Maamee River, Saint Andrew

Maamee River is a place I heard of via word of mouth, and I finally took note of the turn off from the main a few weeks ago when I made a visit to Maryland in rural St. Andrew. The Blue Mountains is my favourite corner of Jamaica, but I still haven’t scratched the surface in exploring it even after five years of being more deliberate in discovering every nook and cranny of Jamaica. Having dedicated the next few years of my life to completing a residency, my compromise for long daytrips and weekend staycations will be exploring all the close and accessible parts of the Blue Mountains. Hence, I ended up at Maamee River after work one Saturday afternoon and here’s how it went.

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Maryland, Saint Andrew

It always amazes me how close the ‘country’ is to our beloved city of Kingston. As a city girl, I often quip that I must’ve been from the country in a past life because I look forward to escaping the hustle and bustle every chance I get. The verdant mist-covered hills, breathtaking valleys and meandering rivers and waterfalls of rural Jamaica are more my scene. Papine is a small bustling town which marks the gateway of the Blue Mountains, Jamaica’s largest and most important mountain range. This mountain range is world renowned for Blue Mountain coffee, a brand of coffee which is as unique to the Blue Mountains of Jamaica as champagne is to Champagne, France, and is grown on steep inhospitable slopes between 3,500 and 5,500 ft. above sea level. Its tallest peak is the Blue Mountain Peak in Portland which towers at 7,402ft (2,256m) above sea level. Hiking to Blue Mountain Peak is still my most favourite adventure to date, but requires at least two days’ commitment. When pressed for time, I make do with exploring the more accessible parts of this mountain range instead and one such community worth exploring is Maryland, a rural district four miles north of Papine.

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St. Toolis River, Manchester

St. Toolis is a district in Porus on the border of Clarendon and Manchester, in which a gorgeous free watering hole can be found. The residents call it Blue Hole but this river is actually a tributary of the Milk River in Clarendon. Porus was founded by Baptist missionary James Phillippo and became the sixth free village in Jamaica for ex-slaves after emancipation. Porus was originally named Vale Lionel after then governor of Jamaica Sir Lionel Smith, but the name eventually changed to Porus because of the porous nature of the district’s soil.

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Alligator Pond River & Beach, Manchester

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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Lethe, Hanover

Lethe is a rural district tucked away in the hills of Hanover, Jamaica’s second smallest parish. This small community sits on the banks of the Great River, one of Jamaica’s major rivers, which forms the boundary between the St. James and Hanover parishes. Lethe is easily the third most popular place to raft in Jamaica after the Rio Grande and Martha Brae rivers in Portland and Trelawny respectively. Rafting on 30-feet long bamboo rafts along the Great River in Lethe under a historic bridge and the cool viridescent canopy of towering trees and bamboo is an unforgettable experience.

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Black River Safari, Saint Elizabeth

Black River is Jamaica’s widest river and home to our largest and most feared reptile, the American crocodile. Our crocodiles are only found along the south coast, and since the Black River is located in one of our southwestern parishes, this is perhaps the best place to see them up close. Run by J. Charles Swaby, the Black River Safari offers covered boat rides which take you out on the river where you’ll hopefully get a chance to see the crocs in their natural habitat. If you visit on a day where the crocs are shy, you won’t leave disappointed by the natural beauty of the river and its vegetation. Also, you’ll still get a chance at seeing them up close in the nursery which is included in each tour.

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Gut River, Manchester

When you grow up learning in school that the parish of Manchester has no rivers or beaches, this one means a lot. Relatively unknown even to my friends born and raised in this parish, Gut River runs mostly underground then emerges for a short 200m journey to the Caribbean Sea. It is found along a narrow remote coastal road and is one of the many places in Jamaica where fresh water can be enjoyed alongside saltwater. Gut River is said to get its name from the German word ‘gut’, meaning good.

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