Turns out there’s a lot more to Dunn’s River than the famous falls. The celebrated attraction has now added a hike along a trail that’s just shy of two miles long. It’s a chance to explore the lush area above the iconic falls and soak up the rich history of the expansive Belmont Property on which it’s nestled.
The inaugural ‘Tek-A-Hike’ took place on March 23 with an enthusiastic group of nature lovers. We’d been told to come prepared for two hours of getting up close and personal with nature. Comfortable shoes, light clothing and insect repellent were on the list of must haves for the day’s adventure. After a safety briefing and a bottle of water handed to each hiker, to ensure everyone remained safe and hydrated, we set off from the aptly named Tranquillity Gardens.
“You will have a great time as we venture through the forest and teach you about the wildlife. After the tour you can enjoy our beautiful falls and beach… explore the park and have a great day,” promised Urban Development Corporation (UDC) environmental officer and tour guide at Dunn’s River Falls, Damion White.
After crossing a charming wooden bridge, we were on our way. As we walked along, peering curiously around us, the sound of chirping birds complemented the far away splashes of a gushing waterfall. Frogs, lizards and other critters were among those spotted along the path.
We were a fair-sized group of about 10 locals and there were endless possibilities, we thought, to make new friends. We soon found out how hard it was to chit chat with our fellow nature lovers while trekking along, so we reserved our energy for the occasional question to our trusted and very knowledgeable guides. Throughout the hike, they shared titbits of information on the flora and fauna, the rich history of the area as well as the work being done to preserve the watershed which keeps the falls producing water that’s so enjoyed by beach and river lovers.
The Prickly Yellow was one of the highlights of the tour. It’s a tree that those of an artistic nature often use to make necklaces.
“They normally file down the thorny looking parts after they are dried. Some people also use this tree for medicinal purpose,” said our guide, White.
That was just one of the numerous species of trees he pointed out to us along the trail.
Then there were the hidden gems: the Forgotten Falls, way up in the hills, and the inviting Jungle Jacuzzi.
“Can I take a swim?” hiker Kirk-Patrick Taylor asked as he looked longingly at the serene body of water.
“I would love to swim there or even relax for a little bit, the water just looks welcoming and relaxing,” he added.
Alas, time did not allow Taylor to get what his heart so desired. Our journey continued, through the ruins of a house where slaves once lived. We learnt about the ways the different rooms in the house were used, along with the pain relieving properties of cured pimento seeds.
“We need more things like this. Far too often when you ask people outside of Jamaica, and even locals, what they know of our attractions they only say, ‘Beach’. But there is so much to offer about our history and it gives me more appreciation for the country I live in and the versatility of the country,” said hiker Maleek Powell
This was just the type of reaction tour organisers were hoping to get.
“We look forward to our Jamaicans from all walks of life coming in to enjoy this product. This tour is very informative and historic and we need to make our history of more importance,” said Dunn’s River Falls and Park Manager Michelle Campbell Sawyers.
“Also, visitors over the years would come and enjoy the Falls and ask what is next. So we said it would be a great idea to educate them about the property on which Dunn’s River sits, the Belmont property which is about 72 acres,” she added.
The tour ended at the Dunn’s River nursery where we learnt about the adopt-a-tree programme.
“I like that the tour was very educational and also scenic. The tour guides ensured everybody’s safety and I’ll be coming back for sure. I want the experience again,” said hiker Jhunelle Jureidini.
Text & photos: Akera Davis