Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea, comprising the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles. The island, 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area, lies about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola, the island containing the nation-states of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Jamaica is the fifth-largest island country in the Caribbean. The indigenous people, the Taíno, called it Xaymaca in Arawakan, meaning the “Land of Wood and Water” or the “Land of Springs”.
Once a Spanish possession known as Santiago, in 1655 it came under the rule of England (later Great Britain), and was called Jamaica. It achieved full independence from the United Kingdom on 6 August 1962. With 2.8 million people, it is the third most populous Anglophone country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada. Kingston is the country’s largest city and its capital, with a population of 937,700. Jamaica has a large diaspora around the world, due to emigration from the country.
Jamaica is a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. Her appointed representative in the country is the Governor-General of Jamaica, currently Patrick Allen. The head of government and Prime Minister of Jamaica is Portia Simpson-Miller. Jamaica is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with legislative power vested in the bicameral Parliament of Jamaica, consisting of an appointed Senate and a directly elected House of Representatives.
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 on the south shore, Portmore, Spanish Town, Mandeville, Ocho Ríos, Port Antonio, Negril, and Montego Bay on the north shore.
Kingston Harbour is the seventh-largest natural harbour in the world, which contributed to the city being designated as the capital in 1872.
Tourist attractions include Dunn’s River Falls in St. Ann, YS Falls in St. Elizabeth, the Blue Lagoon in Portland. Port Royal was the site of a major earthquake in 1692 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 suffers 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.
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 have recognized the tremendous significance and potential of the environment and have designated some of the more ‘fertile’ areas as ‘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, which supports thousands of tree and fern species and rare animals.
Jamaica’s climate is tropical, supporting diverse ecosystems with a wealth of plants and animals.
Jamaica’s plant life has changed considerably over the centuries. When the Spanish came here in 1494- except for small agricultural clearings- the country was deeply forested, but the European settlers cut down the great timber trees for building purposes and cleared the plains, savannahs, and mountain slopes for cultivation. Many new plants were introduced including sugarcane, bananas, and citrus trees.
In the areas of heavy rainfall are 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 a 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 and iguanas and snakes such as racers and the Jamaica Boa (the largest snake on the island) are common. None of Jamaica’s native snakes are dangerously venomous to humans. 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 include snook, jewfish, grey and black snapper, and mullet. Fish that spend the majority of their lives in Jamaica’s fresh waters include many species of live-bearers, killifish, freshwater gobies, the Mountain Mullet, and the American Eel. Tilapia have been introduce 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 biodiversity is indicated by a number five (5) ranking amongst countries worldwide of the endemic plants and animals in Jamaica.
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 15km²), was established in Montego Bay.
The following year Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park was created on roughly 300 square miles (780km²) of wilderness that supports thousands of tree and fern species and rare animals.