For more and more people, an eco-lifestyle isn’t just about living in seclusion, or escaping congested cities to de-stress, it’s about living with intent. Dominica is an island where ‘living with intent’ means honouring the rich ecosystem, keeping the balance between nature and mankind, and ensuring consciousness of inter-dependence.
While many go to Dominica simply to reconnect, be that to themselves or nature, for others it is a life-changing experience.
Melissa van Assen and Cpt. Andy Key are such a couple. Having worked in the super yacht industry from their base in South Africa, they discovered Dominica 26 years ago through their global travels. It was an island that immediately spoke to their hearts, generating in them a desire to live in harmony with nature whilst continuing to pursue their passion for exceptional consumer service.
Business Enshrined in Nature
Banana Lama, Melissa and Andy’s home and business, is Dominica’s answer to their aspirations. An eco-lodge nestled on land that captivated them for its “fresh and unpolluted air, clean water, and arable soil,” Banana Lama is run off solar power, with water supplied from a natural spring also sustaining the lodge’s home-grown fruit and vegetables.
“Andy and I decided we wanted to live off the grid and have as natural a life as possible,” says Melissa. “A healthy lifestyle and eco-living go hand-in-hand, and we feel fortunate that, aside from finding our piece of paradise, we can also share it with like-minded people who visit us and value the landscape we share, including the banks of a pristine river which allows for wonderful riverside swimming and entertaining.”
Banana Lama has been so successful that this year Zing Magazine voted it the number one place to stay in Dominica and such a success, says Melissa, can be largely attributed to the Dominican people and the “ease with which we were able to build our lodge.”
Government Support for Private Initiative
The Invest Dominica Authority is the Government agency that facilitates entrepreneurship by helping to plan and establish businesses. “After acquiring a land-holders license, we were able to construct Banana Lama,” notes Melissa. “We were helped every step of the way by the Government and continue to be. The Invest Dominica Authority has a very strong mandate to promote the island’s tourism industry, which benefits everyone.”
Travel and tourism are key to Dominica’s economy, contributing 39 percent of GDP in 2015. Many come to the island precisely because of its untouched splendour, points out Melissa, who says it is no surprise that Dominica has been awarded the epithet ‘nature island of the Caribbean.’ “Dominica is very accessible despite giving the impression of being an off-the-beaten track destination. It is an environment that consists of unspoilt natural beauty, a large part of which is protected, such as the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
“It also has the second largest boiling lake in the world and offers hot sulphur springs, mud baths, and waterfalls. There are also 365 rivers, which is often referred to as having a river for every day of the year.”
Trends indicate that in the past decade more people have been paying attention to the preservation of ecological environments, with many choosing to live an agrarian lifestyle. For Melissa and Andy’s guests, looking after what you eat and how it is provided, as well as how you commune with nature and respect it, is the essence of Dominica. “Dominica is our home. There is no place in the world that we would rather be.” concludes Melissa.