Calypso rafting

Calypso rafting
Video Calypso rafting

Bamboo river rafting is one of the most relaxing and scenic tours you can take in Jamaica. There are four rivers in Jamaica used for rafting, namely the Great River, Martha Brae, White River and Rio Grande. I’d planned to make White River my third rafting adventure, however all the rafts were booked when I arrived! Therefore, I ended up tubing down the White River instead which turned out to be just as fun, if not more. Read on to learn more about this adventure + how to plan your own White River rafting and tubing trips. White River is located mere minutes from the Ocho Rios Pier in St. Ann.

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How to Find Calypso Rafting & Tubing Co.

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I had a bit of challenge finding the right turn to the Calypso Rafting & Tubing Company initially because the Google Maps marker kept leading me astray as it is notorious to do in Jamaica occasionally. Anyway, the road you need is Exchange Road— the same road where ALL the other White River attractions are located such as Reggae Hill, Thatch Hill River Park, Blue Hole and Calby’s River Hidden Beauty. Calypso Rafting & Tubing Company is the only business licensed to conduct rafting on the White River presently. The entrance is located uphill about 10 minutes drive from the bottom of Exchange Road.

There are illegal rafters on the White River, and some taxi drivers are in cahoots with them. They’ll carry persons to the bottom of the river and trick them into thinking that they are at Calypso Rafting. Not only are they undercutting the legitimate business, but they often overcharge foreigners and aren’t trained captains. Transporting inebriated tourists on rafts without life vests and certified lifeguards is potentially hazardous. Authorities are trying to put an end to it, but they don’t seem to be trying too hard.

Rafting on the White River costs JM$9,000 or US$60 per raft, and each raft can hold two persons. It is advised that you call ahead and reserve a raft. I didn’t know this, so I ended up tubing instead because all the rafts were full. Tubing costs JM$3500 (US$25) per person and you’ll be accompanied by a tour guide. Parking is available and there’s a shuttle back to the top for your car after the tour. Clean restrooms and changing rooms are available. The length of the tour is about one hour with a break in the middle where you can swim, swing, jump into the river from a rope and purchase drinks and souvenirs. The drinks were overpriced, but I found the souvenirs affordable. Tulloch, the craft vendor, is also a carver. Support him when you visit White River. He was very friendly and we had a lovely chat about his work and Jamaican current events.

Tubing Down the White River

Tubes with rainforest in background

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My tour guide was Hakeem and I had a wonderful time with him. He was helpful, patient and kept my friend and I entertained. He’d often joke about crocodiles in the river but I knew better, ha. Jamaica’s crocs mostly live in the swampy areas on our south coast such as by the Black River marshes. Anyway, he helped us put on life jackets then swept us off our feet and into our tubes so the adventure could begin.

Where we boarded our tubes

The White River flows for 27km from the mountains and through the lush tropical White River valley. Most parts are shallow while some parts get to a depth of 12 feet. White River forms the boundary between the St. Ann and St. Mary parishes. The river got its name from the limestone floor which gives the water a translucent aquamarine colour. Hakeem told us these things and more while steering us down the wild river rapids, shaded by a viridescent canopy of bamboo, almond and coconut trees. Floating down the White River felt like a peaceful adrenaline rush. I’m aware that that’s an oxymoron but it best describes the experience. For the most part the water was a soothing gentle stream but there were rapids which threatened to bump me into the river bank or lurch me into the water. Hakeem prevented both from happening though and I’m glad. I don’t think my phone would’ve enjoyed the dip very much.

We encountered a few tourists coming upstream on the illegal rafts and I must say, I understand how anyone could be tricked. The illegal rafting starts at the bottom of the river so you’ll actually run into them first on Exchange Road. Their tour begins where the legal tour ends, but their rafts are beautifully decorated and the captains offer their guests limestone massages. However, they only show guests a tiny fraction of the river because it’s not easy to navigate the raft upstream against the river’s current, and they probably don’t want to risk getting too close to the establishments upstream. That didn’t stop Calypso Rafting and Tubing Co. from displaying a few signs to try and educate the duped tourists about their mistake, though. What a sad state of affairs.

Wrap Up

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After the tour, we signed out in a guest book then got into the shuttle which was waiting for us. The tour was great and is one I’d love to take again, hopefully sooner than later. I really hope they get the illegal rafting under control though because that can hurt Calypso’s business and is a potential safety hazard. That aside, have you ever been rafting on the White River before? Did you do it through the official company or from the hustlers at the bottom of the river? Share your experience in the comments, and bookmark + pin this post for future reference. Also, remember to subscribe for new adventures + check out my Amazon store.

‘Til next time!

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