Officially called the “Royal Botanical Gardens, Hope,” Hope Gardens is within easy reach of the population of Kingston who enjoy picnics, walks, exercise, and concerts all year round. This large green space of sixty acres is located in the northeastern part of Kingston. The Gardens offer a green heaven for children growing up in a dense urban environment—not only for play and recreation, but also as a learning experience close to nature.
The Gardens started life as part of Hope Estate, stretching from the Blue Mountains right down to the sea. It was owned by Major Hope, a commander in the British Army, who helped to wrest control of Jamaica from the Spanish and was later gifted the estates as his reward. In 1881, some 200 acres of the estate were purchased by the Colonial Government of the time to establish an experimental garden for growing foreign species of plants and trees. It became an important center for the propagation and distribution of ornamental plants, thanks to considerable assistance from Kew Gardens in England.
There are still many exotic trees here, some from as far as Madagascar. This oasis of peaceful greenery and tropical splendour provides a well greened environment for Jamaican birds and migrants alike. Of the 30 endemic Jamaican birds many can be observed here. North and South American migrants can be seen here during the months of September to April. But perhaps the biggest treat are the flocks of Yellow-billed Parrots, Olive-throated Parakeets and Black-billed Parrots (all endemic to Jamaica), chattering loudly in the tree tops as they look down on the visitors with curiosity.
The best time for birding at Hope Gardens is early in the morning, with the garden’s gates opening at 6am every day. At this time the large trees with their pods, seeds and blossoms attract the early risers, who are looking for food. Loggerheads, Mockingbirds, Bananaquits, White winged- and Zenaida Doves, White-crowned Pigeons, Smooth Billed Anis, American Kestrels and much more are busy eating, picking and building nests.