HEY MON, NO PROBLEM!
It sometimes takes a little courage to travel to an unusual country, and Jamaica is definitely ‘different’, but don’t be afraid to go out, be open to other cultures, other people, other food, different climates as there is so much to discover. Jamaica is a beautiful Caribbean island with stunning beaches that will captivate you the moment you step onto the sands.
Negril was originally a haven for hippies in the 60s and the main stretch has maintained its cool, laid-back, carefree atmosphere, perfect for a relaxing beach holiday. An incredible 19 miles of powdery white sands glisten under the sun and gently curve to meet the dramatic West End Cliffs, Bloody Bay and Half Moon Beach. What’s usually incorrectly called Negril’s seven-mile beach is really only the lively middle stretch of Long Bay Beach where you’ll find restaurants, bars and hotels. Jam the night away with live Reggae every night at the beach.
A spit of land marks the end of Long Bay and the beginning of Bloody Bay, so named because hunters used to massacre whales there, turning the sea blood-red. Once a secret, secluded spot, today it is a little less private, though fortunately it is no less beautiful and still boasts pristine white sands and turquoise waters. If you want to get away from the crowds, Bloody Bay is the perfect peaceful retreat.
I was fortunate enough to be staying in an all-inclusive ocean-front hotel at Bloody Bay. The colonial style hotel had beautifully appointed spacious rooms, fabulous pool area, choice of dining-rooms, several bars and cocktails lounges to sip long cool tropical drinks and acres of garden skirting the pale, sandy beach shaded by palms. The calm, shallow Caribbean waters offer a cooling break from the sun or a perfect place to test out all sorts of water sports, from snorkelling and kayaking to jet-skiing and catamaran sailing.
The in-hotel morning activities included aerobics in the sea, reggae lessons on the sands, beach volleyball and other sporting activities. All non-motor water sports were free for guests. The evening entertainment was…entertaining! There were Reggae nights with a live group playing, beach parties and shows with different themes each evening to enjoy under the starlit sky. The young Jamaican entertainment team were very friendly, professional and amusing.
Humming birds flit through the tropical trees in Negril and as darkness falls a fascinating ringing fills the air, a sound made by almost invisible tiny Treefrogs hidden among the foliage. Late afternoon the golden sun sets the sky ablaze in a breathtaking display of tropical hues.
The atmosphere in Jamaica is so totally laid back that it’s quite amusing. Outside the hotel complex you’ll probably be offered ‘grass’ at every turn, but embarrassing as this might be just say no thanks I don’t smoke and there’s no hassle. It is in fact highly illegal but from the silly smiles and pungent smell a lot of locals must while the days away in a dream world. On the whole the people are dreadfully poor but seem much happier than the rest of over-stressed civilisation. Be ‘Negrilized’ and have your hair plaited, tipped with beads or shells for a true island look. Although the warm and friendly Jamaicans speak English, between themselves they use an unintelligible local Jamaican Patois. Just say “Cool Mon” and “No Problem”, switch your phone off, relax and you’ll feel a different person at the end of your stay.
Romance flourishes in ‘One Love paradise’ and from our balcony window we could see wedding celebrations on the lawns. Couples can be married just 24 hour after arriving in Jamaica providing prior application has been made for a marriage license. Some hotels will make all arrangements for you and special package prices can include the ceremony, flights plus any other special requests.
It’s been said that the soul of Jamaica is its people, heritage and reggae music while the heart of the island is her rivers and mountains, laden with tropical flora and fauna. Trips can be expensive but you just must see some of the country. Take an excursion to the typical market town of Lucea or discover the unexploited southern coast and take a boat safari into the swamps to see crocodiles and exotic birds in their natural habitat. Mayfield Falls caters to those who want to travel off the beaten track to discover the real treasures of Jamaica. Two majestic crystal clear waterfalls, 21 natural pools, the lush vegetation and cool waters are home to 52 varieties of ferns, wildlife, wildflowers and different species of birds. Unfortunately Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston, was too far away across arduous roads from our part of the island for a day trip, although I would have loved to visit one of the main attractions, the Bob Marley museum.
On an absolutely unforgettable day my partner and I took a coach excursion along the north coastal road, with spectacular views of the sparkling Caribbean Sea on one side and densely wooded hills on the other. We passed through several small towns and villages with such evocative names as Montego Bay, Priory, Runaway Bay, Seville and Discovery Bay before we reached Dunn’s River Falls. Originally called “Las Chorreras” during the Spanish rule, the name has degenerated over the centuries to “Ocho Rios”, although there are actually only four rivers in the area – Cave River, Roaring River, Turtle River and Dunns River. The springs are characterised by an unending flow of crystal clear water, punctuated by rapid cascades and waterfalls which pour directly into the Caribbean Sea.
A stone’s throw from Ocho Ríos, one of Jamaica’s fastest growing resort centres, Dunn’s River Falls is unique and its location by the sea gives the distinction of being the only one of its kind in the Caribbean, if not the world. We literally climbed up the falls in a human chain led by experienced Falls Guides, pausing in a rock pool and experience the soothing effects of the water as it cascades to the sea. It’s an unforgettable experience and a must for your holiday itinerary.
Rafting is one of the rare pleasures which you can enjoy during your visit to Jamaica, and the trip on the picturesque Martha Brae River is given added spice by the legend attached to the river. The river is named after an Arawak Indian girl who had supernatural powers, a member of the tribe of Indians who were Jamaica’s first known inhabitants and who called the island, Xaymaca, land of wood and water. We glided gently downstream aboard a 30 foot, two-seater bamboo raft, guided by a local man called Gayley. He handed us a hand-carved gift and we were glad to give him a decent tip as this was probably the only income he’d have in a while to support his family in the mountains. The 90 minute raft ride was a beautiful experience as we passed between the lush green river banks adorned with gnarled ancient trees.
Jamaica, the third largest island in the Caribbean, is 235 kilometres long and 93 kilometres at the widest point. Fewer than three million people live on the island, mostly in Kingston and Montego Bay. A land of mountains, plateaux and plains, dominated by a series of mountain ranges that run across the centre of the island- the highest point, the Blue Mountains is area famous for producing the best coffee in the world. Many of Jamaica’s 120 rivers originate in these highlands, watering the land on their way to the Caribbean Sea. There are 1,022 kilometres of coastline; reef-protected white sand beaches characterise the north, while the coastline of the south has predominantly black sand beaches. At approximately 18 degrees north of the equator, the island falls within the tropics and averages 12 hours of sunlight per day – always enough time to do everything, or never enough for anything!