Most visitors to Jamaica spend a week on the island and you can be sure that they plan to spend that time in the sun on the world-famous, white-sand beaches that kiss the amazing clear Caribbean Sea. But even the most ardent sun-worshiper gets a bit tired of the tanning routine and longs for some respite from the hot beaches. On many islands, there is no alternative, as there is nothing but the beach; but Jamaica has much more to offer. With a high mountain range fanning out across the centre of the island like a backbone, Jamaica is home to many rivers which wind their way down to the Caribbean Sea; and on the Martha Brae River, there is an idyllic ride on a bamboo raft through lush vegetation with trees towering overhead.
Rafting on the Martha Brae River is a peaceful, tranquil experience that will calm the soul and rejuvenate the body. The journey begins just about three miles inland from the town of Falmouth at the beautifully landscaped Rafter’s Village, the staging point where you will be greeted with a complimentary cold beverage. There are restrooms and changing facilities, swimming pool, bar, shops, and the very interesting Miss Martha’s Herb Garden, showcasing an extraordinary assortment of plants renowned for their medicinal properties.
After selecting a life jacket, you will be introduced to your raft captain who will take you on the three mile journey down the river to the disembarkation point, Martha’s Rest. Rafts are about thirty feet long and can accommodate two adults in addition to the captain. Each raft is made by its captain, entirely from bamboo. Standing at the front of the raft in his colourful uniform, the captain uses a long bamboo pole to propel the craft forward by pushing on the bottom and banks of the river. Your captain will give you a tour and tell you interesting facts about the river and Jamaica. Most of the ride is slow and calm but there are a couple of patches where rapids will wake you up if all this relaxation and water sounds begin to put you to sleep. And if that does not work, do not hesitate to take a swim in the river at Tarzan’s stop where there is a chain dangling invitingly from an overhanging tree. The water is cool and refreshing.
Apart from the bamboo, beautiful trees, and flowers that adorn the banks of the river, look out for birds, especially blue herons fishing for shrimps and small fishes, and picheries defending their nests from the crows. The sweet sounds of birds singing and calling can be heard throughout the ride.
Along the way, you can stop at one of the few riverside shops for drinks and crafts. The atmosphere is very relaxed and there is no pressure to buy anything, but when next will you get the opportunity to tell your friends back home that you stopped your bamboo raft in the shade of a guango tree to drink a jelly coconut and shop for souvenirs? Children do fall for the miniature bamboo rafts made by enterprising Jamaicans. And a cold beer seems like the perfect companion to this laid-back activity.
While rafting on the Martha Brae River is an attraction that will be enjoyed by people of all ages, it is very appealing to couples, especially honeymooners as it is very romantic. It is also an activity that should not be rushed. It can be done in an hour but you are on vacation, so take your time – take lots of photographs, absorb nature’s beauty, have a swim, swing like Tarzan, quiz your raft captain, get some refreshments, and do a little shopping too. And just chill.