The next overnight destination still on the Bond trail was to be Montego Bay. En route however, there was a picturesque colonial town called Falmouth that I wanted to visit. I didn’t have that many photos of Jamaican life apart from some in Port Antonio, and as it was Sunday I guessed it would be busy. Yes! The place was buzzing with people so in true photography tour mode I managed to take some decent shots of local people strolling around, all against a background of lovely, old historical buildings. Photographing local people in Jamaica is not a very easy thing to do. People are suspicious as to why you want to take their picture, so I always stop and explain how photos of Jamaica with no Jamaicans would be sad and missing something.
I was looking forward to visiting Montego Bay as I heard so much about it in films and songs. At first sight it was nothing like I imagined it to be. The hip strip as its called is a long road that runs between the beach, which is backed by buildings and hotels so you can’t see it and another massive block of hotels and restaurants on the other side. Be vary wary of where you stay if you intend to sleep at all whilst there.
There are a few beaches that are walking distance, the best by far being the justly famous Doctors Cave Beach. From there you can get a glimpse of what it must have been like in that bygone glamorous era of art deco, luxurious houses, hotels and casinos. The old buildings are mostly still there, converted, deserted and overshadowed by the modern. I had an idea in my head of photographing old buildings in black and white with a elegant couple sipping cocktails in front of one but it didn’t happen.
The best thing to do is to lie on the comfortable pristine beach, put on a pair of flippers, mask and tuba and swim out to the reef which is right there, unspoilt, with pretty coral and an array of multi coloured fish. From the beach, you see the planes from all over the world coming in to land every few minutes bringing visitors of whom many never venture much beyond their reserved hotel. What a shame. I did photograph the beach, a lot, as it was gorgeous.
“The place you should go to is Negril” a friendly local told us as we drank a couple of beers whilst taking in the sunset. It was indeed the next stop on the road trip around Jamaica. We stopped off en route to catch glimpses of luxury villas facing the beautiful coastline as the road turned in land towards the west. Negril is a beachcombers paradise. It offers everything it says it does. Miles of white sand beaches, most of which are free of charge (unlike most of Jamaica) and crystal clear turquoise waters protected by a reef teaming with fish and coral.
It is frequented by a huge diverse international variety of tourists of all ages staying in places from super exclusive luxury to a room in a local’s house. There is reggae and ganja a plenty. Negril offers something for everyone. You can pay a bomb for a meal in an Italian restaurant or enjoy jerk chicken or a simple grilled fish in a locally owned place for a few dollars.
Beyond the 7 mile beach is the West End cliff area, pretty hotels and restaurants overlooking the cliffs. Some offered pretty good snorkelling without having to take a boat out, however, I would recommend a trip out to the reef as it is really worthwhile but ask around before choosing a boat.
Venturing beyond the limits of Negril to the other side of the cliffs, it eventually becomes a dead end. In a few places, the vegetation has been cleared and a couple of new hotels and villas have been built. Beyond the green, the rocks give way to some sand and expanses of dead coral. Back to the roundabout that divides the beach from the West End and we continued our trip towards the south. The wild, untamed and undeveloped area that gives us a glimpse of Jamaica as it must have been.
The next and second to last night was to be Treasure Beach. We passed through Savannah la Mar, famed for reggae, it was traffic logged and impossible to park so we continued on to the coastal road. More sandy coves, rocky cliffs and a good breeze rippling the waters of the Caribbean sea.
Treasure Island proved to be a very pleasant and laid back place. Jakes is THE place to stay and it now offers less expensive rooms over the road still enabling you to use the beach facilities, pool and restaurant area, all very picturesque and charming. On either side were other coves, fishing boats and local joints where I took a bunch of pictures as there was an easy mix of Jamaicans and tourists alike enjoying the area which was a pleasure to see.
Our last day we woke up to a strong wind and agitated sea which brought in the gulls diving for fish. It was time to leave and complete our road trip around Jamaica, one island, one camera, one lens. One beautiful island that I shan’t forget.