“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.”
I specifically chose that quote because of the drive from the airport to our villa. Potholes on potholes on potholes. Anyone who has driven/been in a car in another country outside the U.S. will tell you it’s nothing like our driving here. In Jamaica, there are no lines on the roads because they’re not paved, there are no traffic lights, and there are certainly no stop signs. It’s every man for himself-on top of the fact that you’re driving on the edge of a cliff 95% of the time.
Aside from that, Jamaica is a lovely place. You’ll see multiple fruit stands on the side of the road and locals selling other goods. Do yourself a favor-stop at the first place you see and pick up some coconuts. They’re cut open for you and you’re given a straw, voilá! You’re drinking coconut water. It’s not much but it’s something to get you in the Jamaican vibe at the beginning of your vacation.
We stayed in a villa on a small cliff, overlooking the ocean. There was an infinity pool, a full-sized kitchen and living room, and even hammocks to take afternoon naps in.
We bought snorkel gear and jumped off our dock right into the ocean. We didn’t see anything but small fish that time, but it was awesome nonetheless. Probably the coolest thing was what I saw one morning after I woke up. There was a man canoeing directly to all the villas on the coast, selling its occupants crabs that he had caught himself that morning. When he got to us, we bought all of them and then released them later. I couldn’t just let them die at the hands of other hungry people!
Our villa came with a private quarter mile of beach, so we decided to go swim and kayak one day. When we got over there, a couple of workers told us the beach was not swimmable. We didn’t understand why we could kayak but not swim, but we shrugged and went on. As soon as I started dragging my kayak into the water, I quickly realized why the beach wasn’t swimmable. There were hundreds of sea urchins covering the ocean floor. I’m not talking about the cute little tiny ones that look like they may or may not kill you. I’m talking the size of my head, people. Hundreds of them. You couldn’t even see the sand at the bottom of the ocean. I was briefly startled before deciding to trek on. A couple of us hopped in our kayaks while the other members pushed us out. I didn’t get to fully enjoy the serenity of this excursion, however, because all I could think the entire time was, “If this kayak tips, I’m dead. I’m gonna die. Don’t tip, don’t tip, don’t tip.” I guess I do have a unique story to tell now, though.
After finding out our beach was life-threatening, we decided to venture out to the nearby Sandals Whitehouse Resort (it now has a different name). They allow you to pay a fee to spend the day using their amenities. Here, we kayaked without fear for our lives (that was very refreshing, let me tell ya). There was a snorkel excursion that the resort provided (you have to pay extra, of course) so we decided to try our luck at that, considering there is no coral reef right off our dock where we previously snorkeled. I have snorkeled off the coasts of three different islands in the Caribbean, and Jamaica was hands-down the best experience I’ve had. Not only did I see the vibrant colors of multiple reef fish, but I had a too-close-for-comfort encounter with a huge stingray. That was the second time I feared for my life on that trip. The reef was absolutely beautiful and there was an abundance of wildlife under the water. I am so upset that I didn’t buy a GoPro before this vacation, because I have no proof of these amazing things I witnessed. But I have one now, so it’s all good! Once I was back to shore, I simply spent the rest of my day lounging on a sea urchin-free beach (you have no idea how good that felt). I got to meet a few peacocks wandering around the premises, too!
What I enjoy about Jamaica more than the pristine waters is the jungle. Zip lining from tree to tree in the green thickness is one of my fondest memories. Around me was lush plant life, singing birds, and roaring waterfalls. Seeing this from the height of the trees amplified that larger-than-life feeling.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline boost, jumping off a waterfall into the reservoir below will do that for you. It’s not quite comparable to cliff diving, but it gets your heart racing anyway. (I have a picture of myself doing this, but I look like a dying frog so I’ll spare you the awkwardness.)
After all these activities requiring energy and exertion, it was time to find something calm to do toward the end of our stay. We took a boat tour on a nearby river that allowed us to see crocodiles in their natural habitat. There were a couple that swam to the boat because they were enticed by food. I snapped a quick selfie with one of them, named Erica, but had the irrational fear that she was going to jump up and bite my head off so that was the end of my daring behavior.
Once we were safely back on land, the workers led us to a small nursery where the baby crocodiles were kept. I got to (kind of) hold one!
All in all, Jamaica is a wonder to behold. The culture is entirely unique in itself. I have never met kinder people than the natives of this country. They are eager to teach you their language, their way of life, and anything else you’d like to know about their home. Just a conversation with one of them multiplies your appreciation for diversity tenfold.
P.S. Jamaican sunsets are to die for.
Until next time, mon!