A Tour of Falmouth Pier

If I had my way, there wouldn’t be a Falmouth Pier. Heck, there wouldn’t have been even one cruise ship pier in Jamaica, period. But of course, no one asked me – they never ask the people, the ones who really matter. Anyway, it’s here now but believe me, there are more than a few disgruntled residents in Falmouth.

Entering Falmouth Pier
Entering the pier at Falmouth

Falmouth, capital of the parish of Trelawny, is located on Jamaica’s north coast about 30 minutes from Montego Bay. The town is home to approximately 4,000 residents.

Falmouth was founded in 1769 by Thomas Reid, an English planter. During sugar’s heyday, the port was the major shipping point for sugar, molasses, rum, coffee going to England, and slaves coming to the island.

Falmouth Pier's stores
Stores and immigration building, Falmouth

After the trade ended, the once booming town, which had piped water before New York City, fell on hard times. But with its extensive stock of Georgian buildings, the largest in the Caribbean, the town is experiencing new interest.

The Pier opened in 2011 following a nearly $200 million construction of a new deep water pier that can accommodate the largest ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. These 16-deck mega ships can transport 6,000 passengers and 2,000 crew.

On cruise days – Tuesdays to Thursdays – sometimes two ships dock at Falmouth Pier. However, even with the many historic Georgian structures in the town, the majority of passengers are bussed to Montego Bay or Ocho Rios. A small number do a walking tour of the town.

Falmouth Pier's immigration building
Immigration building, Falmouth

The US$100 per person that cruise ships passengers were projected to inject into the local economy hasn’t materialized. And when construction is completed at the Pier, Royal Caribbean will have practically duplicated the historic town and even fewer of its passengers will need to leave the pier.

One of two berths at Falmouth Pier
Berth for Royal Caribbean’s big ships

The building of Falmouth Pier changed the coastline and has caused considerable damage to the mangroves and coral reefs. When ships are in port, residents complain that there’s less water coming from the taps as they refill before leaving.

Despite how I feel about cruise ships, however, I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to tour Falmouth Pier. I had to see it for myself.

Royal Caribbean's Craft Market at Falmouth Pier
Craft market, the pier at Falmouth

On the day we went, no ships were in port – only construction workers and a few employees were around so we had unobstructed views. The pier has customs and immigration offices, stores, restaurants, and a Margaritaville, which is under construction. We were told that Falmouth residents will have access to Margaritaville when it opens.

Falmouth Pier seen from the Courthouse
Falmouth Pier seen from the Courthouse
Royal Caribbean's ship docked at Falmouth Pier
RC Ship dwarfs the town of Falmouth

Storyboards that tell the history of Falmouth line the main walkway and there’s a performance area where cultural groups to put on shows for passengers.

Of course, what I’ve written here was not part of the tour. But it’s difficult to see Falmouth Pier and not feel a bit sad. Once again, we’ve sold out our beautiful island and swapped one master — sugar planters, bauxite companies, other multinational organizations, etc. — for another.

What are your thoughts on cruise ships and the impact they have?

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

This week, I’m also linking up with the Friday Daydreaming series organized by Becca at Rwethereyetmom. Hope to see you there!

Moving Day, Westmoreland Jamaica

Sometimes, moving day can mean much more than moving household furniture and personal belongings. Sometimes, it also involves the  moving of the actual house.

Moving day, Westmoreland, Jamaica
Moving day, Westmoreland, Jamaica

When I read Budget Jan‘s post for last week’s Travel Photo Thursday, it reminded me of the times, in Westmoreland, when I’d see houses like this one being moved from one location to another, usually on a tractor. Westmoreland has a long history with tractors and sugarcane so it’s not unusual to see them pulling double duty. Still, I couldn’t believe my luck at seeing a house moving so soon after I was reminded of it. I was anxious to take the photo, I didn’t have time to adjust the lens on my camera.

Typically, the houses are made of wood (board) and have two rooms – a bedroom and living room. They are raised off the ground and sit on stones, sometimes blocks. They are usually called ‘board’ houses and because of the transient nature of their owner’s work, are never made of concrete.  Other rooms will be added as the owner’s economic situation improves and his family increases.

As we got closer to this house, we noticed that curtains were still hanging in the window and there was a television antenna on its side in one of the rooms. A car traveling ahead seemed to be transporting the owners as well as some of their belongings.

So popular was this way of moving houses that there are work songs created specifically for the occasion.

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

This week, I’m also linking up with the Friday Daydreaming series organized by Becca at Rwethereyetmom. Hope to see you there!


Abeokuta Paradise Nature Park

Abeokuta Paradise Nature Park (pronounced A-be-o-ku-ta*) is located a few yards off the Dean’s Valley Road in Westmoreland. The centerpiece of this rustic eco-tourism destination is an almost Olympic-sized pool which is fed by water that is channeled via an aqueduct from the nearby Sweet River.

Abeokuta Paradise Nature Park took its name from the community of Abeokuta, which in turn got its name from the city in southwest Nigeria. When the Yorubas, who came to Jamaica as indentured workers, arrived in this part of Westmoreland, they thought it looked so much like the Abeokuta they had left behind that they gave it the same name. Abeokuta is part of the old Dean’s Valley Water Works Estate, a sugar plantation that at one time covered 2,200 acres.

Abeokuta's pool
Abeokuta’s pool

The estate changed hands many times and eventually became known as Dean’s Valley, which is also the name of the community. The adjoining community took the name Water Works.

I grew up not far from the Dean’s Valley / Water Works area and knew of ‘Bekuta,’ as everyone calls it, but had no idea then of its significance. Later, I would hear that Dr. Olive Lewin, O.D., cultural anthropologist and musicologist, now deceased, had found and recorded the music of people there who spoke an African language. I was intrigued that anyone in Jamaica had preserved their native language and wanted to know more. I didn’t know then that Africans had come to the island as indentured workers after the abolition of slavery.

One night as my mom and I watched a documentary that was based on Laura Tanna’s book, Jamaican Folktales and Oral Histories, she screamed and pointed to the screen. Tanna had interviewed several residents of Abeokuta, and recorded their stories. My mom had recognized one of the interviewees whose name I’ve now forgotten but who I’m sure has passed on.

Abeokuta Finds New Owners

In 1980, part of Dean’s Valley, which included Abeokuta, was sold and two years later passed by descent to Owen Banhan, one of the new owner’s sons.

"Daddy" Banhan, Abeokuta Park
“Daddy” Banhan

According to Owen, known as Daddy, it took several months for him to clear the almost 15-acre property of thick brush. Once cleared, he and his wife made a surprising discovery — the ruins of the 18th century Dean’s Valley Great House, the pool and aqueduct.

Seeing how the nearby Roaring River Park had been transformed into an eco-tourism spot, the Banhans set out to do the same at the place they christened Abeokuta Paradise Nature Park.

Going for a dip, Abeokuta
Taking a dip

The Abeokuta Paradise Nature Park was opened officially in January, 2003 by Florentina Adenike Ukonga, who was then the high commissioner of Nigeria to Jamaica.

It was after reading about the opening that I visited Abeokuta and met Daddy and his family. I’ve been back several times, the latest last weekend.

View from Abeokuta
On a clear day, you can see Negril from here

Much has changed as Daddy continues to prepare the property to accommodate the increasing number of visitors and locals who come to enjoy this peaceful oasis with sweeping views of Westmoreland. On a clear day, you could see as far as Negril, which is about 26 miles away.

Aqueduct at Abeokuta Nature Park
Aqueduct leading to Sweet River

Abeokuta Paradise Nature Park is garden of ginger lilies, ferns, taro plants, croton, palms, thickets of bamboo, etc. Nature lovers can follow the aqueduct to the source of the river, a leisurely 15 minute walk away. It is from here that they can view the rock that reminded the Yorubas of Olumo Rock, which had provided their ancestors refuge at the other Abeokuta.

Fish pedicure anyone?

For those who can’t or don’t want to swim, the pool offers another option: a fish pedicure. Dip your feet into the water — it’s a bit cool — and an inch-long carp, known as the doctor fish, will begin to feed on the dead skin on your feet. It tickles at first and the fish disperse at the slightest movement, but if you sit still long enough, you’ll enjoy a temporary exfoliating treatment.

Fish pedicure at Abeokuta Nature Park
Fish pedicure

Abeokuta Paradise Nature Park is open daily from 9 – 6 p.m. It’ll cost you $5 to enter, $4 for a guided nature walk. If you’d like to stay for lunch, that will be another $8, $10 if you prefer to have fish. Prices are in US dollars.

If you want to read more on Abeokuta, check out:

Rock it Over: The Folk Music of Jamaica, Dr. Olive Lewin
Jamaican Folktales and Oral Histories, Laura Tanna

* Nigerian author, Wole Soyinka who was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, visited Abeokuta, Westmoreland in the 1990s. I remember seeing a video of him on television pronouncing the name, which is how I call it now. I searched online but couldn’t find the clip.


Linking up today, Aug 22, 2013, with Travel Photo Monday, hosted by Noel of Travel Photo Discovery.

Jamaica’s Fascinating Fretwork

I’ve been photographing examples of fretwork in Jamaica’s architecture for several months now. My fascination with the art form goes back to my childhood and the house I grew up in.  Fretwork, similar to the one below, decorated the transoms – the space above the doors – and allowed air to flow freely through the house.

Transom fretwork
On a transom

Fretwork is ornamental work that is made up of three dimensional interlacing designs. It has been around for more than 3,000 years. The Egyptians used inlays that were fretted in their furniture, and fretwork has been popular in Europe and North America since the 1800s.

Fretwork would have come to Jamaica around the same time. Examples can still be seen on official buildings that were constructed following the Georgian style, as well as private homes.

Below are some examples of fretwork I’ve captured.

Fretwork at Westgate Shopping Centre, Montego Bay
Sam Sharpe’s story told in fretwork

These panels at Westgate Shopping Centre in Montego Bay, captured my attention. I’ve been shopping here almost every week for more than a year and had no idea until I began this post that they depicted the Sam Sharpe rebellion, which took place in 1831. Sharpe, a preacher, was born in the parish of St. James, and is one of Jamaica’s National Heroes.

Fretwork at Westgate Shopping Centre, Montego Bay
Another panel of the Sam Sharpe story

The work was designed by Margaret Robson and Will Robson in collaboration with architect, Cosmo Whyte. It was built by Magic Toys.

Fretwork at Westgate Shopping Centre, Montego Bay
Westgate Shopping Centre, Montego Bay
Fretwork at Falmouth building
On gables

Fretwork can be found on gables and on window coolers.

Other uses of fretwork, Falmouth
Window cooler
Fretwork on an eave in Falmouth
Another example

These details add beauty and character to the buildings they adorn.

What kinds of architectural details do you look for when you travel?


This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

This week, I’m also linking up with the Friday Daydreaming series organized by Becca at Rwethereyetmom. Hope to see you there!



Staying Safe During an Earthquake

A magnitude 3.9 earthquake shook western Jamaica at 6:10 a.m. on Sunday, February 10, 2013. The epicenter was located in Darliston, Westmoreland, 29 kilometers south-southwest of Montego Bay and 130 kilometers west of Kingston. No injuries or damages were reported.

The rumbling lasted just a few seconds. Was that an earthquake, I wondered. I shook my head to reject the thought and calm the panic that suddenly tightened my chest when I realized I couldn’t remember the earthquake survival lessons I’d learned when I was little.

As I tried desperately to remember what to do, another, less insistent sound rippled through the stillness of the morning. There was no doubt now; it was an earthquake. Thankfully, it wasn’t strong enough but what if that had been an earthquake?

Going from one room to the next, I took a good look at the doorway I had just passed through – standing in the doorway was the only thing that finally came to mind. It appeared solid enough to my untrained eye, but would it have been able to withstand thousands of pounds of concrete? I didn’t want to wait for an earthquake to be sure. I had to devise a plan, so I went online.

If you live in Jamaica or another Caribbean island, the thing that’s uppermost in your mind is a hurricane. There’s even a rhyme that we all learn: June, too soon. July, stand by. August, you must! September, remember. October, all over. that describes what to do during the five critical months of the season.

But although Jamaica is in an active seismic zone and experiences up to 200 tremors annually there’s no such reminder for earthquakes. Jamaica has had a long history with earthquakes. It recorded its first in 1687 and evidence of its most devastating, in 1692, remain to this day. In that event, Port Royal was hit by an earthquake and tsunami that submerged two-thirds of the city. Nearly 3,000 souls were lost.

Prior to this year, the last earthquake hit the center of the island in 2005 and caused minor damage. Following the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, it was reported that geologist predicted it but were unsure whether Haiti or Jamaica would have been affected as both countries are on the same fault line.

So what should you do if an earthquake hits while you’re traveling?

  • First and most importantly, don’t panic.
  • Drop to the ground and take cover. Get under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture and hold on until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a sturdy table nearby, crouch inside the corner of your room or building and cover your face and head with your arms.
  • Move away from glass windows and doors and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures, ceiling fans, heavy mirrors, bookcases, hanging plants or other heavy objects.
  • If you’re in bed when the earthquake strikes, protect your head with a pillow and stay clear of anything that could fall or break.
  • Seek shelter in a doorway, if you’re nearby and if you know that it is strongly supported. Stay on the hinged side to avoid it swinging and hitting you.
  • Remain indoors until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Most injuries occur when people enter or exit or move to a different location inside a building.
  • Don’t use candles or matches or other open flame during or after the earthquake as there might be ruptured gas mains.
  • Electricity may be off so fire alarms, for example, may be off or won’t work.
  • Do not use elevators or you might become trapped.
  • If you’re in a hotel, stay in your room. Shelter under a sturdy table or desk and hold on.
  • If you’re in a restaurant, get under the table.
  • If you’re outside, stay there but be sure you’re not close to buildings, streetlights, utility poles, utility wires, or trees. Drop to the ground and cover your head and face with your arms. Remain until the shaking stops.
  • If you’re in a moving vehicle, stop as safety permits but stay in the vehicle. Avoid parking near or under buildings, trees, overpasses or utility wires. Once the earthquake has stopped, proceed cautiously but stay clear of roads, bridges and ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

There are a few precautions you can take when you travel that will help put your mind at ease whether there’s a disaster or a power cut.

  • Pack a battery operated or crank radio so that if the electricity goes out, you’ll still be able to get information.
  • Carry an LED flashlight in case the power goes out.
  • Pack snacks like trail mix, nuts, etc., in case you can’t get food for a while.
  • After an earthquake, water might not be drinkable. It’s good to iodine tablets handy but if you don’t have those, stick to bottled water. Make sure there are a few bottles in your hotel room and rental car, if you have one.
  • If your hotel is near the sea, check with the hotel staff about their evacuation plan and make sure you know how to get above the ground floor or other designated ‘safe’ area.
  • If you’re traveling with others, decide on a meeting point and make sure everyone in your party can find it. Also designate someone back home to be your contact person.

Unlike hurricanes, earthquakes strike without warning but having a plan in place can mitigate some of the stress they can cause.

Do you have an emergency travel plan?

Street Food, Jamaican Style

We don’t call it street food here, though that’s what it is and it’s been around for a while. When I was about 6 or 7, and we only used to jerk pork, there was a man who’d go from house to house selling pork from a metal pan that was attached to the front of his bicycle. The pan was like a portable barbecue with smoldering pimento coals at the bottom and another pan which contained the pork. You could smell it long before he arrived at our gate.

Back then, the economy was mostly agrarian and families prepared their meals at home.  Women would send their men off to the fields with lunches that were packed in “carriers,” aluminum containers that had compartments to keep the components of the meal separate. It also had a handle that made it easy to carry — I suspect that’s how it got it’s name.

If they had further to go, say to Kingston, the capital, there’d be stalls that sold seasonal fruits, like oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, otaheiti apples, etc., and a few that sold roasted yam and salted cod fish – inexpensive, popular and easy enough to make over an open fire.

To supplement the household income, some women would make baked goods – coconut drops (called drops for the way the sugary coconut mixture was dropped from a spoon and baked), cut cake, grater cake (a coconut and sugar reduction that is cooled and cut into small squares), peppermint candy, gizzadas (grated coconut in a crunchy shell), etc., that they sold as snacks, mostly at schools.

With more Jamaicans working further from home in the service based sector, few have time to prepare home cooked meals and stalls selling a variety of foods have become ubiquitous. Here are a few that I’ve eaten at.

Street Food, Jamaican Style
Food Stand

Despite its name, not all the food here was roasted. We stopped for a breakfast of green bananas and mackerel.

Street Food, Jamaican Style
Food Stand

Food stalls can be as elaborate or as rudimentary as the owner wishes. Some are small enough that they can be placed anywhere. At this stall in Clarendon, our lunch consisted of soup, roasted yam and codfish.

Street Food, Jamaican Style
Crayfish soup

At festivals, the number and variety of food stalls are sometimes overwhelming. I get food overload and can’t decide what to eat, like the day I took this photo at the Accompong Maroon Treaty Celebration.

The operator at this stall didn’t want anyone taking photos of his dressed up pigs but I couldn’t resist.

Street Food, Jamaican Style
Jerk Pork
Street Food, Jamaican Stye
Roasted Yam

Roasted yam is still quite popular maybe because it’s relatively easy to prepare. All you have to do is put the yam over the fire and the heat does the rest.

Street Food, Jamaican Stye

On hot days, a drink of cold coconut water is refreshing.

Street Food, Jamaican Style
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!

My friend, Karen, is taking her coconut with a shot of Jamaican rum – a delicious combination. We were laughing at how decadent it was to be drinking so early in the morning. It might have been about 11 o’clock.

Here, the stall was the back of this guy’s car. He also had straw bags, change purses made from small calabash gourds, banana chips, knitted caps with locks and frozen jelly coconuts – one stop shopping.

Street Food, Jamaican Stye
It must be the rum that’s making her laugh so much

Do you try street food when you travel?


This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

This week, I’m also linking up with the Friday Daydreaming series organized by Becca at Rwethereyetmom. Hope to see you there!







A Jamaican Spring

If you’re thinking there’s no spring in Jamaica, you’d be right. Even one of our venerable poets, H.D. Carberry, couldn’t resist celebrating this fact in his poem, Nature.

We have neither Summer nor Winter
Neither Autumn nor Spring.
We have instead the days
When the gold sun shines on the lush green cane fields –

But if you think of spring as a period of rebirth and rejuvenation, a time to restart or reboot then we do experience spring. And despite it being the dry season now — it started round December and will continue through April or May — several events have begun that signal the return of our Jamaican spring.

Yellow Poui Tree
Nothing says sprint like a poui tree

Like the blossoming of the poui tree. Although we have many more days without rain now, the trees have already burst forth in a riot of yellow and pink. Their unmistakably brilliant colors draw the eye to where ever the trees are located and it’s not unusual to hear someone call out, Look, a poui tree!

I did exactly that while driving home last Sunday. As my eyes traveled up the hills above the city, I spotted two patches of dazzling yellow. That can’t be the poui, I thought. But as I got closer, I knew without doubt that it was and it brought on an unexpected feeling of happiness that plastered a big smile to my face.

The blooming of the poui tree doesn’t always bring smiles. Sometimes it acts as a clear reminder for students at the local university that it’s time to hit the books as exams are around the corner.

Flame of the Forest, Hanover Jamaica
Flame of the Forest

In addition to the poui, the Flame of the Forest dazzles with its radiant flowers — I love seeing splashes of red in a carpet of green — and the flowering of the cactus.

Flowering cactus, Montego Bay Jamaica
Flowering Cactus

Flower Shows

It might seem unusual for the dry Jamaican spring to also be the start of flower show season, but it is. Two weekends ago, the orchid show brought out orchid enthusiasts and growers. There will be other shows around the island from now through August.

White Orchid, Montego Bay Jamaica


The jackfruit and otaheiti apple are some of the fruits that are plentiful now. While the jackfruit isn’t one of my favorites — it’s got an unusual taste and a distinct flavor — the deep red cotton-candy-tasting otaheiti apple is. But the jackfruit’s packed with dietary fiber and has no cholesterol or saturated fats so I should probably try to get used to the taste.

Jackfruit, Bath St. Thomas
Otaheiti Apples, St. Thomas
Otaheiti Apples

While some fruits are ready for eating, others, like the mango are just blossoming.

Mango tree in bloom, Montego Bay
A blossoming mango tree

And the reaped canefields lie bare and fallow to the sun.

It’s reaping time for sugar cane now and in the cane belt, you’ll see fields that are covered in tall grass-like leaves standing next to those that have been reaped, and trucks laden down with joints of the sugary cane.

Canefield, Duckenfield St. Thomas Jamaica
Sugar cane plantation

But best of all there are the days when the mango and logwood blossom
When bushes are full of the sound of bees and the scent of honey,
When the tall grass sways and shivers to the slightest breath of air,
When the buttercups have paved the earth with yellow stars
And beauty comes suddenly and the rains have gone.


Jamaicans love sports and in our Jamaican spring, schools begin hosting or participating in meets that identify the athletes that will represent them at national and international tournaments later in the year. One of the most popular, the Gibson Relays, took place about ten days ago and the Boys and Girls Champs will roll around in March.

Though we’re not hosting the matches, almost everyone’s following the coverage of the West Indies team as they go up against Zimbabwe in cricket, as well as the performance of the women’s team in cricket World Cup.

These are some of our unmistakable signs of spring in Jamaica. While it might not be a distinct season as it is elsewhere, we do experience a period of rebirth that is just as beautiful and remarkable.

This is my entry to Traveling with Sweeney‘s Spring-themed blog carnival. Please be sure to head over and check out other posts that celebrate spring around the world.

Sandals Island Jamaica

It’s impossible to ignore this Sandals recreation resort, with its Asian-inspired design, bright red color and unique location on Sandals Island, a private off-shore island near Montego Bay. It is the only hotel in Jamaica that occupies its own island. How cool is that?

Sandals Island
Sandals Royal Caribbean

Guests get to the private island, which has all amenities, including restaurants, a private beach, pool, Jacuzzi and more  by hopping on one of these dragon boats, or by sea kayak or sailboat. Can you imagine the stories they tell when they return home?

Dragon Boat near Sandals Island
Dragon Boat

Sandals Resorts is the largest locally-owned hotel in Jamaica. It operates seven properties in Jamaica, and several more on the islands of Antigua, the Bahamas, Cuba, St. Lucia and Turks & Caicos. All Sandals resorts are couples only.

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

This week, I’m also linking up with the Friday Daydreaming series organized by Becca at Rwethereyetmom. Hope to see you there!


Reach Falls Jamaica

Reach Falls has been on my travel list since the late 1980s when  I had found out that it had been featured in the Tom Cruise movie, Cocktail.  You might remember the one where Tom’s a bartender whose skill at flipping and juggling bottles of alcohol and pouring them perfectly into a glass had everyone dazzled. Frankly, that’s about all I can recall of the movie now but it made me curious about Reach Falls.

Reach Falls
Reach Falls Jamaica

Said to have been discovered by slaves from the neighboring parish of St. Thomas, Reach Falls is located in the tropical rain forest of the John Crow Mountains in the eastern parish of Portland. Though the Falls is on the Driver’s River, it takes its name from Reach, the community that it’s a part of.

We set out from Montego Bay around mid-morning a few weeks ago, and after  a few stops, arrived in Port Antonio, the capital, about 4 hours later. Following the signs to Reach Falls, we turned on to a secondary road that was fringed with a variety of flora. There were many downed coconut, banana and other trees, the result of Hurricane Sandy’s pass over this part of the island but not even Sandy could alter the carpet of lush green that spread to the mountains in the distance. After about 20 minutes of relatively slow going – the road was pot holed and narrow – the entrance to the Falls appeared.

Tree and foliage at Reach Falls
Entrance to Reach Falls

Except for a hotel bus, only a few employees were in sight – Reach Falls was deserted. Following the release of Cocktail, in 1988, the Falls saw a spike in visitors but numbers have leveled off. That might be due to its location relative to Montego Bay. Although Port Antonio is where tourism began in Jamaica (ships taking bananas from the island would bring visitors back), it too, has lost some of its former glory.

Size could also be a factor. At about 11 acres, much of it rain forest, Reach Falls is just too small to accommodate the hordes that visit Dunn’s River or YS Falls annually and with just one plunge pool, there isn’t much to do except enjoy the peaceful scenery. Which was quite fine by me – I like places that not overrun by visitors.

Reach Falls
Reach Falls Jamaica

After we purchased our tickets, our guide led us the few yards through a thicket of hibiscus and ginger lilies down the steps to the Falls.

The Driver’s River rises in the mountains and traverses limestone rocks before it empties into the sea 3 miles beyond Reach Falls. At the Falls, the river cascades approximately 22 feet down a rock face into a sparkling turquoise pool.

Hibiscus and foliage near Reach Falls
Reach Falls Jamaica

Though not as popular as Dunn’s River Falls with its human daisy chain, or as spectacular as YS with its rolling countryside, it is no less beautiful, and because there are fewer visitors, is an oasis of calm. You can hear and see a variety of birds, including the black and yellow billed parrots, overhanging vines, bamboo canes, and over 23 different species of ferns.

Main pool at Reach Falls
Reach Falls shallow pool
At the edge of the Falls, the water is so clear – you can see all the stones at the bottom – we didn’t want to go in. Seeing our hesitation, our guide asked if we wanted to swim. It was refreshingly cool but also quite shallow. The water hit me just above my ankles but it got deeper further away from the edge. The shallow area, he explained, was reserved for non-swimmers, while the roped-off area was for swimmers. Yes, Reach Falls is a great spot to cool off on a hot day.
Foliage near Reach Falls
Reach Falls foliage
The more than 20 rivers that crisscross Jamaica produce almost as many waterfalls. If you’re a nature lover or a waterfall enthusiast, you should check out Reach Falls and take the guided tour down the Driver’s River.

Before You Go

About 25 miles from Kingston and 100 miles from Montego Bay
Open Wednesdays to Sundays and local public holidays from 8:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Cost: Age 4-12 years – US$5; 12 and over US$10
Amenities: Bathrooms, changing areas and store


This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

This week, I’m also linking up with the Friday Daydreaming series organized by Becca at Rwethereyetmom. Hope to see you there!

The Quakers in Jamaica

Until I spotted this pretty little church in Portland, one of Jamaica’s eastern parishes, I had no idea there were Quakers still on the island.

The Quakers, also referred to as the Society of Friends, were among the earliest settlers in Jamaica having come to the island after the English conquest in 1655.

They believe that God is in everyman, therefore there’s no need for priests to speak on their behalf. That was revolutionary thinking at the time and many were charged with religious blasphemy. Some were jailed in the UK, others were sent to abroad to serve their sentences. In Jamaica, the Quakers continued their religious dissent. They refused to serve in the militia or to be sworn in as jurors.

In 1671, George Fox, founder of the Quakers visited Jamaica and established seven meetings on the island and by the start of the 18th century, there were nearly 10,000 Quakers on the island.

Pretty Quaker Church in Portland
A Quaker Church, Jamaica

Although the Quakers became the face of the movement to emancipate the slaves, for a time some were involved in the trade. Following abolition in 1834, there was an “apprenticeship period” before full freedom, but ill treatment of the almost free slaves continued.

In 1837,  Quakers Joseph Sturge and Thomas Harvey traveled to Jamaica and other islands to investigate reports of brutality on the plantations. Sturge and Harvey’s journal notes were published under the title, The West Indies in 1937, and were used to create the storyboards at the Hanover Workhouse.

In 1898, the Quakers established the Happy Grove High School in Portland. They also created the first public health facility in Jamaica in the 1970s, and boys’ and girls’ homes for orphans.

Today, they are 14 meeting houses and about 500 Quakers in Jamaica. Their numbers have dwindled reportedly because their form of worship – no pastor, singing, rituals or collection of tithes – is too staid compared to the more exuberant congregations that are referred to locally as “clap-hand” churches.

I was curious to go inside but we didn’t have enough time.

This little church can be seen just outside of Hector’s River, Portland, near the border with St. Thomas. It’s about 30 miles from Kingston.