In the summer of 2012, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in a Geotourism field study with Missouri State University in the Bluefieds Bay and Treasure Beach areas, which are beautiful destinations on the relatively undeveloped southern coast of Jamaica. The week long immersion into Jamaican culture was an authentic experience-- robust, refreshing, and rewarding. We had amazing meals prepared by locals cooks (thank you Jen Jen and Vida), such as lionfish pasta, ackee, bammy, rasta pasta, and jerk chicken. Also, the beef patties are amazing! We got to stay with locals at Belmont Cabins and Jake's Treasure Beach, and had great local guides (thanks Wolde Cristos!). I don't believe you really know a destination until you know the people.
Experiences from our trip still resound in my memory—from playing soccer with Jamaican schoolchildren after touring the BREDS sports park development, to sharing overproof rum with an estranged (and likely insane) member of English royalty at his plantation home dating from the 1600’s, to dropping into the Pelican Bar to have a Red Stripe on the reef after touring a fish sanctuary, to simply watching the sunset with new friends. I feel like we were able to experience what Jamaica should be. I usually aim to experience new destinations when I travel, but the south coast of Jamaica will draw me back.