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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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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Kwame Falls, Saint Mary

Kwame Falls is an off-the-beaten-path waterfall near the rural district of Robin’s Bay in Saint Mary. It is said that the falls are named for Kwame, one of the warriors who fought alongside Tacky in 1760, the most successful rebellion against enslavement in Jamaica before that of Rt. Excellent Samuel Sharpe 71 years later. It is significant that the fall named for Kwame is much smaller and less powerful than Tacky Falls, also in St. Mary, as Tacky was a more courageous and fiercer leader than he.

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Dunn’s River Falls, Saint Ann

Dunn’s River Falls and Park is a state-run tourist attraction featuring a natural cascade which flows out to the Caribbean Sea along Jamaica’s north coast. It has been minimally modified with cement to create footholds, making it safer and easier for tourists to climb but that’s about it. If the tiers seem too perfect to believe they’re natural, that’s because Jamaica’s limestone richness and our abundant rivers create magic when they meet, carving out thousands of caves and dozens of perfectly tiered cascades throughout the whole island which are a sight to behold. They didn’t name Jamaica from the Arawakan word meaning ‘land of wood and water’ for nothing. April 2018 was my first visit to Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, Saint Ann.

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10 Lessons from Chasing Waterfalls in Jamaica

What’s not to love about water putting on a grand display? My island home of Jamaica is blessed with over 20 waterfalls hidden in its verdant rugged mountains. Our cascades are small making them interactive and fit to be climbed, stood under, swam in and enjoyed unlike the world’s largest falls which can only be admired at a distance. Waterfalls are my favourite feature of nature and since 2016 I’ve been trying to see them all. I’m now at 8 and counting, 6 of which were off the beaten path.

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Tacky Falls, Saint Mary

Life is quite unpredictable and I’m learning to roll with the punches more each day. Earlier this year I’d set out to visit this waterfall’s smaller cousin, Kwame Falls, but the public transport in Kingston decided against that plan. Thus, I was most excited when a high schoolmate of mine who is now studying abroad came out for Christmas and organized a few trips to discover more of Jamaica, perhaps inspired by his own overseas adventures or this blog 😅. Tacky Falls in Islington, St. Mary was on his itinerary and that’s how it came about that I visited the harder-to-find St. Mary waterfall first.

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Little Dunn’s River, Saint Ann

Little Dunn’s River in Ocho Rios is the last remaining span of free north coast between Portland & St. Ann’s Bay in Jamaica. Attempts have been made in the past by the government to shut it down, citing that the property was a safety hazard to patrons but really with the motive of handing over the property to private developers. In 2013, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) posted guards at the site, erected a fence with a locked gate, placed no trespassing signs on the property and mounted no parking signs on the adjacent strip of road on which patrons would park.

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