Explore Jamaica’s beautiful nature and outdoor activities at YS Falls and Black River Safari.
Even though I stayed at a resort in Jamaica, I wanted to get off these private grounds to discover the stunning nature of the country. While staying at a resort offers a relaxing holiday with gorgeous pools and beaches, it is important to explore beyond the walls of the hotel property to truly experience Jamaica. Booking a tour with Viator easily gave me the opportunity to travel beyond their hotel. Through Viator, we booked the South Coast Jamaica Tour where a local guide took us to YS Falls and Black River Safari, while providing plenty of details about Jamaica as we drove through the countryside in his air-conditioned vehicle.
Our tour was led by Alrick of Your Jamaican Tour Guide, a local who had lived in Jamaica for his entire life. Alrick was very friendly, joyful, and we could ask him any questions about Jamaica as we drove around the twisting, turning, and at times, bumpy roads. He was a wealth of information with lots of pride for his home nation. From Negril, the drive to YS Falls and Black River Safari was about an hour and a half one way.
On the drive, we learned about what it was like to live in Jamaica from Alrick. For instance, though the cars drive on the left side of the road, it was better to say that they drive on the “best” side of the road. Cars pass one another quite frequently, and it was imperative to avoid any potholes.
I’m fairly certain that goats may outnumber the people in Jamaica. There were goats roaming around everywhere. We even saw them balancing on the edges of rocky escarpment walls! They were free to walk around and they all returned to the proper farm at night. Of course, I thought they were quite cute.
We saw many children in their uniforms walking to and from school. While they appeared to be having fun walking along with their classmates, it was slightly unsettling to see that the schools were often surrounded by high walls topped with barbed wire fencing, much like prisons.
Many huts and buildings were constructed here and there. We discovered that in the country, homes were built wherever there was some free land. Many citizens opt out of taking loans from the bank – they would rather wait until they have enough money saved up to build a home. Even though some building projects appeared to be abandoned, the homeowner was simply saving up money to complete it. Many shipping containers were saved and brightly painted for homes or businesses. Though there were many impoverished areas, it was admirable to see how innovative some people can be. It certainly was a humble reminder that many people live with far less.
Our first stop was YS Falls. Though Negril was a little too far to visit the popular Dunn’s River Falls, I was happy that we could see a waterfall that was closer to our home base. In many ways, I preferred going to YS Falls. It was not crowded at all – there were only a few other people there. YS Falls was breathtakingly beautiful. It was a unique adventure as part of the challenge involved walking across one section of the waterfall and back on another. Admission to the waterfall was $17 for one adult.
Standing at the base of the falls, I couldn’t help but marvel at its beauty. It was a majestic, cascading waterfall. The water rushed powerfully down many levels before it reached the bottom, where it continued to flow down the river. Surrounding the waterfall was lush jungle foliage, including small bursts of color from an assortment of flowers. Trailing branches and ferns jutted out in all directions. I walked with Shannon and her mom, Diana (my travel companions for this trip) along the edge of the river to the first natural platform.
I created a short video so you can see this activity in motion! The video begins at YS Falls and continues to the other half of our tour – Black River Safari. Please watch to get the full experience!
An employee of YS Falls assisted us in crossing the waterfall. Alrick convinced me that it would be safe for him to carry my camera to take photos of us. I don’t know how he managed to keep his balance without falling into the water while snapping pictures of us, but I’m sure he’s had plenty of practice walking back and forth each day. With my first step into the water, I felt the intensity of the rushing water against my legs. We all held hands and walked across the submerged flattened rocks, sculpted by the constant force of the river. We reached a small area on the opposite side of the waterfall where we were able to swim and watch as the water cascaded from above.
From there, we were led from the water and into the jungle. Giant stalks of bamboo towered up into the sky. Lush greenery was all around. It felt quite magical, really. Between the sprawling leafy branches, I caught new perspectives of the water flowing down many platforms, as if it were a drenched layer cake. We walked across another section of waterfall, this time along the edge. There were spectacular views in all directions, whether it be the waterfall on one side, or the river on the other.
There was a stairway along the edge of the waterfall to the top. For those who weren’t feeling adventurous enough to cross the waterfall, you could admire it from the shore. I highly recommend that you walk across the waterfall and back as it wasn’t too scary, and it was an incredible experience. However, at the top of the staircase, there was a stunning view of the first cascading waterfall at YS Falls.
Walking back down the stairway, there was a larger section in the middle of the waterfall where people could swim. There were rope swings, too. We went for a quick dip and admired the views all around.
For an extra fee, there was ziplining at YS Falls, though we didn’t participate. I’ve heard it’s really fun though! We decided to relax for a little while at the swimming pool. There was a peaceful place with lounger chairs and a luxurious pool for all guests to enjoy. We were the only ones there, so similar to the falls, it was our own private experience.
A Quick Bite to Eat
We were getting hungry, so Alrick stopped at a nearby spot so we could grab a quick bite to eat. The place was an interesting combination of a restaurant, a grocery store, and a gas station. The restaurant was Juici Patties, serving up authentic Jamaican patties. I don’t think I’d ever tried one before, but Alrick assured me that the vegetable patty was vegan. I gobbled down two vegetable patties and they were delicious. They definitely hit the spot after a morning of waterfall exploration and swimming. There were also soy patties that I’m pretty sure were vegan, though Alrick guided me towards ordering the veggie ones, so they may have had cheese in them.
Black River Safari
Our next stop was the Black River Safari. Admission for the boat ride was $20 each, and it was worth the price. The Black River is the longest river in Jamaica, and it was an ideal place to view the mangrove swamps and native species living in their natural habitat. Though this region is home to over 100 species of birds, the main attraction was the crocodiles. There used to be hundreds upon hundreds of crocodiles living in the Black River, though many were poached to make purses and shoes. Nowadays, they are not allowed to be poached and many people are committed to growing the crocodile population. There was a small crocodile nursery on site where crocodiles were being bred and released back into the wild.
Our boat ride took us down the Black River and past the mangrove trees. We saw many different types of birds including blue heron, green heron, egrets, and osprey. There were several crocodiles that our tour guide spotted along our journey. Many were resting on fallen tree branches, rocks, and even one was laying on a bed of hibiscus flowers and greenery. Some of the crocodiles were so still, they didn’t even seem real at first. They mostly were perched with their mouths wide open, a way that they cool themselves as they do not have any sweat glands.
We rode down the river, spotting various birds and crocodiles. We even saw a man snorkeling in these crocodile-invested waters, as he was doing some spearfishing in an area where a particular kind of fish lived. That wouldn’t be a risk that I would be willing to take!
As we traveled down the river, the water became calmer. We were surrounded by mangroves and we slowly glided along. The water reflected the greenery and the branches back perfectly, as everything appeared to be doubled. Our boat slowed to a crawl and stopped at the side of the river. We were permitted to climb out of the boat and onto the sturdy mangrove branches. Apparently, they could hold a ton of weight. It was a really cool experience to sit perched on top of this maze of branches, all intertwined into the still water below. Mangroves are such an important component of many ecosystems, and it’s vital that we preserve them. I was assured that sitting on top of them would cause no damage to the mangroves.
After our boat tour, we visited the crocodile nursery. There were a few smaller crocodiles who will eventually be released into the Black River for the rest of their lives. One crocodile lived in this shelter permanently as he was injured in a fight and part of his jaw was missing. There was another crocodile who lived with several turtles as he enjoyed the company of turtles. Some people in Jamaica have left their pet turtles to live here, and some leave their turtles on a temporary basis while they are on holidays. We saw one turtle sitting on top of the crocodile, and he didn’t seem to mind.
We thoroughly enjoyed our tour to YS Falls and Black River Safari. To take this tour, you can book the Jamaican South Coast Sightseeing Tour with Viator, which includes pick-up and drop-off from your hotel, as well as transportation to the sites. Alrick, our tour operator, was very informative and fun to be around. We had a wonderful experience and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the tour to anyone. It was one of the most memorable days of my vacation.
Disclaimer: We were offered a complimentary tour from Viator in exchange for this review. My opinions, as always, are entirely my own. I highly recommend this experience!
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