Mandeville and the South Coast

Tours

The parishes of Clarendon, Manchester, and St. Elizabeth make up the south-central part of Jamaica. It's the place to get away from the tourist hubs and see some of the country's farmland and less-frequented coastline. Locals in these parishes are less dependent on tourism and accordingly less pushy in soliciting business. While the region doesn't boast grandiose or glitzy resorts, the accommodations often make up for it with their rootsy charm, and there's still plenty of comfortable lodging options, especially in Treasure Beach, where villas and cottages range from rustic to unpretentious luxury. Languid fishing villages dot the St. Elizabeth coast, the most popular of which are found in Treasure Beach, and farther east in Alligator Pond, which straddles the St. Elizabeth\Manchester border. High above the plains, the cool air of Mandeville has been a draw in the heat of summer for centuries and is often referred to as the "retirement capital of Jamaica" for the number of repatriating Jamaicans who settle here. Over the past 50 years the bauxite industry gave Mandeville a strong economic base, while the 1970s saw the flight of many of the town's gentry during the Manley administration, when the prime minister's socialist lean drove fear into the wealthy class. The old moneyed families in Mandeville were somewhat replaced by an influx of nouveau riche, some allegedly owing to drug money, who have arrived over the past few decades to fill uptown neighborhoods with conspicuous concrete mansions. A lull in Jamaica's bauxite industry hit Mandeville especially hard after half the country's production ceased in early 2009. As the global economy recuperates and the world market price of aluminum rebounds, so too will Mandeville's economy. Independent of cash-flow considerations, the town's temperate climate and relatively well-developed infrastructure make it easy to forget you're in Jamaica. Mandeville boasts several noteworthy restaurants, making it a worthwhile place to stop for a bite on trips between Kingston and the South Coast. Other than that, it's not a place that keeps many tourists for any length of time, which makes it an attraction in itself for those seeking the "normal" Jamaican experience, not found so readily in Negril or Ochi where tourism dominates the economy.

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Barrett Adventures

Many travelers find letting a tour operator take care of the driving is the easiest, most hassle-free way to get around the island. One of the most dependable and versatile tour companies on the island is Barrett Adventures. Barrett can pick you up from any point on the island, getting off the beaten path more often than any other tour company in Jamaica. Barrett also books many of the best budget accommodation options across the island, including a few spots in the Blue Mountains.

 

In: Tours

Andy Nembhard

Andy Nembhard rents Trek, Raleigh, and Cannondale mountain bikes (US$25 per day), operates two-hour sea kayak tours (US$60 per person), and rents single-person kayaks (US$45 per day). Andy also runs 2\3-hour hiking and biking tours (US$60 per person) to Great Bay, Fort Charles, and Lover's Leap. Snorkeling excursions are also offered for US$65 per person, including equipment and transportation to Font Hill Beach Park near Whitehouse, where the reefs are more colorful and waters calmer than in Treasure Beach.

In: Sports & Recreation, Tours

Lost River Kayak Adventure Tours

Lost River Kayak Adventure Tours (US$45-80 per person, depending on tour), run by Lloyd Linton from the Irie Safari location, has two three-seater, four two-seater, and two single-seat kayaks. Tours venture into the upper reaches of the Black River, where there are blue holes suitable for swimming, birds that wouldn't be seen from a motorized craft, and no crocodiles, thanks to the fresh water. The tour lasts about two hours at US$40 per person.

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Black River Safari

Charles Swaby's Black River Safari (US$16.50 adult, US$8.25 children), run by parent company South Coast Safari, has a pontoon boat tour up the Black River for 75 minutes with a commentary by the captain. Tours run daily at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m, 2 p.m, and 3:30 p.m Swaby started the tour in 1987. Lunch is served at the Bridge House Inn and at Riverside Dock.

In: Attractions, Tours

St. Elizabeth Safari

St. Elizabeth Safari (US$16 adults, US$8 children under 12) runs on the opposite side of the river, with local businessman Dr. Bennett operating a virtually identical 75-minute tour up the Black River.

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Irie Safari

Irie Safari (8:30 a.m.\5 p.m Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.\4 p.m Sun.) offers a narrated tour on pontoon boats lasting 75 minutes (US$17 per person, minimum charge of US$40 per boat with two people). Proprietor Lloyd Linton is a wetland biologist who leads many of the tours himself. Irie is the smallest of the three tours, which can help avoid the long wait sometimes found at the competitors, which get more large groups. Irie Safari also offers sportfishing for tarpon and snook. The tour was established in 1993.

In: Attractions, Tours

Countrystyle Jamaica

Countrystyle Jamaica, led by Diana McIntyre-Pike, is an organization that promotes community tourism under the slogan, "where the beaches end, our countrylife begins." The organization leads culinary, cultural, and study tours, arranging itineraries, transportation and accommodation.

In: Tours