The Black River is one of Jamaica’s longest rivers (approx. 53km / 33 miles). It takes its name from the apparent colour of the river bed, which is almost black due to the thick and heavy decomposition of vegetation taking place on the river bed. The Black River is located in the parish of Saint Elizabeth (Capital: Black River), in the southwest of the island. The river flows into the Caribbean Sea and has four named tributaries; YS River, One Eye River, Smith River and Broad River.
The Black River is Jamaica’s largest navigable river, and the island’s largest wetland area. Historically, the river was used to transport tree trunks down to the port, which would have then been transported to England for manufacturing processes. It appears that the river mostly serves the tourist industry these days. The Black River has a rich ecosystem which includes more than 100 species of birds, three different species of mangrove, a variety of other vegetation including palms and freshwater forest vegetation. Small islands of lily pads even float along the river where the currents allow. The river is also home to the American Crocodile – an endangered species.
I had mixed feelings when I learned I was being given the opportunity to join a safari along the Black River. I was both excited and nervous. The thought of feeding the crocs wasn’t exactly a positive thing for me :S but it turns out this was only Jamaican humour – you do not feed the crocodiles. My tour guide did however keep asking me if I wanted to take a swim in the river alongside all the friendly crocodiles, who apparently “are so kind, carefree and relaxed because this is Jamaica”. Errrr…. no thanks man!
The crocodiles were such quiet and relaxed creatures. Maybe this Jamaican attitude thing is real! They are so well camouflaged into their surroundings. You will need patience and great powers of observation to spot the little fellas. Luckily, the guides are extremely experienced. They know their crocs by name, and always know where they might be able to find them. Crocodiles are apparently creatures of habit and territory, so they all have their own little patch to live in and protect. The guides encourage the crocodiles to approach the boat in order to give you a more “up close and personal experience” with the stars of the show. They are able to do this by throwing water into the river near the boat and clapping their hands or tapping the river water to get their attention. The crocodiles are supposedly made to think that a prey is near, but they don’t seem unintelligent, I’m sure they have become accustomed to their human friends. They duly obliged, swimming over to the boat at a very slow crawling pace, before turning around to return to their “patch”. They come across as such docile friendly creatures, but do not be fooled!
The crocodiles here are an endangered species and they are well looked after. There is a reserve alongside the river where they care for the crocodiles before putting them back in the wild, along the Black River.
Even if you are not a fan of these giant aquatic reptiles, I recommend going along for the ride. The small motor boats are a beautiful way to navigate along the river, and you get to take in such beautiful scenery of the river, the river bank and beyond. You are likely to see a number of different bird species and travel through amazing natural wetlands including massive mangroves that are potentially the size of your house! It is an extremely peaceful experience… especially if you sit at the front of the boat with nobody spoiling your view! 🙂 Don’t forget your camera!!
More to follow on my wonderful trip to Jamaica soon!
Likkle more bredrin! 😀
(Jamaican Patois for: See you later my friend!)