I originally hail from Kingston, but the parish of Manchester has been my home for the past two years. There’s a chance I may leave Manchester soon, but I’ll cherish the experiences and friendships I’ve built here forever. One of the things I lamented while reflecting on the end of my first year in Manchester is that I’d barely explored the parish, and I vowed to change that for my second year. One year later, I’m pleased to have explored almost all the places worth seeing in this cool mountainous parish– from Noisy River up north to Alligator Pond by the coast. I went to Little Ochi in January this year for the first time, and while the wait time was horrendous, I appreciated the experience a lot. However, who knew that another gem was so close by! I heard of the Alligator Pond River, also known as Sea Riv, just a few weeks ago and decided to check it out before my stint in Manchester expires. Read on to learn about Sea Riv, an estuary where the Alligator Pond River meets the Caribbean Sea.
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Sea Riv is located in Alligator Pond, a district on Manchester’s southernmost tip which borders St. Elizabeth. In fact, the village is often disputed as being located in St. Elizabeth since many Jamaicans were taught rather erroneously at some point that the parish of Manchester has no rivers! I love proving those naysayers wrong, having already visited Noisy River and Gut River in the parish. Alligator Pond River is my third Manchester river and there’s still another river or two left for a next trip.
Sea Riv was easy to find. Coming from the direction of Mandeville, take the Winston Jones Highway, drive down Spur Tree then make a left turn at the slip road immediately after passing the signs which say “Welcome to St. Elizabeth.” This left turn is across from a Texaco gas station. Drive down this road (Gutters main road) until you see an Epping Gas station, then make the right turn just after the gas station. Continue along this road for a bit until you reach a sign which says “This Way to Port Kaiser.” Make a left turn here and then eventually you’ll encounter a tiny dirt track on the left. Drive very cautiously on this road as some parts of it are very narrow, and if two cars end up travelling in opposite directions, one may have to reverse to allow the other car passage. Also, take care if it rained heavily recently. If your vehicle isn’t 4WD and the road is very muddy, it’s best to park and walk to Sea Riv as I’ve heard of cars getting stuck in the mud before. Thankfully I didn’t encounter any of these problems. Note: If you end up making it to a fence with an admission fee sign on the gate, you drove too far. Turn around and keep your eyes peeled for the dirt track I mentioned.
An alternative route to Sea Riv is to continue past the Epping Gas Station from the main road and make the right turn instead at a sign marked “Bunch of Grapes.” This is just before the Alligator Pond District Police Station. This route will take you to a slightly different parking area.
Sea Riv is FREE! There are lots of seafood shacks all about, a couple benches and even a dilapidated restroom/changing room available at a cost of $50JMD per person. That’s about it in way of amenities, but don’t go to free watering holes in Jamaica expecting much.
Enjoying Sea Riv
I went to Sea Riv the weekend after our Prime Minister lifted the closing orders on free rivers and beaches. That wasn’t the best weekend to visit Sea Riv as you can imagine there were lots of people. However, the space was so large that you didn’t end up mingling with other persons. In fact, my friend and I walked the beach to where the river met the sea and barely encountered anyone. For most of the journey, our footsteps were the only ones in the sand and it felt like we had the entire beach to ourselves. However, the road to Port Kaiser continued up above and there were tonnes of garbage hidden among the rocks on the beach so signs of regular human activity were evident. The Alligator Pond Beach would be the perfect spot for a beach cleanup. I made a mental note to walk with a plastic bag and gloves should I ever venture to this corner of Jamaica again.
One thing about Jamaicans is, we know how to have a grand time. Some youngsters were having the time of their life on a surfboard in the river. It was as amusing to them as it was for me to watch. They eventually rode it like a bodyboard down the length of the Alligator Pond River into the sea and then surfed a few waves before walking back up the river to repeat. The south coast is home to some of Jamaica’s biggest waves, so the conditions are perfect for surfing. The sand is dark brown and even black in some parts. However, the beach is not ideal for swimming because of the possibility of riptides– those dangerous undercurrents which can bring you far out to sea instead of washing you to shore.
Dining in Alligator Pond
All that walking made me hungry, so we chose the most attractive spot to have lunch. The thatched roof and brightly painted wooden shack called Riverside Seafood Restaurant & Bar drew our attention. We were the owner’s first customers for the day, and his face lit up when we enquired about the menu. He only had snapper fish available when we went, available steamed, fried, jerked and brown-stewed. I chose steamed, while my friend chose jerked and we were both happy with our food. In fact, happy is an understatement. This was some of the best fish I’ve had in years. Both our meals including beers came up to $5,200. You could tell that the cook was so happy to have the curfew restrictions lifted so he could earn an honest living once more. It showed in his pleasant attitude. These are the places I prefer eating at, as I love putting my money in local hands. Thus, I didn’t mind having to do the stuff a waiter usually would like pick out my own drinks, get my own ice and open my own Red Stripe. On the day I went, Riverside was a one-man band.
After eating, we decided to walk the opposite end of the beach in the direction of Little Ochi and back. I did quite a lot of walking as my fitness app said I walked a cumulative distance of 4.4miles, but long walks on the beach are always fun.
Sea Riv was an interesting stop, and had a nice little vibe. It’s pretty surprising that I hadn’t known this place even existed before the start of 2021, but I’m happy I know about it now. Check it out if you’re ever in this side of the country.
‘Til next time.