OCHO RIOS, Jamaica – As part of our recent coverage of the Jamaica Tourist Board’s fam series titled the Wish You Were Here Education Series, Travel Agent toured what could be the next hot destination wedding spot in Jamaica, The Enchanted Garden in Ocho Rios.
The Enchanted Garden, originally opened in 1991 as the Enchanted Garden Resort and Spa, is a secluded area of natural waterfalls, flowers, hidden coves and an impressive bird aviary.
The resort closed down in 2000 because it wasn’t making money. The Enchanted Garden remained opened to the public for tours, but it wasn’t until about two months after ownership changed that the property began aggressively promoting.
There are 14 natural waterfalls on throughout property, a rainforest, more than 100 types of plants and trees, but perhaps the most interesting part of the property is its bird aviary, which is home to about 20 different species of birds and expects to expand to at least 50 species.
Now, I’ve seen bird sanctuaries before, but never quite one as interactive as this. Guests can walk in and then have the staff take pictures as birds begin to land on their hands, shoulders and even head if they are bold enough.
Or if you are terrified of birds, like I am, you could stand in the back or outside the aviary, take some pictures and simply enjoy their beauty without worrying about them landing on you.
“What we are aiming to do is give the cruise passengers in the area something to do with their families,” Dr. Howard Reid, managing director of a company called Science, Research and Innovation, the parent company of The Enchanted Garden, told Travel Agent. “There aren’t really a lot of family-oriented activities to do in this area. So, hopefully this will be the spot for families to visit.”
As far as weddings go, currently there are only about one or two weddings a month here, usually involving locals, but there are plans to turn this into a big wedding destination venue. Reid told us there will be a two-phase, roughly $6.5. million renovation project.
The first phase, which will be completed by December will include new restrooms, new decks, a refurbished swimming pool and reception hall for weddings. The main addition involved in the second phase, which will be completed around June, will be a natural history museum.
"We really think we will have everything we need to make this a great wedding spot, but also a place where people can learn about and enjoy some of the natural wonders of the area," Reid says.
A tour is usually about an hour or so and is $20 for adults and $10 for children. There are currently just two guides on staff, but we expect that number to grow as the facility begins to gain some more attention from the travel industry. Our guide was younger guy named Jordan.
The restaurant on property that closed when the resort aspect of The Enchanted Garden shut down will be restored by December but will not serve guest until about June. And this will only add to the relaxing feel of the property as patrons can dine near a man-made waterfall that flows around the tables.
Enchanted Gardens offers agents a 10 percent commission. It is also looking to partner with several tour operators. Although the property offers no rooms and doesn’t expect to in the immediate future, it partners with local hotels when it hosts larger groups and weddings.