For years I had wanted to visit Jamaica. As a fan of those early Bond movies and that glamorous bygone era of the 1950’s and 60’s, Jamaica has always evoked beauty and wealth, picture postcard beaches with crystal clear water, luxury hotels, and homes to the rich and famous. The ultimate Caribbean destination in all its splendour. Home to reggae, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, blue mountain coffee, jerk chicken and cheap ganja.
Everything is photography for me, so although the idea of going to Jamaica was to relax and chill out, listen to music, hunt out the old Bond haunts and not put my alarm on at 5.30 every morning as I usually do, I still wanted to get some pictures even though this was not the object of the trip. I took my old Fuji XE2 with an 18-55 zoom that is sort of permanently attached to me anyway, and a monopod. I’m always telling people on my photography tours that the camera is just a vehicle and it’s the eye that counts so be it.
We flew into Kingston and hired a car at the airport. Most visitors to Jamaica fly to Montego Bay but our idea was to tour the island and flights to Kingston from Europe were considerably cheaper as was the car hire, so bear this in mind. Before leaving we read horrible reports of it being a dangerous country and as for Kingston, the worst! so we set off in slight trepidation of what we might find.
Before I go any further, let me just say that at no point did we feel any danger or threat and found most of the people friendly and helpful. The worst that happened to us was we followed a guy on a scooter who wanted to show us a waterfall. It turned out he was a tout so we turned around and drove off. Some people are poor and they try it on. Don’t follow anyone who deliberately tries to start up a conversation.
After a good nights sleep at the Liguana Club (Bond haunt) in the business district of Kingston and with local SIM cards in our telephone, we set off to the North East coast through a part of the stunning Blue Mountains. I was blown away by the scenery and in spite of dark, gathering clouds had to shoot off a few photos. We eventually joined the main coastal road until we arrived at Port Antonio where we had booked a couple of nights at the Rio Vista resort which was to be our base for touring around.
On arrival, I gasped at the view from the terrace, overlooking the Crow Mountains and the Rio Grande river, it was absolutely breath taking. I photographed it a dozen times at different times of the day. Yes, I did get up at 5.30! it was misty and moody and magical.
The east coast is absolutely stunning. Wilder and less touristy than all the rest of Jamaica, it has gorgeous sandy bays that you can actually visit without big hotels having grabbed and privatised them like so many on the north coast. Some of them come at a price but they are clean, safe and very beautiful. Actually, Jamaica comes at a price, full stop. The East coast is probably one of the least expensive areas to visit providing you have a good map, use GPS where possible and keep asking the locals directions and information.
I photographed the beaches, the road side huts, the incredible scenery, the town of Port Antonio and the Errol Flynn Marina. Did I wish that I had brought more equipment? Of course! A 600mm lens would have been good for the birds! A lot of small cameras offer you almost that possibility but I can’t vouch for the quality.
On our way to Ocho Rios, a mega tourist destination and one that I was the most reticent about, but it’s on the James Bond movie trail so it was a must see, we stopped at Oracabessa to visit the James Bond Beach which offered good snorkelling and a couple of pictures. It is so called, as Ian Fleming built his house there called Goldeneye, hence the Bond reference.
I don’t ‘Do’ tourist things or stay in tourist places but I wanted to do the number one most touristy thing in the whole of Jamaica, visit Dunns River Falls in the morning, the minute it opened! We had it almost to ourselves for about half an hour and then the hoards arrived. We walked up through the falls which was actually very easy (you do not need a guide, just follow everyone else!). There was a wedding couple in full attireposing in the water for a photographer, which everyone stopped to snap too. Our Airbnb at the Sandcastles had free access to a crystal clear fairly empty private beach which was pretty nice too, and Evita’s Italian restaurant was probably the best meal we had in Jamaica.
As I downloaded the last of the pictures I realised that I didn’t have too many street scenes or architectural shots, so we decided to go on to Falmouth, an old colonial town before hitting Montego Bay, the final early Bond destination. Falmouth, Montego Bay, Negril and Treasure Beach coming next!