Originally “Xayamaca” meaning “land of rivers and springs” in Arawak Indian language, the island cOuntry of Jamaica is the fifth largest in the Caribbean with an area of 10,990 sq. kms. 4,240 sq. mi) populated by English-speaking 2.8 million people. Its capital and largest city is Kingston. A member of the British Commonwealth of Nations with Queen Elizabeth as its monarch and titular head represented by a governor-general with a prime minister as the actual head of the government, Jamaica is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with a bicameral law-making body, the Parliament,consisting of an appointed Senate and elected House of Representatives.
Although a small nation Jamaica is rich in culture and history. Actually, Christopher Columbus claimed Jamaica for Spain after landing there in 1494. Ian Fleming must have realised how historical the island is when Jamaica was used for location footage of the first James Bond film “Dr. No” in 1962. Later in 1988 Jamaica was used for a location shoot for the Tom Cruise movie “Cocktail”.
In the late 1960s a music genre popularly known as “reggae” first culturally originated and developed in Jamaica particularly in Kingston. In the modern day pop culture scene the name Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, a three-time Grammy award winning Jamaican reggae artist, is a household name.
While in Jamaica it may be hard to choose between the arresting landscapes and the blue waters. Try to indulge in both as we did. Without question, we think that Jamaica’s most celebrated sight is the famous Dunn’s River Falls in Ochos Rios, “not only a sight to see but to tacke, as well”. A must-do activity when visiting the island, climbing the cascading waterfalls terraced like giant natural stairs and bordered by lush green vegetation is a memorable get-wet experience that calls for swimsuits/shorts and old sneakers or scuba boots or water shoes (not flips flops). You won’t be able to ascend for one and a half hours with your bare feet! The climb, led by guides wearing blue shirts, is negotiated as a hand-holding human chain for safety through the slippery rocks and boulders.Park guides also hold your cameras and take pictures in the placid pools under the falls. Fed by spring water the falls empty into the Caribbean Sea with its blue-green waters fringed by white sands.
Don’t miss a drive through one of Jamaica’s natural wonders, the Fern Gully, a scenic 3-mile stretch of highway under a natural canopy of lush greenery that winds through a rocky gorge filled with different varieties of ferns (Jamaica has the world’s largest number of fern species – more than 570).Along the road through the gully are many craft stalls of vendors selling wooden carvings and sculptures.
Jamaica’s theme park in Ochos Rios is the first of its kind in the country with its two-level interactive museum highlighting the “ReggaeXplosion”. There’s also an outdoor amphitheatre and stage, a 230-seat theatre, and a village square where street performers entertain and artisans sell craft products.
Worth a visit is the Shaw Park Gardens, a beautiful botanical garden situated well above the town for a sweeping view of the island. The park boasts a majestic waterfall and a 25-acre garden featuring around 600 species of flowers along with many ferns and shrubs.
Before you leave the island don’t forget to bring home one of the most expensive and sought-after coffee in the world, the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. In Jamaica, you can buy them for about $15 a pound. Jamaican coffee is grown on the fertile slopes of the Blue Mountains of the island where the climate is cool and misty with high rainfall at the legally required elevations between 3,600 and 5,000 feet. The coffee cherries are handpicked to insure optimal ripeness.
You’ll want to go back once you experience Jamaica!