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, 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.
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.
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 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.
Address: Trelawny, Jamaica
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