long distance trail is like? We documented our Waitukubuli National Trail adventure on film: 12 Days on Foot. Leave us a comment if you watch it. We are super curious who actually does and what makes the trail and film interesting to you.

Thru-Hiking in the Caribbean?

A woman with a backpack on a hill overlooking the ocean.

As a thru-hiking enthusiast, the Caribbean might not be the first region that comes to mind when you think of your next long-distance hike. However, this tropical paradise is home to a super cool, adventurous long-distance jungle trail crossing the whole country: Dominica’s Waitukubuli National Trail.

I tracked our hike with the Garmin inReach Mini to make sure mom wasn’t worried. A few times I didn’t have battery / forgot to press ‘track’, hence the gaps. But to give you an idea:

A detailed map of the Waitukubuli National Trail I haven’t found. On Maps.me it was most accurate.

A map showing the location of a hiking trail.

Not many people know about this long distance trail, and I highly recommend it for your next thru-hike. Not many people even know about the paradise country of Dominica (Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic). But this hike is being acclaimed as the longest hiking trail in the entire Caribbean region, with a distance of 180 Kilometers.  Hiking this jungle trail is the most rewarding and also most budget friendly way to traverse Dominica, the nature island of the Caribbean.

A person holding up a menu with mountains in the background.
The Trail segments and their distances and time to hike (which we found quite inaccurate)

I found out about this jungle trail in 2017. I was in Dominica, writing my book Ocean Nomad and taking a little break from travelling the oceans and the islands on sailing boats. This was just before Hurricane Maria. And thru-hiking was something I had only experienced once before, hiking the Apu Ausangate when I lived in Peru in 2012. It was not part of my agenda at the time, but a seed was planted in my head.  Later in 2017, the country got hit hard by this hurricane, and technically, in the week we planned to set off for the trail, six years later, the full trail had been cleared (Thanks Jon and other trail angels!). Some said we are actually the first who hiked the full-length trail again in one go. We ended up being in the national newspaper, twice! 

A man and woman holding up a newspaper with the headline winter experience.

This was my sixth long distance trail, and though all of them have been wild, this one was next level adventure, wild and special. Also for Jonatan, who is a real seasoned thru hiker, and hiked trails like the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), Colorado Trail, Arizona Trail, GR20 in Corsica, Camino de Santiago, Kingstrail, Annapurna Circuit, and a few more GRs here and there, this trail brought a big smile to his face because of it’s uniqueness.

Two people standing next to a tent in the woods.

About the nature country: Dominica

Dominica, also called Kubuli Country, is a natural paradise! Dominica lies in the Eastern Caribbean, between Martinique and Guadeloupe. It’s small, remote, and doesn’t have many flight connections. The best way to reach Dominica is by sailboat. That’s how we got here. After some months of being at sea, exploring Dominica is the best way to get grounded, be healthy, and get cultured and natured. My curiosity and desire for some fresh fruits and vegetables after the Atlantic crossing made me stop (and stick) ashore here for about 2 months in 2017. And in 2023 again! It’s my favourite Caribbean island, by far. 

Dominica is a perfect adventure travel destination for freediving, venturing off the beaten path, hiking, healthy food, waterfalls, hot springs, and nature exploration. The rich soils produce so many exciting foods like banana, papaya, avocado, noni, guava, breadfruit, almonds, and coconuts, as well as spices like ginger, turmeric, cacao, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Dominica is stunning, both above and below the surface. I’m writing this while zipping a tea from lemongrass I picked and dried in Dominica, and spices I exported from the country. 

A woman in a straw hat holding a bunch of greens.
Sourcing superpowers on the hiking trail.

The best way to discover Dominica: by hiking it from the south to the north on the Waitukubuli National Trail. Here are some waypoints and tips so you can hike the Waitukubuli National Trail too. Most people can hike it, but it does require some preparation.

About the Waitukubuli National Trail (WNT)

Two hikers standing on a trail in the jungle.

Key facts Waitukubuli National Trail

Trail Distance: 180 kilometres

Trail Duration: 12 days (average)

Trail Terrain: Jungle, steep ascents, and descents.

Trail Highlights: Wildlife (parrots!), scenic views, river dips and crossings, jungle experience, wild fruits, meeting lovely local people, sleeping under the stars.

The long distance trail goes from the south of the island to the north. There are 14 segments, which are all totally different, giving spectacular views, rainforests, river dipping, wildlife, local villages, wild fruits, and tropical flora and fauna. 

It took us 12 days to complete the full trail, without any lay days. Some sections were overgrown, some markings were missing, some shelters had no roof, and some bridges were compromised. But that also made the adventure raw, wild, and unique.

The WNT trail and Hurricane Maria

When we arrived in Dominica and asked around for the latest on this promising long distance trail, everyone told us that it’s not possible to do the full Waitukubuli National Trail yet. Some sections of the trail have not been cleared. Until we learned from trail angel Jon that now it should technically be possible. He just spent 1 full day clearing a few hundred metres on Segment 8, the last section that was still not cleared since the hurricane.

The trail is still affected. Most bridges, shelters, and information signs are collapsed, but there are ways around it, and it kind of adds to the wildness of the adventure.

Trail Segments

The trail exists out of 14 segments and takes you from the southern to the northern part of the island. Each segment is totally different in length, difficulty, duration, and scenery. It makes them all equally interesting, in my opinion. Prior to each segment, there is sometimes (depending on hurricane damage) an information board with details about the segment. Sometimes the hurricane or sunshine made it impossible to read.  

Find extensive descriptions of each segment on the Soufriere Guesthouse website. You can hike many segments on its own but that requires some logistics going to and from the starting and end points. Hitchhiking is common and accepted and there are plenty of local buses on the bigger roads.

The indicated duration and time to hike on both signs, based on Jons experience, didn’t match our experience. We (read me;) were rather slow and took it easy. Also, we hiked it with the full pack, which day hikers don’t take.

A tent is set up near a stream in the jungle.


Dominica Nature & Wildlife

What wildlife can you expect to see on the Waitukubuli National Trail? Parrots, humming birds, lizards, iguanas, and snakes! As opposed to many other jungle places, and even the neighbouring islands, Dominica doesn’t have any poisonous animals. We have come across a couple of snakes but they are said to be not dangerous. Further, no dangerous animals spotted. And surprisingly, there were hardly any mosquitoes either. We saw many parrots. Very special. If you’re lucky, you can also spot some whales at Segments 1 or 12, 13 or 14.

Water and Food Sources

With hundreds of streams and rivers, sourcing water has been easy. In the first few segments, there are no river crossings, but each village has water supply points. As the trail mostly goes higher up in the country, the water quality from rivers and taps has been good. Though bringing a water filter could be good. 

Food sourcing needs some anticipation here and there. We started off well, having provisioned some basics in Roseau like oats, wraps, almond butter, dates, raisins, and nuts. Also, we made 2 spice and herb mixes to excite the food and keep the digestion healthy. The picknicks were brilliant in the first few segments. And then the good stuff runs out ;)

A man and a woman holding a fruit in their hands.
It was raining water apples!

My high hopes for finding lots of wild fruits and superpowers along the way did not let me down. We found a lot of fruit along the way, like guave, water apple, starfruit, wild rasberry, and coconuts, which for me was a super exciting part of the hike. Reaching watercress river on segment 8 was a happy arriving to paradise moment (see film ).

A woman with a backpack and hat kneeling in the grass.
A man climbing up a palm tree.

If you like chicken and bakes, you’re not going to have a problem finding food in the villages. As a vegetarian, on the other hand, I had a bit more scouting to do. On a few occasions, the lady in the local food shack was happy to make a veggie edition of whatever she was selling. Often greasy.

Now and then we came across a food stall selling bananas, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and sometimes some other fruits or veggies. But this did not happen often. Grab your chances when you spot it. 

In Wotten Waven (Le petit paradis), I found my first home cooked meal, which was priceless. As well as jumping in the hotspring there, after a full day of hiking.

Main tips for re-supply Waitukubuli National Trail

  • Don’t carry too much water. You’ll find it. Just make sure to have enough on Segment 8 (and then refill at Melville Hall River for the hike up to Mosquito Mountain). Be careful with taking water when in lower sections (Segment 10 for example). Or filter it.
  • Start off the hike with some basic trail food provisions you can find in Roseau (Astephans & the Local Market). Along the way you find shops but they are super basic. Mostly catering processed stuff (cookies, chips, some canned food, sometimes bread). Sometimes they have instant noodles too. The best food we found in the food stalls, freshly prepared. However, often it’s fried and with meat. You’ll survive but as a vegetarian, it’s a little more complicated.
  • Hike when mango season starts (April!). It’ll be raining mangoes.
  • Bear in mind shop opening hours when entering villages (I don’t remember it, ask around ;).
  • Stock up well in the Kalinago territory, segment 6, for the next segments ahead. At Segment 11, you can find food again. You’ll find something to forage on the way as well (watercress yum yum)
  • Learn about what you can eat from nature . And what the fruit trees look like from a distance. The trail provides a lot of wild fruits but you do need to be able to spot it. It’s not always obvious.
  • Meet and greet locals. On numerous occasions, we’ve been invited into people’s homes and got served home cooked meals, coconuts, bananas, more coconuts, and other yummyness. Priceless! In Le petit paradis (End of Segment 3 – Beginning of Segment 4) and at Danglez Bed & Breakfast Homestay (Segment 6) I had a delicious non greasy home-cooked meal.

Preparing for the long-distance hike: Gear and Tools

A man is setting up a tent near a stream.

Locally, finding hiking gear is hard, if not impossible. Bring in advance what you may need. But for this hike, you really don’t need much. What you do need is rainproof shelter. 

A woman sitting in front of a tent on the beach.

What we brought from overseas: tent, summer sleeping bag, sleeping mat and trail shoes.

I didn’t have a brilliant backpack, so I used the camera gear bag instead. I also didn’t have a light waterproof jacket, so I brought my sailing jacket. It served as a pillow, too :). I wasn’t sure if I should bring it or not, given the weight, but I’m really happy I did. Sometimes, it rained, and it was a little bit chilly.

Here’s a video where I walk through our gear pack. Here’s a photo:
You don’t need any fancy hiking or climbing gear. On the tough segments, there is rope work that we have found in good condition.

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A blanket laying on the ground with various items on it.
A woman wearing a hat and a backpack holding a stick.

We had simple trail sneakers, 1 set of clothes, a few underwears, a few bottles to refill, and a hat (and I got a hand made one in the Kalinago territory)

video of our trail pack! (Subscribe :))

See here my favourite hiking gear.


Practicalities for Hiking the Waitukubuli National Trail

How long does it take to hike the full trail? It took us 12 days without any lay days. We took it easy. You could do it faster but with so much beauty along the way, you’d miss out. We stopped for swims in waterfalls, foraging for wild fruit, zipping coconuts at farmers, and having a home cooked meal here and there. Sometimes food sourcing required a little detour. And we made a few ghost miles because of missing a trail sign. A few times we sought shelter from the rain, causing some delays. Don’t underestimate segments 8 and 9. Those are the toughest and took us way longer than said on the trail segment indications. The distance and time often presented on the signs and flyers were quite inaccurate and usually too optimistic for us. I think they are focused on people without carrying a backpack. Take your time for the trail. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. I wish it was longer when we arrived at the end.

I’m now planning my first long distance solo hike. Summer 2024 I will hike 850 km across the Pyrenees together with my dog. I plan to make some videos about it on Youtube. Subscribe and join me.

Screenshot
A woman is floating in a river with rocks in the background.

When is the best time to hike the Waitukubuli National Trail? The best time to hike the WNT is during the dry season, from December to April, when the weather is less rainy and the trails are more accessible. We hiked the trail at the end of March / early April, and the weather was perfect. At the end of April, mango season starts, and this good addition adds extra pleasure to the trail.

Two hikers standing on a cliff overlooking a body of water.
Scotts Head: The start of the Waitukubuli. How clean we still were! hehe…

You can purchase a trail pass from the Dominica Forestry, Wildlife, and Parks Division. This office is based in Roseau, and we only learned about that later. The pass costs about $12 for a single segment or $40 for the entire trail. Hopefully the funds will go to fixing some of the trail. You can’t buy a trail pass on the trail.

Safety and Navigation Tips for the Waitukubuli National Trail

  • Don’t hike the Waitukubuli National Trail alone. If you do hike a segment alone, always let someone know where you are. Logistically Segment 1, 2 and 3 are fairly easy to do as stand alone segments.
  • Check for the yellow and blue trail markers often. Especially in the beginning, it was not often well marked or we just didn’t look well enough, which resulted in a few searches and detours.
  • Download the map of Dominica on Maps.me. The trail is pretty well marked there.
  • Download Alltrails. There’s a semi accurate WNT trail on there, except for segment 8.
  • Save your battery where you can and bring a portable charger / extra battery. It’s not easy to find places to charge.
  • Carry a Satellite device for extra safety (and activate and test it before :))
  • Make sure someone knows on which segment you are which day.
  • Don’t have a siesta under a coconut tree
  • Check the weather, especially when planning to camp next to a river, for example Melville Hall river on segment 8.

Stay your first night(s) at the Soufriere Guesthouse and inform yourself by Jon on the latest of the trail.

Where to sleep on the trail?  If you want to hike the full trail, bring your own sleeping equipment. Segments 7, 8, 9 and 10 are remote without any further facilities. We had rain almost every night.

Camping spots are to be found, but not always around the corner. A few times we slept in a garden with a local. The best camp spots are to be found on the trail, not at the beginning or end of the segments.

There are some shelters along the trail. However, most of them have either a picnic table so you can’t pitch your tent or are collapsed. It’s mostly nice for your picnic breaks. 

If you want to do part of the trail and sleep in an accommodation, here are a few budget-friendly recommendations in Dominica on or close to the trail:

Soufriere Guesthouse (End of Segment 1 – Beginning of Segment 2). Make sure to talk to Jon for the latest trail info.

Le petit paradis (End of Segment 3 – Beginning of Segment 4) (Yummy home cooked meal!) And make sure you jump in one of the hot springs. You can pitch your tent here, take a hammock or just roll out your mat under the roof.

Hibiscus Valley Inn (End of Segment 6 – Beginning of Segment 7 (not exactly on the trail). I have not stayed here, but I was here, It looks awesome and the food is superyummy.

Danglez Bed & Breakfast Homestay rooms and De-Li-Cious home-cooked meals are available. We pitched our tent in his garden. 

 

How to reach the trail starting point of the Waitukubuli National Trail?

A woman on a sailboat taking a selfie.

What makes the trail extra special is that Dominica is remote (for now – an international airport is in the making). You can reach Dominica via a local flight of a neighbouring Caribbean country. At the moment, there’s only one long-distance flight from Miami to Dominica. The very best and most exciting way to reach Dominica is by sailboat. No boat? No sailing experience? No worries! You can sail travel by sailboat as crew. Here are some tips:

  • Here are some blogs about travelling by sailboat.
  • Here is a book I wrote about Sailing across the Atlantic as crew.
  • You can join the Ocean Nomads community to help you figure out the logistics on sailboat travel and find boats and sailing buddies, and to simply find more info on how things work in wild remote places like Dominica. We have many members who passed through with lots of tips and always happy to help.
  • And here is my most recent toolkit that I created: a course on travelling by sailboat. 40.000 miles of sailboat travel experience learnings condensed into a video course to help you travel by sailboat, safely.

My best tip on hiking the Waitukubuli National Trail: go for it! And make sure you have the time to do the full long distance trail. On the whole trail, we met 2 other hikers who we’re aiming to do the full hike. Only they couldn’t finish because they had a flight to catch. A pity!

Thank you Trail angels! And my angel Jonte for carrying the tent, food and support when things got tough. The people who come out to the trail, or people we met in the villages, who refreshed us, greeted us, shared information, fruit, and food, and essentially brought the trail magic to us.

A woman wearing a hat and a backpack on a trail.

What do you think? Are you excited about hiking the Waitukubuli National Trail? Or have you hiked it? Drop a comment below this post or our film 12 Days on Foot. We’re happy to give some waypoints and support!

Over the next weeks (March /April 2024) I’ll also share a bit more footage about the trail, what we ate and a few more tips on my instagram. We have quite some vertical footage that didn’t make it to the movie.

Feeling inspired? Give this blog (or film) a share:) Thank you!

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Suzanne

Hi! My name is Suzanne. I'm here to help you go on ocean adventures and make positive impact for a healthier ocean. Explore this website to learn what I do and how you can make some splashes too!

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