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James Bond in Jamaica

By: Sarah Woods

January 23, 2015

James Bond films aren’t just about high-speed car chases, tuxedos and beautiful women; they also feature stunning scenery in the starring role, with the isle of Jamaica a true scene-stealer. Take a look at our guide to James Bond in Jamaica, for the Caribbean’s hottest scenes.

James Bond in Jamaica | Goldeneye

FieldSpa at GoldenEye © GoldenEye

It is impossible not to think of James Bond films without conjuring up images of Jamaica’s alabaster sands where Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) emerged from the sea, sashaying sensually with a conch shell in hand. The scene in question is from Dr No, shot in 1962; the location is a beautiful sugary-fine beach in Jamaica’s Ocho Rios. And the result is perhaps one of the most famous spy films of all time, in which Jamaica’s idyllic white beach is almost upstaged by a white bikini. 

James Bond in Jamaica | Goldeneye

GoldenEye © Christian Horan Photography

Jamaica owes much to author Ian Fleming who, in turn, owes much to Jamaica. In the 1940s the former British naval commander vowed to build a house on the island he had lost his heart to during a fleeting visit to attend an Anglo-American intelligence pow-wow. “I have made a great decision,” he declared to a fellow airplane passenger with sincerity. “When we have won this blasted war, I am going to live in Jamaica and lap it up, and swim in the sea and write books.”

James Bond in Jamaica | Goldeneye

Fleming Villa at GoldenEye © GoldenEye

He was true to his word, returning in 1946 to acquire a stunning 15-acre plot overlooking a picturesque cove. Fleming built a plain, unfussy single-storey villa on the land, which had once been used to race donkeys. He named the property Goldeneye after a wartime operation he had worked on and spent all his money on maximizing the views, caring little for sophisticated furnishings or plush design. Then he set about sweet talking his boss at the Sunday Times into agreeing an annual two-month break in January and February to enable him to winter at his typewriter in the Jamaican sunshine. His charm offensive worked, and Fleming began establishing a life as a part-time resident islander. In 1952, after a long on-off affair, Fleming wed Anne Rothermere in the Goldeneye gardens with neighbour Noël Coward as a witness. It was Anne who finally encouraged him to plough all his energies into writing the book that he had spent so long planning in his head. Fleming tucked himself away to make the most of Goldeneye’s meditative peace, tranquillity and seclusion. The words flowed effortlessly, fast and furiously: in just a few short weeks, in 1953, James Bond – 007 and licensed to kill – was born.

James Bond in Jamaica | Goldeneye

Fleming Bathroom at GoldenEye © GoldenEye

Fleming, who was by nature a solitary man, enjoyed watching the rainbow of avian species tweeting, squawking and rustling the palms in his garden – no doubt referring to the indispensable field guide Birds of the West Indies by American ornithologist, James Bond while he was crafting Casino Royale. Fleming chose this solid, plain and rather dull name for the main protagonist in his novel: a dashing secret agent with dry wit, sharp suits and a roving eye.

Today, James Bond and the 007 movies are inextricably linked with Jamaica, from the richly evocative plot lines that centre on the island’s tropical fish and coral reefs to the frequent use of the landscape for many of the most memorable scenes in James Bond films. “Dr. No,” “Live and Let Die,” “The Man With the Golden Gun” and the short story “Octopussy” are largely or partly set in Jamaica, where Fleming repeatedly sent Bond on assignment.

James Bond in Jamaica | Goldeneye

Fleming Beach at GoldenEye © GoldenEye

Jamaica’s hot, steamy, boggy swamps, shallow lakes and mangrove marshland and colonies of nesting seabirds were captured by James Bond storylines. Details of the egrets, herons, flamingos, avocets, roseate spoonbills and pelicans were undoubtedly obtained from the birding field guide. Fleming even included a group of bird lovers into the Dr. No plotline, with the evil villain eventually meeting a grisly end after choking on a heap of seabird poop. Yet it was the white sand beach and a white bikini that remains an iconic moment of the silver screen – bringing one of the biggest international film franchises to a global audience for more than half a century and introducing Jamaica and its scenic splendour to the world.

James Bond in Jamaica | Goldeneye

Relaxing by the beach at GoldenEye © GoldenEye

At aged 56, Ian Fleming died from complications due to heart disease. Several years later, Bob Marley attempted to buy Goldeneye but it was the founder of Island Records, Chris Blackwell, who eventually snapped it up when Marley’s purchase fell through. Since then, Blackwell, from an old white Jamaican family, has taken his stewardship of Goldeneye seriously: developing it into a glamorous world-class resort in which Fleming’s literary life is honoured in debonair style. A redwood desk at which every one of his James Bond novels was bashed out on a typewriter remains in centre stage. Fleming would work all day, stopping at six o clock each evening for a swim and a succession of evening of cocktails. This routine was often enjoyed in the company of Noël Coward and such visiting luminaries as Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden.

James Bond in Jamaica | Goldeneye

Seaview sutie at GoldenEye © GoldenEye

Apart from Negril’s world famous seven-mile white sands and the beaches in northern Jamaica, the island’s capital city Kingston was also chosen for filming, together with the spectacular Dunn’s River Falls – a spellbinding national treasure. There are few places where the Arawak name “Xayamaca” – land of rivers and springs – is more apt. The Spaniards called the area “Las Chorreras” (meaning the waterfalls or springs) and this series of sparkling water terraced cascades is truly one of the most beautiful and ethereal spots on the island. Surprisingly, the fictional island of Crab Key was actually a strip of land on mainland north Jamaica, cleverly shot to appear like an offshore lair. This gorgeous terrain lies close to the flower-filled part of the island that so entranced Fleming on his first visit. Storylines rich in espionage, undercover surveillance and aristocratic privilege draw on Fleming’s background. Admiral John H. Godfrey, who was Fleming’s boss in naval intelligence, served as the model for James Bond’s commanding officer, “M”. Bond, the archetypal secret agent, enjoyed a number of thrilling adventures influenced by the compelling terrain around Oracabessa Bay where Goldeneye sits – a fitting tribute to the land his creator so adored.

James Bond in Jamaica | Goldeneye

Swimming Pool at GoldenEye © GoldenEye

Today, Ian Fleming and his thirteen James Bond novels are immortalized in many ways across the island, including at Jamaica’s newest international port of entry – The Ian Fleming International Airport (IFIA) reach via a rutted road from Ocho Rios. Guests at the Goldeneye resort fly into Montego Bay airport and travel up the super-speedy scenic coastal road to stay in 007 splendour at the GoldenEye resort where Ian Fleming’s historic villa (sleeps 10); thirteen villas (sleeps 1-2 each); six lagoon cottages; restaurants (choose from bistro and fine dining); luxury spa; two pools; beach bars; private beaches and sandy coves deliver the perfect James Bond in Jamaica retreat. Impeccable service is guaranteed at GoldenEye – with martinis served shaken, not stirred.

 

Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Jamaica from London, making it easy to book your Goldeneye escape.

 

Have you stayed at the Goldeneye resort? Let us know in the comments section below.

Sarah Woods

Award-winning travel writer, author & broadcaster Sarah Woods has lived, worked and travelled in The Caribbean since 1995. She has visited resort towns, villages and lesser-known islands where she has learned to cook run-down, sampled bush rum, traded coconuts, studied traditional medicine, climbed volcanoes and ridden horses in the sea. Sarah is currently working on a travel documentary about the history of Caribbean cruises.

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