Published on November 28th, 2012 | by Charu Suri4
Jamaica Off The Beaten Path
If all Jamaica conjures up for you are images of rum and reggae (or coral and coconuts), it’s time for a rethink. True, it does have more azure coastline and picture-perfect scenery than you can shake a large piece of bamboo at. But this paradise island has a lot more to it than just the typical Caribbean clichés – you just need to step off the tourist trail to find them. Millions flock to the island each year, drawn to the major resort towns of Ocho Rios, Negril and Montego Bay. Here they’ll soak up the sun from the comfort of a very large sunlounger. And while a bit of beach indolence can be the perfect antidote to the stress of everyday life, it would be a shame to miss out on some of the cultural highlights Jamaica has to offer. That’s because, unlike other Caribbean islands, Jamaica is large enough to boast a whole range of activities that go much further than sun and sea, just waiting to be discovered. Here are three of the best.
Jamaica’s Alligator Pond; Photo credit- Maureliza
Off the beaten track for foodies – Alligator Pond
Any foodies worth their organic sea-salt will tell you that it’s all about finding the freshest products straight from the source. And the source of much of the island’s fish and seafood is landed right here, at the long stretch of beach at Alligator Pond. OK, so it is another beach, but you won’t find any sun loungers or beach vendors here – just a hard working community of fisherman and wholesalers. Arrive early to enjoy a spot of people-watching or just watch the boats come in. Then it’s time to head for lunch – but where to go? Countless battered-looking eateries and ramshackle bars line the shore. But the oldest and most famous restaurants in the area is undoubtedly Little Ochi. Inexpensive, but with fabulous views and few tourists, fish is literally taken off the boat, into the kitchen, then onto your plate. Plus, you’ll eat in a lovely little thatched beach hut with only the sounds of the waves to disturb you.
Off the beaten track for culture lovers – Bath
Anyone looking to explore the island’s colonial past need look no further than the quaint town of Bath in the foothills of the John Crow Mountains. Once one of the most fashionable towns on the island, it’s easy to imagine it in its former glory when it was an exclusive retreat. The European elite flocked here, drawn by the nearby mineral springs said to cure pretty much every affliction. And they might have been right – modern chemical analysis has discovered the water is high in sulphate and lime, salts which are said to be good for treating skin problems and rheumatism. You can still go take the waters today, sitting in large baths pumped with steamy water coming right from the mountain. Once you’ve finished getting hot, head to the shady botanical gardens to cool off.
Jamaica’s Black River; Credit: Flickr
Off the beaten track for wildlife spotting… Black River
If you ever needed proof that there was more to Jamaica’s natural beauty than beaches, this is it. One of the longest rivers in Jamaica, the river is so called because of the darkness of its river bed, caused by layers of decomposing vegetation. Over 100 species of birds have been recorded along its route, including cranes and egrets, but the biggest draw for wildlife spotters has to be the American crocodiles – more than 300 of them at the last count. Take a crocodile safari from Black River town and a local guide will take you right up to these awe-inspiring creatures. Most guides have worked the river for many years and know where they lurk – they even know many of them by name. Crocodile sightings are virtually guaranteed but the number you see may vary – on a bad day there’s just one or two but on a good day you may see many more. Some will even let you touch them, but be led by your guide and remember that these definitely are wild creatures!