This virtual tour of Jamaica will give you the essence of the “land of wood and water. In Part 1 of our 2 part tour, we venture into the mountains and rainforest to discover unspoiled beauty as far as the eye can see.
Giving Your Team the Essence of Jamaica:
Of Wood and Water
by Anne Thornley-Brown, President
Executive Oasis International
Anne was born in Jamaica and she now resides in Toronto. She has lived and worked in Jamaica and she returns frequently. Anne and the Executive Oasis International team would be pleased to organize your next:
How Jamaica Got its Name
First things first. Jamaica got its name from the Arawak-speaking Taino, its first known inhabitants. In their language, the word “Xamayca” meant “land of wood and water”. To me, it is an accurate description of 2 of Jamaica’s most compelling features and, in my opinion, its essence.
Not only is the island surrounded by the blue-green Caribbean sea, rivers flow, streams bubble, and waterfalls cascade throughout Jamaica. The wood refers to Jamaica’s lush rainforests and its mountainous areas where one can truly come to appreciate wood in all its forms through the thick foliage.
If you really want to give your team a sense of Jamaica, definitely spend some time on the beach (that’s part of the water) but move beyond the beach. There is so much more to see. This virtual tour of Jamaica will give you a sense of its essence.
This video and many of the other videos on this page have reggae music so you may want to turn down your volume if you are watching this at work.
When you’re ready to get on a plane actually travel to Jamaica, what’s the best way to give your team the essence of Jamaica? Go back in time, venture into the mountains, head into “town” as we Jamaicans call Kingston sometimes, and explore water in all its forms.
This 2 part blog special about Jamaica will show you how to explore the various areas of Jamaica. You have many options when selecting the area in what you want to stay. Here are some options:
Part 1 focuses on getting a sense of Jamaica’s history and exploring the mountains, no matter where you decide to stay. It also highlights the many attractions that Kingston has to offer.
Old Story Time - Travel Back in Time
to Discover the REAL Jamaica
In Jamaica, it isn’t hard to get a sense of history. In a way, history surrounds you. You’ll see churches, Great Houses, and other buildings that are hundreds of years old. In many towns you can still visit traditional markets where higglers peddle their wares. In fact, historical sites abound.
There are a number of ways to get to know what Jamaica was like before the modern era and develop a sense of its history. The best options depend on where you are staying. Here are just a few ideas and trust me, I am just barely scratching the surface.
Montego Bay or Falmouth
Years ago, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon at the Sarawak Heritage Village in Kuching, Malaysia. I’ve already blogged about it this truly amazing place that gives one a sense of the main ethnic groups that have had an influence on Malaysian culture. At the time I couldn’t help thinking that such an approach would be a perfect way of showcasing Jamaica’s history and culture. Poof! Be careful what you wish for. Outameni Experience does just that.
“Outameni” sound like the first part of Jamaica’s National Motto “Out of Many One People” the way we Jamaicans say it “Out a Many”. This relatively new experience will give you a quick snapshot of the history and culture of Jamaica and the people who have helped shape our culture. You’ll spend some time learning about the Taino, our original inhabitants, the Spanish, the Africans, the British, the Chinese, and the Indians (from India). You’ll see a typical residence, sample cuisine and meet time travellers who will give you a sense of how each of these cultures has been woven into the colourful tapestry that represents modern Jamaican culture. If you are staying in Montego Bay or Falmouth or even if you have to travel from Ocho Rios, I highly reccommend that you check it out soon after your arrival in Jamaica. It will put a lot of what you see in Jamaica in context.
The Great Houses
The Great House was the large mansion on Jamaican plantations in which the plantation owner and his family lived. Visiting a great house can give you a sense of what Jamaica was like at one time. If you are in or near Montego Bay, you’ll have easy access to:
- Rose Hall
- The setting for the legend “The White Witch of Rose Hall” – They say that it is haunted by the ghost of Annie Palmer who lived there hundreds of years ago, so be careful.
- Greenwood Great House
Built by the Barretts of Wimpole Street London in 1800, it is now a museum with the largest collection of musical instruments and books on the island.
Near Ocho Rios
Seville is of great historical significance. It was the location of Jamaica’s largest Taino town. It is also where the Spanish originally settled after invading Jamaica. They started building Sevilla la Neuva but they abandoned it for Spanish Town in 1534.
At Seville Great House and Heritage Park, you’ll see:
- a replica of a Taino village
- the the original cattle pen of the Spanish
- the ruins of the Spanish church of Peter Martyr
- a fortified castle (Governor’s House )
- the base of the Spanish Sugar Mill
- a replica of a typical residence in which the African slaves lived
- a collection of Taino, African, Spanish, and British artifacts in the Great House, which is now a museum and the point of departure for the Hooves horse riding adventures.
(I have previously written about the fact that through, Hooves, you can go horse riding at Seville. More about that later.)In the meantime, join Jamaica’s Dry Lan Tourist as she tours Seville Great House & Heritage Park.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Spanish in Jamaica, you’ll want to stop by Columbus Park at Discovery Bay, where Christopher Columbus first landed in Jamaica in 1494, and Runaway Bay where the Spanish escaped to Cuba after they had been defeated by the British.
I’ll mention it briefly as I wrote about it in a previous blog entry. Hey it’s in my family’s hometown just up the road from my late grandmother’s house. My family has lived in that area for generations. So, please indulge me. Brimmer Hall is a working plantation and one of Jamaica’s many heritage sites. It can really give you a sense of history.
Here is where you can find out more about Jamaica’s numerous historical and heritage sites:
Jamaica National Heritage Trust
Exploring Kingston – Town
Exploring Kingston can easily be arranged. There are a number of tours that leave from hotels around the island to not to be missed attractions such as Devon House, a beautifully preserved 19th century mansion built by Jamaica’s first black millionaire, and the Bob Marley Museum (Bob’s former home on Hope Road). The Bob Marley Museum introduced a “Making the Music” studio tour for schoold during the 2010 Bob Marley birthday celebrations. Now that would be a treat and I am sure that this can be arranged for corporate groups. If I was taking your group to Jamaica, I would highly recommend that you begin your journey with these attractions and then stick around so that you can explore Kingston further. I would suggest that you leave your resort early and spend at least 1 night and 2 FULL days exploring Kingston and surrounding areas.
What to Explore in Kingston
This list barely scratches the surface.
- Continue your exploration of history by viewing the collections at the National Gallery of Jamaica
- Visit the Natural History Museum of Jamaica at the Institute of Jamaica.
- Check out the University of the West Indies Mona Campus (I used to work there)
- Visit Hope Gardens
- Dance and party at Quad 4 Level Nightclub in New Kingston
Usain Bolt showed up on this night:
- Schedule your trip to conincide with the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica’s season of the dance (July).
- Alternatively, arrange your visit for December or January and take in a performance of the National Pantomime.
You’ll hear traditional music and enjoy a rich theatrical performance in Jamaican patois.
- Build in some time to explore the historical sites in Port Royal, a 17th century haven for pirates.
Yes, it’s Port Royal that’s depicted in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean and one of the first places in Jamaica that James Bond visits in Dr No. Kingston was founded as a place to settle survivors of the great earthquake that destroyed much of Port Royal in 1692. It was also on the Port Royal side of the Palisadoes strip that the airplane crash landed on in December, 2009.
Exploring the Mountains
- When you are in Kingston, be sure to set aside a half a day to head up into the Blue Mountains where our world famous Blue Mountain coffee grows.
- Tour a coffee plantation.
In fact, Rohan Marley, one of Bob Marley’s sons, now co-owns and runs Marley coffee in the Blue Mountains. The excellent video, narrated by one of Bob Marley’s daughters, focuses on this business, what it takes to produce a great cup of coffee, and why coffee is an important commodity for emerging nations like Jamaica. You’ll also see some spectacular views of the Blue Mountains.
- Holywell Recreational Park
- Blue Mountain Bicycle Tour
To explore the Blue Mountains, you can even a tour that will take you to a high elevation to enjoy the spectacular view and then allow you to ride a bike all or part of the back way down. Take a peek:
Be sure to bring your bathing suit for a dip in a stream or near a cascading waterfall. On the way back ro Kingston, make sure that you have a reservation to enjoy a scrumptious meal at the Blue Mountain Inn.
Near Montego Bay
I’ve arranged zipline adventures for my clients in Canada and abseiling for clients in Canada and the Middle East. On these adventures, I have always been way too terrified busy handling logistics to try it. When I was in Jamaica a few months ago as a guest as the incredible Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay (during their 2009 fam. trip), I finally had a chance to try it.
It was really 3 adventures in 1. First came the ride to the top, an offroading adventure that reminded me of dune bashing in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The only difference was that I screamed a lot louder on this trip as:
- mountain roads are a lot more rugged than sand
- I forgot to close my eyes
- the way our guides were hanging off the back, I was sure they were going to go flying off. Not to worry, they were strapped on and it was all part of the fun and the laughs.
I remember laughing and having a great time until after we got out of the jeep, one of the other guests remarked “Oh my gosh, that’s our ride. You mean there’s only 1 way down.” as we watched the jeep drive off. Talk about panic. Well, with the coaching and support of our guides (I needed lots and they were super), I tried it and it was a blast. First there were the ziplines, those were horizontal and you travelled at lighting speed at tree top level. Then there were a couple of transverse lines on which you dropped straight down. Yes, I closed my eyes for those. Other than that as you’re zipping along, you can really get a feel for the mountains and rainforest. There are also some spectacular views to be enjoyed along the way.
The Appleton Express used to be a train that would leave Montego Bay and take you through the mountains to the Appleton Rum Estate closer to Jamaica’s south coast. Unfortunately, the train is no more but you can still take the journey in an air conditioned bus. Read more about the Appleton Estate Tour below in the Negril section.
On your way to the Appleton Estate you’ll travel through some beautiful mountains and valleys. Since 1749, the Appleton Estate has been distilling and blending rum, one of Jamaica’s most pleasurable exports. This tour will take you through the process of how run is distilled from sugarcane and molasses. You’ll leave with a bottle of rum and some great memories of a unique experience.
The Cockpit Country is a rugged mountainous area. Most visitors to Jamaica never get to see it but for those who do, it’s a trip that is well worthwhile.
A brief review of the history of the area is in order.
Some of the Tainos, Jamaica’s original inhabitants, took refuge in the Cockpit Country to avoid raids by the Caribs from neighbouring Caribbean islands.
The Cockpit Country also became the home of “The Maroons”. When the Spanish invaded and controlled Jamaica, some of the Africans who they enslaved ran away to the Cockpit Country and lived with the Taino. After defeat at the hands of the British, the Spanish freed all the Africans who were still in slavery before they escaped from Jamaica to Cuba. These Africans also joined the Maroon communities in the Cockpit Country When Jamaica was under British rule, over the years, Africans who had been enslaved by the British also ran away and joined the Maroons and swelled their ranks.
Nanny, one of Jamaica’s national heroes, was the leader of the Maroons in the early 18th century. Under her leadership, the Maroons successfully held off the British troops during the First Maroon war from 1720 – 1739. On January 6, 1738, the Accompong Maroons (a.k.a. the Leeward Maroons) made a peace treaty with the British that allowed them to retain control over 1500 acres in the Cockpit Country. The following year, a similar treaty was made with the Windward Maroon community near Moore town. Some of the descendants of the Maroons still live in the Cockpit Country today.
One of the best times to visit the Cockpit Country is during the Accompong Maroon Festival. Dating back to the 19th century, it takes place every year. Many of the Maroons who have moved to other parts of Jamaica or migrated to places like the USA, Canada and the UK, return for this annual celebration. They are joined by visitors from all over Jamaica, Europe, and the Americas. Through the magic of Youtube, I am pleased to bring you highlights.
If you want to visit the Cockpit Country, let Executive Oasis International arrange your incentive trip to Jamaica and we will work it into your itinerary. One of the best places to stay if you are interested in exploring the Cockpit Country is:
A 2,000 acre plantation, Good Hope is set in a peaceful valley. From the 18th century great house (called Good Hope) there is a spectacular view of the Martha Brae River, the Queen of Spain Valley, and the Cockpit Country. At Good Hope, you can have corporate events and weddings or enjoy activities such as horse riding, cycling and hiking. Pamper yourself with an aromatherapy massage or explore the studio of David Pinto, one of Good Hope’s resident artists.
The Windsor Research Centre at the Windsor Great House, located in the Cockpit Country, has a mission to:
- promote conservation efforts for the Cockpit Country that is now in danger due to encroachment by the baxite mining industry on the natural habitat
- conduct research about many of Jamaica’s endemic animal and plant species that make the Cockpit Country their home.
On some Wednesdays, there is a Field Trip in the Cockpit Country & a Meet the Biologists Dinner at the Windsor Research Centre.
Windsor Research Centre Podcasts about the Cockpit Country
Near Ocho Rios
Hooves used to offer the Bush Doctor Mountain Ride that would take you up into the hills of Jamaica on horseback. Just like other parts of the world, Jamaica is going through a lot of development. With all the construction, development and roadwork that has been on going on, this ride has been suspended for now. Keep checking their website and hopefully, they’ll soon be able to offer the mountain ride again. In the meantime, you can enjoy a Virtual Bush Doctor Ride [.WMV] at the Hooves website.
Don’t despair, there are many opportunities to explore the mountains if you’re staying near Ocho Rios.
This outing on horseback won’t take you on any public roads but you will take you up into the hills, down in the valley, and along a picturesque riverbank.
Your path meanders along the course of the river while the sound of streaming water creates background music for your listening pleasure.
What more could you ask for?
This is the first place I ever went riding in Jamaica and it was the second time I went riding in my life. This was before I got seriously hooked on everything equestrian. You’ll tour this private working plantation on horseback and see see bananas, cassava, sugar cane, coffee, allspice, and many other crops. You’ll go up into the hills to enjoy panoramic view of this part of Jamaica. On a clear day, you can see Cuba.
When I was a girl, this is the type of bus on which we would travel from Kingston to the country see my grandmothers. Chukka Adventures has restored an authentic old time Jamaican country bus. Hop on the Zion Bus Line in Ocho Rios, you’ll travel back in time and through scenic country and mountain villages to Nine Miles where Bob Marley was born. It is also his final resting place.
Jamaica’s bobsledding team has made headlines around the world and it was the focus of the move Cool Runnings that was filmed in Jamaica and Canada. I guess it was only a matter of time before some enterprising business person would find a way to bring this experience to our guests. Take the treetop Skyexplorer skytrain to the top, zipline and then bobsled back down. Think of it as bobsledding without the risk of frostbite.
Explore the heart of Jamaica’s Garden ParishCranbrook (St. Ann) at Cranbrok Flower Forest, a unique eco-tourism attraction. Cranbrooke is set on 130 acres of lush exotic tropical gardens, lawns, water pools, hiking trails, and a tropical rain forest. The main meeting and event facilities are clustered around a resored sugar mill near the property’s entrance
A new trail through lush jungle in the heart of the spectacular Cranbrook Flower Forest leads to the start of Chukkas’ unforgettable Zipline Canopy Tour adventure.
Nine ziplines, from 105 feet to 660 feet apart, swing through the Laughlands River gorge, a giant valley carved from the surrounding mountain by ancient waters (a sparkling river still flows through it). You’ll enjoy a bird’s eye view of the flora and fauna while listening to the gentle sounds of nature.
A visit to The Enchanted Gardens, my favourite place on the planet, is a MUST. Great news for lovers of The Enchanted Gardens. This gorgeous property re-opened in 2009. The Enchanted Gardens is now a botanical garden and event centre. The avairy with hundreds of exotic birds has been res-stocked and the same bird man we came to know and love is still there. You can have weddings and corporate events at The Enchanted Gardens. There are no immediate plans to re-open the spa or the hotel rooms but, when I visited in September 2009, I was informed that the restaurant will soon be re-opening. For updates, check out The Enchanted Gardens Facebook Fan Page.
We’ll continue our exploration of Jamaica in my next blog entry where I’ll focus on water. Before I go, I want to say that the beauty of The Enchanted Gardens is that it allows you to explore both wood and water.
No where else do these 2 elements combine to create such a stunning effect. Take a peek and I’ll bet you’ll fall in love with it too.