Living in the community of Bay Road, Westmoreland, Jamaica, my father moved the family to his 900 acre farm when I was six years old and my early passion for nature and animals was established. Summers would see me working with Dad, hunting, fishing, clearing bushes with a machete, going to the beach, enjoying the warm climate, and our family would occasionally visit the many natural attractions in Jamaica. After college in Rochester, New York, [I took] vacations to visit the amazing Dunn’s River Falls and YS Waterfalls, to enjoy horseback riding on the beach and so my “passion for life” was to explore the beautiful island of Jamaica, which has now become my lifetime dream.
I had been “guiding” clients’ investments for my corporate career and this transition to “tour guiding ” is by far my most passionate and best career choice.
Why is guiding your passion?
As an investment banker, I was not sure if that was my purpose in life. What was certain was that I loved soccer and I was so passionate about it that it earned me a soccer scholarship from Jamaica to college in New York. When I discovered guiding, I knew immediately that I had found this same passion, and ultimately my purpose in life!
I am having fun. It is very interesting. I meet different people from different parts of the world, learning about different cultures and just how beautiful it is to know that we all share the same stories, and [that] the bottom line is that everyone is just trying to find “happiness”. Guiding has brought me happiness.
How long have you been guiding?
Since 2004, when I left corporate banking.
I specialise in trail horseback and beach riding, horse and carriage riding to the beach, [riding] horses [while] swimming in the ocean and cascading waterfalls[I took] vacations to visit the amazing Dunn’s River Falls and YS Waterfalls and I enjoyed horseback riding on the beach, so “my passion for life” was to explore beautiful Jamaica, including the Jamaica Appleton Rum Factory and the Bob Marley Museum, because these are all in different regions of Jamaica. I facilitate driving around and seeing Jamaica and its natural beauty.
What is your favourite tour or activity?
My two favorite tours are the tailored horseback Beach Ride ‘n’ Swim tour and the Cascading Waterfalls of Jamaica tour because they are both safe and adventurous activities that are lots of fun for beginners and experts, where no prior experience is needed and visitors see the beauty of Jamaica’s eco- and nature-lovers’ paradise.
My tours typically are not tourist traps, neither are they ‘commercial’ ones (unless requested), [going] where everyone takes tourists to visit but the natural settings have been converted and areas painted to make it look bright an attractive.
My horseback trail, Beach Ride ‘n’ Swim and Waterfalls are not typical tours, and our tours are not scripted. Our guides are local to the area, and know all our herbs and spices, trees, the fruit that we eat on tour, [which is] picked from the trees, and [they also] teach the culture of the real Jamaica. Our waterfalls are some of Jamaica’s hidden treasures, and sipping a cold Red Stripe beer on the 18th Century horse and carriage tour to the beach allows our visitors to experience a true nature lover’s paradise.
Visitors will find that the food market and town shopping, as well as buying fish and bammy at the border, is an experience to remember.
My certificates are from the Jamaica Tourist Board, which certifies everyone to be a trained tour guide with the skills required.
I have a very jovial and unscripted delivery, but I always ensure that I develop a relationship with my guest to understand how to relate to them. I have a natural comic style, which breaks the ice most of the time even when one spouse is not too keen on doing the tour. I watch the body language among partners to identify who I need to break the ice with and ask open ended questions, then [introduce] interesting topics: shopping, sports, and employment, to measure or gauge their responses to determine mood, preferences and a general direction of conversation.
I am very comfortable with any guest, to prepare them for a fun experience.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There are no typical days but I check my email very early (5:00 to 6:00 am), verifying confirmations of tours, breakfasts and organising the tour guides with their schedules and tours, then at about 8:00 am, I’m off to visit hotels for different orientations (if I have no scheduled tours). If I have my personal tours, I am gone at 8:00 am until the afternoon or late evening with my all-day tours.
What is the best part of your job, and what are the challenges?
The best part of my job is seeing the satisfaction that my guests get upon completing my tours. It’s refreshing to know that I have delivered and that I have exceeded their expectations.
The most challenging [aspect] is trying to facilitate tours that are requested to be completed within a limited time.
I had a couple that I took horseback riding but they had only been dating for three weeks. For every tour, I always take a picture of my guests and tell them [it's] “just in case they do not make it back”. Well, the boyfriend did not want to take a picture with his girlfriend and she was very upset. Needless to say she did not enjoy herself on the tour – I had to ask a friend to take them back to their hotel, but my friend heard them fighting in the car and offered to take them for lunch. Well, this guy was more interested in talking to my friend and we all know what happened next!
Can you tell our readers what the benefit is of hiring a guide in Jamaica?
In Jamaica, guides know how to add value to any tour without an additional cost and [you wouldn't be] aware of the added value until it is included. This makes you feel much safer, but having a guide also cuts back on wasted time, as they can quickly assess what you like and therefore plan activities to suit your personality. This may be stopping at a hidden rustic spot for food, secret adventures, an early childhood school, a local town to shop, the food market and enjoying Jamaican beef patties, catching fish at the river, or just additional experiences.
The privilege that I had was to attend college in the US and I lived in Toronto for nine years, which has totally broadened my conversations and [I can compare] with my guests about life, nature, environmental issues and a general overview of the important things in life. A Jamaican guide is beneficial to any visitor as our knowledge about places to visit, fun and unusual trips that are not tourist traps, exploring mountains, cascading waterfalls, hidden beaches, the discovering of inexpensive villas and hotels located in interesting corners, would never be discovered without a guide. A Jamaican guide will only improve your experience and possibly remove that hidden psychological uncertainty about what to expect. This must be the single most important aspect of hiring a guide.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Jamaica! Jamaica! JAMAICA!
The food is great, it’s spicy like the people. The people of Jamaica have a very laid back, casual and friendly approach, are easy to speak to and you feel at home in no time, regardless of who you are or what you look like. Jamaicans have a very friendly, warm and genuine demeanour.
The little island of Jamaica encapsulates everything Caribbean, with extraordinary coastal features, natural rivers, unusual flora and fauna, mountains, and more in abundance.