Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean. It lies between latitudes 17° and 19°N, and longitudes 76° and 79°W. Mountains, including the Blue Mountains, dominate the inland. They are surrounded by a narrow coastal plain. Chief towns and cities include the capital Kingston, Portmore, Spanish Town, Mandeville, Ocho Ríos, Port Antonio, Negril, and Montego Bay. Jamaica has the seventh largest natural harbour in the world, Kingston Harbour. Tourist attractions include Dunn's River Falls in St. Ann, YS Falls in St. Elizabeth, the Blue Lagoon in Portland, and Port Royal, which was the site of an earthquake that helped form the island's Palisadoes.
The climate in Jamaica is tropical, with hot and humid weather, although higher inland regions are more temperate. Some regions on the south coast, such as the Liguanea Plain and the Pedro Plains, are relatively dry rain-shadow areas. Jamaica lies in the hurricane belt of the Atlantic Ocean and because of this, the island sometimes experiences significant storm damage. Hurricanes Charlie and Gilbert hit Jamaica directly in 1951 and 1988, respectively, causing major damage and many deaths. In the 2000s (decade), hurricanes Ivan, Dean, and Gustav also brought severe weather to the island.
Flora and faunaEdit
Jamaica's plant life has changed considerably over the centuries. When the Spanish arrived in 1494, except for small agricultural clearings, the country was deeply forested. The European settlers cut down the great timber trees for building purposes and cleared the plains, savannas, and mountain slopes for cultivation. Many new plants were introduced including sugarcane, bananas, and citrus trees.
Areas of heavy rainfall contain stands of bamboo, ferns, ebony, mahogany, and rosewood. Cactus and similar dry-area plants are found along the south and southwest coastal area. Parts of the west and southwest consist of large grasslands, with scattered stands of trees.
The Jamaican animal life, typical of the Caribbean, includes highly diversified wildlife with many endemic species found nowhere else on earth. As with other oceanic islands, land mammals are made up almost entirely of Bats. The only non-bat native mammal extant in Jamaica is the Jamaican Hutia, locally known as the coney. Introduced mammals such as Wild Boar and the Small Asian Mongoose are also common. Jamaica is also home to many reptiles, the largest of which is the American Crocodile; however, it is only present within the Black River and a few other areas. Lizards such as Anoles, Iguanas and snakes such as racers and the Jamaican Boa (the largest snake on the island) are common in areas such as the Cockpit Country. None of Jamaica's native snakes are dangerously venomous to humans. One species of freshwater turtle is native to Jamaica, the Jamaican Slider. It is found only on Jamaica, Cat Island, and a few other islands in The Bahamas. In addition, many types of frogs are common on the island, especially Treefrogs. Birds are abundant, and make up the bulk of the endemic and native vertebrate species. Beautiful and exotic birds such as the Jamaican Tody and the Doctor Bird (the national bird) can be found among a large number of others. Insects and other invertebrates are abundant, including the world's largest centipede, the Amazonian Giant Centipede, and the Homerus Swallowtail, the Western Hemisphere's largest butterfly.
Jamaican waters contain considerable resources of fresh-and saltwater fish. The chief varieties of saltwater fish are Kingfish, Jack, Mackerel, Whiting, Bonito, and Tuna. Fish that occasionally enter freshwater and estuarine environments include Snook, Jewfish, Mangrove snapper, and Mullets. Fish that spend the majority of their lives in Jamaica's fresh waters include many species of Livebearers, Killifish, freshwater Gobies, the Mountain Mullet, and the American Eel. Tilapia have been introduced from Africa for aquaculture, and are very common.
Among the variety of terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems are dry and wet limestone forests, rainforest, riparian woodland, wetlands, caves, rivers, seagrass beds and coral reefs.
The authorities had recognized the tremendous significance and potential of this aspect of their heritage and designated some of the more 'fertile' areas 'protected'. Among the island's protected areas are the Cockpit Country, Hellshire Hills, and Litchfield forest reserves. In 1992, Jamaica's first marine park, covering nearly 6 square miles (about 15 km2), was established in Montego Bay. Portland Bight Protected Area was designated in 1999.
The following year Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park was created on roughly 300 square miles (780 km2) of wilderness that supports thousands of tree and fern species and rare animals.