Royal Palm Reserve is one of those special places where one can appreciate the beauty and tranquility of nature and the wonders of Jamaica. The Reserve bills itself as one of Jamaica’s best eco attractions with over 300 acres of lush tropical jungle and Jamaican wildlife including over 300 species of animals such as birds, butterflies and reptiles and 114 documented species of plants and flowers. The Reserve was established in the mid 1980′s as part of a plan to protect the Great Morass Royal Palms which had undergone extensive harvesting and were nearly devastated by clearcutting.
The land was originally managed by the Petrolem Corporation of Jamaica but after a long series of hassles they released it to the Negril Environmental Protection Trust (NEPT) in 2001. The NEPT manages the Reserve with a goal to protecting the area and natural resources of the area under the following objectives from their website:
1. To protect and conserve the Negril Great Morass and its wetland flora and fauna, particularly the endemic Morass (Swamp) Royal Palm.
2. To raise the level of awareness, knowledge and understanding about the Negril Great Morass (and other wetland ecosystems) though an Interpretive Programme
3. To provide opportunities to citizens of neighboring communities, particularly Sheffield, for income generation through direct employment, concessions, training and the facilitation of sustainable livelihood projects in the community.
4. To increase scientific knowledge of the Negril Great Morass and related ecosystems in order to guide planning and management of the Negril Environmental Protection Area through the establishment of a Research Centre at the Reserve and the promotion of research at the Reserve.
5. To increase the financial independence and self-sustainability of NEPT and the Royal Palm Reserve by promoting the Reserve as an income-generating eco-tourism attraction.
The Royal Palm Reserve is without a doubt the best bird watching spot in all of Negril and one of the best choices for birdwatching in Jamaica. You can view dozens of exotic bird species from Negril Jamaica on the Nature Walk with over a half mile of boardwalk which leads you on a beautiful walk to a 30 foot tower in the middle of the Morass which offers the best views of all of Negril. The lovely sounds of birds singing and chirping can be heard all day long at Royal Palm Reserve and the birdwatching is great year round according to some local fans of the Reserve. The Reserve is home to the endangered and rare West Indian Whistling Ducks which you can see floating around in the stocked fish pond. They are scared of people so keep quiet while observing or they will fly off.
The Reserve keeps a pond stocked with Tilapia, or Red Jamaican Snapper as they are called in the local super markets, and they have a catch and release fishing program in effect right now. During peak months or when the pond is overstocked they allow some catch and keep fishing based on the amount of water in the pond and fish available. Fishing in a stocked pond is kinda unfair to the fish but loads of fun for the kids and family. We caught a few fish and let them go but my camera was left behind on that trip so no pictures of us fishing at the Royal Palm Reserve. Fishing equipment is available upon request but bring a loaf of bread for bait and to feed the Whistling Ducks with.
The Reserve has an alligator that lives within the confines of a caged pond. We have only ever caught a glimpse of him and he seems very shy. Could also be that it was hot as the sun and he was hiding in the waters of the swampy pond but we only ever saw him once in three trips. I figured he was trained to answer someone who feeds him so I banged on a pipe used to water him and as soon as I did he popped his head above the murky waters. I think we scared him as we maneuvered for a better picture and he split never to pop up again. Worth a look for sure but you may not get to see him every trip. The Royal Palm Reserve website advertises horseback riding but I never saw any signs of that on our trips, they may bring the horses in from someplace out of sight because the property requires advance booking for this special feature.
The best thing to do at Royal Palm Reserve is plan a picnic. The staff are well prepared to cook and feed groups up to 20 people with advance bookings or you can bring your own food and enjoy a nice day with friends or family and some good food and conversation. The natural beauty and awesome views will inspire some lively conversation on the wonders around you and maybe even make a difference in your day or your life.
The Royal Palm Reserve charges $10US per adult and $5 per child for access to the park all day long. You can spend some time walking the nature trails, fishing the stocked ponds or watching the wildlife and time pass by and enjoy a beautiful day of nature while supporting a beautiful public space. The museum on site offers a great educational opportunity and our kids had fun in the interactive attraction. Learn about the biodiversity and local fauna and wildlife in the colorful and entertaining activities room at the museum and teach the next generation to appreciate the natural world as much as they do the electronic one most of us live in.
If you are in the Negril area and don’t visit the Royal Palm Reserve you’ll miss out on some of the best views in Jamaica and upset me for not appreciating the natural beauty of the Negril Great Morass and the Royal Palms.
You can find 55 more pictures of Royal Palm Reserve at the Jamaica Photo Gallery
Tags: eco tour
, eco tours
, jamaica birdwatching
, Negril Jamaica
, royal palm reserve