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Bamboo Rafting down Jamaica’s Martha Brae River

After 4 days at an all-inclusive resort in Falmouth, Scott and I were excited to escape to the “real” Jamaica for an adventure. While many Caribbean islands are known for their pristine beaches, and Jamaica has no shortage of those, this island country has so much more to offer. Jamaica has mountains, jungles, incredible waterfalls, and rivers with some of the clearest water you have ever seen. We decided to join Jamaica Rafting for a bamboo rafting adventure down the Martha Brae River.

Bamboo Rafting Martha Brae Jamaica

A 15-minute taxi ride brought us from our resort in Falmouth to the entrance of Jamaica Rafting in the parish of Trelawny. We were welcomed to the River Rafting Village with a complimentary juice and encouraged to explore the area at our own leisure. The village contains two shops, a bar, and Miss Martha’s Herb Garden showcasing an assortment of medicinal herbs including the “Bob Marley plant”.

We were guided to the disembarkation point along the river where we were introduced to our raft captain, Ernesto. Offering his hand, he assisted me onto the 30-foot bamboo raft, which given its size is surprisingly stable. Guiding the raft with a long bamboo pole, he pushed off the river bank propelling us along our 3-mile journey.

Bamboo rafting along the Martha Brae is not white water rafting. I find that it is more comparable to a gondola ride in Italy. Replace the traditional Venetian Gondolier wearing a striped shirt and straw hat with a Jamaican Raft Captain wearing tropical swim trunks adorned with colorful palm trees, and voilà.

The Martha Brae flows calmly through a lush jungle of Jamaican Ackee fruit trees, breadfruit trees, and giant bamboo arching gently over the river. Ernesto shared with us stories about growing up in Trelawny. He taught us about the local culture as well as the flora and fauna along the river.

We learned that the bamboo along the Martha Brae grows about 2.5 inches a day, but did you know that certain species of bamboo can grow up to 35 inches within a 24-hour period? I had no idea. Mind blown.

There are no dangerous animals in the area so you are welcome to dip your toes or even jump in. There is also a “Tarzan” swing along the way that you can swing from into the water. The water was quite frigid due to a storm the day before, so I wimped out. In hindsight, I should have sucked it up and pretended I was Tarzan. I mean come on, you only live once so why not live a little?

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The depth of the Martha Brae River ranges from 4 – 15 feet depending on the time of year and where you are on the river. The storm from the day before made the water a bit cloudy, however, Ernesto mentioned that you can normally see straight down to the river bed.

He handed me the bamboo pole, teaching me to steer the raft by pushing the pole off the river bed 15 feet below. As we know from the raft we were sitting on, bamboo floats. It is more difficult than you think to push a giant bamboo pole down into the water when all it wants to do is float.

Ernesto asked if I wanted him to take a picture of me. Of course, I said yes. Little did I know this would turn into a full-blown photo shoot with a semi-pro photographer.

Ernesto was standing on his tippy toes, then squatting down, then leaning over the side of the raft to get every possible angle.  Meanwhile, Scott relaxed in the plush seats at the back of the raft enjoying being off camera duty.

We rounded the bend where there was a photographer from Jamaica Rafting snapping a few photos. As we disembarked, we were given the opportunity to purchase these photos as a momento of our bamboo rafting adventure. There is also a second bar and gift shop if you missed out on purchasing that Jamaican rum punch the first time!

The bamboo rafting excursion was a relaxing escape into the interior of this beautiful Caribbean island. Should you find yourself in Jamaica, I encourage you to take a day or 2 away from the pristine beaches to experience the lush jungle and rivers. There you are guaranteed to find adventure and an experience to remember.

Things to know:

  • Only 2 adults per raft. There are only 2 adults per raft in addition to the raft captain, although you can also fit a child.
  • Bring cash. Bring cash, not only to tip your Captain but also to make purchases along the way. Once we floated further down the river, there were several locals along the riverbank selling coconut water, beer, and artisan goods. Your raft Captain will always pull over to the side for you.
  • Go to the bathroom before you go. The river is slow-moving, so the 3-mile stretch takes about 60-90 minutes to complete. Make sure you go to the bathroom beforehand, especially if you plan to drink a Red Stripe beer along the way!
  • Bring insect repellent. It is pretty shaded so no need to bring sunblock, but definitely bring bug spray! The mosquitoes are enormous.

Tele: (876-940-6398)
Address: Trelawny, Jamaica

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Bamboo Rafting Martha Brae River, Jamaica


Cecilia is a bubbly Filipino-American with an affinity for constant change...that or a 10 second attention span. Refusing to sit still, she travels the world, in pursuit of adventure, excitement and meaningful experiences. She holds a Masters degree in International Development and Public Policy, and a BA in Business Management.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Kavita Favelle

    What a lovely experience! I particularly liked that you got an insight into local culture and life through your guide. We went to Jamaica 25 years ago and stayed in an AI resort but left the resort to sightsee several times. E were surprised how many didn’t leave the resort even once in their whole stay!

    1. Lovicarious

      I guess when you pay a certain amount, you want to make sure that you get your money’s worth. The trade-off is that you end up missing a lot outside those resort walls. That’s why we don’t do all-inclusives much, but it is definitely a treat every now and then.

  2. Linda (LD Holland)

    I am sure your adventure bamboo rafting down the Jamaica’s Martha Brae River was such a contrast to your all-inclusive resort. Good to know there are no dangerous animals by the river. I am not surprised that it was difficult to move the bamboo raft around. I would be much happier having someone move me along the river. An interesting excursion to remember the next time we go to Jamaica.

    1. Lovicarious

      It was definitely a unique experience that I can’t say I have encountered anywhere else yet! Well worth the trip.

  3. sherianne

    A friend just went to Jamaica and didn’t leave the resort, I was shocked. I would want to be hiking through the jungle to waterfalls. I had no idea there is bamboo rafting, this is so unique and would make an amazing memory!

    1. Lovicarious

      Admittedly, we only left once. We usually stay in budget hostels or cool air bnbs. This was Scott’s first time at an all-inclusive resort so we decided to go all out and book an expensive one. When you have all you need there in one place, sometimes it can be hard to leave. We still managed to leave though and I am glad that we did. We had a great time with Jamaica Rafting.

  4. Lisa

    I’ve been to several Caribbean countries, but not yet Jamaica. This sounds like quite a trip, and I like the idea of seeing the sights on a bamboo raft too! I never travel anywhere without my insect repellent, even when we’re back in Italy!

    1. Lovicarious

      We started only bringing a carry on when we travel, so we can never bring a can of insect repellent onto the flight. By the time we get to a store we are already eaten up. We need to think of a better strategy haha.

  5. Lovicarious

    So glad you found it interesting. We would definitely recommend it 🙂

  6. Pooja

    Looks like you had a great time. The Bamboo rafting must have a great adventure. This is the best way to experience the Martha Brae. Surprisingly the raft seems so stable and safe considering there are no animals around. It was interesting to read that some bamboos grow so much in a day.

  7. Mike

    I hope you tipped that guy well cause he took some awesome shots of you guys!!! And as for not doing the Tarzan swing, you are sooooo right, you shoulda done it. What’s a few minutes of cold for a good story 🙂

  8. Yukti Agrawal

    Bamboo Rafting in Jamaica’s Martha Brae River must be the most authentic unique thing to do here. I have seen many of these bamboo rafts in National Geographic channels and I was always interested for it. It must be very difficult to handle that giant bamboo and than rafting through waters. But it is good that you handled well. This bamboo rafting excursion looks really a relaxing escape in the interior of Caribbean island. Nice way to experience the jungle and rivers.

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