FOR James Bond fans, Jamaica is the closest you can get to a Mecca.
The history of the world-famous secret agent is closely entwined in this beautiful holiday hotspot.
Creator Ian Fleming wrote the original dozen novels from his home on the island in the Fifties — his favourite getaway from cold, smoggy, post-war London.
Then, film producers chose the Caribbean spot as backdrop for Sean Connery’s debut as 007 in 1962’s Dr No. They also plumped for Jamaica when Roger Moore first picked up his licence to kill.
Now, as Daniel Craig bows out as Bond, where else would filmmakers mark his swansong in No Time To Die than this sun-kissed paradise?
From the glorious white sandy beaches to the swish hotels, links to 007 are everywhere on this island and, better still, many of these locations remain untouched by tourists and have been left alone to the elements.
It is for this reason that Jamaica has been top of my bucket list since I read my first Bond novel as a boy.
Landing at Montego Bay airport, I expected to be greeted by a smiling henchman with the words: “Ahh, Mr Barker, we’ve been expecting you.”
But Jamaicans are very laidback about their links with the cultural icon.
In fact. Jamaicans are very laidback about everything, which has helped give the island a constant sense of relaxation and a holiday atmosphere.
Stumbling upon the location of 007’s first meeting with Quarrel in Dr No, there was no fanfare or even sign.
But due to lack of development, the quayside seemed pretty much identical to how it was 60 years ago, which for a fanatic like me was a real treat.
I couldn’t help feeling that if this had been America or Thailand, there would be souvenir sellers, huge signs and a long queue of tourists desperate to get a selfie where Connery once stood.
But here, I was left alone to appreciate the scene at my leisure.
The first movie, Dr No, was filmed largely around Kingston and into the ruins of Port Royal — the former pirate capital of the world until an earthquake in 1692 pulled most of it tumbling into the sea, and many of the buildings seem untouched since then.
Standing on Laughing Waters beach in Ocho Rios, I could instantly recognise the soft sands, shallow rock pools and calm seas from the movie’s most memorable moment, when Ursula Andress steps out of the water in a bikini.
This exotic cove is now owned by the government so you cannot simply wander in. But contacting the Jamaican tourist board allows access to the white bay which, despite being battered by a hurric-ane in 1990, still looks picture-perfect.
After soaking up views from the craggy rocks, I set off to Liguanea Club in Kingston, the old colonial haunt where Dr No’s opening sequence with the Three Blind Mice assassins takes place.
Inside the members’ club are subtle nods to the movies — including in the menu which has a daiquiri named after one of the film’s victims, Strangeways.
But what really inspired the character of Bond lies on the opposite side of the island, back in Ocho Rios at historic nightspot and hotel the Jamaica Inn.
Stylish and tranquil, this resort has welcomed many famous people, from Sir Winston Churchill to Marilyn Monroe — and even Fleming who became part of the expat social scene in the Fifties.
Balconies jut out from rocky cliffs, over-looking a bright turquoise ocean — and the restaurant, nestled in swaying palm trees, serves sophisticated cocktails.
Simply looking at this place from the outside, it’s not hard to see why Fleming spent so much time here, sipping on shaken-not-stirred martinis at the bar.
My home for the holiday sat just a few minutes up the road from here, at the all-inclusive Couples Sans Souci resort, also in Ocho Rios.
Of course, this place has seen its fair share of Bond moments, too. The pastel-pink building with its wide balconies and white shutters featured in scenes with Roger Moore in Live And Let Die.
The hotel is open and airy, with rooms that overlook yet another stunning stretch of beach.
The place has always had a tranquil atmosphere, so much so that Moore himself even bunked up here during the shoot — and according to a diary he published on his first experience of playing 007, he took full advantage of the quality bars and restaurants.
Fleming did not have far to wander to reach the resorts in this pretty port town, as his self-built, simple home lies just a few kilometres away.
With its very own private beach and amazing view of the northern coastline in Oracabessa, the author revelled in the lush greenery, incredible wildlife and pretty shores.
He set about developing the grounds, a former donkey race track, with very particular orders to make it as no-frills as possible so he could bash away on his typewriter without any distraction. Today, the property is a holiday home for the super-rich, costing up to £10,000 for a single night, while the surrounding estate has been developed into a five-star hideaway for the famous — who have included, over the years, Sting, Harrison Ford and Kate Moss.
Strangely, despite being filmed a decade later than Dr No, the Live And Let Die locations are a little harder to track down.
Lunch for the crocs
In the 1973 film, Jamaica played the part of San Monique — island home of super-villain Dr Kananga.
They did much of the filming at former sugar plantations of the Rose Hall estate in Montego Bay, which has now been redeveloped as a championship 18-hole golf course.
But the main house still exists to this day as an historical reminder of the horrors of slavery on the island. Nearby, you will find Kananga’s underground hideout, the Green Grotto Caves, where fleeing slaves once hid.
Tourists can visit the eerie limestone rocks on a guided tour that will take you deep into the cave, where much of the rockbed has been left wild.
The Live And Let Die adventures do not end there, either.
Thrill-seeking Bond fans should head to the Jamaica Swamp Safari, where the secret agent was dropped by gangsters as lunch for the crocodiles.
It was founded by wildman Ross Kananga — whose name inspired the movie villain — as a sanctuary for endangered crocodiles and wildlife in the surrounding swamps.
Here, visitors are met with a sign that reads: Trespassers Will Be Eaten — which caught the eye of filmmakers as they scouted around for locations.
And like Bond, who had to skip over the heads of the hungry crocs in the movie, you will get the chance to get up close to the reptiles.
After days roaming hidden caves and slurping on cocktails at swanky resorts, my final mission was to track down locations used for new movie No Time To Die, being released on September 30.
Filmmakers were keen to keep top secret what occurs at the five spots around the bustling town of Port Antonio. But the locals talk of witnessing explosions, car chases and speeding boats.
One location featured in the trailer suggests retired Bond had picked the perfect hideaway from the world’s villains in a beautiful, isolated beachfront villa. While on his final 007 appearance, Daniel Craig stayed nearby in the equally tranquil £4,000-a-night Cocosan villa which boasts incredible luxury.
Transport boss Gesford Suglam, who worked on the three-month shoot, said: “Producers asked us to use our local knowledge to find certain locations around the island.
“About 400 cast and crew then arrived for the filming and it was a massive operation.
“Everyone seemed to love their time here, though — especially Daniel Craig who really got into the local food.”
The film is sure to show another stunning slice of Jamaica and another chapter in the island’s romance with the Bond franchise.
Simply put, there is no time to fly to Jamaica, like the present.
Source: Read Full Article