Island Routes encourages guests to 'Live Funner'

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Island Routes Caribbean Adventures offers excursions on 11 islands.
Island Routes Caribbean Adventures offers excursions on 11 islands.

There's no mistaking an Island Routes Caribbean Adventures tour van, with its jungle-themed paint job and its "Ruff Around the Edges" slogan on the side panels.

True to its "Live Funner" motto, the Jamaica-based excursion operator encourages guests to dive into the heart of the islands.

David Shields
David Shields

"Our motto is more than a slogan," said David Shields, vice president of sales. "It's about positivity and making the most of every moment. If our guests are having the time of their lives, so are we."

Now in its seventh year of operation, Island Routes Caribbean Adventures and its fleets of kayaks, river float tubes, mountain bikes, catamarans and sport fishing boats crisscross 11 island destinations in 17 resort areas, offering more than 500 tours.

The company celebrated its millionth booking last month, made by an American couple visiting St. Lucia.

"When we started life as a small outpost in Montego Bay in 2009, no one could have foreseen the great strides we've taken," Shields said. "We've dedicated our lives to providing breathtaking and authentic experiences for visitors to the region we call home."

The most satisfying aspect of the popularity of the tours and the volume of bookings is that it means that "we're doing something right, which is a great testament to our team members, our travel partners, the tour providers and everyone who has worked so hard to create this magic," Shields said.

Island Routes guests can get behind the wheel of a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Island Routes guests can get behind the wheel of a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Island Routes is a division of Sandals Resorts International and had its genesis on a trip to South Africa in 2009 taken by Sandals CEO Adam Stewart.

"South Africa is a beautiful country, and I asked myself, why can't we showcase the beauty and diversity of the Caribbean to our clients?" Stewart said.

Island Routes opened for business later that year in Montego Bay, where it's still headquartered today, in a former Air Jamaica office building.

As Stewart pointed out, "Having great hotels without exposing the great places outside the resorts doesn't provide a meaningful experience for our guests."

The tours are geared to solo travelers wanting to get off the beaten path, families looking for a fun catamaran adventure, incentive travel groups looking for seamless destination management services and everyone else who wants to get muddy on an ATV safari tour in Negril, Jamaica; zip through the treetops in Soufriere, St. Lucia; circumnavigate Antigua's 365 beaches in an offshore racing boat; reef fish in Turks & Caicos; or walk the plank on a Jolly Roger lunch cruise in Barbados.

Clients also can swim with dolphins and feed stingrays in Grand Cayman; explore Grenada's waters on a two-person, inflatable motorboat; tour the Graycliff Hotel Chocolatier factory in Nassau (and sample the goods); saddle up and ride along the Anamuya River in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; take the ferry from St. Maarten and explore nearby St. Barts for the day; or get behind the wheel of a four-wheel-drive vehicle to explore Aruba.

One of the company's newer programs was the launch of River Bumpkin Farm. The former sugar plantation, deep in Jamaica's historical Cockpit Country near Trelawny, is Island Routes' first fully owned and operated property in Jamaica.

Excursions at River Bumpkin Farm include a walking tour that passes many of the original buildings used in the rum production process.

River tubing on an Island Routes excursion.
River tubing on an Island Routes excursion.

For visitors who want a mix of history and adventure, a bike tour also is included as are tubing and kayaking on the nearby Martha Brae River.

Coming soon are tour programs for Cancun, Island Routes' first destination outside the Caribbean islands.

The company also plans to launch new itineraries in existing destinations this year, including deep-sea fishing trips, environmental tours and excursions with a focus on culture and heritage.

In the works, too, are additional social responsibility initiatives, such as the current Reading Road Trip, a voluntourism program run in conjunction with the Sandals Foundation that supports local schools in Jamaica.

Guests have the opportunity to engage with schoolchildren and read a book to them, according to Shields.

The company recently produced a new safety video to be used aboard its fleet of 44-passenger motorcoaches in Jamaica. (It can also be found on Island Routes' YouTube page.)

The video, set to a Caribbean beat and choreographed to feature signature Caribbean movies, is full of Caribbean nationals and was written, performed and produced by a group of Jamaican artists.

"We know that our guests are on vacation and they're here for fun and adventure," said Ryan Terrier, vice president of operations. "When we were tasked with producing a bus safety video, we didn't want it to be one of the standard videos that bores everyone."

Island Routes maintains tour desk services across the Caribbean for Sandals, Beaches and Grand Pineapple resorts and for the Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall properties in Jamaica. All tours are commissionable and can be booked online at www.islandroutes.com.

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