Cockpit Country, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Often regarded as Jamaica's most inhospitable region, the Cockpit Country is a hilly and dense area with limestone denudations traversing three parishes and covering over 500 square miles. The so-called “cockpits” are caused because limestone, the predominant soil in the area, does not retain water. Rainwater therefore, percolates downward through cracks and fissures, creating in time a landscape of pits and valleys. Below the surface of the Cockpit Country are hundreds of rivers, streams and caves, providing some of the best spelunking opportunities in the Caribbean. Most of the Cockpit Country was a stronghold of the Maroons from the eighteenth century, when attacks by the British forced ex-slaves to use the harsh terrain to their advantage. The Cockpit Country is still home to one of the most important Maroon communities in the island, the town of Accompong in the parish of St Elizabeth.
The Cockpit Country has the highest diversity of plants and animals anywhere on the island. It is a goldmine for birdwatchers, plant lovers and scientists with a sophisticated knowledge of the various species and a determination to withstand the humidity, the mosquitoes and the other harsh physical conditions that have kept the region free of large scale human settlement for centuries.
Clarks Town is the last major town in the northern Cockpit Country, but there is a little used road that runs from the town through the western edge of the Cockpits ending in the Albert Town area. This is an exquisitely scenic drive, as the road winds through the tiny communities of Kinloss and Barbeque Bottom, cutting through some of the most remarkable geological formation in Jamaica. The road is rarely used, and there are patches that run through completely uninhabited areas. Along the way are some of the most remarkable vistas, and if, instead of driving, you walk the length of the road, you will be sure to see many rare animals and plants, including hundreds of orchids growing wild on the sides of the hills.