Seeing a Different Side of Jamaica

When we think of Jamaica, we see beautiful white beaches, hear the lively reggae music, smell the sumptuous jerk chicken and feel the warm sea breezes. Jamaican Self-Help recently took a group of adults from Peterborough to Jamaica where they enjoyed another side of this amazing country. JSH hired a lovely local Jamaican woman to take us on an adventure that would show us all sides of Jamaica.

The group started in Kingston, the capital city of Jamaica. This city is known for violence amongst gangs, especially during election years. You hear people say, “Don’t go to Kingston because it’s not safe.” The group never encountered danger anywhere but saw joyful people in the streets selling their wares. We started in Kingston because Jamaican Self-Help wanted to show our guests the way we are helping two schools and a resource centre in the inner city. The children were very excited to show off their musical, dance and athletic skills at one school.

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At another school the children greeted our guests with smiles and showed them around their school.

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At the resource centre everyone was impressed to see the furniture the students in the woodworking class had made.   The carpentry program at the resource centre is supported wholly by Jamaican Self Help.

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From Kingston the group travelled through the mountains over winding narrow roads to Annotto Bay in Northern Jamaica. There were no fancy resorts for this adventurous group. We stayed in cabins at a lovely spot called River Edge. The surroundings were exquisite. Everywhere we looked there were tropical plants and trees blooming with amazing colour.

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Visits to St. Mary’s Banana Plantation and to a co-op farmer’s cocoa, coconut and banana farm in the mountains were a real learning experience.

You may have heard of the gorgeous waterfalls in Jamaica. We had a stop at Somerset Falls where the local Jamaicans go to spend a Sunday afternoon; taking a boat trip to the falls and swimming under the falls and along the river. The area also includes a swimming pool, water slide and lots of area to picnic.

Our next stop was Negril, after travelling along the north coast through Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Discovery Bay. At the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory (shown below), we learned how scientists are studying the decline of ocean sponges in the area and trying to find ways to save them from extinction. A glass bottom boat tour and snorkeling gave us an idea of what is happening with the sponges and other sealife.

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Our Negril lodgings were at Negril Yoga Centre where we stayed in cabins and enjoyed delicious, nutritious breakfasts every morning on a lovely porch outside the cabins. Negril has a great beach for walking along or swimming, but it was full of tourists. This is the side of Jamaica that most people see. While in Negril we took a winding trip to the Appleton Rum Estate. If you ever go to Jamaica, make this one of your stops. It was an amazing tour that included a delicious rum cocktail, a tour of the old and modern ways of producing rum and a rum tasting.

After three nights in Negril we were off to Treasure Beach. Treasure Beach is also a tourist destination, but not as much as Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. In Treasure Beach one can walk along the beach and see no one, it’s untouched in a lot of areas. Jake’s Resort provided us with a lovely villa and cottage here. We were spoiled at this location and experienced how the rich people vacation in Jamaica. We enjoyed two nights at Jake’s where we had our own private chef to prepare our breakfasts and suppers.

Below: the view from our Villa at Treasure Beach.

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It was finally time to return to Kingston to stay again at Immaculate Conception Hostel. This is a beautiful, old convent where nuns still live but part of it is operated as a hostel, clean, rustic rooms.    Below: the gardens at Immaculate Conception Hostel in Kingston.

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We still had a couple of days in Kingston before returning to the cold north. The National Art Gallery is in Kingston and everyone was interested to see it, especially the three artists who were on tour with us. We were also entertained by an annual folk pantomime at the Little Theatre . Most of the play was spoken in patois, the Jamaican informal language. However, we were able to get the gist of the story which was very enjoyable. On our final day in Kingston we took another jaunt into the mountains close by to visit the Castleton Botanical Gardens. This is another place the local people visit on Sunday afternoons for picnics. Before we left the gardens, we were entertained by a motorcycle group out for their Sunday afternoon tour, very loud and raucous.

It sure has been a different way to see Jamaica. Many people like to see the real country when they visit, not just the tourist spots. This was certainly a great way to get a taste of the real Jamaica. Maybe you will join Jamaican Self-Help on our next trip to Jamaica.

2019 Jamaica Trip Update