While Jamaica is still a fly-and-flop haven, it also offers a wealth of cultural and socially conscious experiences away from the resorts, as Andrew Doherty finds on a trip to Montego Bay.
I’m holding my breath, keeping as still as possible. The slightest movement might scare away my new friends. Tentatively, I hold out my hand, making sure the nectar dispenser doesn’t swing too much. Suddenly a burst of colour. Reds, greens, blues, fusing like spilt petrol at 50mph, inches from my face.
I’m in the grounds of Ahhh…Ras Natango Gallery and Garden overlooking Montego Bay, attempting to feed a family of hummingbirds.
“This is Rocky, Jack, Rudi and Rudi 2,” beams founder Ras. “There are so many of them, I have to give them a sequel!”
Ras, a painter and Rastafarian, bought this land 30 years ago. Now he sells his art – which has been commissioned by Jamaica’s hotels, including Montego Bay’s Half Moon – from the property. His wife Tamika, a former farmer and avid horticulturalist, has created a hillside garden in which she hosts small group tours, educating visitors on the Rasta ethos and the importance of looking after the planet.
“This place first and foremost is our home,” Ras tells me. “I never intended it to become a business. However, when I saw the work my wife put into the gardens, I thought it was worth sharing. It took a year to convince her to open them to the public – she didn’t think people would understand the concept. But the hard work has been worth it because we are proving that Jamaica is much more than just the beach.”