Why Are Jamaican River Rafting Videos Becoming a Source of Contention?

A video taken of a female tourist and a male river raft guide on the Martha Brae River in Jamaica went viral on social media when it was first posted in August 2022. The infamous video, which appears to show the couple engaging in intimate behavior on the raft, caused a sensation at that time, and its reposting is having a similar effect in 2023.

The Original Video

The boat on which the 2022 incident is said to have occurred on the Martha Brae River as it traveled from Jamaica Swamp Safari Village in Trelawny. It is unclear whether other guests were on the boat during the incident, and the man and woman involved have not been identified. When it was posted online, it spurred considerable discussion and a range of reactions. It also collected many millions of views just on Twitter as it has been reposted by many people who tended to express their disappointment about the entire thing.

Responses in 2022

On TikTok, a woman posted a warning to other women on March 31, 2022, about Jamaican raft workers, who she said had inappropriately touched her. The post brought comments such as, “Looks like this is common because plenty of other women in the comments have come forward about these same men inappropriately touching them while White River rafting.” She then stated the names of the men and the hotels they worked for and recommended that women should not travel to Jamaica unless they stayed with a trusted local or knew a local who could be with them every day. Other more lurid one-word comments followed to express disgust at the video and the incident that sparked it.

Responses in 2023

Several other videos about Jamaica’s rafting tours have been posted to TikTok in recent days as the original 2022 video has resurged on the social media platform. One depicts a man, who is believed to be the raft captain, applying sunscreen to another man’s girlfriend who is lying down on the raft. The boyfriend becomes upset and tells the rafter he is being inappropriate with the woman. Both the woman and the man in charge of the raft say the “massage” is just a part of the experience. The woman even says, “That’s what everybody does when they come to Jamaica.” This video was just the latest in a series of videos about Jamaica’s river rafting tours in which it seems there is a trend for men to be massaging creams into women, who appear to be enjoying the experience. Comments are mixed, with some viewers believing the women are just having fun, while others are appalled and traumatized at what they see as very inappropriate conduct on the part of the men in charge of the rafts.

Jamaica’s Rafting History: Not X-rated

There is a long history of river rafting in Jamaica. The rafts were first used as a means of transporting goods like sugar and bananas from the interior of the island to the coasts for export during the colonial period. American actor Errol Flynn is credited with popularizing rafting for fun in the 1950s, and since then, it has become one of the most popular activities in Jamaica, both for locals and visitors. The Great River, White River, Rio Grande, and the Martha Brae River are currently sites for rafting, with the Martha Brae arguably the most popular. The rafts used on Martha Brae River are generally some 30 feet long, made almost completely of bamboo held together with metal wire, and include a raised platform near the back with seating for two adults. Jamaica features about 85 licensed and professional raft captains, who share their expertise, conversation, and knowledge of local lore with their guests as they pilot the rafts slowly through some of the most beautiful areas on the island. Tourists cite the very relaxing quality of the raft trips, and nature lovers appreciate the chance to enjoy the tropical island environment up close.

Rafting Company Distanced Itself From Video

The company believed to have operated the tour linked to the 2022 video, River Raft Limited, which operates rafting on the Martha Brae and Jamaica Swamp Safari Village in Trelawny, immediately distanced itself from this video in which it was alleged that one of its raft captains engaged in sexual relations with a female guest. In an article in the Jamaica Observer in 2022, after the video went viral on Twitter, the company issued a statement saying that it was  “appalled by video and has advised that its company is ‘in no way associated’ with the footage.” The company added that it took pride in providing the tours of the Martha Brae and provided “nothing but excellent service” to its clients every day. It noted that it employed more than 90 licensed raft captains who were very professional and who took pride in their work. The company also stated that it does not offer the so-called “limestone massages” during its tours and does not sanction that activity. Posters on social media have continued to allege that some raft captains are selling “sexual favors” as part of massage packages, however.

Photo – @marceloammirati

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