Tucked sensuously away in a cove bathed by pellucid seas, Manchioneal is the most easterly town in the parish of Portland. Unhurried, bucolic and breathtakingly picturesque, Manchioneal was one of the first banana-shipping ports in Jamaica. Today, colorful canoes of the large fishing community have replaced the transatlantic steamers of yesteryear. Manchioneal is a favorite destination for Jamaicans and eco-minded tourists; the former mainly for the wide selection of seafood available, the latter for the beauty and mystique of the secluded and undeveloped Reach Falls, two miles away from the town center.
In the past, this coastal community was heavily populated with manchineel trees, pretty green trees with small round fruit that look like crab apples. As many sailors and other visitors to the area soon realized, the tree is highly poisonous, and even sitting beneath its branches is a dangerous prospect since the dripping sap can cause blisters and burns. It is said that Carib warriors would tie their prisoners of war to manchineel trees and then make strategic incisions in the bark of the tree, allowing the sap to flow and burn the skin of victims until they died. Sometimes, arrows would be tipped with the sap, poisoning targets on contact. The fruits, although enticingly sweet-smelling, must not be eaten or touched. There are still a few trees left in the village, and residents identify the trees to visitors to prevent unfortunate mishaps.
Without a doubt one of the most exotic and beautiful places on earth, Reach Falls, on Portland’s Driver’s River, is made up of a series of thundering cascades and deep emerald pools. The falls appear at the end of a two-and-a-half-mile drive down a winding bumpy road lined with coconut trees and small country homes. Here, it is not uncommon to see goats and chickens sauntering contentedly about or to see children climbing any of the numerous fruit trees of the well-irrigated valley.
A small contribution at the concession stand allows entry to the falls, and an assigned falls guide will take you down bamboo-tipped steps to the falls themselves. The falls are extremely popular with incognito celebrities, and are used often for video and photo shoots. Unfortunately, there are no words to truly describe the Reach Falls experience, but visitors are encouraged to express themselves creatively in Frank Clarke’s guest book.
Say Hello To:
Mr Frank Clarke, who also operates a small concession stand at the entrance to the falls, is the unofficial operator of Reach Falls. For more than thirty years, Mr Clarke has farmed the land adjacent to the falls and has employed a small staff to serve as groundsmen, lifeguards and guides for tourists. Before or after a visit to the falls, spend a few moments with Mr Clarke. He is an incredible character and a grassroots community activist dedicated to preserving the virgin rain forest and the pristine waterfalls from large-scale development.