If you are lucky to have visited Jamaica and stayed in Negril, Ocho Rios, or Montego Bay, then fortunately you have experienced much of what the island entails. And this include beaches, balmy climate all year round, jerk cuisine, reggae music, irie (friendly and sociable) people etc. But if you haven’t yet visited Portland, the parish, and Port Antonio, the capital, you haven’t seen the side of Jamaica that brought Hollywood elites and royalty of the 60’s who played here. Today, the region gets fewer visitors due its seclusion and being less developed. Portland have jungles, rainforests, and quaint towns, and is an off-the-beaten-path kind of place.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2015 when I finally arrived in Port Antonio, after some coercion from Tiffany Huggins. Tiffany is Jamaican born, an environmentalist and owner of L’ EcoResorts. Up to this point, I have had four prior trips to the island of which the last three were spent in westend Negril. There were two eco-lodges in and around Port Antonio, which we had to survey for enlistment into the company’s villa rental program. As is the tradition at L’ EcoResorts, whenever we visit a location our team will also photographed and filmed the wildlife and landscape, and indulge in much nature activities. On this occasion, we rafted the Rio Grande, hiked the Blue Mountain Peak, explored swathes of exotic plants and orchards, and documented species at Hellshire Hills and Goat Islands.
Kingston was our port of entry, and we embarked on a 2 ½ hours’ ride over to Portland; the capital of Port Antonio. The drive through the mountains offers rural and coastal sceneries; the roads traverse through rainforests and wind their way around narrow ridges. The mountain breezes were super cool and gentle, so much so that during the drive I opened my side of the car window and let the wind caressed my skin.
The eco-lodges of Port Antonio seem to interconnect with their natural surroundings. Built from salvaged materials and local sustainable woods, the accommodations are constructed and furnished in a manner that bespoke sophistication.
Portland is ground zero for a variety of plant species of Jamaica. Many of the trees and shrubberies are noted for their medicinal properties, just ask the locals. In particular, the Maroon herbalists whose forefathers had traditionally used the herbs to cure and prevent an array of illnesses, while living as runaway slaves in the high mountains far away from any trained doctors. Today, this custom continues. Port Antonio and the wider Portland has been the site of numerous botanical science studies by local and international scientists.
Portland is rightly referred to as the “green parish” of Jamaica. At every turn, densely green jungles and vegetation covered mountains dominate the landscape.
Article by: Ariel Gwail