Considered Jamaica’s tourism capital and a playground for the world’s rich and famous, Montego Bay might be known best as a resort destination with a vibrant nightlife, but it offers so much more. There’s Scotchies Jerk Centre where pilgrimages are made for its killer charcoal fire-cooked jerk. (Insider tip: the chicken’s fantastic, but it’s the pork that will change lives.)
Cool is an understatement when it comes to the bioluminescent waters at Falmouth’s Luminous Lagoon.
Of course there are beaches, like Doctor’s Cave which isn’t only one of the island’s top white-sand beaches but it’s said to be fed by healing mineral springs. Steps away, there’s S Hotel Jamaica — a new addition to MoBay’s lively Hip Strip. Staying at the contemporary multi-experiential hotel can be considered an attraction itself. Besides a manicured pool area surrounded by swim-out cabanas and a sleek wood deck, the property also boasts a rooftop deck with a glass-enclosed pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea, restaurant and bar, spa and gym, plus meeting and event spaces. Plus, next door is Usain Bolt’s Tracks & Records, where you can enjoy Jamaican flavors before striking a pose with the fastest man in history’s statue by its entrance.
If you’re into racing phenoms, then you may also be attracted to the island’s under-the-radar horse culture. That’s where Chukka Caribbean Adventures comes in. Chukka was inspired by founder Danny Melville’s love for polo and helping tourists connect with polo horses that were hosted at his equestrian centre in Ocho Rios.
Started more than 30 years ago, it is named after a period of play in a polo match and horses are a key part of the experience. So is charity.
My visit to St. James Parish was much more than fun in the sun and sand. I experienced how denizens within the community look out for each other, specifically those on the northwestern tip of the island.
Since 1957, Hanover Charities has been helping to improve the health, welfare, and education of residents in the western parish. As one of Western Jamaica’s largest charities, the volunteer-run organization doesn’t only feed those who are food insecure, but also operates health-care facilities and services, promotes positive values and education for children, including learning difference programs that trains teachers to help dyslexic students. Proceeds also support scholarships for youth in Hanover.
The largest project to date has been rebuilding the Hopewell Sports and Community Centre and its associated infirmary for residents to sit, visit, and socialize.
To support these undertakings, monies are raised for Hanover Charities from private donations and a series of events held over US Presidents’ Day weekend. While a soccer match between competing hotel teams for the Orchard Cup, art show and golf tournament contribute to the cause, most of the funds raised are through two main events: the Sugar Cane Ball and the Chukka-Hanover Charities’ annual polo match at the Chukka Sandy Bay Ranch. Last year, the charity raised almost J$82-million which was used towards building computer rooms in four primary schools, updating 10 libraries, and covering the annual operating cost of Kitchen Of Love, a weekly soup kitchen in Lucea that serves lunch to more than 700 citizens.
The Sugar Cane Ball is attended by philanthropists from the United States, Britain, Canada and Jamaica, polo players, and celebrities such as retired Jamaican-Canadian Olympic gold-medalist Donovan Bailey. The event is one of the largest fund-raising galas on The Rock. In 2019, the event saw 365 well-dressed guests wining, dining, and dancing to Chokey Taylor and his band under the stars at Round Hill Hotel and Villas. Centered around the Ball’s theme, Imagine, there was an art exhibition by renowned Jamaican potter David Pinto and acclaimed international painter Monique Rollins.
The following day, the Chukka Foundation and Hanover Charities’ signature polo event took place, featuring a main competition between Jamaica’s finest local players and the Rhode Island Newport Polo Team. Seated in cushioned loungers at Hanover’s Sandy Bay Polo Field, attendees nibbled on afternoon tea and sipped on cocktails while cheering their favourite team. Besides bidding in the live auction and a traditional hat competition — a democratic system that pitted the event’s most stylish in a battle of their fanciest hats — attendees wrapped up the weekend dancing to tunes spun by DJ Murdoch.
Bringing together locals and visitors, the charity polo event is also family-friendly save for some of the cheeky comments and hilarious banter from the match’s commentators.
In addition, Chukka operates more than 60 adventure tours in Jamaica and beyond. Falmouth’s Chukka Good Hope Adventure Park in Trelawny parish is multifaceted, offering guests everything from a zipline over the treetops of the property’s lush 2,000-acre grounds, tubing or kayaking down the Martha Brae River to kicking up dust on an ATV or dune buggy while riding through rugged terrain lined with coconut, ortanique and ugli fruit trees.
The Caribbean’s first and only nature-adventure park has family-friendly activities like a two-tiered suspended obstacle course, a terraced river walk, 300-foot waterslide, and 50-foot Adventure Falls next to a pool. You can visit new feathered friends in the bird aviary within historical ruins, participate in a tasting session at the Appleton Rum Tavern or lunch on jerk pork, steak shrimp and banana cake washed down with a cocktail at the Jungle Bar & Restaurant. Take a tour of at Good Hope Plantation’s Georgian-style Great House from the 1700s that greets you at the end of a bumpy path inhabited by goats and mongeese. Take it in while sipping on iced tea made with lemongrass grown onsite.
More About Chukka’s Events
2020 Dates: The Sugar Cane Ball and Annual Hanover Charities/ Chukka Foundation Polo Event are slated for February 15 and 16, respectively.