2012 Sept – Montego Bay, Jamaica

Day 1 – To Jamaica (The “NO PROBLEM” country – that seems to be their motto)

Even before we set off for this vacation, we had decided that this would be one of our more “relaxing” vacations, as opposed to the ones that we usually have with all the running around and seeing everything that there is out to see. And we quite lived up to it… well, for the most part.

Jamaica is not as far as it may seem… a quick 1-stopover flight from San Antonio with 5 hrs flying time, we reached Jamaica by early afternoon. After clearing customs etc, we took the pre-arranged taxi to our Sunset Beach Resort, a short drive away. The best part about the resort, besides the fact that it was sitting on the Caribbean and had its own private beaches, was the fact that it was all-inclusive … meaning ALL food and ALL drinks were free. That was enough in itself for our family to start branding this the “Perfect Vacation”!
We spent the majority of the day lazing at the beach, checking out the resort, walking around, soaking in the scenery with the turquoise blue waters and jungle-lined beaches, and chugging down cocktails after cocktails.

Day 2 – River Rafting & Luminous Lagoon

Another good feature about the all-inclusive resort is the fact that all non-motorized sports are included as part of the package. All we had to do is sign our name for the Snorkeling Gear, Paddle boats and ocean kayaks etc., and we can enjoy any of these activities. Since this was off-season (we went in early September, there was no limit on time ).

The reef is just a few feet from the shore and runs all along the resort. Perfect place for snorkeling! We spent hours and hours in the early afternoon checking out the multi-colored fishes in that beachy oceanic reefy heaven!
For the latter half of the day, we got picked up by our pre-arranged taxi and drove an hour and a half east to Falmouth. (We didn’t quite make it to Ocho Rios – which is where the majority action, in terms of activities is). Falmouth sits at the mouth of the Martha Brae River, where we enjoyed our bamboo rafting experience. $60 for a 2-3 person raft, that is rowed by an experienced local who tells stories, and sings songs along the way… wasn’t a bad deal at all for a 1-hour ride. (Just be careful, half way through the ride, they try to sell you some handmade stuff at exorbitant prices. While we politely declined, our rower got quite upset with us… I was quite sure we would end up thrown off the raft in the middle of the river, but luckily he rowed in silence rest of the way).

Right after that, our taxi-driver took us to the area of the Luminous Lagoon, not too far from there. This turned out to be one of the most unique experiences we have had in our lives!!! As the boat took us from shore to the lagoon, where the river met the ocean, we could see the wake of the boat turning neon green. The boat-captain informed us that that was due to the presence of dino-flagellates in the water (micro-organisms). Since the water was only 4-8 ft deep there, we jumped right in, and swam in pitch dark, our bodies aglow!! Absolutely amazing! Apparently there are only 4 places in the world that this phenomenon happens – Bahamas, Indonesia, Puerto Rico and the brightest ones (lucky us!) in Jamaica. Highly recommended!!

Day 3 – Negril

The morning/afternoon was the usual – a heavy breakfast at the buffet, lounging on the beach, taking walks around the resort. Oh! We added Ocean Kayaking to our repertoire of activities this morning … Fun! Fun! Fun! Very easy to do… took us just a little bit to get the hang of it, which oar to use to turn which way etc – but after that we had a blast. Especially knowing that the water wasn’t too deep, currents weren’t too strong, we could kayak over the reefs and look down at the fishes through the crystal clear waters in a relaxed setting. The only activity that we couldn’t get to do there was the Sunfish… the sail boat that the lifeguards take you in the middle of the seas on. But hey, next time!

In early afternoon we set off via taxi to our next destination – Negril, boasting of some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with absolutely blue waters, white sand beaches and such clear water that you could look hundreds of feet into the sea, just standing on the shore. The journey was a pleasant 1.5 hours, to the west of Montego Bay – most of it being along the gorgeous shoreline. Once our taxi driver dumped us on a section of the 7-mile beach, we were hounded by the operators there who run various activities like parasailing, jet skiing, and slew of other ones. The whole family decided to try our hands at jet skiing one by one and it was a total blast!

10 minutes from the Seven-mile beach is the awesomely located “Rick’s Café” – famous for it’s vantage points, it’s mimosas (of course we tried!), cliff jumping and one of the best sunsets we have seen in our lives. Our favorite was jumping off the cliffs though, into the sheltered cove water below … 3 levels of jumping were available. First one about 4 ft high (fondly called the baby jump), next one about 20 ft high (chicken jump), and the third one way too high!! (We all passed on that one, though there were some brave souls who did do that). In retrospect, I feel I could have jumped from there too. SURE!

Day 4 – Dolphin Cove

Mornings at the resort were very typical … breakfast, snorkeling, swimming, walking, lounging etc

It’s the early afternoon when the fun begins with trying new things. Our last day here – we decided to take it a notch up and went for the Dolphin Encounter – about half an hour away towards Negril. This was clearly the most exhilarating experience we had there… perfect for kids and adults alike! First they take you in knee deep water where you get to touch the sting-rays and see them in their (almost-) natural habitat. Then you jump in the waters of the sheltered cove (or if you are a non-swimmer, you could wade in the knee deep water and just get to touch the dolphin’s back) and try different antics with the dolphin (you could try the 1-dolphin or the 2-dolphins package). We took the 1-dolphin swim package and had one of the most awesome experiences … touching the full body of the dolphin, getting to ride the dolphin holding its dorsal fins, and finally getting a long peck on the cheek by the dolphin. Must-do!!

Day 5 – Back to San Antonio

Mornings at the resort were very typical … breakfast, snorkeling, swimming, walking, lounging etc

Did some parasailing in the waters over the blue Caribbean waters. Later, with a heavy heart, we started packing our bags, we spent the bulk of the morning at the Gift Shop at the resort, trying to get some souvenirs. But the best souvenirs we picked up from there are the memories, the pictures/videos we took and yes, the kiss on the cheeks by the dolphin!! YA MON!!! (Jamaica slang for Yeah Man!)

5 Favorite things about the trip:

  1. Dolphin Encounter at Negril
  2. Luminous Lagoon at Falmouth
  3. Snorkeling outside the hotel
  4. The absolute blue waters of the Caribbean
  5. Martha Brae River Rafting

Some Don’ts or recommendations:

  1. Taxis hailed on the street and hotel tour groups can run quite expensive. Best to arrange for your private cab, and negotiate a daily rate with the driver. He would happily wait for you while you complete your activity. They accept USD (cash) as payment.
  2. We never tried this – but its recommended to stay away from the dark-alley areas in the downtown section
  3. Enjoy Jamaica – its as beautiful, but not as expensive as Hawaii and easily accessible from Texas. YA MON!

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