Nature and Heritage at Jamaica's First UNESCO World Heritage Site
A first for Jamaica and a first for the Caribbean. In 2015, Jamaica's Blue and John Crow Mountains became the country's first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also the Caribbean's first World Heritage Mixed Site for both natural and cultural riches.
The emerald mountains define the eastern part of the island and cover an area of 480 km2. The UNESCO site is 260 km2 within Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park.
Nature and Biodiversity
It's a rare 'tropical mountain' environment on the steep (nearly 1,000-meter) slopes, with cloud forest, a unique ecosystem that only occurs in 2.5% of the world's tropical forests.
The Blue and John Crow Mountains are a global biodiversity hotspot, one of the world's 78 most irreplaceable protected areas for plant and wildlife species conservation.
The park has 1,357 species of flowering plants; a quarter of them are only found in Jamaica, and 87 are found only within the park.
It is the last of two known habitats of the giant swallowtail butterfly, the largest butterfly in the Western Hemisphere, and the habitat for 200 species of birds including the endangered Jamaican blackbird. It is one of the largest migratory bird habitats in the Caribbean. It's also the home of the Jamaican boa and the threatened rodent hutia.
Culture and Heritage
This is where indigenous Tainos and former slaves fled to escape colonial enslavement. The thickly forested mountains provided the seclusion and natural resources for the Maroons' survival and fight for freedom. They developed a profound knowledge of and spiritual connection to the mountains, creating a cultural legacy that survives in modern Jamaica.
Tangible history of the Maroons' life and resistance in the mountains also remains today. The Nanny Town Heritage Route includes settlements, trails, viewpoints, and hiding places.
The Blue and John Crow Mountains sustained Maroons and supported them as they struggled to survive and achieve recognition and liberation. Their example influenced other slave resistance in the region, and is a powerful story of humanity for all people of the world.
Jamaicans and Visitors
The Blue and John Crow Mountains' designation as a dual UNESCO World Heritage Site was a momentous occasion for Jamaica and Jamaicans.
It was dedicated to the legacy of the Maroons of Jamaica, "strong, cunning and resourceful persons who found ingenious ways to dismantle a system that blighted peoples of the region… They have helped to shape our identity of self, and community."
As a Mixed World Heritage Site, the Blue and John Crow Mountains' one-of-a-kind environment and profound cultural heritage will be preserved for ancestors of the brave Maroons, and for visitors to the country looking for a deeper connection to Jamaica.
To plan your visit, contact the Office of Park Managers, Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by phone at (876) 960-2848-9 or (876) 960-8278-9. Photo Credit - Jamaica Social Investment Fund