Do you dare to discover?
Let me plainly state that Wallingford Caves in St. Elizabeth are not a tourist attraction. But they are exciting, and
slightly defiant, giving the
impression that they really don't
want you bothering them.
To enjoy these caves you need to love nature, not be afraid to get a bit dirty,
be willing to break a sweat, and get wet if you need to. And I almost forgot - you also need to be fairly fit, because they're
So I won't hold it against you if you content yourself with reading about them, since they do make interesting reading. But
if you do want a remote sort of nature adventure, by all means give them a try. They are about an hour away from the town of Black River.
You really should contact the owners before
venturing onto private property, so contact Michael (my cousin) at 876-965-2035 for permission and advice on when to visit. The river gets really aggressive during the rainy season.
My first visit to Wallingford Caves was on a fine day in April. Maxine, Michael's wife, was our trusty tour guide.
We visited three caves. The first, I'll call the "river cave", as the One Eye River runs through it. We parked
the car on the main road and trekked on a downhill path for a few minutes through the bush,
which wasn't too tall as it was the dry season. (I guess I should try to be exotic and say "jungle" instead of "bush", but I'm a plain-speaking person!).
Here we are at the cave's mouth. My son, never without his fishing tools, is trying to scoop up some small fish.
At the entrance to the cave the water was ankle deep in places. We managed to jump over those spots and get inside
the cave with our sneakers barely wet. This cave is the longest river cave in Jamaica, but unless you're a serious caver
with proper dive equipment and lighting, you can't go very far. But even close to the entrance it's beautiful, not to mention
peacefully creepy in a way that only a cave can manage to be.
During the dry season the river is low, allowing you to sit on the smooth rocks and
and dip your feet in the water, while the stalactites, stalagmites and bats watch you. In the wet season, the river exerts its
influence, so Stay Out!
The "hill cave" was the second of the Wallingford Caves on our agenda. This was the most challenging one for me, as I don't
get much practice climbing near-vertical hillsides everyday. Adrenalin rush!
This is a dry cave with lots of interesting
but it was sad to see graffiti on the walls. Maxine told me that children go there on school
trips (often without permisssion), leaving behind food debris and graffiti. The debris is causing the cave's ecosystem to
deteriorate, and not much life remains inside.
I enjoyed it nevertheless, and had a lot of fun getting back down the hill.
It involved a fair number of prayers, and getting the seat of my pants somewhat frayed. I guess it can't have been all that
as my 9 year-old made the climb and lived to talk about it.
My favourite of the three Wallingford Caves is the one Maxine calls the "crawl cave". She calls it that because you have
to crawl to get inside, and keep crawling for a short distance before you can stand. Let me try and say this
if you're big bodied, you'll get stuck. It's worth the crawl - there are sparkly stalactites, shapely columns
and swirls of sediment on the floor of this small cave.
With Jamaica's rocks being mainly limestone, there are caves all over the island. There are definitely more famous and conveniently
located caves in Jamaica. Green Grotto in St. Ann is legendary, and is
a well established tourist attraction.
If you do decide to visit the more uncharted caves of Jamaica, bear in mind that you are responsible for your own safety. The proper gear is a must - shoes with a good grip, reliable flashlights, machete in case you need to cope with bush. Gloves and maybe a hard hat might not be a bad idea either.
Wallingford Caves in St. Elizabeth are for the special adventurer who understands that nature
doesn't always come neatly packaged. That bush is sometimes just plain bush.
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