It’s pretty easy to get indolent during a short winter stay at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. This is especially true if the resort is located in a lush, jungle-like setting just across the street from a beautiful stretch of beach in Negril, Jamaica.
Billed as an “eco-friendly” resort, Sunset at the Palms has a stunning South Sea architectural style and only 86 rooms. This small size means that the incredible staff at “SATP” not only knows your name but how you take your drinks and what time you hit the beach.
But while Sunset at the Palms has amenities ranging from a mimosa hour and martini bar to spa services, cooking classes and more, there wasn’t an ATM to be found. That’s where Brent Morgan and his trusty Toyota taxi service comes in handy.
From finding an ATM with the shortest queue or steering a passenger towards the Hi-Lo supermarket with the largest selection, this big man with the broad smile has the personality and the navigation skills to help tourists discover the “real” Negril and the multi-faceted island of Jamaica in general.
If you’re looking for someone with a storehouse of knowledge of the island, its history and even a full rundown of its flora and fauna, Morgan is your man. And while he is big on saying “ya mon, respect,” this son of a sugar cane worker doesn’t sugarcoat things either. He doesn’t have much respect for those sanitized tour buses that tote tourists to the obligatory stops with no real Jamaican backdrops. And he claims that the all-inclusive resorts “just want to keep your money in there.”
Indeed, it seems as if many of the resorts do want to paint a pretty picture for tourists. But Jamaica is so much more than affable servers in colorful Hawaiian shirts, and a trip around the country’s south coast serves as a vivid reminder of Jamaica’s turbulent history with towns ranging from Savanna la Mar to Little London bearing witness to colonization by both the Spanish and English.
Like “King Cotton” in Mississippi, sugar reigns supreme on this densely populated island of approximately 2.7 million people. Over 75% of the Jamaican people are directly descended from the slaves sent to work the sugar cane fields in the 17th century. The beautiful countryside is dotted with opulent plantations and endless fields of sugar cane as well as rough-hewn housing and rum bars “where dere is always a good looking woman to get the men to come in.”
While Mississippi gave birth to the blues, the sounds of reggae are everywhere from rum shops to riverbank gatherings. The music keeps Morgan busy, too as he helps fans make pilgrimages to Bob Marley’s birthplace in St. Ann or Peter Tosh’s burial grounds in the sleepy fishing village of Belmont.
During the scenic trip to Belmont, Morgan displayed his wide range of knowledge of Jamaican history. As he pointed out a roadside stand with breadfruit, he explained that this food played a role in “Mutiny on the Bounty”as Captain Bligh was searching the South Sea islands for a cheap food source for the slaves on the sugar plantations.
Many of the standard tour operators might gloss over some of the less-than- stellar sights on the trip, but not Morgan. A request for a photo op in front of a namesake rum shop was quickly obliged and he was forthcoming on everything from a crashed ganja plane to stories of early slave rebellions. After the tour around the Peter Tosh grounds, he pointed out a Rastafarian church and explained the roots of the religion.
If there was a Jamaican “Jeopardy,” Brent Morgan would be a standout contestant. But with no such show in development, this stand up guy is ready to show visitors the real Jamaica. If you’re ever in need of a reputable, certified driver in Negril, look him up. And tell him that his New Year's Day passengers sent you!
Brent Morgan's contact information is below: