Visiting the Protected Sanctuary of Portland Bight


jamaican horses

Portland Bight is an area of water and protected coastline about 1.5 hours drive outside of Kingston. In 1999 the Jamaican government designated the area as a marine sanctuary to protect a wide variety of endemic species including birds, reptiles, and freshwater and marine life. I had already learnt a little about local conservation efforts through the very interesting blog posts of my new friend, Emma Lewis, writer and blogger, Petchary, on her blog at https://petchary.wordpress.com. I had followed her posts for about a year before we arrived in Kingston, after searching for interesting Jamaican bloggers who could teach me more about our future home.  Latham was looking for a subject for his new documentary and Emma kindly introduced him to the wonderful staff at C-CAM (the Caribbean Costal Area Management Foundation), an organization that works tireless to keep the Portand Bight waters protected, to educate local fishermen on the importance of protecting their waters, and help them find new, sustainable ways of making an income through activities such as ecotourism. Its an uphill battle, but they are making headway and Emma’s blog offers much interesting further reading on the sanctuary’s challenges:
https://petchary.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/touring-portland-bight-part-i-old-harbour-bay/
https://petchary.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/touring-portland-bight-part-2-salt-river/

Our day trip down to Portland Bight was less informed and very exploratory for two people who had just arrived in the country.  C-CAM staff kindly gave Latham a tour of the area and an opportunity to meet some of the locals. We drove miles and miles down lonely, single-track roads through acres of dry coastal forest and scrub. The two-year drought had left the vegetation extremely brown, and C-CAM pointed out low-lying areas and swamp that had completely receded or dried out.  As we drove around, we were flagged down by people who knew the truck. They reported problems or sightings: distressed or dead animals, or conflict on over illegal harvesting in the forest.  On a nearby beach, a fisherman reported seeing a dead crocodile.

Dead alligator

We smelt the crocodile before we saw him. Locals were surprised to see freshwater crocodiles on the beach and wondered if the drought had been the cause. It was hard to tell as he was badly decomposed, but the tail appeared to be missing.  Crocodile tail can fetch a high price and it was likely that he was killed for it.

DSCF8165

The wild and natural white sand beach. It was just us, a few fisherman,  birds, and a dead crocodile.  Two hundred kilometers and a million miles away from the commercial white sand beaches on the north coast

DSCF8166

The bicycles of two young boys who cycled past us on our drive. With rods slung over their shoulders, they were clearly off to fish. I wondered why they weren’t in school.

DSCF8171

The typical landscape. The dry forest and brush had a wild beauty of its own.

Jamaican vulture

A great chance for a close up a vulture. There’s such rich bird life in the area.

DSCF8181

The fishing community at Portland cottage, where Latham was to eventually shoot his documentary

mangrove swamp

Mangrove swamps were everywhere. The brackish water is home to so much wildlife  which is sadly endangered due to man’s encroachment and the clear impact of climate change

Jamaican ray

A rare sighting of a ray! I just managed to snap this as he swam out of the river estuary into the sea.

It was extraordinary to tour the area with an environmentalist. We saw the day-to-day challenges that the organization faced, and the story of the local fishermen’s struggle started to form in Latham’s mind. I’m sure a post will follow on his documentary, which is in post-production now.  The trip left me with a first impression of the real Jamaica, an appreciation of the work that C-CAM does, and a desire to go back and learn more.

12 thoughts on “Visiting the Protected Sanctuary of Portland Bight

  1. Wonderful photos – it is such a quiet place, isn’t it, a completely different world. I so hope it stays that way, despite the threat of a huge megaport, etc. I am so happy that you got to know the C-CAM folks – they are lovely and do a great job. Looking forward to seeing Latham’s documentary, very much! Thank you for the mention of my blog, too! #savegoatislands

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on Petchary's Blog and commented:
    Here is a wonderful post from my friend Caroline Wright, who is now living in Jamaica. We got to know each other via our blogs – I was fascinated by her experiences in Nepal (and then there was the earthquake…) I love this post and fabulous photos about an area very dear to my heart, the Portland Bight Protected Area. Goat Islands (STILL threatened by a Chinese megaport, and still little information on the planned “development”) is a part of this wild and beautiful area… I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, and we look forward to Latham’s documentary on the fishermen of the area.

    Like

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s