A Legendary Tour

For music fans, this jeep safari hits the right note

By: Maryann Hammers

My name is Mike,” announces the driver of the zebra-striped jeep that takes visitors to Bob Marley’s birth and final resting place. “It is not ‘oh my God’ or ‘whoa.’”

As they embark on a harrowing drive up the one-lane, two-way mountain road to Nine Miles, the village where the singer was born and raised, they will quickly figure out what Mike means.

Offered by Chukka Cove Adventure Tours, the Bob Marley jeep safari is not for the faint of heart, especially if your clients are prone to carsickness. Then again, they won’t want to miss it, so tell them to pop some Dramamine and buckle their seatbelts. The jeeps pass craft stands, tiny villages, banana plantations, sugar fields, jerk stands and the occasional wild mongoose. It’s a great way to see the lush island’s rural interior and the scenery is spectacular.

Passengers may want to chug down some rum punch that the driver passes around (thankfully, he does not help himself to a swig). They can also opt for water or soda, but the rum may help smooth out the bumps, potholes, sheer cliffs and precipices.

Unless they are a diehard Marley fan, the actual tour is almost beside the point. Visitors view Marley’s birthplace; then traipse through the small, simple home on Sugar Hill where the reggae legend lived as a child and frequently stayed as an adult. The house is now empty, save for a small bed mentioned in the song “Is This Love”: “We’ll be together with a roof right over our heads./We’ll share the shelter of my single bed.” Just outside, everyone takes turns touching a large rock, which was immortalized in “Talkin’ Blues”: “Cold ground was my bed last night (bed last night)./And rock was my pillow, too.”

Then guests file through the mausoleum and tomb, surrounded by photographs, memorabilia and Marley’s guitar and tambourine. Last stop is the gift shop, stocked with T-shirts, clocks, hats and mugs the usual stuff.

On the way back, the driver pours more rum punch and distributes beef patties. Though a Jamaican staple, they seem somehow incongruous on a tour devoted to Bob Marley, who as a Rastafarian was strictly vegetarian. Oh well, by now you know “everything’s gonna be all right.”


Chukka Caribbean Adventure Tours

Tour includes snack and beverages including rum punch.
Price: $52 for travel agents, with $13 suggested markup.

Bob Marley Nine Mile Tours

A similar tour offered by the Bob Marley Movement. Includes lunch and snacks.
Price: $65 per person from Ocho Rios; $80 from Montego Bay; $95 from Negril. Includes full lunch and snacks.
Commission: 13 percent


Royal Plantation Spa & Golf Resort
Ocho Rios, Jamaica

I was in Jamaica, and I was jonesin’ for a pattie. I had heard folks rave about the country’s traditional hot stuffed pastries, but sadly I’m vegetarian and the lunch restaurant at Royal Plantation Resort in Ocho Rios served only beef and chicken versions. So, despite my severe case of pattie-envy, I reluctantly settled for a salad.

But on my last day at the resort, waitress Ivorene Reece proudly handed me a plate stacked with steaming veggie patties. She had bought them on her way to work on her own time, with her own money and without anyone asking her to do so. (And no, she didn’t know that I was a journalist writing an article.)

That’s just one example of Royal Plantation’s guest-pleasing service, evident in everything from the housekeeper who sprinkled orchids on my bed to the boat captain who offered private lessons to my snorkeling-novice boyfriend to the waitress who ensured that I would taste a pattie before leaving the island.

Since converting from an all-inclusive Beaches, the rebranded Royal Plantation has changed its price structure and upgraded its accommodations, which are decorated with mahogany four-poster beds covered with crisp white duvets, prints of lush Caribbean scenes and brightly colored walls and furnishings. But for anyone who stayed at the 77-room boutique resort during its Beaches days, the enhancements may seem undetectable except for the bigger bill. After all, the place was already pretty nice.

The real improvements lie not in tangible amenities but in its service and ambience. Neatly blending British gentility with Jamaica’s “no problem” hospitality, the place radiates laidback luxury and comfortable refinement.

But refined does not mean sedate. A trio plays cheery calypso music at lunchtime. At night, white-gloved waiters bustle about in Le Papillon, the resort’s finest restaurant (jackets appropriate), and guests dance to reggae in the al fresco Bayside restaurant. Caviar is served in mother-of-pearl shells in the elegant champagne bar, while chefs put on fiery performances in Flambe on the terrace.

Folks in Jamaica like to say “Irie, mon,” which loosely translated means “all is well.” I used the phrase a lot during my visit to Royal Plantation especially when I was downing those tasty patties.

Rates: European Plan accommodations only. From $320 for an oceanfront suite to $1,450 for the three-bedroom Villa Plantana. Non-motorized watersports included.

Royal Plan $160 additional, per person. Includes meals, afternoon tea, beverages, house wines and liquors, in-room bar, greens fees at a nearby country club and scuba.

Commission: 13 percent