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. Jamaica’s crocodiles are mainly found along the south coast, and the Black River is the best place to see them up close. Run by J. Charles Swaby, the Black River Safari offers pontoon boat rides which carries one onto the river where they’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. This is one of at least five rivers found in Manchester Jamaica, but some are seasonal.

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Kwame Falls, Saint Mary

Kwame Falls is a free river and waterfall in Jamaica near the rural district of Robin’s Bay in St. Mary. It is said that the falls are named for Kwame, one of the warriors who fought alongside Tacky in 1760. This was the most successful rebellion against enslavement in Jamaica before that of Samuel Sharpe 71 years later. It is significant that the fall named for Kwame is smaller and less powerful than Tacky Falls, also in St. Mary, as Tacky was a more courageous and fiercer leader than he. I haven’t found a written record of any general Kwame or Kwaamen, however, one source made mention of Kwaw as one of Tacky’s conspirators. With the distortion of oral history throughout the years, it’s very likely that Kwaw became “Kwame.” That aside, this was a memorable adventure with a 4-hour roundtrip hike involved. Here’s how it went:

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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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Island Gully Falls, Saint Ann

I try to demystify Jamaican off-the-beaten-path places on Adventures from Elle because usually not much useful information is available about these places online or by word of mouth. Island Gully Falls is one such place despite becoming very popular on social media and perhaps more recently popularized as Blue Hole. A detailed search turned up conflicting prices ranging from free to expensive US$ prices and its location in St. Ann was often quickly corrected by others to St. Mary. Well, Island Gully Falls is a scenic cascading portion of the White River set upstream under tropical rainforest-like canopy and it straddles the parish border of St. Ann and St. Mary. Also, there is a rate of JM$500 for locals but as to the cost they charge foreign tourists I can’t say. It seems to vary depending on whether you find your own transport there or if you come with a tour group. Nonetheless, here’s how my adventure went:

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