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:
Jamaica: 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:
- Blue Mountain Bicycle Tour [Click & Scroll Down for Video]
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
- Chukka Canopy Tours Zipline Adventures [Website & Video]
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
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:
- Good Hope Plantation (Overlooking the Cockpit Country)
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.
Near Ocho Rios
- Hooves (located at Seville)
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?
- Prospect Plantation
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.
- Sky Diving
- Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica at Mystic Mountain
A ziplining & Bobsledding Adventure in a picturesque rainforest setting in the mountains.
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.
- Chukka Cove Canopy Tour [Website & Video]
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.