A newsletter from the Jamaica Tourist Board
to keep you up-to-speed on island happenings. November 2010
Linda Boyce

Hanging on for the ride with Island Routes
Mark Rogers

A sunset sail on a catamaran and a hurtling ride through the countryside on a dogsled pulled by a team of 15 rescue dogs. These are two completely different Island Routes excursions I experienced last month on Jamaica; both thrilling in their own way. Island Routes Caribbean Adventure Tours, barely into its second year, has already carved a solid niche for itself. The company has a rock-solid reputation for its attention to safety and for the quality of its tours, which all have an upscale edge.

Going to the DogsIsland Routes
The Island Routes dogsled excursion is offered through a partnership with Chukka Caribbean, another well-respected tour operator. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey, there are approximately 77.5 million owned dogs in the United States. This breaks down to thirty-nine percent of U.S. households owning at least one dog. That’s an awfully lot of potential clients for Chukka’s dogsled excursion.’

This excursion is such a mind-bender that a capsule description is in order. After watching a video describing the Jamaican dogsled experience, and then meeting the dogs in the huge, walk-in kennel, three or four participants and a trained musher (dogsled driver) climb onboard a dogsled on wheels. At a command from the musher the sled leaps into motion for an electrifying ride through a dirt track. The lack of shocks in the dogsled makes the ride even more over-the-top – these dogs are capable of pulling 400 pounds each.

This is definitely an attraction for dog lovers. If you choose to take a stroll through the kennel area, you’ll have one friendly dog after another jumping towards you, straining at its leash to be petted. If a person were afraid of dogs, the experience would be over-the-top for them.

Island RoutesThe dogs are first trained to pull a tire, and then a bicycle. When they’ve mastered that they’re hitched together to learn to pull in concert and work as a team and eventually harnessed to a dog sled.

Singer Jimmy Buffett is a close friend of Chukka’s owner, Danny Melville and is considered the team’s godfather. Buffett is on record as saying that no matter what you might think, he’d had only one Ting and rum when he made the decision to support a Jamaican dogsled team.

These mixed breed dogs are described by Chukka’s musher and dog-trainer Damion Robb as, “Jamaican mutts.”

Chukka Caribbean is still rescuing dogs and they work closely with the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA). “As soon as they see a dog we might be able to use, they contact us,” says Damion. “Our dogs need to have long legs and a strong build, and they can’t be too fat.”

I thoroughly love what they’re doing at Chukka. These dogs are super-happy – they strain at their leads to be chosen for the dogsled team. Any attraction can give you a thrill – the Chukka dogsled is an emotional experience. If you have any compassion for animals, your heart will be touched, which is a priceless part of any travel experience. You’ll take this feeling home with you.

Locking it down with Red Locks
I also got a chance to experience the Island Routes Islands Vibes Catamaran Cruise with my fiancée, Sophy. We got lucky. It was a romantic cruise aboard the Red Locks catamaran, but we also met a group of fun-loving travel agents that kicked it up a notch. An instant old friends’ atmosphere was created.

We had booked a 4:00 sunset two-hour sail that departed from the dock at Sandals Grande Ocho Rios Resort. During the sail you can sit on the netting on the prow of the boat, or find a comfortable spot in the stern or inner cabin, where the deejay spins mellow reggae tunes and the barman stay busy pouring rum punches and Red Stripes.

Sophy and I enjoyed a sailing on an impeccably clean craft attended by an attentive staff. During the excursion, we passed the spot where Dunn’s River empties into the sea and where tourists begin their climb up the Dunn’s River Falls.

Just before heading back, even though the sun was setting, there was a brief opportunity for a dip in the ocean and a chance to use the Red Rocks onboard water slide. Then it was back to the Sandals Grande dock. On the return trip the energy level took a steep rise in the cabin – most likely fueled by the generous libations – and the music shifted to dance favorites designed to get even shy passengers off their feet and moving to the beat.



Island Routes Caribbean Adventure Tours presently operates on Jamaica, Antigua; Exuma, The Bahamas; St. Lucia; and Turks and Caicos.In 2010 Island Routes will add six new destinations: Aruba; The Bahamas, Nassau; The Cayman Islands; the Dominican Republic; St. Maarten; and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Pre-booked Island Routes tours are fully commissionable to agents at 10 percent. Island Routes excursions are not low-end, so these bookings can add up to a nice over-all boost for agents. Travel agents can inquire through Unique Vacations (305-284-1300) to arrange complimentary Island Routes excursions as part of an independent fam.


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