Traveling down a river on a bamboo raft is possibly one of the coolest experiences I can imagine. I have to imagine it as I arrived too late to make the trip. What I got instead was a mini demonstration of raft making and a lesson from a raft captain on what they have to do to maintain their crafts.
First, a little background. Rafting started with the Rio Grande River in Portland. Back when banana export was a major money earner for Jamaica, Portland farmers used rafts to move their produce down the Rio Grande to the wharf for shipment overseas, mainly to the US and other Caribbean islands. Boats taking bananas out would bring visitors into Port Antonio, Portland’s capital and rafts began doing double duty: ferrying visitors on a languid ride down the Rio Grande as well as carrying bananas to market. Over time, the idea was transported to other areas of the island that had large, navigable rivers.
How Rafts Are Made
Rafts are made from mature bamboo canes that are cut in lengths of approximately 30 feet, then lashed tightly together. Two or three layers of bamboo are tied together to form the floor of the raft, and a seat is created for up to 2 passengers. Another bamboo, cut several feet long, is used to steer the raft.
As rafts can get pretty heavy, pulleys are used to lower them into the water and hoist them back out again. A raft can last up to 6 months after which time it has to be replaced. Each captain has at least 2 rafts. Captains are trained to maneuver the raft.
Where to Go Rafting in Jamaica
Rio Grande, Portland: The Rio Grande rafting tour is the granddaddy of rafting tours in Jamaica. The 7-mile trip from Berrydale in the Blue Mountains to Rafter’s Rest near Margaret’s Bay lasts 3 hours.
Martha Brae, Trelawny: The 3-mile journey down the Martha Brae takes about an hour. If you wish, you can even go for a swim.
White River, St. Ann: If you’re in the Ocho Rios area, check out the 45-minute trip down the White River. Following the trip, your guide can take you to Mahogany Beach for parasailing and other beach activities.
Lethe, St. James: This hour-long rafting trip takes you down the Great River.
Raft trips are accompanied by knowledgeable raft captains who will explain the flora and fauna of the area or entertain you with stories while you meander down the river. If you’re interested in doing a raft trip, your hotel or cruise line can schedule one for you.
I’ll write a follow-up when I have my own rafting experience.
This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website.