#TPThursday Bamboo Rafting in Jamaica

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.

Raft making, Jamaica
Bamboo Raft making, Jamaica

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.

Raft making, Jamaica
Bamboo Raft making, Jamaica

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.

Bamboo Rafting, Jamaica
Bamboo Rafting, Jamaica

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.

30 comments on “#TPThursday Bamboo Rafting in Jamaica

  1. How cool! It’s amazing that the rafts can last up to 6 months, wow! I would love to try this, although I’m kinda petrified of running into a water snake, lol!

  2. That sounds like so much fun. Sorry you missed it this time around. At least you know exactly what to expect next time… I would totally do the one on the lake you can also swim in 🙂

  3. Sometimes there is an up-side to “missing out” – I hope you enjoy your trip (and I’ll look forward to hearing about it), but it was fun to learn a bit about how the rafts are made too!

  4. Great shot of you Marcia! I wanted to do this so badly the last time we were in Jamaica but ran out of time. It just looks so relaxing floating in the river.

  5. Great pic — you look so relaxed. Too bad you missed the trip, but still pretty cool to get the demonstration.

  6. I love rafting! And yes, since we’re a tropical country, we have lots of bamboos here too. I did try bamboo rafting once, but not in a royal “throne.” We just sat on the raft itself, and it only took less than 10 minutes. Would love to do it longer!

  7. I’ve done some whitewater rafting in Idaho and Wyoming, and these bamboo rafts look like a completely different type of rafting adventure. I look forward to learning more about what it’s like to take a bamboo raft trip in Jamaica!

  8. I would freak out attempting normal river rafting! Cannot even imagine my state of being rafting in a bamboo raft!!!

  9. Thanks, Cathy, but that’s not me — it’s as far as we got that day.
    I actually glad we didn’t go because we probably wouldn’t have gotten the demonstration.

  10. I do agree, Cindy. This wasn’t what I set out to do but if we had gone on the trip, I wouldn’t have gotten the demonstration. Looking forward to sharing the experience with you.

  11. This sounds like it would be such great fun! I am not sure when it came right down to it, if I could do it, but I will sit here in Kirkland today and believe that I would do it. . .especially if it were as sunny and nice a day as the day you were there. (it continues to be gray and cloudy here).

  12. Sounds like an awesome experience! I went tubing the last time I was in Jamaica. I will definitely go bamboo rafting on my next visit.

  13. That sounds like so much fun. Sorry you missed it this time around. At least you know exactly what to expect next time… I would totally do the one on the lake you can also swim in

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