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Dominica: Love in Paradise

Milwaukee Know How

How many of us have ever wished we could chuck it all—the traffic, the smog, the daily rat race—and run away to some idyllic island in the Caribbean? Well, we want to introduce you to someone who did just that, and then ended up building her own beachfront resort in the process.

Newly divorced, Beverly Deikel left frozen Minnesota 16 years ago at age 59 to settle on the little-known Caribbean island of Dominica (pronounced "Dom-i-NEE-ka)—and she hasn't looked back since! Her love for the island and a man she met there drew her into an adventure most people only dream of. Here's her story.

Hideaways International: What made you choose Dominica?

Beverly Deikel: The first time I saw the island was about 20 years ago. My husband and I had a boat, and I had talked him into taking it down to the Caribbean. I was on the boat with friends and we ended up off Dominica, and the captain wanted to show me Boiling Lake. It's the second-largest boiling lake—and I mean boiling—in the world, after New Zealand's. The hike there was incredible, it was muddy and my shoes fell apart, and I loved every minute. That's all it took! I fell in love with the nature of the island and the nature of the people.

I kept coming down from Minnesota, and at one point I stayed for a month. About that time my husband and I were divorced, and since our kids were grown, I was ready for something new.

HI: How did you discover Rosalie Bay?

BD: My island guide, Zahir, was supposed to be taking me out for my month's stay, but he got too busy for me and sent me with his "daddy" instead. I asked daddy Oscar to show me places on the island I hadn't seen. He had heard about a nice beach he had not yet seen either, and as there aren't many beaches on Dominica, it was worth going to see. Well, here was this beautiful, flat property surrounded by mountains, the Rosalie River, and the Atlantic, and I wanted to buy it and preserve it so no one could come and build a big, ugly hotel there. Of course, once I bought it, I thought, "Now what?"

HI: And just how did Rosalie Bay ResortTHC come about?

BD: Oscar and I just started talking about it, and then we both got excited about the prospect of building an eco-resort and it just sort of happened. What I had originally thought would be a small investment ended up becoming a lot bigger project than I expected.

We wanted to design Rosalie Bay with both a Caribbean and African feel. The people of Dominica are very proud of their African roots, and I personally love African art. We built the resort to resemble a village, with cottage-like buildings clustered around the property. Most have ocean views, but our two Riverside Suites actually overlook the river, which is a beautiful view also. And all the resort furnishings were made right here on the island by local craftsmen, which was important to us.

HI: Tell us about your restaurant, Zamaan.

BD: Zamaan means "almond tree" in Creole, and we have many of these trees on our property. We specialize in fresh-catch fish, which our staff has learned to cook really well—never overdone! Last night we served a fresh tuna that was just wonderful.

Our Head Cook, Seraphine, originally came by the site during construction wanting to cook for the crew. She'd set up and prepare a complete Dominica-style meal for them without electricity. Now she's in our kitchen doing an excellent job, along with the two young men who help her out.

All our staff are local people. Our landscaper, Desmond, is self-taught and does a great job. The whole place feels like a garden. And everything grows so fast down here—a few weeks ago, Desmond cut back the plants in our entry circle so much that Oscar was upset, and they've already grown back beautifully!

HI: Rosalie Bay has become well known for its sea-turtle protection efforts. How did that come about?

BD: When we first got the property, we discovered that turtles were coming ashore right there to nest, and no one was taking care of them. Oscar learned that both the turtles and their eggs were being poached, and we knew we had to do something, so we contacted Dr. Karen Eckert, Founder and Executive Director of WIDECAST, Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network, which does research in 40 nations and territories. She helped us set up a project with a marine biologist to monitor and protect the turtles and their hatchlings. As time went on, other communities decided to protect their turtles. Now all the protection efforts are run by local organizations. The first year our beach was monitored, there were 7 nests, and in 2014 we had 80!

During turtle nesting and hatching season, which is March through October, guests can sign up at the Front Desk to receive a wake-up call when Simon, our local turtle expert, sees a nest is ready. Mid-summer is a good time to visit if you want to see both turtles and hatchlings. There's a charge of $10 per person, which goes directly to the community turtle project. We've also tried to educate the locals about poaching, and now several other beaches have their own turtle protection efforts in place.

Editor's Note: To ensure future generations get to know these creatures, Beverly and Oscar established the first sea turtle protection efforts on Dominica. Originally named RoSTI, the Rosalie Sea Turtle Initiative engages locals and guests in opportunities to help in the recovery of sea turtles on the island and throughout the Caribbean. The program includes night patrol during nesting season, cleanup on nesting beaches, educational programs, and data collection. In 2003, there were just seven leatherback nests. By 2010, there were 69 nests of three species of sea turtles and 100% survival with all nesting species protected.

HI: What is your favorite thing about your life in Dominica?

BD: I love hiking, especially up into the mountains and to the various waterfalls. We have waterfalls all over the place, and they're still discovering them. Just a few years ago, a farmer was chasing his pigs and he found a double waterfall that no one knew about. It's beautiful, coming down through two deep crevasses in the rock. Now the cruise ships are taking people up to see it.

I enjoy the clean air and I truly enjoy conversing with our interesting guests here at the resort. Most of all, I love that Dominica is a wild and wonderful country that has hardly changed in the 20 or so years I've known it.

Editor's Note: We've been fans of the island of Dominica for years! We even predicted it would be one of the "Top 12 Soon-To-Be-Hot Destinations of 2012"--and it was! Click here to read the article and more about Dominica.

March/April 2016

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