When someone tells you to get a guide for a hike, you should probably just listen to them and get a guide (especially when you’re directionless as I am), but I’m also stubborn and like a good adventure.
I definitely got an adventure on my hike to Sari-Sari falls in Dominica, making some crucial hiking mistakes that I should know better by now.
Hiking Sari-Sari Falls in Dominica
We had been adventuring around Dominica all-day, and Sari-Sari was the last stop on the itinerary. I should have been paying more attention to the clock but felt confident that we had enough daylight to complete it.
Mistake #1: Starting a hike too late in the day.
The first problem was that we couldn’t find the trail entrance, wandering aimlessly around a field while a cow stared at me. (Alltrails was relatively useless for this hike).
Eventually, we stumbled our way onto a trail that went down to the river. I knew that the path involved crossing over the river several times, so we were on the right track.
We saw another path across the river, so we crossed over and took it until we were back at the river. At that point, we couldn’t find another way, so we decided to boulder over the rocks on the river to the waterfall.
In hindsight, I’m sure there were more paths in the jungle that would have made the hike easier – but we were having fun.
Eventually, we reached Sari-Sari falls and I felt so proud! I was so happy that we could accomplish this without a guide – it truly felt like an adventure.
Sari-Sari falls are stunning. A high, powerful stream of water pouring down into the middle of the jungle. No one else around. This was most of my experience in Dominica, and it was always felt like I was discovering something beautiful. Something no one else had seen before. Dominica has that kind of effect on you.
The danger of adventure is worth a thousand days of ease and comfort.– Paul Coelho (find more adventure quotes).
We spent some time admiring this incredible waterfall, only to realize it had taken us much longer than we thought to get there. It was already 5 pm – we were running out of daylight.
We were rushing to get back down the river and out of the jungle while we still had light, but it’s difficult to be quick when you’re bouldering over giant rocks.
To make matters worse, I had accidentally sat on a fire ants nest on the way there, leaving the back of my legs and butt in intense pain.
All I could think about how much it hurt, but we had to keep moving.
So we kept going, and going, and going. And it kept getting darker, and darker, and darker.
The path out of the river is not that obvious and became very difficult to see when there’s little light.
Mistake #2: not bringing/using flags to mark the trail.
At this point, my anxiety was getting out of control. I couldn’t stop picturing us sleeping in the jungle.
I was convinced we had gone past the trail out of the river, as none of the terrain looked familiar. Although to be honest, it all started to look the same.
My traveler partner was convinced we hadn’t gone far enough.
Eventually I convinced him we had gone too far, and we turned back. But then it became completely dark, making it very dangerous to be climbing over rocks and near impossible to see the trail.
I actually did have a headlamp with me, but the battery was dying and it turned out to be pretty useless.
Mistake #3: Not being prepared with the hiking essentials.
We stopped moving altogether. At this point, we had no idea if we had gone too far down the river or not far enough. We were completely disoriented.
We contemplated trying to cut through the jungle up to the road, but a quick peek through the dense bush let me know that was a terrible idea. I did not need to get bit by a snake on top of everything else.
The ONE thing I did have going on me for this hike was that there was cell phone service. Unfortunately, my phone was at 1%, and I didn’t bring anything to charge it with (see mistake #3).
Fortunately his was at 30%, so we decided to message our tour guide from Boiling Lake and ask for help (so embarrassing). “Hey, I know you told me we needed a guide for this hike, but we didn’t listen.. and now were lost…”
Thankfully, he was extremely kind about it and without asking, contacted the locals in the nearby village for help. He said someone would come to find us.
I was so relieved that I wouldn’t be sleeping in the jungle that night – and though I didn’t know how long they would be, my anxiety started to drift away.
We sat on a rock and waited. The jungle was lit up by fireflies (which was so magical), but I couldn’t help but think every sparkle of light was a flashlight in the distance.
Eventually, we got a text message from the officer letting us know they were on the way. I expected maybe two people to come down, but shortly after I saw a barrage of flashlights in the distance.
I couldn’t believe it – they’d sent an entire crew to find us! I was so happy to see them and then immediately flooded with embarrassment as it turns out we were actually very close to the trailhead.
I was right that we had gone past it, but we didn’t go far enough back up. If we had just gone a little further we might have seen it, but hindsight is 20/20 (especially when it’s light outside).
The crew kindly guided us back up to the path (read: a Dominican man in an army suit carried me over a boulder), and we made our way up.
On the way up I asked one of my rescuers if they do this often, hoping that we weren’t the only dumb tourists. He said it was his first time. Cue more embaressment.
When we got to the start of the trail, the entire village was waiting to greet us.
I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know whether to be charmed or mortified. They all clapped for us – it was incredibly heartwarming.
We had to go back to the police station to file a quick report, where one of the staff members gave a speech to the entire crew thanking them for mobilizing so quickly. I almost cried.
We thanked the team and drove home – I’d never been so happy to sleep in my own bed.
Out of all my hiking adventures, I can’t say I’ve ever had an entire village come to save me. I’m thankful for the kind people in Dominica coming to rescue of and reminded of why it’s so important to be prepared for any hike – no matter how long you think it is.
I should know better than this. I hiked the entire East Coast Trail this summer and had my hiking essentials with me every time. But for some reason in Dominica, I let my guard down. Thankfully I didn’t have to sleep in the jungle, but the situation could have been much worse!