Jamaica (/dʒəˈmeɪkə/ (About this soundlisten)) is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea. Spanning 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area, it is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and the Caribbean (after Cuba and Hispaniola). Jamaica lies about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola (the island containing the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic); the British Overseas Territory of the Cayman Islands lies some 215 kilometres (134 mi) to the north-west.
Originally inhabited by the indigenous Arawak and Taíno peoples, the island came under Spanish rule following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1494. Many of the indigenous people were either killed or died of diseases to which they had no immunity, and the Spanish thus forcibly transplanted large numbers of African slaves to Jamaica as labourers. The island remained a possession of Spain until 1655, when England (later Great Britain) conquered it, renaming it Jamaica. Under British colonial rule Jamaica became a leading sugar exporter, with a plantation economy dependent on the African slaves and later their descendants. The British fully emancipated all slaves in 1838, and many freedmen chose to have subsistence farms rather than to work on plantations. Beginning in the 1840s, the British began utilising Chinese and Indian indentured labour to work on plantations. The island achieved independence from the United Kingdom on 6 August 1962.
With 2.9 million people, Jamaica is the third-most populous Anglophone country in the Americas (after the United States and Canada), and the fourth-most populous country in the Caribbean. Kingston is the country's capital and largest city. The majority of Jamaicans are of African ancestry, with significant European, Chinese, Indian, Lebanese, and mixed-race minorities. Due to a high rate of emigration for work since the 1960s, there is a large Jamaican diaspora, particularly in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The country has a global influence that belies its small size; it was the birthplace of the Rastafari religion, reggae music (and associated genres such as dub, ska and dancehall), and it is internationally prominent in sports, most notably cricket, sprinting and athletics.
Jamaica is an upper-middle income country with an economy heavily dependent on tourism, with an average of 4.3 million tourists a year. Politically it is a Commonwealth realm, with Elizabeth II as its queen. Her appointed representative in the country is the Governor-General of Jamaica, an office held by Sir Patrick Allen since 2009. Andrew Holness has served as Prime Minister of Jamaica since March 2016. Jamaica is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with legislative power vested in the bicameral Parliament of Jamaica, consisting of an appointed Senate and a directly elected House of Representatives.
Day 1: Departure to Jamaica, via Cuba
Sunday morning and the alarm clock is set at a quarter past six, because within an hour they come to pick us up. This time we didn't choose to drive to Zaventem ourselves, but B.A.R.T. will pick us up. A service that mama Linda had used a couple of times in the past and was (and is) very satisfied with it. So, we try this too. It is a bit more expensive than a parking at Quick Parking, but for the 12 days it will not have made much difference in the end. The big advantage now is that we don't have to wait and don't have to drive ourselves. Last times the Quick Parking bus could take half an hour, sometimes even longer. So, this time something different and at 07:14 a minibus stops in front of the door. We must load everything, check that we have everything and then head for Zaventem. It was already two years ago from Cuba that we had flown over the Atlantic Ocean again, but now it is time again.
We are on schedule to reach Zaventem, do some talking on the way and then we can go to the departure hall. This is the first time we arrive in the main hall for TUI and everything goes smoothly. Well, premium costs a bit more, but you'll have everything faster. Directly through the check-in after we dropped off the luggage and then to our gate. It seems it’s very busy at the airport. We notice that a lot of Jews leave: maybe there is a holiday somewhere or something else, but it’s striking. I don't know. At Starbucks we start at the gates B, drink coffee, apple juice and have a bite to eat. We leave an hour before boarding for our gate and can indeed start boarding when we have waited for half an hour here. We can go along with the first ones, are still waiting for the doors to open, but can then quickly find our seats: 01 D, E and F. Our first time we sit on the first chairs, we almost feel like a VIP.
We have seats with almost one and a half meter of space for our legs, wonderful. It will also show during the flight that this is super. As usual it takes a while before everyone is seated, but in the end, we have no delay and can start the ten-hour flight. We get a glass of champagne, Saint Réol. We know it from a weekend in the Champagne region a few years ago. Then the food is there, and we get a nice salad and choose as a warm dish, the wild boar stew. And it tastes great too. Arne has balls in tomato sauce with pasta and he also loves it. That way the first two hours will go by quickly. Something to eat and drink. We even get a coffee with a digestive, delicious. Then it's time to watch a movie and hope that Arne will rest or quietly watch a movie as well. We don't sleep, so we watch a second film. Thanks to the place we have, we can also stand up now and then without bothering anyone else and after two films we have a hard time.
The first six to seven hours are over in no time at all, but then there are still a few things to do, aren't there? Arne is fighting against sleep, but it's still bright outside, so he doesn't feel tired yet. An hour before we must make a stopover at Varadero we get a wrap to eat and then we start the descent to Cuba. There the landing goes smoothly, and it is normal to wait for an hour before we can continue our flight to Jamaica for three quarters of an hour. Well, that will be a bit longer than an hour, even for almost two hours. Especially now that we are lucky to be in the front with so much space. We have a chat with the stewardesses and the pilot and finally we are on the ground for almost two hours. Well shit happens. Another 45 minutes flight to Montego Bay and then immigration, luggage and hopefully a quick transfer to the hotel. The flight goes very smoothly, that forty-five minutes is really nothing compared to the last ten hours. We take off and start descending almost immediately, so it seems. When we get there, everyone wants to get off as soon as possible, except for the ones that fly on to Brussels.
We get off and take a long walk through a lot of corridors and arrive at immigration. It is very slow there for the first half hour, then again very fast, because they have opened a few extra kiosks, but then it goes very slow again. The crew is ahead, even of 2 planes, then there are those who have an escort and get priority, so it's very slow with only 4 kiosks open in the end, but only one for us. We must wait for 2 hours and we become a bit frustrated ourselves, let alone what Arne thinks of it. Eventually we go through anyway and then we go to our luggage. It has already been taken off the conveyor belt and then we can follow the green Nothing to declare arrows. Arne doesn't want to sleep, because he's not tired yet, but after an hour of waiting for the latter we can leave for Hotel Riu Ocho Rios in the village with the same name. After an hour we visit the first two hotels and then another twenty minutes and we're there.
Get out and check in and then directly to the room. We've been awake for almost 24 hours now since we left home. Arne slept alone in the bus and crashes at the reception. Immediately upstairs, to bed and to sleep. We ask for a separate bed for Arne and can move him without waking him up. Then we have a drink and go to sleep as well, because we are also exhausted.
Day 2: Explore and enjoy the hotel, swimming pool and restaurants
Arne wakes up, everyone wakes up, only that's not really at the most pleasant time of day, half past four, the first time and half past five the second. Not bad for six hours of time difference. We think he's had the worst, at least that's what we hope. We don't get up yet, but still rest a bit. After that it's time to have breakfast and explore the hotel a bit. Breakfast is from seven to eleven thirty, so quite a long time. The breakfast looks good right away: lots of choice and of course the first time we take far too much. But it goes well and after breakfast we can continue exploring the hotel. We are in room 2416 and can do pretty well. Apparently, we have received a free upgrade, because Arne immediately finds a message from the postman with a note that we must sign that we have received it. View of the sea, the swimming pool, Ocho Rios in the distance and the mountains along the coast. Amazing view.
But after breakfast we first go and see what this hotel has to offer. When we leave the breakfast restaurant Sint Ann on the right we walk uphill and see a gazebo. There we go and have a look. There is a man and a woman to feed the fish. There are also lots of fish, turtles and a white egret is watching to find a bite here. Arne thinks this is super and we enjoy it very much. We walk back past the restaurant, in the direction of the reception and so on we come across a stage and a bar, but the bar is not open yet. It's not even ten o'clock, because at ten o'clock we have an appointment with Charlotte of TUI. We walk a little further to the Sports Bar. It is open 24/7, so ideal for the night people among us. At check-in they also said: if you're still hungry, that's the place to be. And then it starts to rain, and Arne thinks: what is this? But of course, that's the Caribbean, isn't it?
We've already seen mega dark clouds, we've already seen bright sunshine, rain on our roof. But that's typical for this region. We've seen that in Curaçao as well, at first heavy rain and half an hour later you don't see anything anymore, super wonderful! Around ten o'clock we go to the reception for TUI information. Charlotte and Arne are immediately friends and we listen to the information she has for us. Very briefly about five or ten minutes about the island, the people, the cities, the currency and what you do best in terms of exchange and so on, good info and then comes the information about the different trips that you can book. We listen for a moment and all three of us are immediately OK to go to the Black River and the YS Falls for a day for the crocodiles and the waterfalls and then half a day to two other waterfalls where you can swim. So, Thursday and next Tuesday we already know what to do.
We pay 552 USD immediately and that's just under 500 Euro for the three of us for these two trips. That's already arranged, yeah. Soon we will hear about the diving and then the most important part of the holiday will be arranged. We look for a place by the pool and choose the right part, because somewhere else there are no more beds available. Arne wants to go straight into the water, but it’s important to use sun cream: we've already seen people here who look as red as a lobster and we want to avoid this. Even I, yes me, Timo, use sun cream, better to be safe than sorry. It has also been a dark winter so it's better to prepare ourselves a bit for the sun. Arne hits swimming pool with armbands and we lie down and rest. We take turns in the water and are also regularly together with the three of us in the pool. We have the little ball of Cars with us, but we forgot his diving goggles, disaster oh what a disaster.
We try to do a little water volleyball and then rest for a while. We get tired of that. It's noon soon and the restaurant behind the pool bar and the regular bar opens at 12, it’s a long time without food, so that's a real challenge here in the hotel. We take something small from the buffet and take it with us to our places and eat it quietly there. Although quiet: at the side of the swimming pool there are two boxes with loud music for the aerobics and for other activities, also for children, but that's not for me. And no, that's not because I turned 44 last month, that's always been the case, especially when it comes to those songs like Gasolina. That's when I've had it. Looking for another place tomorrow anyway. The hotel is all-in and so we take it from there. It was eleven o'clock already, so a cuba libre is not misplaced. We also drink a bit of water now and then, although not enough for this warmth.
This afternoon is the water-mat-race for adults, but I'm better than the rest, so I give them a chance to win by not taking part. After that the kids are also allowed on the mat and they are having a great time with it. We go in the water a couple of times and enjoy the sun as well. My arms are getting a bit red and I have hardly been in the sun. Well, we'll see what it's going to be like, we'll be able to do a good run and we'll check it out tomorrow. We leave the swimming pool at about half past five and can still shower and get ready to eat. That's again in the same restaurant as where we had breakfast. A silly waiter comes to serve us and first he gives us water and we drink a glass of wine with it. Then we can get something to eat and just take a bit of everything, that's the advantage of a buffet hey. Blessed! It's all very nice and we don't have any problems with anything. Some things are a bit spicy, but we can handle that, just a little bit surprised when we noticed it was also with the fries. We go to the room at half past seven and then we can go to sleep. Arne goes straight to bed, we read and write a bit more and go to bed early. We still have some energy, bit not a lot, from the busy day and the flight, so a good night's sleep will do us good.
Day 3: Explore and enjoy the hotel, swimming pool and restaurants
Oh, same title as yesterday. But today there is not much else on the to-do list than yesterday, even less I would dare to think. We're going to get up after a WTF-night. No way to tell, Arne was ill, but I'm going to save you further details. Long story short: around two o'clock we could start our final night's sleep. I don't want to bore you too much with long stories that are always the same, so today's hotel, chillaxen and that's it. We get up at seven o'clock, everyone seems to have adapted to the time difference, then we go for breakfast and a little later we go to the swimming pool. This time we are on the other side than we were yesterday, a bit closer to the bar, but most of all (yes, I don't know what you think) less noise from the animation. Those boxes are standing here all day long and that is OK for most of the people, but not for me. And I repeat it, not because I turned 44 😊. We get something to drink at the bar and then lie back in the shade, because yesterday the sun did have a huge impact. Arne goes in and out of the pool, Evy is going to have her pedicure done by ten o'clock. It's been a tradition for some time now. If Timo can go diving, I can ... Arne and I go and get some goggles in the Beach Shop and then he can let go, wonderful to see.
We had some trouble with him for half a day, but at the moment of writing this, it's all OK, hopefully it will stay that way. In the afternoon we go out of the noise and have lunch at the level of the palm trees and with a view of the sea and after that we can have some fun in the swimming pool. Arne wants to learn how to kayak and that works remarkably well with the help of the animators. After that I splash around a bit and I almost forget that I must get all the papers to go diving. That's what we do then, isn't it? I get my equipment from the room and go to the diving centre. There I meet Bas. Yesterday Timi introduced me as the person who does most of the things here. I fill out everything, test the vending machine, because it was a bit damaged and then I can pay. Well, pay before you dive and before you even know how many dives you are going to do. I start with four and I'll see what it becomes. Just get the card and then pay. Just playing at the pool, then getting an ice cream in the lunch restaurant before four o'clock and then I go with Arne to play ping-pong. He had been watching that the whole time and wanted to play it.
I sacrifice myself and play for half an hour and then we go back to the room: showering, writing, watching DVD and then to the evening dinner. We eat a salad and some hot food, drink wine and water and enjoy it tremendously. This evening we did bring some money for our waiter and we don't forget him, especially because he was much better than yesterday. Less noise, less show, but better service and I thought waiters had that as their main task. Arne is watching DVD in the room and we are enjoying ourselves on the terrace and then at nine o'clock we also go to sleep, because we are very tired because of everything we had to arrange and to do today. Sleep well. And fish and slugs: see that you show yourself tomorrow huh, because tomorrow I come to say hello.
Day 4: Diving at Coral Garden and day out swimming pool
Arne thinks again that we have slept too long the past few days, so he wakes up at half past five, rests for a while and really wakes up half an hour later. Today is my first dive this holiday and it is necessary, because it has been far too long. Hopefully I can find my Zen again. I prepare everything so that we can leave from breakfast to the diving centre and the swimming pool all at the same time. Everything is ready, the camera, my mask and computer are with me and a few other things to dive. Evy has everything she needs for the swimming pool. Everybody ready! Then we can leave for breakfast. Yesterday we brought some money for the waiter, but not yet for the lady and gentleman in the morning, so we must do that again: we forgot about today. Arne eats well, every meal and this morning he is doing well. Evy and I eat well too, and I too much, will turn out during the dive. We do it slowly and enjoy, because we were in the restaurant early in the morning.
After breakfast we put everything ready at the same places as yesterday and from here we go to the dive center. Bas introduces me to Julian and apparently, he is our dive guide today. He accompanies Kevin and me for the first dive of my holiday at Coral Garden. Last time that was very good, who knows what it will be today. Normally we must leave at 9 o'clock, but at ten past nine they don't start the briefing. Two divers who dive with Bar and not with PSI and with DIN, we look like two aliens in Jamaica, that Brit and me. We already put everything on the boat and wait for the briefing. Apparently, it was very hectic, but nothing they can't handle here. We are lucky to be able to dive with a real Jamaican, that's something else. We'll have to find out.
At a bit past nine we leave for the boat, put all our equipment together and can then leave. The waves here are almost non-existent for Jamaica, but once we've crossed the coral reef boundary, the sky is moving up and down. There are all those weird looks for the next few minutes, but we'll see about that later. In about five minutes we're at the place, Julian isn't finished yet, but Kate, who has four divers with her who are getting a certificate, first does a check with one of her students. Julian doesn't want us to wait, so we already go in. I pass starboard and the others pass port side. We must go further to the left, so I'm already twenty meters behind at the beginning and I'll keep it up, not to say how fast this Jamaican dives. We put our heads under water and I see the typical underwater landscape of the Caribbean. It's great to be able to put our heads under water anyway. The pieces of sand between the rocks make the contrast and the different types of coral are beautiful. Those fan corals, soft corals and others that are swaying in the current. As I said before, I almost always dive behind the facts, but that is normal for me, because I am not really a fast diver.
What is particularly striking is the small level difference. In many places you really have a wall of the reef or of the riverbed, but here it goes up and down, then a meter of sand left and right and then it goes back up and there’s more reef. We don't see many big things, but the blue corals, the fan coral are really worth it. The sponges are also doing well here, and I suddenly realize that this really looks like dive sites in Curacao and Cape Verde where I have already dived. But everything is super. I immediately see a snail with shell, white and brown and the little fish are swimming over the reef. I enjoy it and can enjoy it even more after fifteen minutes, because the batteries of the flash have failed. I thought they would last, but nope. Haven't I ever had this before? I think so. Want to recharge the batteries at home and only use day 2 or day 3 of the holiday. That doesn't work, Timo.
Apart from the corals there are some small fish that swim, hunt and hide between the corals and the sponges. A few species of wrasse pass me as well and each time I have trouble following the other two. When I am again with them, they immediately swim on, but first I want a picture of the boxfish, for example. Twice we see a large cage with coconut pieces and in the cages, there are small fish. I get even more disadvantaged when I see something the others haven't seen. This is how I see a large crayfish under a rock. I look back to them and they are not ten, but twenty meters away. Well, we'll see for sure. We are at a maximum of 18 meters and then almost constantly at 10, so a free ascent in case of problems shouldn't be an issue. I have no idea how we dived, because to me it looks left, right, up and down, so actually no orientation at all on this dive. After 45 minutes we're both at about 60 bar, so we decide to gradually go to safety stop. Julian takes his buoy and we can easily make our safety stop and get out of the water after 55 minutes. It takes a while to wait for the boat and that is also a bit difficult with the high waves, I estimate one and a half to two meters. I've been through worse, but this is already a good wave to catch. We climb up the boat and sail straight back to the hotel. We are ten minutes away. I take everything from the boat, because I have decided not to do a second dive now. Rinse everything off and hang to dry, Bas will hang it inside in the end and I have faith in that. I make an appointment for Friday nine o'clock and then I go to the pool to Evy and Arne.
There it's a party right away, I'm allowed to go straight into the pool, but soon I get cold, so I have to stay out of the water for a while after this morning's dive. Then Evy and Arne play ping pong and have a chat with an American on a cruise. He has a clear opinion about President Trump and so do we, so immediately friends, just like Arne and his friend/opponent. It's nice to see and hear a different view on America and it's clear whether or not I can talk to my colleagues about USA and President Trump. Do it, she said. Arne has had a great time for more than half an hour and we go to the restaurant and find places for us upstairs again, so we can get out of the hustle and bustle of the pool for a while. The food here is great, every morning, afternoon and evening we enjoy it. We eat and drink something and then we can relax on the beds by the pool and rub ourselves in with sun cream, because the sun is burning, even more today, what is that?
After lunch we enter the swimming pool together, then leave the pool completely because of the pool party, and I don't like that. Arne and I go to the beach and choose to watch volleyball, watch waves, watch birds, and above all; enjoy. We take half an hour of the pool party with us, then fifteen minutes of water aerobics and then we go to the room. We take a shower, get ready for dinner and go down at half past six. We pass by the mojito-bar and then we go to the restaurant, have something to eat and drink. As we said: Arne eats here well and of course it's good too. There are many restaurants in Belgium that don't serve this kind of food, really great! We go to the room, watch a DVD, write a bit and read and go to sleep at half past nine. Arne is lying in his bed for a while, but we can't make it any longer. Tomorrow is our first trip, so we are curious what this will give us.
Day 5: Waterfalls Konoko Falls and blue hole
We are already March 14th and time seems to be moving much too fast here but isn’t that always on holiday. We get up and take it easy this morning. We still have some time to get ready, because today we go on a half-day trip to Blue Hole, Konoko Falls and the botanical garden. I only understood that the botanical garden was included, during the excursion itself, but it turns out to be at the Konoko Falls. We have breakfast, go and have a look at the Sports bar to see if there is something to take with us, but that is not the case. Apparently, a lot of people and especially Americans have a hunger at night and they can find something here. We finally go first to the room after breakfast to prepare everything and then we visit the restaurant for 2 croissants and 2 bananas; there was not much more at that time. And then we have to wait for our bus, or rather wait for fifteen minutes for our van. From here Casy and Glenn take us to two other hotels to pick up people and we pass through Ocho Rios in the direction of Blue Hole.
We also hear some nice facts: the hummingbird (which we just saw in a tree on the side of the road) is the national bird of Jamaica, the jerk chicken and jerk pork is the specialty, but the national dish is "Ackee and saltfish". The ackee is a kind of apple and is poisonous, so they have to do something with the fruits to get the poison out. The saltfish is a salted Canadian codfish and together they form the national dish. Lignum Vitae is the national flower, tree of Jamaica, also called guayacan and so we get some more information. The blue-white building in Ocho Rios is the only free all-inclusive in the city, with a funny reference to the prison. Here they also have the Keep From Cooking (KFC), with chicken as a specialty. We drive through Ocho Rios and pass Turtle River Park. Jamaica is so green because of the many rivers, on this small area there are about 122. There is also a large part dedicated for restaurants only as being Jerk center. It seems we must have tried that. Then we make a stop in the house of Usain Bolt, transformed into a bar and a shop.
We are guided into the tourist stairs, but we have to, because we have to buy a pair of waterfall shoes for Arne and myself. We can't find anything for Arne, because the smallest sizes are 4 (American) and for me they do have waterfall shoes. We also buy a T-shirt for Evy and a magnet for Arne. We have to pay at the bosses of the shop and they are Indians. Well, here too they set foot on land. I would have preferred to support the local population rather than immigrants, not against people who immigrated, but my preference would be the locals. They first charge 4 USD too much, so I correct them and pay 34 USD for everything, but the MasterCard is not accepted especially because there is no communication and no battery, so cash then. Rounding off at 4000 Jamaican Dollar (JMD), so converted to less than 30 Euro; it’s difficult with all those different currencies.
Then we leave to the first stop: blue hole of Island Gully Falls. There we have to make sure that we are quickly dressed, quickly sign something that will cancel out all responsibility of the owners. Everything happens on your own responsibility. Well, we'll see what happens later, but Evy signs twice and I for myself. Normally it shouldn't be a problem. They promise us that there will be no injuries. We are curious if this will be the case. We get off the bus, everyone is getting ready for the walk downstairs and back upstairs. First, we have to climb up and down a wooden staircase, then it gets a bit slippery and we have to go up along a rock face to the first plateau. Here we can jump from a height of three meters, but for Arne that is a bit too high, maybe within a few years. Now he jumps from a piece of water a meter above the water and flows towards me. He wants a second and third time and then we go to the next basin.
The turquoise water with the green nature around it, the hummingbirds that fly in the treetops and the white of the flowing water of the waterfalls, really is a wonderful sight. A little further there is another place where we can jump, now about five meters, so we don't do this either, but we do have a meter of water to float to the shore. I always go first, then Arne and mum have been in the water twice. She prefers to sacrifice herself to keep the drybag dry. In the water it wouldn't last, when it's completely submerged. Thank you, Mommy. The last obstacle is the highest and this is finally what they call the blue hole. Here you can swing with a rope to the middle of the pool, but also here we keep it safer and less high. Here is also the highest point where you can jump. Some do it, but we don't dare to do it. When we've done everything here, Arne wants to go into the beautiful blue water and we'll do it just before we leave.
Then we walk back upstairs. There we get ready to go back into the van, dry off, drink something and catch our breath. Arne had a great time and so did we. And then suddenly someone knocks hard on my shoulder: Yo man, don't forget your guides, you should give your guide something, man. He really hit my shoulder hard and I didn't like his tone, so he doesn't get anything from me. Whether it's 'this is how we live man' or not, that could be better and less arrogant. Evy then gives him 200 JMD and according to him that turns out to be too little: well, then you can forget about it, dude. Then we'll just don’t give you anything, just because you annoyed us. Ya man or no ya man. Helped us or not and extra service for Arne or not. Something politer is always possible. We don’t pay any attention any longer, so we get on the bus and then to Konoko Falls. The road runs along a wooden tube that brings the water to the village and that tube doesn't really look high tech. On the contrary, just simple, some curved slats next to each other to form a tube to bring water to the people.
We drive back to Ocho Rios and then into the mountains to the Konoko Falls with the botanical garden. First we have to go back on a narrow road and finally we have to stop at the waterfalls, but first we go to visit the botanical garden. Arne and I have a small bite to eat and then we get information about the trees, the flowers, the birds that are all here. We also see a huge spider: golden orb spider. I know it from previous visits to Central America. We all have this information and then we pass a number of cages with wild animals: iguanas, snakes, crocodiles, turtles. One of the men comes along with a macaw and a snake. Those who want, can hold it for a while, some only want the bird, others like my sweetheart are more courageous and hold them both. Then we move on to the other animals and then we take a long staircase down to effectively start climbing the waterfalls. From below it doesn't really look feasible, but terrace by terrace and spring after spring and cave after cave we do get there anyway. It's a good thing we have those shoes, because without them it wouldn't be possible.
The normal lens of the camera is now broken, so the pictures are partly taken with the zoom and with the mobile phone. We'll see what goes wrong this evening. Not much fun for the next dives but we’ll see. We stop a few times and sometimes we really have to climb up on all fours, but that's more of a problem for Evy and me, because Arne just races over the terraces and the rocks. Every now and then we look up and down. When we look up, we see that we have to get to the house upstairs. At first it seems far away, but after only ten minutes we are halfway there. We enjoy the walk and the climb, but we already know that we will be tired this evening. Without any harm we get upstairs and enjoy the view that we have conquered these waterfalls. Then a few more steps down and literally the last two meters I have to decide to slip and fall down. Luckily it's no big deal: a big scratch on my calf and a sprained little finger and we're off the hook. Then a very last stop.
We still have one more point of view: a view of the city of Ocho Rios. Just a photo moment and then we get back to the bus. They playfully said something about the guide and they get 500 JMD per person. Those two arrogant **** (tuuts) this morning would have gotten more if they had put it this way. Then we all get in the bus and are brought back to our hotels. Our hotel is second in line and then we can lie down at the pool, drink a cocktail, have a swim, or rather bathe, then at half past five we go to the room, take a shower, take care of my wounds and after that we go to eat and go to sleep. It is very tiring here. We wake up early in the morning and go to sleep early in the evening as well. The last night is, I think, the night we arrived. Charging flash batteries is not possible, because the charger is broken. Meanwhile, camera is okay again, but no batteries for external flash. Tomorrow we'll see if I can find any batteries here. So Arne watches a DVD, then we go to sleep and around nine o'clock we go to bed as well. Hopefully good for a good night's sleep.
Day 6: Two dives and swimming pool here at the hotel
Today I already told the family that I would do two dives, the first one goes to Rock Side wall, there it seems to be very nice dives. After breakfast we set course for the sun loungers. There we choose three good seats, although I will hardly use one. I have found a solution for the battery problem. I buy four normal batteries in the shop of the hotel and then I can go on for, I guess, three dives: external flash problem solved. Happy as a little child I can also start the dive. A briefing, then saying goodbye to Arne and Evy for a while and then on the boat for ten minutes to the dive site. It doesn't look very choppy today, so that could be okay. We moor, get in the water and can start the dive.
It's an ordinary wall that we constantly follow along our right side, the maximum depth is around twenty meters, so we'll be fine. The guide is Timi, New Zealander and happy person. Gives good briefings and is the first in the water and we follow. We take it easy and take a dive together with Andy, a Brit and Dennis, A Russian. I'm the first to spot something: a scorpion fish, doing a really good job, I'm in good shape right away. Blessed how much small life there is here, I'm totally enjoying myself. Mini fish on the coral and sponges, really marvelous. Also a lot of Christmas tree worms. Strange but true, they really don't disappear as fast here, as in Egypt. Really in Jamaican: Ya man, no stress man, even the underwater life! A special kind of sea urchin passes us or better we pass him or her. It's one I haven't seen yet, really a strange shape, can't explain it, for that I refer to the pictures. A few butterfly fish pass us and as always, I try to photograph them properly. The whole reef is teeming with little blue fish, really beautiful. Trying to get a picture of them will be a challenge. And when they do, they have an ugly face.
Kait, the dive master of Mike who is in training and also a Canadian and girlfriend of Timi, catches our attention, that she has seen something. I think it's a baby moray eel: about five centimeters with yellow and black bands, just ask what it is. Still other moray eels, slightly larger, tubeworms in different types and sizes, a really great dive so far. All of a sudden, I see an anemone with a small shrimp on it, which is always very nice. Then a little further on another combination: a sea dahlia with a crab, again beautiful. In one of the cavities of the reef there is a lobster and a little bit deeper another one, but my attention goes to the flamingo tongue sea slug, really beautiful. A white snail with yellow circles that are surrounded by dark brown, but really blissful. I've seen them before in Curaçao and Cuba, so no surprise but always fun. Timi spots another mini-moray and we only see the head. The fan corals that sway on the waves and the rhythm of the water are and remain beautiful. We constantly dive forwards and backwards. Sometimes we stay on the same spot and then suddenly very fast forward.
Besides the blue fish there are also a lot of yellow ones that populate the reef and with a lot of surgeonfish I think I'll wait down while Timi does the other one to the surface. They are probably already at their 50 bar and I have more than 80. We are not that deep anymore, so I dive a bit further with only Timi. Well done. After another ten minutes we stop and do our safety stop and go back on board. Quickly we return, now half an hour of chatting, say hello to Arne and Evy. They both love the fact that the dive was fun and that the batteries did their thing. After the surface interval it's a quick briefing for dive two. Of which I lost the name for a moment. But it doesn't go very deep and now we should be able to reach all three of them until the hour.
If I remember correctly it is a sandy slope, but I'm not sure. Easy dive, maximum 9.3 meters so coming out we do with another 100 bar approximately. Nice dive too. Sometimes a bit more difficult because we are less deep that the current doesn't throw you up, a bit more sand and conditions in the water here than the previous dives, but really great. A group of yellow snappers, really worth it, again the corals and I finally have the squirrelfish in a good pose, super. What is certainly worth mentioning are the two black and white fish that I see under a rock. They both have a very long string as tail fin that runs further up in an equally long string, really cute and funny to look at. Very nice too. They are the younger versions of the spotted drum or also known as the spotted knight fish. Furthermore, most things have been mentioned in the past dives, but I did some very nice dives again, especially the first one.
A large part of the afternoon at the pool and drinking a cocktail of the day. More than half of our calories will come from cocktails here. After swimming and playing, we go together to the room and have a shower and some rest. Then to the restaurant, pass by the mojito-bar and then something to eat. Arne is very tired again and so are we, so after dinner we go to sleep. There was a lot of choice again and this time also lobster. Every day there is a special species from the sea, so if you don't like fish and crustaceans, then maybe it's not a good idea to come and eat here. For us super!
Day 7: Dive on Jewel and pool
Breakfast as usual, then occupy three seats in our same places as the last few days. From here we can keep an eye on Arne, it's close to the bar and Evy and Arne see me coming back from the dive. So only advantages. I go to the diving centre at a quarter to nine, the boat has been there for fifteen minutes and they have already took my equipment, prepared my weight belt and all. I get the briefing first and it is only Timi and me who are going to do the dive on Jewel: apparently a nice dive site. They are pieces of reef in the shape of a string and with pieces of sand in between and together they form a big hand with ten or fifteen fingers or so. I give my two loved ones a big kiss and then I can go diving. As I said only the captain and Timi and me.
In less than ten minutes we are there. Just to the right from the hotel and then over the reef, just turn back a bit and then we can dive. Everything OK? Yep, everybody ready, get off the boat, quickly make the mask a little anti-foggy and then start. There is a stretch here that goes up to 22 meters, but there is not much to see, so we only take the 'fingers'. The first time we dive, we see a few large lobsters. They are hidden in the cavities of the reef and I enjoy every second of it. These lobsters are different from the ones we see in the Oosterschelde, but they are more beautiful. Or is it just that I am so used to seeing them that I like these better, that is also possible of course.
Here I see my first nudibranch of the holiday, not counting the flamingo tongue sea slugs. A nudibranch with blue and black circles, not special, but a nudibranch is always something special for me. I make sure that Timi has seen it too. My next discovery will be a porcupinefish, but it's not that special in itself, except that I've seen it of course and such a beautiful appearance is always fun. The canals are at our left side and the reef right and in the middle there is white sand, so in between we dive from about 12 meters to often about seven, eight or even six meters, there we cross the piece of reef and so back down. This means that we have to equalize regularly, because this way up and down is not good for your ears.
We see a huge lobster and the antennae stick almost half a meter out of the reef, which is wonderful to see. In the caves there are a lot of small yellow and blue fish, as well as red big-eyes and squirrelfish. We also see a special kind of anemone on the ground. A large crab hides in a cave and sits on top of a sea urchin. Luckily it doesn't hurt those animals. I see another little moray eel, at least what I thought was a moray eel, but it is actually a Harlequin Pipefish. I don't know the Dutch name, but it is a funny creature. And then one of the last striking things: on a large piece of fan coral a large crab is hitching a ride on the current. A super blissful view, really beautiful. This is the last event of the dive. After our safety stop we are underwater for 68 minutes in total. Then back on board the Scuba Queen and the captain brings us back safely to the hotel. Arne comes running and says hello while I bring my equipment to the cleaning station. We are back relatively early, but that is really great. Here a guy walks around taking coconuts from the trees and opening them for a small tip, so you can drink from them. Arne wants to give it a try, so we do it, just because we want to do it ourselves too.
We can go into the water for a while and then have something to eat. Arne eats well here, but yes, he eats fries twice a day and hamburger in the afternoon and chicken in the evening, but always with vegetables. Once back home, what a dirty word, that will change. After lunch all three of us go to the swimming pool and play a bit with the little ball. Time goes fast, because we have to play and two cocktails later it's already half past three. I still have to arrange the dives for tomorrow, although I don't even know if we are going to the wreck. But the ladies at the counter of Scuba Caribe welcome me with Hi Timothy, how are you, going to the wreck? Great, yes! I pay for three more dives, tomorrow two dives to the wreck and phantasea reef and then Monday the last one. Is it already the last one, few? Time goes fast this holiday, or during a holiday.
Arne has seen the pedalo’s and the kayaks and would like to go to sea with the pedal. I ask the girls, and they think it would be a bit easier to do it with the kayak than with the pedalo. Not because you would go in circles, but rather that is much heavier than just a kayak. Well, what do I know about pedalos or kayaks: that's already from my childhood. Two people with a double kayak have just left and they turn out to be Andy and his wife: Andy has dived with me before and will go with me tomorrow for the wreck dive. They do it a bit longer than the half hour they are allowed and Arne is already nervous and anxious to go out.
At five to four they finally arrive. Arne and I enjoy the kayak for half an hour. Arne loves the first five minutes, so close to land, he says: I want to do this for a long time, Daddy. Forget for a moment that he is not the one who has the paddles in his hands. Well, shit happens. We don't go too far, because the further we go, the further we have to return. We go past a few buoys, the submarine and a glass bottom boat and that's far enough, because there the influence of the wind is starting to play, and so waves are coming in as well. Arne does not like that as much, but everything is still under control. We go out to sea and back, from left to right and after about twenty minutes I even have the impression in the evening sun that we are getting sunburnt, so we gradually return to the beach. Arne is very happy, and I have already done my work out for this day and this holiday.
Then we return to the room and take a shower, rest a bit and then it's time to eat again. Great! Today we go back to the main restaurant, we had no intention to go to the other restaurants and Andy (diver) says it's not really necessary, because the Chinese restaurant where they are always waiting is not worth it, only the steak restaurant is OK. But we go to the regular restaurant and have something to eat there. Today no mojito for us, because it’s getting a bit too much with that alcohol. Instead we ask O'Neill to bring two glasses of red wine. We all eat well and enjoy it and an hour and a half later we return to our room. There we enjoy the music on our terrace via YouTube and iTunes and at just over eight Arne goes to sleep and at nine or nine thirty we also go to our bed. Sleep well Jamaica. Now we're slowly counting down. Time goes way too fast.
Day 8: Two dives: wreck dive and phantasea reef and lazy at swimming pool
Getting up at the normal hour, then to breakfast, in the morning there is not much more to do, at least not before I go diving. I'm actually curious if my sweetheart could give a summary of the moments during the dives. For now focus on two dives, a wreck dive and a reef dive. From our terrace the sea already looks great. No other day has the sea been as flat as it is today. That's nice when we have to sit on the boat for half an hour, so it's not too bad for us. We leave after breakfast with a delay of more than half an hour, but that is not exceptional in Jamaica. Just grab as it comes and see when we can do what. This time 2 more people wanted to join us, so of course the dive centre will not let that go. 2 persons, 2 dives and they trip was happening anyway, so that's just extra profit.
We set course for Ocho Rios and it indeed takes half an hour to get there. There we repeat the briefing, or at least a bit of it and then in the water. Just put our heads under water and we hang just above the reef. Apparently, there is such a thing as snuba now. That's snorkeling diving. There is a raft floating on the surface and with a long breathing tube they can 'snorkel' up to +/- five meters deep. That's the first time I see something like that. We are looking at the wreck, a Canadian minesweeper that sunk to the bottom somewhere in the early 90s. Deliberately to serve as a reef. Visibility perfect, so we go down and take a look. Although the wreck is here not as long, it is already nicely overgrown and as always with wrecks there is some underwater life to be seen. We dive all the way around the wreck, which is at a maximum depth of 18 meters: the most beautiful part is around 15 to 10 meters.
As said before, there is a lot of life, especially the blue chromis and the sergeant major and they are quite territorial. The artificial reef of the wreck is really super. Timi has a problem with one of the last divers, at least the two we had to wait for almost an hour. He still has problems with his mask, but in the meantime, we are looking at the wreck and are hanging around here a bit. Corals and sponges grow here as well and many fish swim here as well. A couple of butterflyfish pass us here, as well as trympetfish and dark-red parrotfish. The wreck itself is also quite nice, not too deep, good visibility, so a super dive. I also look inside the wreck a few times, going in it myself, is outside the policy of Scuba Caribe, so we don't do that. The big-eyed groupers are numerous there and there is also a kind of plant with long branches and small feathers on the branches, something really special. From here we go to the reef behind the wreck. There would be a few more pieces that would be worth a visit, so let's take a look. Over and under the rocks and in between, there is a lot to see, but on the reef itself I don't see anything we hadn't seen before. A juvenile spotted drum is the most striking, but I had seen it before.
Then we return to the wreckage. From there Timi takes two of them up and we enjoy the underwater life here for a while. It's not deep, so I can't get out before the hour. And indeed, after more than an hour we come out with a couple of them: Timi, Chevon and me: apparently, we are the only three who were still hanging around, a great experience. Then safety stop, first a little deeper back to see and photograph a barracuda and then the actual safety stop. On board we quickly change tanks and then go to the second dive site. To make up for our forty-five-minute surface interval, the captain takes us to the various hotels. He also points out the mouth of the white river and a few hotels of Sandals, apparently known and a hot topic here. There are a few delightful places and at the mouth of the white river you can clearly see the difference, because one part is salt water and the other part is fresh.
Afterwards it is time for the second dive, so put everything in order and then down. We first dive along a small reef on our left side and then Timi takes us to a couple of statues on phantasea reef, then on to the next piece of reef. At first there is a speckled ray lying around, half under the sand. It seems as if the others haven't seen it, because they all dive in front of Timi. Strange when he is the instructor. I also notice a few times that suddenly some of them have to return, because they were wrong. Funny to see. We see two times a cage of fishermen and once two cages, one of which has been destroyed. Fishermen have to make a living too, so if they consider the needs of the fish stock, I have nothing against it. You can't destroy them. And then suddenly a mega stingray passes us. Really amazing! Because I hung a little behind the group, I still have the best view of the animal of all. He goes to see what can be eaten at the cage, but then flies on over the reef. A perch seems to pose for my camera, so it's really great. At the bottom of the reef there is an anemone with a shrimp and then on until I see another scorpion fish, really wonderful today.
A few more Christmas tree worms, a lizard fish and then we've had it for this dive. And yes, we are past the hour again. A normal safety stop, and then back on the boat and back to the hotel. I didn't have a connection (or Evy) with my mobile phone to reassure Evy, so I set up 4G, wow, that's 10 Euro for a couple of chats, not normal. Now text messages come through, and that's cheaper, and then we start the way back to the hotel. Almost half an hour later we arrive. My biggest fans come to greet me, I rinse my equipment and then we can have something to eat. It's actually late and the weather is not really good anymore. The sea was really super calm today, but the clouds are not blown away now, so it has already rained here and now it is very cloudy. The next few days may also be a bit like this, but we'll see about that.
We enjoy ourselves in the swimming pool after lunch, have another drink and a few hours later we return to our room. We take a shower, get ready for dinner and at half past six we go to the restaurant, because only then it's open. We eat something, an hour later we go to the room, Arne watches another DVD, Evy reads some more and I write the reports to be up to date, or at least more or less. Tomorrow's last dive, it must have been good.
Day 9: Coral Garden for the second time and relax at the pool
Usual stuff before the dive starts at nine. Prepare and go to breakfast, then put everything by the pool and then go to the dive center. Kait takes over from Timi for the session in the pool. They have that a couple of times every day. Timi thought that the dive site Coral Garden should have a second chance, because my first dive was not so good there and it is actually his favorite dive site here, so he wants to make up for that and that in a special way. Short briefing though, especially about the dive site. Chevon joins us and does a navigation dive for his advanced, but for an advanced training he does a great job. Then less than five minutes on the boat to the dive site and then descend. The captain wants me to jump in along the stepladder, but I did so the first time and then not anymore, so still a bit superstitious and I go along with the rest on the other side. Down and a good dive for everyone.
Timi teach anybody a lesson on how to start a last dive: as soon as we are down: turtle, yes man, immediately found. Bliss. It really seems to be an old one, because it is full of barnacles. The first and only turtle of this holiday, but super. Today we see a bunch of flamingo tongue sea slugs, but really a bunch. I'm not going to start counting how many and every time we see one, but it's FTSS galore today! This site is a bit similar to Jewel, because here are also almost fingers between the reef, not as clear as before but also quite super. The white sand between the reef stands out against the brown reefs, the purple fan corals and the blue of the water. Between the rocks little fish stick their heads out every now and then and I try to photograph them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Then I see a white snail on a coral. I have no idea what it is, but I think of Timi's remark that there are many lettuce sea slugs here. I haven't seen many so far, but apparently, I have now. It is not a nudibranch, but a snail. Timi comes to take a look and says we'll talk about it on the boat. Well, I really connect with Timi, blissful instructor. I told Kait yesterday that they were the best team I've ever dived with. And that is true. Wonderful Dive in Egypt are already friends, so they are out of competition, really delightful divers and way of dealing with their divers.
The sponges today are also blissful again, the hard corals, like brain corals look good. They talk about bleeching, but that's not so bad here. Then suddenly they make a sign to me that there is a moray eel. It is a blue-grey with white dots and on the head, these are yellow dots with a white border. Timi and Chevon dive on, but I try to take a picture and the moray eel comes out of its hiding place and dives down on the reef and then she crosses a bit. She is stopped by a sea urchin, so she has to go back and further up. Blessed to see this happening. Another film and a picture and then a super view of the whole moray, when I distance myself and look at the rest of the reef. Then Timi shows me a mini-boxfish, a real great find like a small balloon between the reef of less than half an inch and I thought I saw all kinds of small things.
Timi apparently needed the view of the first lettuce slug, because now he sees two more. Blessed creatures. Then Chevon makes a sign that he has seen something. If he ever wants to be an instructor, he has to get to know the signs. This is lobster city: under two pieces of coral we see once five and next to that three lobsters, all together, really wonderful. A meeting and a chat with a coffee for sure. Then a scorpion fish passes in our view. I had already seen two of them, so this one was allowed to be spotted by someone else. We've been on the road for a while now, spotting another lionfish and a couple of lobsters under a rock. Then I see something between the rocks that looks like a mantis shrimp. I have to ask the experts what it is, but I think I'm not far from it. Not a big one, only 3 centimeters, but really super spotted, if I may say so myself. In a big sponge a small crab and then it's done. We are about 70 minutes, so it has been a great dive.
It was a really great dive and diving with Timi was as if I had been diving for years with the same person, really great. Buddies forever. But today was the last one, so now it's on the boat, then back to the dive center and then with the family at the pool. Arne wants to go straight into the pool. I join in for a while, but after half an hour I start to feel chilly and so we go out for a while. In the meantime, it's time to get something to eat, so that's what we do. Arne is as always in for fries, cucumbers, hamburgers and ketchup. We're going to be a little healthier, but we don't have to watch our line this week either, we'll do that when we're back from vacation. Holidays for everyone, huh? After lunch it's a mix of swimming pool, soccer, volleyball, especially watching then, only with soccer I and Arne do a match against some Americans, I think. One is autistic, but Arne doesn't notice it and we are having fun and apparently, he is also having fun with his two nieces. So, everyone is happy, except when Arne has to go back to the room.
To the room, a shower, then to the restaurant, something to eat and then just enjoy the nice warm weather and then back to the room to go to sleep. We're not going to spend too long here, because tomorrow it's time to get up at 06:00 to be at the reception by 06:45 and then take the bus to YS Falls and the Black River for a whole day. We will enjoy a day out and see some crocodiles. Super. Tomorrow!
Day 10: YS Falls and Black River: hummingbirds and crocodiles
It's early today, because we get up at six o'clock, about the same time as the sun, because today we're going on a long excursion and one that Arne has been looking forward to. Especially for the crocodiles. Of course, we are looking forward to it, because we can't spend the whole holiday in the hotel. We pack everything we need and then go down to the reception. At a quarter to seven the van has to pick us up and they are just in time. The guide is Bram, a Flemish guy from Ghent with West-Flemish roots and the driver is just like last time Glenn, Glennford in full. We pick up a few more people in another hotel and can then start for the long drive to the other side of the island straight through the mountains, then we have seen something of the mountain landscape as well. We seem to be a bit misinformed, because the ride won't take 2 to 2.5 hours, but three and a half hours with a stop there and another three hours back. That's a bit too much, but we've paid and we're on our way now anyway, so a little bus trip isn't going to stop us, is it?
After the last pick-up we drive into the mountains and in the beginning it's all right, but then the roads get worse and start to winds more and more, but it does take us to small villages and see the nature of Jamaica in the inland. Not bad, very green, lots of forests, meadows with cows and horses and certainly a lot of fools on the road. Glenn does his best, but it's definitely a difficult road through the mountain landscape. Behind every corner there is danger, but fortunately the driver knows every inch of the road here. The first half hour is quiet, but then Bram starts explaining about Jamaica and about today's trip. He teaches us the history of Jamaica, some more about the habits of the people, about ghost churches and the things like that. After some explanation and a one and a half hour drive we make a short break to do some quick shopping and a sanitary stop in Spaulding. Then we're halfway there and after about half an hour we're back on the road.
We also drive on Shooters Hill, the hill that was used during the movie Cool Runnings about bobsleigh team from Jamaica who are going to the Olympics. That's nice, because we hadn't thought about getting any information about this. We also drive along the Appleton Estate and for a long time we follow the route indicated on several signposts. Appleton is the most famous rum-maker from Jamaica and they have very nice rum. Bram also explains more about sugarcane and jam (a kind of potato), papaya and other things that are grown locally. After an hour and a half over bumpy terrain we finally arrive, first at YS Falls. There we change to another bus that takes us to the terrain itself. We can walk around there for an hour and a half. First we walk to the two plateaus of the waterfalls and enjoy nature. Not because of the peace and quiet, because it's quite crowded here. We can swim down at level two of the waterfalls, but only Evy and Arne go in for a while. Meanwhile I enjoy the view and nature. All the trees here are full of bromeliads and mosses and vines and such things. I really like this and so do Arne and Evy. That is mega cool.
After the visit to and on the waterfalls itself we take some rest at the shop and restaurant here. There they hung up feeding bowls with honey water for the hummingbirds. We see three species here: one with a very long tail, a completely green one and a green one with a white belly. The first one is probably the red-billed streamertail, only found in Jamaica and the most common one. The one with the white belly is the female of the same species and I have to look up the other one at home. We look, enjoy and take dozens of pictures of the small, beautiful birds. With the short trip on the waterfalls, the time here with the hummingbirds and enjoying nature, it's time to return to the bus. We take a look at the plants on the big trees here and then take the bus back up to our own van and then to Black River.
Black River is the name of the river but also of the town there. Here Bram tells us that they had electricity before the capital Kingston and even before New York. The Levis company had discovered a tree here to color things, so thanks to them, everything was soon provided here. This ride is short and we can have something to eat in the tour operator's restaurant and then go on the river. We get rice with black beans, chicken and a piece of beef, grown on their farm. We drink water and fruit juice and then we can rest for ten minutes and get on the boat. In the garden the mega orchids are immediately noticeable. On a small square with a tree in the middle there are already large, really mega large orchids, really beautiful. We walk around here and see a greenhouse with a large number of orchids, but we'll keep that in mind to check on later.
We have to take a raft/boat to get to our boat. When everyone is there, we leave immediately to the other side of the river. There we immediately see two species of herons: a small white species of egret and a cattle egret. Here they also have their nests and under the tree with the nests there is something lurking when chicks fall down. There we see our first American crocodiles. That is what Arne has been waiting for and eventually most of the people on the boat. The guides even gave them names: they recognize the animals by their appearance and by the place where they have their territory, because many crocodiles in the same place, that's normally not a good idea. The first crocodile we see is called the "terrorist". A crocodile about 7m long. We continue on the water along the mangroves. At the moment they have fruit hanging too. A ball with air and buoyancy and underneath it a long stem that will become the root of a new piece of mangrove. On the way we stop at a crocodile (Charlotte). The guide touches her. Impressive!
The guide points out a mangrove crab, then a big egret, an American moorhen and a little further he sees an osprey, blessed are we! Then through the avenue de mangrove and a little further we see a snake cactus on a tree and next to it is a young version of a heron and on the other side of the river is the adult version. In Dutch this is the “kwak”, in English it is the Black-crowned night heron. From here the road goes back, but what is quickly described here, has taken more than an hour. When he returns without many stops, we only notice how far we have gone. We see some more crocodiles along the way, a frigate bird flies over the marshy landscape and a fisherman goes everywhere to check his traps to see if there's anything in them. Then we go back ashore and take a look in the greenhouse itself: now we have time for this. Everyone is called after fifteen minutes and then we can start our way back. But we still have to wait. "Terrorist" has jumped on the other side of the river. Now we can see it in its full size. (Blessed view, but still happy that he is on the other side 🙂).
During the drive back Bram doesn't tell us much anymore, but we sit in front and have a chat with him, so time goes by a bit faster. Evy and Bram also exchange information, because he likes to have a live piece of flute played on his music. Well, for which travelling is not good, making connections of course. We are still an hour and a half from Montego Bay and from there it is about an hour and a quarter to the hotel. So we chat a bit more, rest a bit, enjoy the view and so we arrive at the hotel at about six o'clock.
We go straight to the room to fresh up a bit and then we can start eating right away. We are not very hungry, because the lunch was already very big, but we drink and eat something anyway. The days that there was mojito here, we drank it, but today it's just a glass of wine. They are outside in the heat, so we put a cube of ice in it every time to make it drinkable. As usual around eight o'clock we are getting tired and we go to the room. We put some reports online, read something, have a drink and then go to bed on time.
Day 11: Day of rest at the pool, nice chill
No alarm clock today, no diving, no excursion. Just a day at the pool and the beach. Now I am already awake at half past six and can no longer sleep. This time it is Arne and Evy who sleep late and me who get out of bed first, that's also something new. We try to enjoy our last full day and I think that will work. From our floor we have a perfect view of the hotel, the sea and I see a couple of boats lying like every morning. The view here is really great and from the fourth floor we take the elevator to the ground floor to have breakfast in the restaurant. In the morning Arne is allowed to choose the table and he always chooses one in the shade, he and his mother go first as usual and after that I go to get something to eat. Also in the morning there is plenty of choice, so we can choose enough and the restaurant is open until half past eleven. Almost every hour of the day you will find an open restaurant here and if that doesn't work, there is the 24/7 Sports Bar.
We have everything with us and we can relax at the swimming pool, three sunbeds next to each other in the shade on a place where it will stay in the shade for most of the day. We will have fun today. Arne is already in the pool and a bit later we are too, but the bar is not open yet, so we are going to wait until 10:00 to have a cocktail. Time is going too fast here again, so it's soon time for the bars to open here. We had already said goodbye to the instructor who took me to Coral Garden the first time, but he took it rather personally that I didn't like the dive at the time. Well, his problem. We enjoy the pool, a drink, have a frozen strawberry daiquiri for Arne, without the rum and we drink another cocktail of the day. Today it was back Yellow Singing Bird.
In the afternoon we eat something fast, then dive into the pool and it is Wednesday, so pool party. This time with foam and the like. Arne has to stay in the shallow part along the shore, but that doesn't always work out very well. Once in a while we take a look and point the way back, because it is too dangerous with such a drunken gang in the deep part of the pool. After the party we go to the beach, take a walk to the end of the hotel, return, make a small sandcastle and play a little football.
Then it's a bit late and we return to the room, take a shower, get ready for dinner and have something to eat at seven o'clock. Just like the last few days in the same part of the restaurant and of course we still eat outside. We enjoy it and drink something with it and then return to the room. Arne watches a DVD like every night and then he goes to sleep. We enjoy another hour on the terrace and go to bed. Tomorrow is a long day.