St. Croix Man Honored for His Eco-Tourism Resort on Dominica

May 18, 2007 — Growing up on St. Croix, Sam Raphael had nature as his playground, and a school trip to an eco-friendly resort ignited an idea that development could co-exist with the environment.
He turned that idea into a reality. Today Raphael owns Jungle Bay Resort and Spa of Pointe Mulatre, Dominica, an eco-friendly retreat named last month as one of the "10 best luxury eco-resorts" by Forbes Traveler magazine.
The magazine's April issue listed the "Top Ten Luxury Eco Resorts." Writer Stephen Regenold described Jungle Bay as a "Dominican resort, found midway down the chain of Caribbean islands near Guadeloupe and Martinique." The resort, Regenold continued, "includes 35 cottages elevated on wooden posts and perched like bird's nests under a jungle canopy."
Thirty years after Raphael made the inspiring field trip to Cinnamon Bay with his Grove Place Elementary fifth-grade class, he returned to the island of his birth, Dominica, to turn a dream into reality.
Raphael grew up in a traditional rural lifestyle. As a child, Raphael loved roaming the gut looking for mangoes. He said recently that conservation and environmental preservation became part of his philosophy because of that childhood.
St. Croix is still his home, and he spends as much time as he can on the Big Island with his parents and children.
Raphael has advice about how to increase tourism on St. Croix: "Select a niche, define, and focus on that. The heritage and culture of St. Croix should be the dominant role. We have so many colorful cultures. There are physical artifacts, and there is a growing interest in them. Eco-tourism on St. Croix is small — it should be filler, not an integral part. St. John is the eco-tourist destination of the Virgin Islands. St. Croix shouldn't take the same path as St. Thomas."
The successful real estate developer opened Jungle Bay on a 55-acre site in 2005. The site is filled with white cedar, almond and gomier trees, and its ecolodge overlooks Pointe Mulatre Bay.
The development has been an economic boost to the island. Many of its 55 employees are former farmers hurt by a decline in the banana trade.
Set on the southwest coast on the island, Jungle Bay is an hour and a half from the airport in Melville Hall. It includes 35 individual cottages on stilts. There is no air-conditioning or television.
"It is certainly possible I may start more resorts, but our main emphasis is continually improving services at Jungle Bay," Raphael says.
In a press release announcing the magazine's recognition, Raphael said, "Our entire Jungle Bay family which includes our staff, the people of the South East and our well wishers feel very privileged to achieve such an honor from Forbes Magazine. "In addition to validating that the Dominican people can create and operate tourism products that exceed international standards, it also validates up-market 'Geo-Tourism' as a successful niche market for Dominica."
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