On a Rock, In a Bay, On an Island, In Jamaica: Zimbali Retreat

If you’ve been paying attention at all, you will know that our trip to Jamaica was amazing. It was a week full of adventure and love in a spectacularly beautiful place. Amid all of this though, one day manages to stand out. Of course, it could have been because it was the first day I was in Jamaica with my fiancé (I promise to share more), but I think our visit to Zimbali Retreats would have been incredible under any circumstances.

A labor of love where life is lived in harmony with nature, Zimbali is a one of a kind place. We were not quite sure what to expect, but had heard that we should go there if we could. So we did. We booked the lunch culinary tour, so our driver picked us up from the Rockhouse around 9 am. After picking up one other couple, we made our way toward the retreat. I may have gotten a little carried away with letting everyone know that Brandon was my fiancé and that he had proposed only the evening before. Maybe. At a certain point, the road became rather bumpy. Honestly, being from Oregon and having a fiancé who likes “exploring” it was nothing worse than we have experienced on a logging road here and there, but it certainly felt like we were heading into the Jamaican wilderness. At times, sugarcane towered over the car, our driver noting that it would grow much taller before it would be harvested later in the year.

And then we arrived at Zimbali.

We were greeted at the gates and led through a lush paradise to a deck overlooking some of the gardens. As we waited, we were given fresh juice (starfruit and guava, maybe, I don’t really remember but whatever it was, it was delicious) to enjoy as we marveled at the tranquility surrounding us. Zimbali is a retreat from the world among the mountains. With lodging, gardens, and all organic meals, it is a place to escape and relax. If we ever make it back to Jamaica, we want to spend more time here. This time, though, we contented ourselves with the farm tour and freshly prepared lunch.

Brandon couldn’t resist the cute puppy

These avocados were HUGE. We would get a chance to try them with our lunch.

 

After a few more minutes of relaxation, we began our tour of the organic farm. There was so much to see. We hardly noticed the heat of the day as we were led throughout the farm, marveling at the variety of the produce being grown.

Our tour guide, Clifford, also works at the farm

Tropical paradise
Brandon ate this hot pepper. Because he’s weird.

A baby pineapple
The farm had many different varieties of bananas. We got to try several kinds, although I stopped after one because I don’t really like bananas, which happens to be one of the few food things I’m picky about. Brandon shared that each variety had a noticeably distinct taste from the others.

The scent of the lemongrass was amazing
The is called a peanut fruit. It tastes exactly like peanut butter. Brandon may or may not be growing one in the living room now, although the details of that should probably remain fuzzy.
Bamboo forest
Serenity and beauty were found in each moment and around every bend in the path

This is a lemon…

After the farm tour was the highlight of the day, lunch. We made our way back to the kitchen where we would enjoy lunch created with fresh ingredients straight from the farm. Everything served was either sourced directly from Zimbali or from a nearby farm. Or the ocean. Yay seafood. We had made our selections for the main course prior to beginning the farm tour.

All of this, even the honey, is grown or made at Zimbali

We had a choice of wine with our meal as we watched the first course being prepared.

The first course was a refreshing and tart salad with those giant avocados and a citrusy dressing.

The second course was an Indian inspired samosa. Only my impeccable, raised in the South manners kept me from licking that sauce off the plate. And asking for seconds.

And then came the main course. I had chosen jerk shrimp, which was served alongside a green plantain fritter. The shrimp was flavorful and perfectly spicy. My only regret was not being there long enough to try some of the other dishes that were offered.

And of course, no meal is complete without dessert. We were served rum cake with a banana and honey sauce. It was so good not even the bananas could bring me down.

Our day at Zimbali was incredible. Despite the rain that began to pour as we left, I wished we could have stayed longer. I already want to go back and spend a few days further exploring the mountain, relaxing in a hammock on a patio amid the lush gardens, eating more delicious food, and taking the Rasta culture and food tour offered at the retreat. If you are planning a trip to Negril, I highly recommend that you make Zimbali a part of it, preferably for more than a meal. I know we will be staying a few nights next time we are in Jamaica.

We ended our first day as an engaged couple back at the Rockhouse, relaxing by the pool (well, Brandon snorkeled) and counting our blessings. As we watched another dazzling sunset, we reflected on what had been a day of happiness – the joy of being engaged combined with a truly lovely day at Zimbali wrapped up in the felt gratitude of being in one of the most beautiful places.

This day was one of the perfect ones.

 

 

 

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On a Rock, In a Bay, On an Island, In Jamaica: Snorkeling

When we began packing for this trip to Jamaica, pretty much the first thing Brandon thought of bringing was snorkeling gear. For real, the guy could have forgotten everything except his passport, a swimsuit, and his snorkeling gear and been perfectly happy. He spent much of the week exploring the ocean around Rockhouse, but eventually he wanted to make it out to the coral reef, which was far enough out to only be reached by boat.

Each morning “Famous Vincent” pulls his boat up to one of Rockhouse’s red ladders to take guests of the resort out to the reef.

We arranged our trip with Vincent with the front desk the day prior and I believe we were able to add the payment for this to our account (rather than bringing cash with us to pay), although I may be misremembering this. That’s how we found ourselves sitting next to the stunningly blue Jamaican ocean waiting for our ride. Well, I was sitting, Brandon was already snorkeling.

One other couple joined us this particular morning. I was glad there were no more witnesses than that to watch me awkwardly getting in and out of the boat. Grace is my middle name. Literally. It is. I just don’t happen to exhibit gracefulness as I move about this world. But at least my awkwardness is entertaining. For Brandon, at least.

Before heading out to the reef, we pulled into a cave that used to be a bar. It was cool.

Just a quick be-a-responsible-traveler moment. You will notice that we were both wearing sun shirts. That was so we could reduce our use of sunscreen – one of the things responsible for the destruction of coral reefs. Wearing the shirts meant that for the hour or so we were snorkeling, we only needed sunscreen coverage on the back of our necks and legs. And we made sure to use a reef safe sunscreen that we had purchased prior to the trip. Eco safe sunscreen + using as little as possible = happy reefs. I hope. Okay, sermon over.

We made our way along the coast, getting a glimpse of a now deserted property and it’s once sought after stage where legends like Bob Marley performed, back when Negril was a sleepy fishing village.

The boat ride was lovely, but we really couldn’t wait for the highlight of the trip – snorkeling on the reef.

You will just have to imagine how amazing it was because we did not have an underwater camera for this trip. It was incredible! For an hour that seemed to pass in minutes, Vincent led us around the reef through the crystal clear water, pointing out some of the more unique and interesting features. It was vibrant and abundant and breathtaking. We were surrounded by fish and coral of all shapes and sizes. Brandon was disappointed that we could not explore “on our own,” but we had a wonderful morning, nonetheless, another sunshiny day in beautiful Jamaica.