On the north side of the island, bordering two parishes, is what Michelle and I believe to be the best hidden gem on the island: Blue Hole. Check out the video from our recent visit below:
This is an amazing swimming hole and relatively unknown to tourists (thankfully). However, this is changing drastically and we both have mixed feelings regarding this. In many ways, a beautiful place like Blue Hole should be shared and taken care of by all. How can you do this when the number of visitors will increase significantly each year? Right now a couple of young men are working to develop the site and are asking for donations for upkeep, construction, and development. From one perspective, I am stoked that these young men are taking the initiative to work hard and try to earn a living from this. However, now that we’ve been there a couple of times, each time they ask for more money, and each time it seems there are more rules on what you can and can’t do (which in itself is both good and bad). The development is nice in some ways. The guys have put a lot of effort to plant a lot of flowers and cool plants. They’ve built steps, walk-ways, and changing-room areas. Though all of this might be necessary for growth, it also makes you wonder: when does it end?
When we went there last week it was fun to see local Jamaicans enjoying the swimming hole and making a day of it. We could only imagine that as more and more visitors catch wind of this place, locals who have lived and played there their whole lives may lose access to it. Will it ever be the same?
And, really, that’s what it comes down to. It’s great that so many people get to experience these amazing places. But does everyone have equal access to these places or only those that have the means to visit them? In some ways it’s not hard to understand how important it is to generate income, but at what costs? I think of the national parks in the states that Michelle and I have visited. I’m so glad that we are trying to preserve these amazing areas but again, at what costs? The tens of thousands, and sometimes millions of visitors at these parks are probably doing more harm than good.
But who should get to enjoy these beautiful places like Zion or Blue Hole? How do we protect and preserve them and still provide access to them? There are no right answers, just tough questions. As people who love to travel, Michelle and I will always struggle with this issue. Is it possible to enjoy and not cause harm? There is only one thing certain and that is that places like Blue Hole and Zion will never be as pristine and wonderful as they ever were…the true cost of tourism.