NEGRIL, Westmoreland — With his crazy hats sporting spiky hairdos and a 'big ole' grin on his charming face, who would not absolutely adore "Big Papa"?
He is a favourite among the water sports enthusiasts who visit the Sandals Negril Resort and hear his usual warm greeting "Snorkellers, come to Papa!" Even his birth name, Michael Jackson, gives the guests something interesting to talk about. He may not sing hits like Dirty Diana, moonwalk or do the toe stand, but he is a definite performer who keeps visitors coming back for more.
Big Papa grew up in Logwood, Hanover and has always been known for his love of the deep blue. So much so that for the past 15 years, all his jobs have had something to do with water. He speaks about his passion for this particular element of nature, revealing that as a young boy he would often sneak off to the river during the day while his mother went to the market.
"My mother would leave me to do chores around the house, but I didn't care about that, all I wanted to know was that she was gone and I was free to go swimming with friends," says the smiling 41-year- old.
After graduating from the Green Island Secondary School in Hanover, he made a vow to himself that he would go out and make a living doing what he loved most. Staying true to his promise, Jackson now serves as a boat captain in the water sports department at Sandals Negril and is the "resident entertainer" on snorkelling trips and private boat cruises with guests. He is "Papa"-- leading by example as he shares the underwater beauty of the Caribbean with guests, guiding and teaching about marine life, its preservation, and acting as a pillar of security for those he takes out on his trips. It is said that when guests arrive and are looking for an adventure on the sea they call out for 'Big Papa'-- the highlight of their vacation. With his 'larger-than-life' persona, he has been conferred with numerous top recognitions including resort awards for Smile and Courtesy and Most Guest-Nominated.
What is his secret, though? What does this man do that makes guests so fond of him with many booking their next vacation merely because he showed them a good time? "It's simple," he responds. "All I do is just be myself. I have the best time ever when I'm surrounded by water. There is a happiness and freedom that engulfs me and I just pass on this vibe to my guests."
He explains that whether it is a snorkelling or sightseeing excursion aboard Sassy Sue or a romantic escapade on the Pride of Negril or Shining Star, the guests are his spectators and he is the top entertainer at "a big concert". "I'm not the best singer but I sing for them I am definitely not the best dancer as my given name would imply, but I dance for them and show them some crazy moves, too, and they absolutely love that! There is not one visitor to our island who doesn't want to learn something Jamaican, especially dancing Jamaican styles... I just find out what they love and I build on that."
When asked about his future plans he states that he intends to stay with Sandals for a long time with the hopes of opening his own company, selling watersports equipment, later on. Until that plan materialises, Big Papa promises to continue exceeding guests' expectations and giving them something to look forward to on their next vacation to Sandals Negril.