Irie Safari (8:30 a.m.\5 p.m Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.\4 p.m Sun.) offers a narrated tour on pontoon boats lasting 75 minutes (US$17 per person, minimum charge of US$40 per boat with two people). Proprietor Lloyd Linton is a wetland biologist who leads many of the tours himself. Irie is the smallest of the three tours, which can help avoid the long wait sometimes found at the competitors, which get more large groups. Irie Safari also offers sportfishing for tarpon and snook. The tour was established in 1993.
Mandeville and the South Coast
The parishes of Clarendon, Manchester, and St. Elizabeth make up the south-central part of Jamaica. It's the place to get away from the tourist hubs and see some of the country's farmland and less-frequented coastline. Locals in these parishes are less dependent on tourism and accordingly less pushy in soliciting business. While the region doesn't boast grandiose or glitzy resorts, the accommodations often make up for it with their rootsy charm, and there's still plenty of comfortable lodging options, especially in Treasure Beach, where villas and cottages range from rustic to unpretentious luxury. Languid fishing villages dot the St. Elizabeth coast, the most popular of which are found in Treasure Beach, and farther east in Alligator Pond, which straddles the St. Elizabeth\Manchester border. High above the plains, the cool air of Mandeville has been a draw in the heat of summer for centuries and is often referred to as the "retirement capital of Jamaica" for the number of repatriating Jamaicans who settle here. Over the past 50 years the bauxite industry gave Mandeville a strong economic base, while the 1970s saw the flight of many of the town's gentry during the Manley administration, when the prime minister's socialist lean drove fear into the wealthy class. The old moneyed families in Mandeville were somewhat replaced by an influx of nouveau riche, some allegedly owing to drug money, who have arrived over the past few decades to fill uptown neighborhoods with conspicuous concrete mansions. A lull in Jamaica's bauxite industry hit Mandeville especially hard after half the country's production ceased in early 2009. As the global economy recuperates and the world market price of aluminum rebounds, so too will Mandeville's economy. Independent of cash-flow considerations, the town's temperate climate and relatively well-developed infrastructure make it easy to forget you're in Jamaica. Mandeville boasts several noteworthy restaurants, making it a worthwhile place to stop for a bite on trips between Kingston and the South Coast. Other than that, it's not a place that keeps many tourists for any length of time, which makes it an attraction in itself for those seeking the "normal" Jamaican experience, not found so readily in Negril or Ochi where tourism dominates the economy.
Invercauld Great House along the waterfront between town and the hospital is the most striking structure in Black River, with well-preserved Georgian architecture. The great house was built in 1894 by Patrick Leydon. It was for many years a hotel but has fallen out of use and sits idle within its gated compound. Not recommended as an accommodation, but worth a peak if you're a history or architecture buff.
Luana Orchid Farm (admission US$5) offers formal tours by appointment only to check out the 150,000-odd local and foreign orchid plants at the 1.5-acre farm. Dr. Bennett has bred several new varieties himself. The farm is located on the northern outskirts of Black River along the road between Black River and Middle Quarters, opposite Luana Sports Club and quarry.
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