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Jamaica

Dunn's River Falls Excursion on a Catamarran

We stood on the dock by our cruise ship waiting for the morning catamaran to Dunn's River Falls to return so we could take our turn to see the most famous waterfalls in the Caribbean.

Dunn's River Falls
Dunn's River Falls; © Caribeez.com
As our group of 30-40 people sat talking among ourselves, we became aware of music in the distance. More and more looked up to see the returning catamaran On board, 30 to 40 people were dancing enthusiastically to the music and acting like college students at a great party.

A cool-looking Jamaican was dancing with them and egging them on through a bullhorn. It became apparent that they had all been drinking.

And it was only noon.

The drunken crowd tumbled off the boat with whoops and laughter. The new group watched quietly. Some of us were surprised because even though it was our second Caribbean cruise, it was the first time we had ever seen any drinking on a Caribbean excursion. Several cruises later, we have become much more wise.

The crew signaled us onto the boat, and it soon became obvious that we were not on an ordinary excursion boat to the falls. The crew members were the coolest-looking bunch we have ever seen. Each one had wrap-around sunglasses and earrings. The fellow with the bullhorn had hair that was dyed orange. Even the way they walked and talked was cool.

As they cleaned up from the previous tour, we could guess that they had been giving the tourists rum punches, but it was only later that we found out how they got everyone on the first boat so loaded.

We left the dock and got an introduction from Orange Hair, who didn't talk through the bullhorn. Our first real Jamaican had the accent and manners that we had always seen in movies and on TV.

He filled the time it took to get to the beach at the base of the falls by giving us Jamaican history, pointing out Mick Jagger's house, asking us about ourselves, etc. We soon reached the beach and put on the water slippers so we could begin the descent.

Think of Dunn's as a series of platforms that stair step up a small mountainside. Guides led the way by making each of us hold hands in a daisy chain that was unbroken by our entire group. It is a wise precaution on the slippery rocks.

The total climb is 600 feet, which is not far under normal circumstances, but it takes much longer climbing up the rocks in a daisy chain. The slowest climber in the group forced the group to climb at that pace. But it was fine with us. The sights and sounds of the water bounding over the rocks made the falls a beautiful experience.

Once we reached the top, we were able to split up, sit in the water and enjoy the experience even more. There also were crafts and souvenirs at the top.

The guides gradually round up our group and started us back down to the beach via a path. It was not as fun as climbing up the falls, but there is no doubt that climbing down the falls would not have been as much fun.

As soon as everyone was back on the boat, Orange Hair cranked up the music and picked up his bull horn. He wanted to know if we had fun. Yes, we called out. He demanded again. Yes, we called out louder. He started moving slightly to the music. A crew member started handing out glasses of drink without even telling us what we were given. I took a sip and knew it was rum punch -- more rum than punch.

A few of the tourists started moving to the music as well. It seemed to encourage Orange Hair. The slight movements became the more obvious movements of a great dancer. More tourists joined him.

A member of the crew walked around with a pitcher of rum punch and filled glasses that had not been emptied. And so it went.

When we arrived at the cruise dock, all 30-40 people aboard were dancing enthusiastically to the music and acting like college students at a great party.

Another group of 30-40 people at the dock -- the late afternoon tourists who were going to the falls -- stood there with arms crossed and stares that seem to ask why we were acting like crazy people. They were going to find out why.

While they were finding out, some of us from our trip spent the afternoon on the cruise ship taking a long nap. We needed the rest.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Excursions   

December 15, 2008

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