The Dominica Adventure

Going into the Dominica Challenge I had project ideas, concepts and a wikipedia based knowledge of the island, leaving the Island I had 10 new friends, an experience of a lifetime and a whole lot of amazing footage.

Day 1 - Travel to Dominica 

I arrived at the MSP airport at 4 am and met up with my cinematographer, Josh Becker and fellow island traveler, Sarah Jensen of Hello Margeaux

It was a travel day like any other, well beside United not giving out any sort of food, what's up with that? And Josh Becker "leaving" his passport on a plane in St Maarten. He claims it wasn't "lost" because he got it back before our next flight but I'm not sure that's how it works...

We arrived at the island some 13 hours later, did a quick meet and greet with the other teams at the airport and hopped on a bus to travel toward the south side of the Island, Roseau for the first few nights of the trip.

Day 2 - Orientation, "Whale Watching" and The Press Conference

We started the day figuring out how we would spend our week adventuring, we quickly learned a week was far from being enough time to really dive into the island so we had to choose what we would be doing very specifically. We had the advice of our week long driver, Matthew and our tech advisor Jawanza to help guide us. We then hopped on a boat and went whale watching. 

We were told there was an eighty five percent chance we would see whales. I guess we were the fifteen percent but that didn't stop us from getting some amazing footage. We also may have partially, slightly, kinda submerged the camera on our first shoot day...

 "The Point" the only proper way to show directing in a picture.

"The Point" the only proper way to show directing in a picture.

After whale watching, the Discover Dominica Authority had a small press conference officially declaring the 1st annual Dominica Challenge to have begun. Josh and I then got to meet a few of the cinematographers on the Island and geeked out over gear, production and all the fun of making movies for a living. It was a good night.

Day 3 - The Boiling Lake and 100lbs of Gear. 

The Boiling Lake Hike - The hardest hike in all of the Caribbean, 7 hours of hiking a total 16 miles going up hills both ways to get to the second biggest boiling lake in the world. Everyone told us to hike as light as possible but we were too stupid/ambitious/naive/dedicated to listen. It ended up taking us 11 hours but we got to drink fresh spring water from a leaf, venture though the Valley of Desolation, yes that's it's real name and eat a fresh sugar apple. But boy did our legs hurt the rest of the week. 

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 Michel Bruno, our trail guide, or as Josh dubbed him "Trail Master" brought homemade lemongrass sweet tea up on the hike. Never has warm tea been so sweet and refreshing.

Michel Bruno, our trail guide, or as Josh dubbed him "Trail Master" brought homemade lemongrass sweet tea up on the hike. Never has warm tea been so sweet and refreshing.

Day 4 - Scuba Diving and Exploring

After a day of some of the most intense hiking I have ever done I figured what better way then to spend a little time "recovering" in the water. So I hopped on a boat and dove a few incredible places. Josh tried to game the system into diving as well but he didn't get a chance to get his PADI card in time so he was restricted to snorkeling which I heard was pretty swell as well. 

After diving, Josh and I met back up and did a little exploring. We found the coolest one seat barbershop.

After another day of discovering the island we met back up with a large part of the crew for dinner. Things got a little crazy that night, Josh jumped into the ocean fully clothed after being paid off by the others and I ended up arm "fighting" a local dock worker. He won but everyone said he was cheating. Either way it was a great night. 

Day 5 - A One Man Rum Distillery, Recreating the Experience & a Night Bonfire

Josh and I went back out on the hunt for adventure and we ended up coming across a man who makes his own rum from local spring water and local sugar cane. It was moonshine to the nth degree but an amazing process to see the most authentic version of rum creation especially considering rum punch flows in Dominica like water. 

After buying some of the local rum we moved up to the North for the final few days of the trip. There are two main towns in Dominica, Roseau and Portsmouth, it was now time to see what Portsmouth had to offer. All the teams met back up for a late night cocktail and this is where Josh and I decided to start incorporation our own adventure into what we were shooting. We went to the island to find adventure and ended up living it ourself so we re-created a few of our favorite moments through out the week. 

 Nixon George of  Quick Link Productions  volunteered to beat me this time around.

Nixon George of Quick Link Productions volunteered to beat me this time around.

 We ended the night with a huge bonfire. It went great until a bunch of people waded in the water and got stung by man-o-war's. 

We ended the night with a huge bonfire. It went great until a bunch of people waded in the water and got stung by man-o-war's. 

Day 6 - The Kalinago & Titou Gorge

Seeing where Dominica had come from was really important to us to grasp a better understanding of the island. We visited the Kalinago Model Village where the past of the locals was represented with authenticity. 

 Sarah Jensen was one of the unfortunate few stung on the beach. Here she is being treated with local remedies providing the first moment of relief in a long time.

Sarah Jensen was one of the unfortunate few stung on the beach. Here she is being treated with local remedies providing the first moment of relief in a long time.

We ended the day by putting the camera in more danger, just the way Josh and I like it. We rented a small kayak and moved through the Titou Gorge. It was a beautiful little gorge tucked away near the boiling lake.

Day 7 - The Indian River and The Waterfall

The final day of shooting was bittersweet, we shot so much great stuff but at the same time it felt like we barely scratched the surface. We climbed aboard a paddle boat and went down the Indian River, the only river in Dominica that's boat-able. 

Dominica, has 365 rivers and at least half of those have waterfalls so we had to see one before we left. We ventured down to the Syndicate falls and enjoyed one of Dominica's most notable natural landscapes before calling our final day of production. The night ended with one last cocktail hour featuring the teams.  

Day 8 - The End and Beginning of Much More

And the end of the trip one thing stuck out the most - the people we got to meet and spend our week with. The other explorers became great friends in such a short time that it was sad to see everyone disperse back to where they came from. I can't wait to see what everyone else creates in the coming months. Check out their work below - It's phenomenal and I feel blessed to have been in the same group with such talent. 

Our Wild Abandon - Kyla and Jill - Two extremely talented photographers who capture the essence of travel and life. Keep an eye for them as they will be big before you know it.

Sam Horine & Alexandra Klasinski - An amazing combination of professionalism and wit. Check out Sam's awesome photography here -  & connect with Alexandra here.

Trevor Paulhus & Van Ditthavong - Both incredibly talented artists with an eye for interesting people and stories. Check out Trevor's eye and Van's storytelling styling.

Hello Margeaux - Sarah & Amy - Two artists who work with a very focused and human touch. Check out their insights here.

And a very special thank you to Michael Kraabel & Nathan Eide for giving Josh and I a shot at something special, running the whole thing and keeping us all in check through out the week. This adventure wouldn't exist or be worthwhile without them.

Last but not least a huge thank you to Nikki and the entire Discover Dominica Authority who took a chance on us to travel to their beautiful country. It will be something I'll be talking about for a long long long time.