The rain thundered down outside, beating a rhythm on the breadfruit and trumpet tree leaves that swished against the walls and windows. A strong breeze blew the rain and the tree branches in sweeps of high energy, swaying and bending in the night under gray skies, hiding the full moon that had accompanied our drive from Kingston to Port Antonio. It was a beautiful to be in rainy Portland once again.
The Google map showed the location was on the main road between the Trident Castle and the Jamaica Palace Hotel, but I could only remember when the land between those two famous resorts was only a mountain side overgrown by coconut trees and tall tropical jungle undisturbed for centuries. I soon discovered I was nearly right.
The Bay View Eco Resort is a series of individually designed accommodations on a hillside overlooking the sweep of coastline between those two hotels. Set on 1,000 acres of what used to be a coconut plantation before the Lethal Yellowing disease of the 1980s decimated the Portland trees, the breadfruit, almond, palm and wild forest trees shelter a collection of brightly-coloured accommodations that offer rustic exteriors and comfortable interiors that include cable TV, internet and good food.
PORTLAND RAIN FOREST Proprietor Gordon Townsend, the Montego Bay based tour operator of CaribicVacations, bought the property in 1997, cut down the trunks of hundreds of dead coconut trees and started operations with two main houses to accommodate tourists who wanted to see something of Portland, as well as Ocho Rios and Kingston. Doing his best to keep as much of the beautiful tropical vegetation that makes Portland the island’s lush rain forest, he continued to build out the resort on 300 of the property’s acres until the last of 33 rooms was completed in 2005.
A spacious meeting room accommodates wedding receptions, conferences and parties, while below is an excellent dining room with a professional chef offering an international menu, spreading out onto a large pool deck overlooking the bay after which the hotel is named. Spectacular views are had from every window, whether of the Portland sea or the blue-green mountains. While I was there the sea was a churning mass of white-capped waves crashing over coral rocks, or sometimes hidden by the sheets of rain that made a cosy bed and early night a welcome part of the weekend.
An Ayurvedic spa will open shortly offering herbal baths and treatments based on traditional Indian organic plants, including some well-known Jamaican remedies. Until it opens, massages and cosmetic treatments are given in the Wellness Center by Betty, the trained American therapist.
ORGANIC FARM Meals include food grown on the property farm, and breakfasts always include such fresh fruit juices as beetroot, cucumber and pawpaw. Chickens provide fresh eggs, while fish is sourced fresh daily from nearby fishermen. Townsend has placed ownership and operation of the restaurant in the hands of the staff, a decision he took because he feels it gives them a greater incentive to provide a first class catering service.
My group’s Saturday night dinner included Grilled Lobster, Chicken Alfredo and Escoveitched Fish, all served with fresh al dente vegetables, and a tasty Lemon Meringue Pie for dessert, while morning breakfasts included Ackee & Saltfish, Mackerel Run Down and Kidney, served with Steamed Callaloo, Fried Dumplins, Yam, Green Plantain and Bammy. Three springs on the property provide fresh water
The grounds surrounding the hotel’s rooms are lush with tropical flowering plants such as Torch Ginger, Oleander, orchids and dripping vines. Walkways lead to places of rest with seats and hammocks, while there are trails for longer walks that provide exercise as well as spiritual rejuvenation.
PROUD TO BE JAMAICAN “We never have to advertise this place,” says owner Townsend, when I ask how it is that I have never heard of Bay View Eco Spa & Villas. “In the beginning 100% of our guests were Europeans from my tours, then gradually our clientele became nearly 100% Jamaican. We do things like inviting a reggae star and his family to spend the weekend with us, then we let people know he’s here and people come just to spend time in his company. Freddie McGregor was our last celebrity guest. We host conferences like the one you are attending, and people love to get married on our pool deck overlooking the bay. Word of mouth has been enough so far, and we are proud to be Jamaican,” he says with a satisfied smile.
For those who think a Portland vacation is only for very wealthy international celebrities, the Bay View Eco Resort & Villas offers a first class option well within the pockets of the average Jamaican. A website and a Facebook page provide views and news of the hotel. You can discover more and make a booking here. You will surely enjoy the view from high above the treetops. https://www.booking.com/hotel/jm/bay-view-eco-resort.html
(c) Barbara Makeda Blake-Hannah