Touching down in Jamaica this New Year’s day, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m a Caribbean newbie, but looking out of the plane window down on to the turquoise sea and glinting vegetation, I sensed it would be amazing. During our stay, we based ourselves in Ocho Rios, and despite coming from Guatemala and a packed schedule, we decided to pack our last few days with activities and explore the best of the island. We’re definitely not a beach-lounging family!
In fact, I don’t think we went to the beach once, because we simply didn’t make time or the rain didn’t permit it. Our first port of call was Dunn’s River Falls, which is a beautiful terraced waterfall surrounded by tropical forests. There was the option to climb the falls, which most visitors do, but none of us felt like slipping and injuring ourselves before returning to London! We did however cheekily sneak onto one of the fall’s terraces for some snaps.
That same day, we visited Mystic Mountain and took in the view of the canopy, followed by a rainforest bobsled ride: an ode to the famous Jamaican Olympic bobsled team.
We couldn’t go to Jamaica without an obligatory visit to Kingston and while there, we stopped by the incredible Bob Marley museum. Visiting his home, seeing his personal belongings, records, studio and photographs was not only fascinating as a place of reggae history, but also a collection of family, love and talent all under one roof, which you don’t need to be a Marley super-fan to appreciate. We also explored the beautiful Devon House and enjoyed some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had at the ice cream parlour on the colonial home’s grounds.
Our Jamaican escapade had so far been filled with light hearted fun, nature, musical culture and food, but we wanted to end our Christmas trip just how we had started it in the Galapagos: surrounded by animals. And so we decided to go swimming with dolphins and nurse sharks. It was the second time for me swimming with dolphins and it was even more magical than the first time! They pulled us along by their fin, gave us pecks on the cheek and let us rub their tummies amongst other amazing demonstrations of their intelligence and skill. When it came to the sharks though, I was nervous as I’m not quite a shark person and they were larger than I expected! We entered the water and were able to stroke them, hold them and even lift them up in a bear hug. But boy do they move quickly! The trainer dropped some fish in the water as a treat at some point and the shark’s head moved so fast that I jumped in surprise. Eventually, the sharks (quite rightly) got fed up of us manhandling them and got a bit snappy, so we exited the water, grateful to have gone through such an incredible experience. Come to think of it, the whole trip was an incredible experience and spending the first few days of 2018 with my family in such a wonderful place was simply memorable.