4) Stingrays can ruin a honeymoon
This was the first stop on our 5-day cruise to the Western Caribbean. I booked an excursion on the internet from the company called Jaital. Usually, it’s cheaper to do it on your own vs. the cruise ship, and this was indeed the case here. Most people visit Dunn’s River Falls while visiting the Ocho Rios port, but my in-laws have been there before and were not impressed. So it was decided (by them) to visit Turtle River and Gardens. Since we have small kids, we reluctantly tagged along instead of trying to brave Dunn’s River Falls on our own.
We were met by our driver in the port and he led us to his old dilapidated van. That’s one downside of booking Caribbean tours on your own: You get the oldest vehicles with no seat belts. But when in Rome, and you know the rest!
The gardens were located about 10 minutes away from the port and were quite impressive. At one time, there was a hotel on premises, but it was closed for years. Apparently, some developer just bought it and has plans to remodel it. Our tour guide was pretty laid back and said his motto in life is “Hakuna matata” of “The Lion King” fame. He led us around and told us about different plants native to Jamaica. The highlight of the tour were various waterfalls with weird names like “Brain” and “Ahh”. See top photo and take a look at my bag. My souvenir from FTU!
The most interesting part was the aviary, where you could feed the birds. There were various chickens, parrots and peacocks. My son immediately started running after them and kicking them with his feet. Sometimes I wonder if there is something wrong with him after all!
Our guide asked me if I wanted a family photo with parrots. I said sure. Without asking me, he put bird seed on the top my head and a giant parrot landed on me. Excuse me? I told the guide I was concerned the bird would poop. To which he said: “Oh, no, he won’t.” Turns out, he was right, because the parrot had already pooped on my father-in-law’s shoulder a few minutes earlier.
After the tour, our driver offered to take us around Ocho Rios for an extra 80 dollars, to which we agreed. I wanted to eat at a local place and he said, “No problem, mon”. Well, if you consider a tourist trap inside a mall “local,” then we got what we wanted. The meals cost 10 bucks each, so I’m pretty sure regular Jamaicans don’t eat there. It was obvious the guy was getting commission on us. Take a look at the chicken foot in the soup. Appetizing, no? Sigh… Hakuna matata.
The island is very poor and, apparently, basic education is not free, which I found a bit shocking. Many simply can’t afford to send their kids to school. Another sad thing was seeing locals peddling their stuff on the side of the road, hoping we would buy them. The devaluations in the miles and points hobby are “first world” problems to these folks. Actually, they are “first world” problems, period.
Have any of you been to Jamaica? What did you think of it?
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Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.