Jamaica

The Island Where Bond was Born

Thanks to forum member SpartanRK for supplying us with this week’s podcast about his trip to Jamaica, the birthplace of James Bond! 

What’s up, ladies and gentlemen. SpartanRK here with my first attempt at a Being James Bond podcast. In Head of Section’s absence, while he’s away on his mission.

I know I have some huge shoes to fill, and I hope I am able to at least make a half-decent attempt to stay true to his legacy. AS a fan of the many travel podcasts created by Head of Section, I was excited, humbled, and honored when I was approached about the possibility to share my experience with one of my favorite destinations. So sit back, relax, make your favorite Appleton rum-based beverage, and let’s take a trip to the birthplace of the literary James Bond: we are going to the island of Jamaica.

Sailing around the lush coast of Jamaica, Christopher Columbus got it right when he said “It is the fairest island these eyes have beheld. Mountainous, and the land seems to touch the sky.” Jamaica’s blessed with some of the best sandy beaches in the Caribbean, most often golden but sometimes white, and on occasion black volcanic sand. Although dominated by persons of African descent, Jamaica’s popularity has created such a large melting pot of different cultures. Germans, Irish, Welsh and the English live on the island, along with the Chinese, Middle Eastern, East Indians, Americans, and Canadians. But it is the Jamaican wit and warm, strong, and spirited people that really struck me as unique.

The people there are friendly, love to hear about where you’re from, and don’t be offended when they refer to you as “whitey.” Just remember that you can reply to any statement, answer any question, say “hello” and “goodbye,” with the words “Yah, Mon.”

In the past few years, Jamaica has been dominated with all-inclusive resorts. My wife and I have have visited several of the all-inclusive Sandals resorts throughout the Caribbean, and it was the Sandals Grand Riviera in Ochos Rios we stayed at during our recent trip to Jamaica. There are a lot of different options if you want to visit Jamaica, where you can spend anywhere from $20 per night up to $10,000 per night. There are plenty of homes along the coast for rent, small hotels or big resorts. Basically it’s your personal preference, and since it’s security that will drive where you want to stay. But I’ll describe that in a little bit.

My experience at the Sandals resorts has always been good. You can eat and drink to your heart’s content. The food is amazing, it’s true to the local culture, and the alcohol is all top shelf. If you want to feel like Bond, I can honestly say there’s no better way than to go to an all-inclusive resort. And your Persol sunglasses and Sunspel polo will fit in well, here. You will not have any luck ordering a Vesper martini. The gin and vodka is readily available, but trust me: I went all over Ochos Rios and you will not find a Lillet. But enough of my resort bandwagon, let’s bring this back to Being James Bond.

Jamaica was the home of Ian Fleming, namely a beautiful little resort you can visit today called GoldenEye. On February 17th, 1952, Mr. Fleming sat down with a cigarette, a typewriter, a view of the ocean, and a lifetime of experience, and created 007 – James Bond – in his first installment: Casino Royale. The sixth novel of the series, but the first film, featuring Sean Connery as James Bond, was Doctor No. What was unique to this novel and film was the fact it was centered in Ian Fleming’s Jamaica. It was my mission to see first hand some of these filming locations I remembered so well from my childhood viewing of Doctor No. The beautiful Honey Ryder coming out of the ocean in that white bikini, Doctor No’s industrial lair, and that stunning waterfall Bond and Honey were bathing in were all within reach of my resort, and I was determined to see it.

Armed with a video camera, a very understanding wife, and some knowledgeable native Jamaicans, we left the comfortable confines of our resort and explored the island of Jamaica. First on our list, and I would recommend your list, was Dunn’s River Falls. Dunn’s River Falls is an amazing series of fresh-water waterfalls coming from the lush mountains of Jamaica and emptying into the warm ocean waters just outside of Ochos Rios. In Doctor No, when Bond, Honey, and Quarrel escape into the trees from the machine-gun-mounted powerboat, they’re seen bathing and relaxing next to these falls. These falls are still here today, and it’s Ochos Rios’s biggest tourist attraction. If possible, check with your hotel and try to avoid the falls when the cruise ships are in port.

Forming a daisy chain, you climb to the top of the falls with the help of a native guide. These guides were extremely friendly and will carry your GoPros or cameras, but trust me when I tell you: do not take anything electronic unless it is waterproof. Watersocks or old shoes are a must, as the rocks are slippery and the current coming down the falls is surprisingly strong. The views are absolutely stunning, and I can’t express in words the memories you will have from taking this adventure. A few tips, though: tip your guide, get comfortable being uncomfortable holding hands with strangers (as I guarantee they will save you from taking a tumble at some point). And ladies, you will fall down, the water is cold, and moving very, very fast. Dress accordingly unless you don’t mind finishing the tour topless.

Now, at the top of the falls, you will have the opportunity to take photographs and relax a bit. But don’t worry about getting down. They have made a series of stairs to get you back down to the ocean.

The next stop on our tour requires stepping a little bit out of your comfort zone. If you want to see the famous beach where Honey Ryder walked out of the ocean to meet James Bond for the first time, as well as Doctor No’s lair, you have to hire a local fisherman. The native fishermen are familiar with these locations, and the Sandals resorts have several endorsed fishermen that can take out on property. But if you’re not used to skimming across the ocean waves on a tiny wooden boat, remember to lay off the rum and remember your Dramamine.

Now, about twenty-five minutes by boat ride from the resort at Ochos Rios you’ll pass the fictional location of Doctor No’s lair. It’s called Crab Key in the novel and the movie. The location is still here in the non-operational mine called Kaiser Terminal. There are signs posted everywhere that tell you not drive your boat in this area, and I just went with the flow when our boat operator towed the boat past these signs.

The structure looks exactly like it did during the filming; in fact we stopped briefly at the same landing where Professor R.J. Dent exited his boat to see Doctor No in the film. There’s little to do here, and you can tell this facility is definitely off limits. But die-hard Bond fans will definitely be excited to see this place fifty years after the filming of Doctor No.

At the end of your boat ride you will arrive at the famous Doctor No beach. When you approach your potential boat tour guide do not make the mistake of asking him to take you to the James Bond beach. If you Google the James Bond beach in Jamaica, you will find a beautiful beach that has very little to do with the literary or film Bond. This is simply a beach which the island has named after the literary hero to promote tourism.

The beach featured in the film is about three miles away from Ochos Rios and is called Laughing Waters Beach. This beautiful stretch of beach looks exactly the way it did during the filming of Doctor No fifty years ago. The water is stunningly warm, the beach looks like it belongs on a postcard, and the waterfall scene in the background of that famous scene are still there. There are local young fishermen walking back and forth on the beach along with the ever-present folks asking you to purchase handmade necklaces or ganja, but make no mistake: this is not a tourist area. This is a private beach and is not frequented by tourists. If you have one opportunity to see one of the filming locations of Doctor No, I would highly recommend Laughing Waters Beach.

It is easy to see why Ian Fleming was able to conjure the excitement, refinement, and adventures of his James Bond novels while living in Jamaica. I would encourage you to take part in the local culture when you visit. Drink the famous Blue Mountain Coffee cherished by Ian Fleming and James Bond, it really is everything you expect it to be. Eat the fresh roasted peanuts sold by the street vendors. Ask your cab to stop by the native Jamaican standing by the side of the road, who’s ready to carve up a coconut with a machete and serve it to you. And try the local favorite White Overproof Rum, which, according to our guide, is actually used to start fires.

But a word of caution: there are some dangers in this beautiful country. Areas of downtown Ochos Rios, and especially Kingston at night, can be extremely dangerous. We had native Jamaicans who have never left the island tell us that there are areas of the island that they have literally never seen before because of the gangs and the drug trade. They would not go anywhere near it at night. Never go anywhere without a guide, short of the tourist areas and the cruise ship ports. Marijuana is not legal, and you can end up in a Jamaican jail. Always have someone with you, and don’t go on an adventure alone.

Now that about does it for our tour of Ian Fleming’s Jamaica. If you want to see some of these areas I cover in the podcast, feel free to view my YouTube video. There’s a link to it in the travel forum (and below). Thank you again, and as Head of Section would say, keep living like James Bond.

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