Day 3 |
Sep 23, 2009

Port Antonio, Jamaica

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 18° 10´57” N, 76° 27´13”

Weather: partly sunny, with rain showers

“This is my Island in the Sun.” Today we were in Jamaica. It was 07.00 in the morning and there was no sunshine. Clouds were hanging over Port Antonio and a moment later “liquid sunshine,” tropical rain, poured down from the sky. Fortunately the rain didn’t last too long and after 30 minutes I was able to see blue sky and the sun of Jamaica.  

When the Prince Albert II arrived at the bay of Port Antonio, we dropped anchor. The Zodiacs and side gate were ready when the local port authorities decided that the vessel could go alongside. A few moments later the Prince Albert II was at the pier. We started our excursions in the middle of “liquid sunshine.”

The first group of guests went with my colleague Claire Allum on the Downtown Tour through Port Antonio with a short visit to the Somerset waterfall. The other groups, which included the majority of the guests, headed on to the rafting tour on the Rio Grande. The way to the river led us through the little town. It had nice little colonial houses with picturesque gardens in front, and the old brick parish church from 1840, all remains from the colonial times of Jamaica. The road winded up the foothills of the well known Blue Mountains, and was flanked with magnificent tropical fruits and plants, for example, ackee, bread fruit tree, mango, Jamaican apple, sugar cane and a lot of other well known tropical garden trees.

After a 30-minute ride over roads not as luxuriant as the vegetation, we reached our destination on the Rio Grande. At the river margin bamboo rafts awaited us with comfortable two-seater hand bound bamboo chairs. Slowly using the current of the gentle flowing river we passed along a tropical rainforest with all its different greens shining in the famous Jamaican sun. Light green for bamboo, different tones of middle green marking the high canopy crowns of the taller trees, and then dark green representing the understory trees sporadically interrupted by a dull saturated green from a tree fern. For sure it was not a primary rainforest, but with my trained eye, I could recognized the original structure of this ecosystem, and even in some parts there were still patches of “good” rainforest left. Along the banks of the river, covered with gray and black stone pebbles the size of an ostrich egg, we observed a rich bird fauna, including herons, egrets (snowy egret, great white egret, black egret), king fisher, turkey vulture, smooth billed and an unidentified hummingbird.

The smooth parts of the Rio Grande river were sometimes interrupted by faster flowing rapids, where our raft man had to pull hard with his 2-3m long pole to keep us on track. He was constantly checking our course and making small corrections with the pole.

We rafted two hours down the Rio Grande, enjoying not only the beautiful landscape and interesting fauna but also the warm tropical sun of the Caribbean. The end-point was the mouth of the river into the sea, where a fine rum or fruit punch waited for us at the Rafter’s Rest—needed after the heavy rafting exercise. From there the buses brought us back to the ship, again accompanied by the famous Caribbean “liquid sunshine”. In the afternoon, our guests explored the quaint little town of Port Antonio with such famous past residents as Captain Henry Morgan and Errol Flynn.