Hiking Guides

You'll find them all over the country, not just the Blue Mountains.

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Finding A Hiking Guide

The number of hiking operations has mushroomed in the last decade. Ten years ago there was only one real guide service, Maya Lodge (876/927-2097) at Jack's Hill, Kingston. Unfortunately, they've had some problems in recent years.

Sun Venture, 30 Balmoral Ave., Kingston (960/6685; fax 929-7512) will take you up Blue Mountain Peak by day or night. If you go by day, you can camp the night, meet the sunrise and then tackle neighboring East Peak before returning. Sun Venture also offers a wide variety of hikes, including 3-day hikes. Costs vary, from US$35 for group of 3 or more to US$50 for a single hiker.

Blue Mountain Adventure Tours: Located in the remote village of Section . Local guides charge US$20 to US$50 per day depending on their knowledge and expertise; call 0997 8044.

Touring Society of Jamaica : Located at Strawberry Hill, this group offers custom Blue Mountain tours for bird watchers and botanists at US$250 per day for 1 to 4 persons. Also walks to waterfalls and other sites. Call 876/954-2383.

Veterans Hiking Group: A Jamaican club that makes weekend hikes into the Blue and John Crow Mountains; visitors welcome. Expect to split some of the costs. Call 876/924-2667.

Valley Hikes: This group specializes in hikes near Port Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley. Valley Hikes has established a number of trails that range from easy to rugged. They include hikes deep into the Rio Grande Valley , to ruins of old banana plantations, waterfalls and caves. Special tours are offered into the Land of Look Behind, Maroon Country which was settled by runaway slaves. All guides are from the Rio Grande Valley and knowledgeable about bush medicine, plants and bird life. Multi-day package tours include meals, lodging, transportation and guides. Guided hikes can be from 3-4 hours or 4-6 hours. Contact Valley Hikes at 876/993-3881 (tel. & fax) or Mockbrd@toj.com . Valley Hikes is represented in the U.S. by Unique Destinations. Phone and fax: 401/934-3398. Web site: cawww.portantoniojamaica.com .

Cockpit Country Adventure Tours takes visitors into the Trelawny area, the Cockpit Country located between Montego Bay and Mandeville. Hikes include the Burnt Hill Road natural history tour, a 3.5-hour trip between historic Albert Town and Barbeque Bottom with an emphasis on nature viewing, herbal cures and local folklore. The 4-hour Rock Spring Cave and River Adventure is an exploration of the 1.5-mile long cave riddled with chambers and formations. You'll get wet and dirty in the cave since you have to cross underground rivers; helmets and lanterns are provided.

The Quashie River Sink, Cave and Bush Tour is a demanding 5-hour that starts with a hike up Congo Hill and a natural history lesson along the way. Following a bush-cook of traditional foods at Quashie River Sink, it's down into the cave via steep ladders and rope handrails, ending in a huge cathedral room and a rope-assisted waterfall descent. Unusual cave formations and fossil remains are among the many high points. Cost for the trips are between US$20 and US$40 per person. To contact Cockpit Country Adventure Tours, call 876/610-0818; fax 876/610-0819. Email: steal@cwjamaica.com .

Countrystyle Limited located in the Astra hotel in Mandeville can make hiking arrangements and customize special interest trips. Contact them at 876/962-3725; fax 876/962-1461.

For tours in the St. Elizabeth region, contact St. Elizabeth Safaris: 876/965-2374.

Located 10 miles south of Ocho Rios at Goshen, St. Ann, is the Wilderness Adventure Outpost. Short hikes are just one of its specialties, which include fishing, horseback riding and guided ATV tours.

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