Saturday | May 19, 2001
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Blue lagoon - quiet and enticing

Patrons of Blue Lagoon enjoy the water, tanning on the floating deck and the bar.

By Glenda Anderson, Freelance Writer

ON A day made for relaxing, with the sun at just the right level and a cool breeze lifting the air, Naiby, on vacation from Costa Rica, has a confession.

She has fallen in love.

"I think I like it." She swings around to me, eager to share her thoughts. "It's more nature, the people are good and aahhh -- the pool. I'm leaving tomorrow but I'm coming back soon," she promises. Shouts from the pool combined with reggae music provide the texture for the background.

Omar across from us on the deck in the meantime curses his luck.

"I'm just sorry I didn't bring my trunks. This is my first time here, I just brought some people to see all of this but if I had known I'd have come prepared to go in the water."

They're talking about the Blue Lagoon, one of Portland's quietly enticing spot.

Though it can be a challenge to get to (if you're coming from Kingston and have to negotiate the Junction -- a succession of narrow, winding roads) it's worth the effort. Blue Lagoon is seven miles to the east of Port Antonio, the picturesque capital of Portland. Almost pressed up against a mountain curtain it's another of the many gems of this north eastern parish.

I won't even try to find a word to describe the lagoon's shade of blue (will deep blue, green with a tinge of purple do?) On a recent visit it was just spectacular, reflecting both the sky and foliage surrounding it.

On the way out of Kingston I had had visions of a waterfront attraction teeming with tents, profilers sauntering up and down, music blasting from somewhere and smoke from various stands.

Reality check.

The road to the lagoon is a little sand- covered driveway with neat villas overlooking the waterfront. (I mean the really cute type of modern studios that appear in decorating magazines). Further along is a tiny cove, ready boats and their captains. There's a small rock garden entrance to the lagoon itself and the scenery and atmosphere are perfect for a getaway from the heat of the city.

Always a natural attraction, Blue Lagoon reopened in 1995 after much damage by Hurricane Gilbert with a renewed environmental focus. The idea, says the management is "to offer true Jamaican hospitality in a maintained tropical natural habitat by protecting and enhancing the environment."

Operating on the theme of a nature garden, the lagoon caters to the free-spirited and laid back adventurer. A pool restaurant and bar, mineral spring, basketball court and a huddle of six villas for overnight stay complete the idea. The lagoon is open daily between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.

Beryl Reid, assistant manager, quickly dashed my image of a formal restaurant with muted table lamps, and tables formally dressed with sterling silverware. "Everything we do here is on the grill, basically finger foods, so you'll have fried plantains, chicken, fish, okras, carrots and festival, and you'll find there is really no need for knives and forks. "You eat at your leisure in a laid back atmosphere."

That's the idea.

It's inexpensive as well. Entry fee is J$130 or US$3 which covers the use of the pool and surroundings for the day. Refreshments from the bar are sold separately.

If the drive in from Kingston has taken its toll on you there is also the option of staying overnight at one of the villas (minimum of four nights) with rates varying according to the season.

Were you saying that you don't know how to swim? Never mind the lagoon, says Jackie, one of the dining area attendants. While it's about 198 feet deep it has a conical shape -- deep in the middle and shallow at the sides -- so there are actually places where non-swimmers can stand and splash fearlessly to their hearts' content.

The mineral pool, another of the treats of the lagoon, is really a collection for mineral springs flowing from the hillsides and is reputed to have healing properties. Beryl insists that it's ideal for people who can't swim so there is something for every range of water lover.

Next time you feel trapped, or find yourself yearning for peace and tranquillity, think Portland's Blue Lagoon.

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