As long as I can remember, I have known Jamaica to be referred to as “The Land of Wood and Water”.
I can still hear the lyrics to Tony Rebel’s song “Sweet Jamaica” playing over and over in my head.
“….Help me big up Jamaica
The land of wood and water
The systems might no proper
But we love the vibes the food and the culture
Woi, can’t you see
The beauty of this country
Me never know a serious thing
Until me reach a foreign….”
According to his lyrics, here is a man whom it was only after traveling to “foreign” and returning home to Jamaica did he realized how truly blessed he is to call the island home. He had grown to appreciate its uniqueness and innate attributes. And I, as a Jamaican can truly relate to Tony’s sentiment.
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defined ecotourism as: “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”
However, the notion of Jamaica Ecotourism seems elusive on the Island. The major tourist destinations of Jamaica, including Negril, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio have only a handful of eco resorts and naturalist guides dedicated to Jamaica Ecotourism.
Jamaica is however overrun with large resort enterprises and privately owned villas and guesthouses. Public beaches are being sold at an alarming rate to foreign investors, leaving Jamaicans with no access to these areas and no provision or alternatives. As I write this piece, I reflects on the Winnifred Beach saga, where it took a court order to grant public access to beach in Portland to the people, ending a five-year legal battle between the residents and the The Urban Development Corporation (UDC). Note, this was a beach that the people have used for generations. After the verdict, the company issued a statement which read, in part, “It has always been the Corporation’s intention to develop the Beach for the good and enjoyment of all Jamaica.” The question here is Why does a stretch of pristine land containing a fine white-sand beach with the clearest, bluest waters needs developing? See the photo below and you be the judge.
Thankfully, in this case common sense and fair-mindedness prevail and the people won!
Collectively, as a nation it is our responsibility to stand tall sensibly, reclaim governorship of the place we call home, strive for greatness for our people and land, and preserve and protect them for future generations. Jamaica Ecotourism.
Jamaica Ecotourism is so much more than visiting a natural site, waterfall, rainforest, beach, or staying in a wooden chalet or rock house, but as well strives to conserves the environment and improves the well-being of the local people.
Footnote: The vendors of Winnifred Beach were recent victims of arson. Many persons lost their goods and only source of income. See how you can help them through their website’s here.
Article by: Tiffany Huggins, L’ EcoResorts.