Jamaica: ‘Once you go - you know’

By Ben KilbeyJamaica. A land of endless possibilities, good vibes and an ‘irie’ atmosphere. A land that some call Zion. Heaven on earth could well be one way to describe Jamaica - another is a kaleidoscope of cultures, tastes and adventures. Jamaica is not your ordinary destination - it is an infusion of what makes life great. Jamaica offers the traveller more then just a beach - that is a sentiment that echoes across the emerald Caribbean jewel. From the smell of pimento in the air, to the soothing rhythm of reggae on your ear - Jamaica will have you jamming too.The Jamaican Tourist Board (JTB) is keen to stress that ‘once you go, you know’. The decision is ‘how much do you want to know?’

Accommodation in Jamaica can be dominated by large all-inclusive chains - a one-stop-shop for all of your holiday needs. However, this should not limit your adventuring spirit.

Lounging on a beach in Jamaica is all well and good - it doesn’t, however, have to stop there. There are plenty of other activities that can enthuse you spirit and ‘lively up yourself’.

One good way of getting the balance of both beach holiday and adventure break is to combine an all-inclusive get-a-way with optional excursions.

In terms of tours the pride of Jamaica would have to be Chukka Caribbean Adventures. A well-executed and professional operation - Chukka offers some of the cream of Jamaican tours. From canopy swinging to Sea-Trekking, the options are varied and equipped to suit most tastes.

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Modern Day Tarzan

An Original Canopy Tour enables you to swing through the jungle domain under the assistance of very qualified and friendly staff. Your guides will take you on a zip-rope ride of the highest order. Via the means of a state-of-the-art pulley system you are enabled to swing through the vines like a modern day Tarzan (my guide however had no interest in becoming my modern day Jane, despite persistent jungle calls).

From the Canopy’s to the Ocean

If swinging from the branches isn’t to your liking and the ocean is more your bag then why not try Sea-Trekking? This underwater activity is geared towards those who long for the opportunity to sample the delight of the submerged world but cannot bring themselves to don mask and regulator.

A 25-minute guided tour takes in some of the wonders of the Caribbean coral formations. Your head is encased in a breathing unit allowing you to move freely, giving a good field of vision. At first I was weary of an ocean-based activity that allows you to walk on the seabed - envisaging damage to the underwater habitat.

However, feet only ever touch the sandy bed with the coral surrounding you. As ever the rules are, look but don’t touch. In other words, take only memories, leave only footsteps. It works. The Sea-Trek is a superb activity for cruise arrivals. Good for people who fancy a break from a traditional excursion.

(www.chukkacaribbean.com - Walk up rates for the Original Canopy Tour and Sea Trek are US$65 and $60 respectively - prices will differ at hotels)

Riding Reggae Style

If horseback riding across the pristine white sands of Jamaica appeals to you then, well done. Having previously been dismounted from a rapidly charging folly on the mountains of New Zealand getting on a horse was furthest from my mind. A saying that greets me when challenged like this - ‘face your fears - live your dreams’.

Unfortunately, I have never dreamt of trotting down the sea front on a horse. The rest of the participants appeared to have the time of their lives though. Who am I to talk? (Coward).

The smiles across the faces of all others involved summed up the experience. A ride through the country down to the beach lead by entertaining and professional guides (Delroy, how will I ever forget your sentiments my Rasta friend - ‘ya mon, what ya doing mon? You know they can sense ya fear mon!’)

The highlight for most was the ride through the sea - I must admit even I smiled - just. The trip is a great family excursion - for those in touch with their equestrian friends!

(www.bracostables.com - US$60 per ride including transportation - US$50 without.)

Get up, Stand up

A trip to Jamaica would feel empty without paying some form of homage to the late, great Bob Marley, and the music that made him the legend he was - Reggae. In Ocho Rios there is the opportunity to example what is known as Reggae Xplosion - the Reggae hall of fame. This whirlwind display-cum-documentary takes you through the time vaults of some of the world’s most influential music.

Displaying some of the best artefacts and imagery of Reggae music - Reggae Xplosion is a real treat and fantastic journey through the roots to modern day. If the vivid artwork, superb images and well stocked soundtrack of musical legends do not astound you enough, then surely your guide will. Just ask them for some dancing moves, they are going to ‘make you wanna move those dancin’ feet”.

(www.islandjamaica.com - US$10/6 adult/child including guide. Duration appox. 1h)

Taste the Food - Feel the Power

Jamaica as a country can be an experience in itself - from its welcoming people to its vibrant nightlife. One thing is for sure, to truly say you have been to Jamaica, you must try some local cuisine.

The spice of life can be found in jerk chicken, available in your hotel but much more authentic from the jerk bins that line the side of the road. The aroma of pimento and the fiery scent of Scotch Bonnet send taste buds soaring.

Sample the hot sauce at ‘Scotchies’ (located in Montego Bay - ask the locals and you will find - otherwise located opposite the Holiday Inn in M’bay) and take a memory home that you will never forget! (Make sure you have some Appleton rum to help wash the inferno down!)

Not Inclusive

Jamaica does not have to be all-inclusive - boosting some of the finest boutique properties across the Caribbean. From the tranquil retreat of Strawberry Hill to the quaint and quirky Jakes (located on Jamaica’s Treasure Beach - South Coast - the real Jamaica), the variety, as well as the spice of life, can be found on the Caribbean charm.

For true indulgence then there can be only two options, the legend that is Jamaica Inn and the luxury that is Round Hill. Both properties exude an opulence that time forgot.

In reality, Jamaica has it all and the only way to really know - is to go.

THE ESSENTIALS

DO: Eat jerk at Scotchies, visit the virtually un-commercialised South Coast (namely Treasure Beach), take some tours with Chukka Caribbean Adventures, soak up the culture at one of the great houses, learn about the music of Jamaica at Reggae Xplosion, continue to fly Air Jamaica.

DON’T: Eat too much hot sauce at Scotchies!! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

For the most informative information on Jamaica visit www.visitjamaica.com - A wonderfully intricate and detailed website displaying everything you will need to know for planning your trip

For information on getting to Jamaica visit www.airjamaica.com, and www.ba.com

For holidays to the Caribbean visit www.virginholidays.com

For information on all-inclusives visit www.sandals.co.uk and www.superclubs.org

For information on Jakes and Strawberry Hill visit www.islandoutpost.com

For information on Round Hill and Jamaica Inn visit:

www.roundhilljamaica.com

www.jamaicainn.com

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