Ummm…This is NOT a Class 1 Rapid! (Rafting in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic)

When traveling, a mild dose of adventure is right up my alley. You won’t ever catch me jumping out of an airplane, diving with sharks, or hang-gliding. I’m really not one to risk life or limb for the sake of a thrill. Nope, a day spent kayaking, a surf lesson, or ATV’ing is about as adventurous as I’ll get. So when we visited the Dominican Republic a few years ago, I thought that river rafting would be the perfect fix for my slight adventure craving. Plus, it would give us the chance to visit Jarabacoa, a mountainous region in the Central Range of the Dominican Republic whose rainforest-like climate has earned it the title of “The City of Everlasting Spring”. Strawberries, coffee, pimento, aji pepper, and flowers abound in this region which is about a two-hour drive from Puerto Plata.

We were picked up from a location near our Cabarete townhouse rental, and off we went to Rancho Baiguate to spend the day rafting on Yaque del Norte River, the Caribbean’s longest. Prior to booking this excursion, I clearly explained to the booking agent that my travel mates and I were river rafting virgins, and that we definitely didn’t want a strenuous (or deadly) rafting experience. While I was at first considering booking a tubing adventure instead, the agent explained that we’d probably be bored and that if we wanted a bit of adventure (keywords: “a bit”), then we should try rafting.

We were up for the challenge, but under one condition – the rapids had to be Class 1, which I thought meant that we wouldn’t encounter any rough patches of water.  But soon enough, we learned that Class 1 actually means that you will encounter some rough waters, but you only need very basic skills to maneuver them.

After a brief training session on how to hold our oars and an explanation of the meanings of our guide’s commands, off we paddled down the river.

One of our rafting guides

Another rafting guide

Trying to pay attention to our brief rafting lesson

Soon enough, we went down our first slope which drenched us, and my stomach dropped as if I was on a roller coaster. After the first drop, the other slopes kept getting steeper and steeper. As our guide briefly anchored our raft to a rock while we waited for other rafts in our caravan to catch up to us, we noticed that the raft behind us looked like it was going to tip over as it made its way down a slope.

A few slopes later, we encountered the steepest slope of our rafting experience. As he braced himself for the drop, my cousin Travis who was seated in front of me, bucked backwards with his helmet slamming into my mouth at full force. As blood seeped into my mouth, I ran my tongue across my teeth to see if any were missing. Before I could scream at Travis (who was completely oblivious) for busting my lip, I felt our raft start to go down yet another decline and Jave suddenly shouted, “Jesus!”

“Someone grab Aaron,” I shouted, as my brother, who was sitting in the front of the raft, started to tip out of it. Fortunately, Travis was sitting behind Aaron and was able to grab him by his life jacket just before Aaron plopped out of the raft which was inches away from slamming against a rock. Close call!

The expressions on our faces say it all!

With Aaron safely in the raft and with the river starting to calm, I looked toward our guide who was navigating from the back of the raft. As I revealed the inside of my busted bottom lip to him I said, “Look at my lip! Are you sure this is a Class 1 rapid?”

After our guide assured me that we had, in fact, just survived a Class 1 rapid, we wandered amongst ourselves, Well what in the world is a Class 5 like?!

*All photos provided courtesy of Passporters – LIVE, Don’t Merely Exist.



Have you ever been river rafting? What rapid grade have you braved?