There’s this waterfall hidden in Palmetto Grove, St. Mary called Johnny Falls which I heard of years ago on Facebook. There were no directions on how to find it anywhere, so I added it to my list of Jamaican waterfalls to visit and moved on. Last year my interest in visiting Johnny Falls piqued again with Grove Swimmers, a fearless group of youngsters who perform admirable dives into the river which runs through their district, headed by 17-year-old Nathan Douglas. They have taken to Instagram and YouTube to showcase their talent, and have even been featured in national newspapers. Grove Swimmers conduct informal tours to Johnny Falls and will not only showcase their amazing talent for visitors, but also coach them on how to safely get the adrenaline rush of jumping into the river from dizzying heights. Thus, I happily tagged along with a group of avid explorers and friends so I could cross this enigmatic and twenty-second Jamaican waterfall from my list.
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From Kingston, we took the North-South Highway (A1) and exited at the Linstead toll exit for $550JMD. After this, it was a bumpy ride past some farms, a few churches and small districts such as Guys Hill and Springfield. The overall drive from Kingston was about 90 minutes, and took this long because of the terrible road conditions after leaving the highway. There were a few good stretches, but otherwise the road was riddled with potholes.
There’s not much in way of landmarks nor map markers to follow. Palmetto Grove and Johnny Falls are both truly off the grid. There isn’t even a sign to let you know when you’ve crossed the parish lines of St. Catherine into St. Mary. Feel free to stop and ask questions to confirm if you’re on the right track, but it’s a straight road so you’re unlikely to get lost. We picked up our tour guide Nathan at a bridge with a sign for the Palmetto Grove New Testament Church of God. It’s at this bridge that the Grove Swimmers perform their breathtaking diving feats.
We had spoken to Nathan on social media before coming and negotiated a price of $600JMD per person for his tour guide services. We had planned an all-day affair complete with ‘running a boat’ as we colloquially refer to outdoor cookouts in Jamaica.
The drive took us up into the hills of St. Mary, so the air was noticeably cool and fresh compared to the hot dusty city we left behind. I’m still not yet a fan of jumping into water from dizzying heights but most of the company I came with are, and so they had their fun. I admire courageous individuals who dive into water bodies for fun, especially the Palmetto Grove youth. They had me in complete awe! Make you’re subscribed to my YouTube channel for when I drop a compilation of their insane dives!
We drove about 5 minutes or less beyond the bridge of Rio Sambre and parked on the side of the road, then hiked for perhaps 15 minutes. It’s a short gentle-moderate hike but is best done without load as you’ll need hands to help you at a few bits. Also, make sure to bring repellant. The mosquitos were OUT!!!!
Johnny Falls was cool and invigorating. The water was cloudy, likely because of recent rainfall, but still a delight. It was shallow for about a third of the way out, then becomes deep. I’ve seen pictures where it looks much more powerful than pictured here too, but it’s still a beauty.
After frolicking by the waterfall for about 2 hours we turned to playing games and of course, eating the food which our travel-chef whipped up for us over wood fire. The menu was soup, the sweetest roasted yellow heart breadfruits I’ve had in years and fried green (unripe) plantains. Yum! This was the perfect fuel after a long drive out.
I’m so excited to have had another adventure in St. Mary given that my last adventure within the parish was three years ago with a visit to Kwame Falls. Hopefully my next trip to St. Mary won’t be so far away. Like Hanover, St. Mary is a parish we’re all sleeping on. Check out my earlier adventures in this parish.
‘Til next time.
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