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Jamaica is located in the middle off the Caribbean Sea and belongs to the Antilles together with more than 1000 other islands. It lies some 150 km south of Cuba and 160 km west of Haiti. The island measures 200 km from E to W and 65 km from N to S. The total surface is 7058 square km which is about one third of the surface of Belgium. Jamaica is crossed by a range of mountains reaching 2256 m at the Blue Mountain Peak in the E and descending towards the W, with a series of spurs and forested gullies running N and S.

There are approximately 2,500,000 Jamaicans. 90 per cent of the islanders are from African origin but there are also Chinese, East Indians, Arabs and European minorities. They speak English and Jamaican Creole or Patwa.

The climate is hot and sunny all year and is called a tropical marine climate. The average temperature is 26°C (Belgium 10 °C). The moist trade winds blow all the year from the east or north-east and brings rains to the island (average rainfall on the island is 190 - 380 cm/year, here in Belgium only 76 - 127 cm/year, still we are always complaining...). Due to the mountainous relief the NE will be wetter than the rest of the island. The wettest place on the island are the John Crow Mountains. These limestone mountains reaching nearly 1200 m get an annual average rainfall of an unbelievable 635 cm/year.

Hurricane season runs from June to October with September as the most threatening month. In September 1988 the most damaging hurricane of the century struck the island. Hurricane Gilbert travelled the length of the island causing extensive damage in all areas. Wind speeds rose to over 250 km/h. The effect was devastating. It is worth mentioning that on average the big blows only hit once in ten years.

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