Jamaica In-Depth: The Blue Hole

The Blue Hole, now titled Island Gully Falls and also known as the Irie Blue Hole, is a series of waterfalls and cavernous swimming holes found in the North of the amazing Caribbean island of Jamaica, in the parish of St Ann. If you are planning a trip to Jamaica, the Blue Hole offers a predominantly untouched place to explore. Though it is important that the spot remains authentic and not overly geared towards holiday-makers, it is wholly understandable why interest in visiting has exploded in the past number of years.

The Blue Hole, St Ann, Jamaica.

The Blue Hole sits in the River Gully rainforest nestled in the Thatch Hill Mountains, near the town of Ocho Rios and part of the White River valley. The site is privately owned and has been kept natural and undeveloped, but for some wooden steps and railings in places, providing those who visit a magnificent place to explore and get stuck into real Jamaica. On a side note that will be further explained later on, I only use my own photography and videography in these posts which in the Blue Hole’s case does not reflect what you can normally expect to see. With usually crystal-clear water that is a range of magnificent blue shades from light blue to deep azure, you can search the web for photos of the Blue Hole in better circumstances if you want to appreciate the true beauty of the water here. The Hole is comprised of a series of natural swimming holes backed and fed by waterfalls, surrounded by tropical greenery. The waterfalls keep a nice flow passing through the water to keep it clean and prevent it from becoming stagnant, and the swimming holes are cavernous, allowing for deep caverns to be explored in better weather. We were told by our guides that sections of the Blue Hole are extremely deep, so much so that in parts its depth is still unknown. This is fascinating and demonstrates just how uninvestigated the site remains, as well as a lack of documented history. There is a lot to get up to here for those who love being in the water. If you don’t enjoy being in water then the Blue Hole would probably not be for you, but if you do then you will find a plethora of aquatic activities to get up to here.

As mentioned before, the Blue Hole is positioned in a secluded rainforest before mountains. As a result, the site feels remote, despite being close to a bustling town. You can go by bus, taxi or car but most travellers will hire a guide or use a tour provider. I would recommend this, because the journey to the Hole is really tough. The roads are not tended to in these lesser-seen areas, so they make for an extremely bumpy drive. They are also narrow and in places there are no barriers at the edges, where drops often wait. In fact, we saw a number of lopsided cars hanging in tree tops at a terrifying height, where they had gone over the side for whatever reason. It makes for a nerve-wracking sight and the best thing you can do is ensure you are in good hands, driven by a person who knows the roads well and often does the journey numerous times a day. Safety aside, you will get some great views of little communities and picturesque road-side stalls.

The Blue Hole, Jamaica.

Upon reaching the Blue Hole, guides will show you around and point out areas to watch out for and the best places to jump from. We had a brilliant time with our guides, who were really friendly and helpful. Don’t forget to tip them as they will look after you wellband if you were unaware, there is a prominent tipping culture in Jamaica. Though some may be put off by the idea of guides, their presence is crucial but not overbearing. You will still have freedom to explore in your own way, but the Blue Hole is a wild place and should be respected as just that. The site is only appropriate for those who are able-bodied as there is climbing and manouvering involved over steep and slippery rocks. All in all, a trip here is pretty physical. This again highlights the importance of the guides, who know the Blue Hole very well and will direct you where to step and which route to take. They will also show you safe points to jump from – which range in height and include a jump out over a large waterfall – as well as point out rope swings. Adventure-seekers will love the Blue Hole for the jumps alone, which are thrilling and left me physically shaking with adrenaline. If you want to swim but do not want to jump (although I really would recommend trying it) you can alternatively scale down the banks into the water.

The Blue Hole is open from 9am to 5pm everyday apart from Saturdays, and entry is inexpensive. The Blue Hole is surprisingly one of the cheaper excursions to book with tour providers, too. Aim to book a trip or plan to go close to the time so that you can check out expected weather forecasts. Heavy rainfall a day before or the day you go will definitely change what you can expect to see. Sediment and mud will be churned up, turning the delicious blue water to a rather murky brown. The currents in the water will also be much stronger, making it more difficult to swim. In 2018, this was blamed for visitors who came down with the infectious disease leptospirosis, which is caused by the bacteria leptospira and can make you very ill. Do not be put off by this too much though. In official tests, the bacteria was not found in the water and there was deemed to not be enough evidence to link it to the cases of infection. I actually went to the Blue Hole in 2018 when there had been strong rainfall the previous night and swam in the water and was fine. However, the conditions did mean that not many people wanted to do jumps and the few of us that did were suddenly submerged in pitch-black water. It can be panic-inducing to see nothing at all when underwater, even when swimming upwards for a good handful of seconds, and then finally reaching the surface and being told to “Swim, swim, swim!” because the current might sweep you away. Heavy rainfall will cause these things to happen to the usually clear, calm water and it might spoil your visit, so be sure to check this out before you go to enjoy the Blue Hole in all its glory. On that point, you will need to bring some water shoes with you in all weather. The Blue Hole is jungle-like and you can really use some protection on your feet to tackle the different terrains. Just make sure they are well fitted if you plan on jumping. From some of the higher jumps, the force of hitting the water will whisk your shoes off if they are loose.

The Blue Hole, St Ann, Jamaica.

The Blue Hole offers a unique experience and a very literal chance to dive into the wonderous beauty Jamaica offers. Rainforest, mountain views, waterfalls, underwater caves and stunning swimming holes await those who go. Raw and undeveloped, the Blue Hole is a true Jamaican gem. Feel free to share if this post has inspired you to visit the Blue Hole below in the comments, or what you thought if you already went. Drop a like if you enjoyed reading and don’t forget to subscribe if you want content like this and more delivered straight to your inbox!

The Blue Hole, St Ann, Jamaica.

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