Our day began with a departure from Mandeville at 10:00 am. We loaded into the bus with our sunscreen, snorkel gear, cash, iPods, water shoes, and swim suits. We had coolers packed with ice and drinks to keep us well hydrated for our long journey.
Our first stop was in Goshen, Jamaica. Yes, you read that right. It is an SST tradition to get a picture taken by the Goshen sign. The students wanted to do a pose that had never been done, so they decided to go with the following pose.
From there, we headed through Bamboo Avenue, which is located halfway between Middle Quarters and Lacovia. Bamboo Vulgaris, Jamaica’s largest species of bamboo, was planted there in the 19th century by local landowners. The Hope Royal Botanical Gardens now maintain the bamboo, assisted by the locals who are quick to protect the area. This area was once a full canopy of bamboo up until Hurricane Gilbert hit.
Josh had previously visited an amazing roadside shack selling spicy, salty, pepper shrimp, and he wanted the students to partake. One of our main local drivers, Gary, showed the students how the locals ate the shrimp. The best way to sum this up would be to say “Fear Factor” style. This would include the shell, the legs, the tail, the head, the eyes and all. While Josh would have no part in that, some of the students were up for the “local Fear Factor experience.” The shrimp, once shelled and Americanized, is some of the best shrimp all of us have ever had! It was a hit! Additionally, the students were able to taste crawdads too.
We then washed up and hopped back on the bus for Negril, Jamaica. Negril is home to the longest continuous stretch of white sand in Jamaica, and being the western tip of Jamaica, it has a front-row sunset seat; it is the place to be for a most awe-inspiring sunset. We were on our way to Rick’s Cafe for lunch, cliff jumping/diving, and snorkeling. Upon arrival, Josh wanted to make sure the 35 foot leap to the ocean was safe for the students. After some stalling, he finally mustered the courage to make the leap. He then did a cartwheel off of the lower cliff; it ended up being safe enough for the students to try.
We had a shockingly affordable delicious lunch, and then we all changed into our jumping/diving/snorkeling gear. A group of us, led by Josh, went off of the beaten path through an opening in the cliff rocks to another part of the ocean. We then jumped in the ocean and swam across to a cave. On the way over, the water ranged from 8-40 feet. The water was crystal clear, and we could clearly see the bottom of the ocean the whole time. The water was beautiful and amazingly blue. Upon arrival at the cave, we saw bats flying around. There was a second smaller portion of the cave. In order to get to it, you had to swim through a small opening between the rocks. Once inside, there was not much to see, but it was an amazing little “pocket” in the rocks. We decided to take the long way back around to Rick’s Cafe. The water got a bit deeper, but it was still completely clear. We saw tiger fish, two huge star fish, a flounder, and several other smaller fish.
Once we returned, the group connected and we did some photo ops at the different diving/jumping areas of the cliff. Some locals perform amazing feats from much higher areas, and even from off of trees above the cliffs. From there, we waited for the sunset. There are no words to effectively describe the sunset we saw; the pictures can’t even do it justice.
We ended the day thankful for the trip and thankful for the beauty God created with the sea and the sun!