We had three days to kill in Jamaica. Mostly we wanted to do nothing, just lay around and soak in the Caribbean beauty. If we chose, there were lots of things available to do or see – white water rafting, horseback riding, deep sea fishing expeditions, tourist stops and snorkeling over the reefs. Snorkeling was out. The last time we went snorkeling, we freaked out all the clown fish in the Caribbean and the water levels near Nassau dropped a half foot. I sucked in enough water to douse a California wildfire. It was ugly.
But we did want to see a little of the Jamaica countryside, so we booked a couple of special tours, the first to Rocklands Bird Sanctuary. Our tour guide, Omar Peterkin, picked us up at the hotel at 8 am and drove us some 40 miles to the foothills of Jamaica and to a mountainside retreat where we held hummingbirds in our hands and fed them sugar water.
The story behind Rocklands is fascinating. The lady owner of a cottage in the remote hills of Jamaica took daily strolls on her property, enjoying the many species of birds – especially the hummingbirds, who for some reason followed her home each day. She began working with the birds, feeding them sugar water. In five years, she was able to train the beautiful hummers to land on her fingers to feed. Soon, her cottage and grounds became their new home. The lady lived into her nineties, and it is said that on the day she died, all the birds went away. But they came back and have become very human friendly. They buzz all around the terrace and porches, coming and going, and if you hold still with a small sugar water bottle to the side, they will light on your hand or finger to feed.
There were three different species of hummingbirds. The emerald-green hummers had long flowing tails and were the friendliest. They said they were all males, that the males would fight the females and shooed them away. I suppose they eventually declared a truce in order to mate, but they were certainly beauties. To have such a small creature land on your finger was incredible. It’s something I could do every day. We also saw parrots and doves and other tropical birds, and I had another small green wren-like bird fly to my hand to feed on millet seed. We walked all around the property and enjoyed the unusual trees and plantings.
That single tour made it worthwhile to visit Jamaica.