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 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:

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.


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


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.


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.


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.