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Introducing Mandeville & Around

You won’t be long in the Mandeville area before you hear about ‘community tourism,’ an attempt to create opportunities for locals wishing to participate more fully in Jamaica’s tourism industry, while fostering a deeper connection for visitors with the people of communities they might otherwise just pass through.

The dynamo behind the movement is Diana McIntyre-Pike, co-owner and manager of the Astra Country Inn and director of Countrystyle Community Tours, a company geared toward providing alternatives to ‘sea and sand’ vacations. McIntyre-Pike helped to form the Central & South Tourism Committee, which sponsors special-interest tours, community guides, skills training and assistance with tourism development at the local level. She also runs the Countrystyle Institute for Sustainable Tourism, offering courses from community guide training to environmental waste management. ‘Whatever development takes place, it must complement our lifestyle, not change our way of life,’ she says.

The following tours were conceived to provide experience and insights that capture the ‘real Jamaica.’ Each day-tour includes lunch and refreshments:

Roots Jamaica (US$50) introduces you to Jamaican hospitality. Spend a day in a country village, receive a community welcome and be entertained in a private home while sampling local food. Visit churches and community centers and listen as elders relate tales of the past.

Taste of Jamaica (US$50) entails a day of village-hopping and learning to cook Jamaican cuisine in a natural setting within the community. Learn the old-time way of making bammy (a pancake) from cassava, taste sugarcane and plantain tarts, and sample fruits including naseberry, star apples and ortaniques. There’s traditional coffee-making, a visit to Middle Quarters for some pepper shrimp, and the tour concludes with a meal at Little Ochie restaurant in Alligator Pond.

Jamaica Naturally (US$50) unfurls nature at its best in six villages of the central and south areas of Jamaica. Along the way you’ll enjoy the scenic splendor of Resource Village, Gut River, Alligator Pond, Bamboo Avenue, YS Falls, Black River and a dramatic conclusion at Lover’s Leap.

In addition, Countrystyle offers ‘community experience packages’ for lengthier stays. Among them is a three-day all-inclusive package (including choice of one of the above day tours) for US$1000 (US$1200 per couple) and a seven-day B&B package (including all three tours) for US$1050 (US$2000 per couple). If none of these options appeal, Countrystyle does individually tailored tours that can encompass experiences from across the island.