Discovered by Columbus in 1493, the wildly beautiful island of Dominica was settled by the French and British, and was a British
colony until 1978. Now independent, the country has maintained, since its independence, a parliamentary democracy headed by a Prime Minister. Twenty-nine miles long and sixteen miles wide, Dominica lies at the top of the Windward Islands in the West Indies. Lush foliage drapes cloud-shrouded dormant volcanic peaks. The forests are alive with rare birds, flowers and animals which include the world's largest parrot, a beaver without a tail and a giant frog. Dominica is laced with rivers fed by an annual rainfall of from 40 inches on the coast to 300 inches in the
interior. The 85,000 people on Dominica live mostly in the coastal areas as the interior is too mountainous to cultivate crops. Within the interior there are some spectacular sights that have earned the country the designation "Nature Island of the Caribbean." Travelers from around the world come to Dominica to explore the many hiking trails which range in difficulty from the easy to most vigorous. In
addition, Dominica is noted as one of the best scuba and snorkeling spots in the eastern Caribbean.