What do James Bond and Bob Marley have in common? Jamaica! I’ve been wanting to go for years and finally decided to book a flight, pack a camera, hire a car and discover this much publicised island in the sun. Not a photography tour with the alarm beeping at 5.30 but a laid back wonderful journey of discovery. For a photographer this is easier said than done!
We picked up a car in Kingston and drove through part of the Blue Mountains to the East coast which was stunning, with luscious tropical vegetation. We stayed in Port Antonio for a few days, overlooking the Crow Mountains and the Rio Grande, at the Rio Vista Resort, which offered a view to die for. I took loads of pictures of it and yes, I did get up at 5.30! There were loads of gorgeous sandy coves with crystal clear water and the famous Blue Lagoon.
I am a fan of those old Bond movies so we decided to continue our pursuit of Ian Fleming’s Jamaica. On our first night in Kingston we stayed at the Liguanea Club which was one of the locations used in Dr. No and where Sean Connery was a guest. So, with reggae blaring out, we left Port Antonio and stopped in Oracabessa to take a swim at the James Bond beach near where Ian Fleming’s old house Goldeneye is now a luxury hotel.
The next port of call was Ocho Rios. A slight disappointment as like most of the north coast, all the luxury hotels have bagged the best beaches making access almost impossible. However, our airbnb at Sandcastles allowed us private access to the beach over the road, which was very picturesque. Our main aim was to visit the touristy Dunn’s Falls first thing in the morning the minute it opened. It is the most visited spot in all of Jamaica and another famous movie location.
We enjoyed half an hour’s solitude before the hoards arrived. I don’t usually do touristy things but it is extremely beautiful and fun to walk through the falls. They look really slippery but they’re not.
Leaving Ocho Rios the whole north coast is peppered with sandy beaches and coves, all the way to Montego Bay. The real shame is that the coastline is spoilt by huge holiday resorts that appropriate huge stretches of beach or a whole bay. We managed to get into one of them on the pretext of meeting people for lunch there . The entire beach was covered in sun loungers and tourists and although the water was marvellously transparent, and the reef right there in wading distance it was absolutely thick with people so we left immediately. That is not what I look for when I go away.
Our next main stop was the old colonial town of Falmouth.
It was Sunday and the town crowded with locals walking around and shopping. I thought this a terrific opportunity to take some street photos, particularly as buildings are really pretty. Jamaican’s aren’t too keen on cameras, even the little Fuji I had with me. I had a couple of conversations with them to explain that although I had loads of fabulous photos of beaches and scenery I wanted to take some photos of every day life in a pretty Jamaican town. Somewhat reluctantly they understood and I was at least able to convey the atmosphere and finally obtain some street photography.
We arrived in Montego Bay in the evening. At first sight it was nothing like I imagined it to be. The hip strip as its called is a road between the beach, which is backed by buildings and hotels so you can’t see it and another massive block of hotels and restaurants on the other side. Be vary wary of where you stay if you intend to sleep at all whilst there. There are a few beaches that are walking distance, the best by far being the justly famous Doctors Cave Beach. From there you can get a glimpse of what it must have been like in that bygone glamorous era of art deco, luxurious houses, hotels and casinos. The old buildings are mostly still there, converted, deserted and overshadowed by the modern. The best thing to do is to lie on the comfortable pristine beach, put on a pair of flippers, mask and tuba and swim out to the reef which is right there, unspoilt, with pretty coral and an array of multi coloured fish. From the beach, you see the planes from all over the world coming in to land every few minutes bringing visitors of whom many never venture much beyond their reserved hotel. What a shame.