Tapico Village: Unique and serene
DEVON PEN, St Mary:
In stark contrast to the plush all-inclusive resorts to be found along the north coast in western St Mary, on the other side of the parish, an intensely serene and entirely unique, low-cost alternative exists in the lush, green basin of the Wag Water Valley.
Located close to the popular Friendship Gap food spot on the Junction Road, Tapioca Village is a relaxing, heritage-focused vacation sanctuary, launched 20 years ago by hospitality and marketing expert Errol Sinclair.
During that time, the jovial founder and proprietor has established his charming hideaway as one of the best-kept secrets in St Mary and a shining example of productive community development. Nevertheless, despite these successes, Sinclair insists the venue is still a work in progress.
He told Rural Xpress: "Tapioca Village is the perfect retreat - like grandma's house up in the hills, but with additional amenities such as good food and a swimming pool. We have 15 private rooms and camping accommodation for 100 people in dormitories.
"I started construction here in 1994 and we're still developing. We've never officially opened (laughs); people just started coming and things grew from there. It's a special place because we offer the real Jamaican experience.
"We are agriculture-based and utilise only fresh produce and indigenous fruits and vegetables, which means that at Tapioca Village, you get things like hot chocolate straight from the farm, lemonade, susumba, rundown and potato pudding."
Sinclair, who is a director of the Kidney Foundation and chairman of the Parish Development Committee, believes few locations are more beautiful than the district where his retreat is situated, and works hard to develop the local community and teach young people about tourism and agriculture.
He said: "Wag Water Valley is one of the most scenic areas in Jamaica, so you can go hiking in the hills or take a trip to the river. The people are great and there is a lot of potential for tourism, especially now that the Scott's Hall Maroons are getting their act together.
"We try to nurture local young people and have teamed up with the HEART Trust/NTA for a fabulous hospitality training programme, which takes place here.
"We're trying to create opportunities for the next generation in this area because if we can fix Wag Water Valley, we're on the way to fixing Jamaica and the world.
"I came, consumed and benefited from trees that were planted by people who came before me, so it's our turn to do something for the next generation. Let's show them how to improve so they will know what to teach the generation that come afterwards."
Sinclair acknowledges that he has a duty to guide and educate the younger generation and teach them the benefits of volunteerism.
He said: "Jamaica was built on service clubs and organisations that go out and help the population, so let me say this to people who don't volunteer or who see no value in volunteering: If you are not volunteering, you are not paying your rent in life. You are here on borrowed time and by helping others you are paying your rent."