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Bats, Bond, and Pirates: Green Grotto Caves, Jamaica

Bats, Bond, and Pirates: Green Grotto Caves, Jamaica | CosmosMariners.com

Nothing says happy anniversary like going to hang out with some bats.

At least, if you're Landon and I, that's what your fifth anniversary looks like!

My parents wanted to give us a gift that we'd actually use on ourselves (and not spend on something super practical like groceries), so my mom asked if she and my dad could buy us a shore excursion. Landon and I looked at the available options and decided on a tour in Jamaica that took us to both the Green Grotto Caves and Dunn's River Falls.

My mom and dad didn't know it at the time, but their gift ended up being one of the highlights of our entire Western Caribbean cruise! I'm breaking the shore excursion into two parts, so check back on Monday to read about our time at Dunn's River Falls.

Our Jamaica excursion was the first that we'd book for this cruise, so Landon and I were up and at 'em early the morning we were porting in Falmouth.

Bats, Bond, and Pirates: Green Grotto Caves, Jamaica | CosmosMariners.com

Neither of us had been to the country before, so we weren't sure what to expect in terms of atmosphere, personnel, culture, or safety. I'd heard some conflicting information from friends who'd been before (some loved it, while some didn't care to go back), and my total knowledge about Jamaica came from what I'd gleaned from Cool Runnings (one of the greatest movies ever). I really should've done more research before I got on the boat, but I failed big time as a travel blogger.

Still, just showing up in a place with very little knowledge gives you a bit of a head rush. I'd recommend doing it--every once in a while.

Bats, Bond, and Pirates: Green Grotto Caves, Jamaica | CosmosMariners.com

Anyway, we got off the boat, followed the hordes of fellow cruise passengers through the gated shopping area and into the tented area to meet our excursion bus.

We patiently waited for our bus to pull up while we marveled at how the dozens of tour guides were keeping the chaos of hundreds of visitors to a dull roar. Our guide, Patrine, showed us to our bus--which, like many of the buses we encountered throughout the Caribbean, was a refurbished one from somewhere in Asia. It was so funny to see Asian writing all over a bus that was hurtling down a road in Jamaica!

After a thirty minute ride from the port in Falmouth to Discovery Bay in the St. Ann parish, we arrived at our first stop of the day: the Green Grotto Caves.

The entrance is somewhat underwhelming, as it's just some iron bars across an opening in the rock, but, really, what cave entrance is exciting? (Answer: none.)

Bats, Bond, and Pirates: Green Grotto Caves, Jamaica | CosmosMariners.com

As soon as we stepped inside, things got a lot more interesting, as some small, flying things tried to dive bomb us as we were gathering our hard hats.
Bats, Bond, and Pirates: Green Grotto Caves, Jamaica | CosmosMariners.com
We're either going on a very sanitary cave tour, or we're about to deal with some aggressive deli meat at your local sandwich shop. 
After a brief spaz attack (in which I though that the flying things were bats trying to burrow into my hair), Landon assured me that they were, in fact, birds that we'd scared by coming into the caves. Somehow, small flying birds in a cave made me feel infinitely better than small flying bats.

Our guide, a young, chipper fellow, first led us into a large opening deeper into the cave. Here, he pointed out several carved areas, including a stage, a bar, tables, and chairs. Earlier in its life, the cave had been turned into a nightclub by its American owners--who apparently didn't consider that nightclubs are rather noisy. After several small cave-ins and some serious disturbance of the local animals, the nightclub was shut down, and the caves were restored to their more natural state.

Bats, Bond, and Pirates: Green Grotto Caves, Jamaica | CosmosMariners.com

In addition to their entertainment past, the caves have quite a storied history. During the English conquest of Jamaica in the 1600s, the Spanish governor used the caves as a hideout--and as a way to ultimately escape the island once the English took power. You can still see the mouth of the tunnel that the governor took in his final flight from the island, though it has been blocked off in recent years.

Bats, Bond, and Pirates: Green Grotto Caves, Jamaica | CosmosMariners.com

The caves also served as a pirate hangout and gold treasury. Just like at Morgan's Point in the Bahamas, I looked for any remaining loot, but, sadly, it looks like it's all gone in both places!

Our next stop was in the Grotto, which had its 15 minutes of fame in the 1973 James Bond film, Live and Let Die. If you've seen the film and you remember the scene where Bond is about to be fed to the sharks in a cave, then you've seen part of the Green Grotto.

Bats, Bond, and Pirates: Green Grotto Caves, Jamaica | CosmosMariners.com

While we were down there, our guide (who had a wicked sense of humor) turned out the lights so we could see how dark it had been with the native population first discovered it. Of course, he decided to have a little fun with us, and took a thin stick to tickle some of our ankles. I pretty much detest all wildlife, so my first thought was "SNAKE!" and I proceeded to climb up Landon's back like a four-year-old. My shrieking cracked up the rest of the group, and the guide turned the lights back on, and I tried to pretend that the crazy screaming woman had been anyone but me. Ha!

Our final stop was to the Wishing Well part of the cave, where there's a 40 foot drop into a pool of clear water. It was quite pretty, but I was afraid to stick my phone too far over the edge for fear of seeing it plummet to its death.

All in all (even with the bat sightings and faux snake), the Grotto was a great stop, and I'm super glad that we had it on our itinerary. If you're staying at one of the nearby resorts, or if you're visiting Ocho Rios, definitely add this into your vacation.

Stay tuned for what happened on the second half of our Jamaica shore excursion, including my thoughts on my first ever jerk chicken, and whether we were actually able to finish climbing a (pretty big) waterfall!

Have you ever been to Jamaica? What did you think? What caves have you visited?

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