Traditionally, Jamaica is one of the top Caribbean destinations for visitors, especially for summer vacations. Unfortunately, over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely restricted travel to the island so visitors can enjoy the many varied tourism attractions. Hopefully, with the introduction of the various COVID vaccines, and a loosening of restrictions imposed in Jamaica by the government, the situation will be vastly improved so those who always wanted to visit Jamaica can do so for the coming summer holidays.
In addition to awe-inspiring sunsets, warm sunshine, azure water and sandy beaches, Jamaica has several unique attractions for visitors, including:
RAFTING ON THE MARTHA BRAE
Jamaica’s popular rafting attraction is located approximately three miles inland from the town of Falmouth, the birthplace of one of Jamaica’s former Prime Minister Hugh Shearer. The attraction is a mere 20 miles from the tourism capital of Montego Bay and 40 miles from the north coast resort town of Ocho Rios.
Established 40 years ago, Rafting on the Martha Brae boasts a complement of 85 licensed and experienced raft captains. The 30-foot long bamboo rafts are boarded from a concrete pier, under the supervision of a licensed dispatcher. The raft ride is operated over a three-mile stretch of the beautiful Martha Brae River and lasts approximately one hour. Once on the raft, couples guests can learn about “The Legend of Martha Brae” or enjoy an exhilarating swim. The attraction has over the years played host to a number of celebrities including HRH Queen Elizabeth II, heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, Chuck Norris, Dionne Warwick, Spike Lee, former NBA star Patrick Ewing, Jane Seymour of “Doctor Quinn- Medicine Woman” fame, the late Kenny Rogers, the late Johnny Cash and world 100-meter champion Usain Bolt.
This lagoon located in the town of Falmouth is becoming an increasingly popular attraction for romantic couples visiting Jamaica. The lagoon’s primary attraction is the waters glistening glow.
When swimmers move their bodies through the phosphorescent lagoon, microscopic organisms are disturbed, causing the water to glow and let off a glistening light. This phenomenon is said to take place in only three places in the world, so visitors should savor this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with their other half.
The Luminous Lagoon stretches along the marshlands of Trelawny from the small community of Rock to the town of Falmouth, once one of Jamaica’s most pivotal ports. Located at the eminent point where the Martha Brae River meets the Caribbean Sea, the lagoon housed a wharf where large vessels from England unloaded goods onto smaller ships to be delivered inland up the river. Years after the decline of the sugar trade, scientists discovered the lagoon’s geographical location was important for another reason. It was the single best place to observe and study microorganisms called dinoflagellates, which thrive in the layers where salt and fresh water combine and glow the brightest in shallow, warm water.
At night, the lagoon sparkles and glistens when disturbed, as these microscopic organisms produce an eerie glow, reflecting the outlines of fish and other objects in the water. The Luminous Lagoon continually attracts and awes visitors and scientists from around the world.
Departing every night from the Glistening Waters Marina, crowded tour boats take visitors on a ride around the lagoon. The highlight of the 45-minute tour is where visitors get the chance to take a swim and their bodies are surrounded by the luminous green glow.
HIKING ON THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
The lush, mist-filled hills leading up to the Blue Mountains create a dreamy and almost celestial setting. While far above the rest of the island, visitors can feel hidden away from the rest of the world.
Hiking to the Blue Mountain Peak in The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park and World Heritage Site is another peculiar Jamaican phenomenon.
The seven-mile hike to the Blue Mountain peak begins in the dark, early morning hours. The peak is the highest on the island, rising to an altitude of 7,402 feet. In the darkness, guided by flashlights, hiking groups climb steadily for four hours, clinging to the mountain wall as they forge ahead.
The way is narrow and steep, especially at a part known as Jacob’s Ladder. But the hikers conquer each little hurdle. As the hikers near the top, the dark outline of the forest grows on either side.
When the morning light begins to break, the hike becomes a race against the sun. Hikers are soon distracted by the spectacular views unfolding until they reach the peak.
On a clear morning, hikers can see Buff Bay and Port Antonio’s Navy Island to the North, and Kingston, Portmore and St. Thomas’ coast to the south. They might even spot the outlines of Cuba, 90 miles to the north. After the long trek, hikers can rest and take a seat atop of Jamaica, knowing they’ve just conquered The Peak.
The hike down the peak is in the daylight, and as hikers descend they cannot miss the botanical richness of the mountains around them. They pass through an elfin forest, where the low canopy makes them feel as though they are walking through a green tunnel. They’ll also see clusters of tree ferns, bamboo and eucalyptus trees, colorful wildflowers and hundreds of ferns growing alongside the mossy trail.
Overall, the 14-mile Peak trail takes about seven hours. Starting the trail early in the morning makes for an exciting hike and an incredible view of the sunrise, however, the hike can also be accomplished in the daylight.
Those who decide to begin the hike in the morning, can spend the night prior to the hike at either Whitfield Hall or Wildflower Lodge, or camp out at Portland Gap. The staff at these lodges will make arrangements to pick up hikers from Kingston or Mavis Bank. They will also organize local guides and can provide meals on request. Generally, the best time to try the hike is during the Blue Mountains’ dry season, which lasts from December to April, coinciding with the peak of the Jamaican tourism season.
If you love the outdoors, there is no other trail like the Blue Mountain Peak hike in all Jamaica.