Exploring ‘nature’s sweet escapes’ with Yemalla

Sade Gardner

January 13, 2022

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There’s more to life than clocking in and out of work, and Doreen Scarlett is proving it. The 31-year-old has spent the past four years as an accountant by weekday and ‘dry land’ tourist on weekends, visiting more than 40 hidden gems and picturesque spots. She’s achieved this primarily via public transportation, sharing that she is not rich, just a woman who wants to live a life she enjoys.

It all started four years ago when she and a friend visited a few attractions, one of which was the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston.

“Rosheena and I met a South African girl at Bob Marley Museum, and she accompanied us to Tuff Gong Studio after meeting us for a few minutes,” Scarlett told Flair. “It was like we knew her in our other lives. She told us plenty about the South African culture, and we told her about the Jamaican culture, which she fell deeply in love with. We realised there was more to life than what we knew, which was our nine-to-five, school and home.”

On a trip to the Martha Brae River in Trelawny in 2018, she said she “fell in love with the sea, rivers, waterfalls, dirt, trees, sky, mountains, hills and valleys, stars [and] clouds,” which led her to travel to spots like Falling Edge Waterfalls in St Andrew, Spanish River in Portland, Johnny Falls in St Mary, Big River in St Ann and St Toolies in Manchester. While she has visited commercial locations like Portland’s Blue Lagoon and Frenchman’s Cove, Scarlett has taken a liking for off-the-beaten paths and hidden waterfalls. Affordability, distance and return appeal determine her destinations.

“I travel on Saturdays because there is more public transportation readily available,” the Kingstonian shared. “It costs less to visit the eastern parishes than the western ones. I visit and return the same day. Hence, I visit parishes that are in close proximity to my home. I would revisit a location if I am head over heels in love with a specific location.”

VIRTUAL TOUR GUIDE

She has been sharing her ventures on her ‘Nature’s Sweet Escapes’ blog, where she serves as a virtual tour guide named Yemalla, which has African roots meaning ‘water’. Scarlett isn’t alone in her field, but distinguishes herself by being a solo traveller.

“I am a fearless solo traveller. I would go anywhere in the hills of Jamaica alone, once there is a waterfall to be discovered. I travel early, 5:30 a.m. the earliest via public transportation and enjoy every moment taking in the cool country breeze.”

It’s a risky approach, but Scarlett has made it work with some guidelines, which she has shared for those wanting to experience the beauty and natural resources of Jamaica.

“Do your research on the location — I have a road map that I take along on my trips,” she started. “Learn about the different communities in [and] around the location that you are visiting and observe your surroundings. Trust your instincts. If you plan a specific route and you decide to change it, just do it. Always have extra funds; you don’t want to be left stranded on the road. Pack light and avoid looking like a tourist; it will cost you more to do the tour and attract thieves.”

She added, “Tell a few lies; don’t let persons know you are alone when asking for directions. Trust everyone and no one.”

What started out as a personal need has inspired followers to venture to new places.

“I’ve even made persons from different parts of the world want to visit Jamaica for the first time,” she said. “I have made persons start travel companies because of the new locations I have discovered.”

Her goal is to establish her own tour company and have her photos licensed for Brand Jamaica promotions.

“I want my pictures to be on billboards across Jamaica; I want to publish many books, become a professional photographer, travel consultant – the possibilities are endless.”

sade.gardner@gleanerjm.com

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Sade Gardner

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