All About Jamaica

Jamaica is a tropical island in the Caribbean Sea. It is a tropical island, lying just north of the equator, which means it is hot and wet all year round. The first people who lived here called it Xaymaca, ‘the land of woods and water’, because its mountains are covered with forests and it has many rivers and waterfalls. The coast has sandy beaches and offshore coral reefs.

At a Glance…

  • Jamaica is the third biggest Caribbean island.
  • Size – 235km (146 miles) long and 82 km (51 miles) at its widest point.
  • Population - Jamaica 2.5 million
  • Kingston 800,000
  • Money – Jamaican dollars – 68J$ = £1
  • Religion – mainly Christian, with some Rastafarians
  • Highest mountain – Blue Mountain Peak – 2,256m
  • Climate – tropical

The Jamaican Flag

The Jamaican Flag is made up of three colours. Green is for the land; gold represents the sun; black is for the hardships suffered by Jamaicans in the past.


On the hillside above Kingston people have built homes on ‘captured’ land. ‘Captured’ land is not bought or owned. It has just been taken over and built on. Here many people live in wooden shacks. Some people buy concrete blocks and build stronger houses. When they can, they add extra rooms, electricity and a water supply.

Wooden houses are cool. Verandas proved shade from the hot sun. Raised floors help air flow and prevent flooding.

Weather Pattern

Jamaica is located in the Caribbean Sea. It likes in the area called the tropics, close to the equator. This position influences Jamaica’s weather. Wind blows across the Atlantic Ocean to arrive on Jamaica’s north-east coast. When the winds reach Jamaica they are warm and full of moisture. The air cools when it rises to cross the high mountains. As it cools, condensation causes rain to fall. The heaviest rain occurs on the Blue Mountains. Up to 8,000mm of rain has been known to fall in a year. By the time the clouds reach the other side of the island there is little moisture left. That is why Kingston and the south coast are drier than the north. They lie in a ‘rain-shadow’ area.

The Coral Reef

Coral is made of tiny creatures (called polyps) with soft bodies protected by a hard and brittle outer skeleton. They live in huge colonies that build up a framework called a reef, close to the ocean surface. The reef is continually growing. As one coral dies, its skeleton becomes a foundation for the next one to grow. Growth is slow – sometimes only 10mm a year. If the reef is damaged, it takes a long time to repair itself.

Nearly three quarters of Jamaica’s reefs have been lost. Starfish and parrotfish are natural predators. They gnaw the coral to eat the soft body inside. Parrotfish crumble the coral skeleton into sand. People cause the most damage to the reef because;

  • Fishermen catch the small fish that feed on plant life, called algae. If too many algae grow, they smother the coral.
  • Polluted rivers carry rubbish and waste into the sea, killing sensitive coral
  • Boats drop their anchors on the reef, breaking the coral.
  • Tourists collect or buy pieces of coral as souvenirs.

At Montego Bay, rangers patrol the reef. They ask fishermen not catch the small fish. They stop boats from anchoring. School groups help to clear the rubbish from the beaches. Farmers are asked to keep the rivers clean by preventing soil and fertilisers being washed downstream to the sea.


  • Coral reefs are found in the warm shallow seas around Jamaica. Just off the north coast a line of breaking waves shows where the reef is. The coral reef break the power of the waves as they act a barrier before the land.
  • Coral comes in all shapes and sizes. Many varieties of coral live together in a coral reef.
  • A coral reef is an underwater world where hundreds of fish, sponges, crabs, sea urchins, starfish and shrimps also live.

Why Protect the Reef?

If you lose the reef, you lose the algae that live around the coral. Then you lose the little fish that eat the algae. Then you lose the big fish that eat the little fish.

Without the reef to protect the island, rough seas will damage the land.

Coral reefs provide a habitat for many creatures but need our care to survive.