Note: The information presented below has been extracted from our formal General Information for this tour. It covers topics we feel potential registrants may wish to consider before booking space. The complete General Information for this tour will be sent to all tour registrants and of course supplemental information, if needed, is available from the WINGS office.
ENTERING JAMAICA: All visitors must have a passport valid on the day of entry and with at least one blank page. Citizens of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom do not need visas; citizens of other countries should check with their nearest Jamaican Embassy or consulate.
A valid Yellow Fever vaccination is required if you are arriving from a country where the disease is a risk. See http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2014/chapter-3-infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/yellow-fever#1948 for more information.
COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/jamaica.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Jamaica at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/jm.html.
INTRODUCTORY MEETING: There will be an introductory meeting at 6:00 p.m. on Day 1 in the lobby of our first night’s hotel. This informal meeting gives the leader the opportunity to introduce everyone to each other and to let you know generally what to expect on the trip—pace of the tour, daily routine, etc. We strongly recommend you arrange your flights to arrive by late afternoon so that you can be present at the introductory meeting. After the meeting, we will have dinner.
PACE OF THE TOUR: Most mornings will start around 6:00 am, often with coffee and optional early birding, followed by a sit-down breakfast at 7:30 or 8:00. There will be a couple earlier mornings, either starting with an early breakfast at around 05:15 am or a picnic breakfast after an early drive. We usually bird through the morning hours after breakfast to lunch. On most days we try to schedule one to two hours of free time after lunch and/or before dinner for rest, but sometimes we’ll use the afternoon to drive to our next hotel.
The longest walks are of only about one mile (1.6 km) and do not climb substantially. Most walking is on level roads, although at Marshall’s Pen there is some very uneven, rocky ground. Those with balance and stability issues should bring a collapsible hiking stick with a wrist loop, and those who find it difficult to stand for long periods may wish to bring a small travel stool. On several evenings we might go owling within a short walk of our doorstep. There are several longish drives on typically rough, even if paved, Jamaican roads.
HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid.
There is no malaria or yellow fever in Jamaica. The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/jamaica.
Elevation: Our highest elevation will be 3500 feet (1070 m).
Insects and Arachnids: Though chiggers are absent or rare, minute ticks can be a nuisance in a couple places, but they carry no diseases. Mosquitos can be numerous in some years at the eastern end of the island, but we do not stay near human settlements where there is a risk of mosquito-borne diseases. To be protected, bring plenty of spray repellent and wear long sleeves and pants when in the field.
Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.
Miscellaneous: There are no venomous snakes on Jamaica. One can never completely escape the risk of parasites or fungal infections. Please consult with your physician. We avoid tap water but filtered and bottled water are readily available.
CLIMATE: The days are generally quite warm and humid, and summer clothes are suitable year-round. But be prepared for rather cool, damp weather in the Blue Mountains (with lows possible into the mid-50’s F), and slightly cool mornings at Marshall’s Pen (morning lows usually in the upper-60’s F). Rain is very unpredictable, with an occasional downpour possible, or even a totally dry week without a single drop.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Our hotels and lodges are always among the best available, comfortable and modern, and all have rooms with private baths, hot water, and electricity at all locations. Marshall’s Pen, a delightful bit of a departure, is a 200-year-old private “great house” with ten guest bedrooms with private baths, some en suite, others just across the hall.
INTERNET ACCESS: Wifi is available at all of our lodges, at least in the communal/dining area.
FOOD: Jamaica is famous for its delicious local foods, such as ackee (known also as “vegetable scrambled eggs”), callaloo (a vegetable cooked as spinach), bammy (fried or steamed cakes made from cassava), and the famous jerk recipes. The food at Marshall’s Pen and Starlight Chalet is home-cooked and served family style, while on other nights we eat at standard restaurants.
We have one or two picnic breakfasts and one or two picnic lunches. The remaining meals are had at our lodging, with one lunch at a roadside “jerk centre,” one at a guest house en route, and one at a fast-food restaurant in Kingston.
Drinks: Bottled water and/or a soft drink or a beer is provided at lunch and dinner, as is coffee or tea. All other drinks or ‘personal’ drinking water for use in your room etc. is the responsibility of the individual; our lodges typically have filtered water available for refilling your own bottles. We also keep bottled water on the bus for ‘emergency’ use during the day.
Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.
TRANSPORTATION: Transportation during the tour is in minibuses driven by the leaders. Some roads may be quite bumpy and/or winding; anyone susceptible to motion sickness should bring an appropriate remedy. Participants should be able to sit in any seat in our vehicles.
Updated: 29 April 2016