Ocho Rios, Jamaica
While we were cruising on the Norwegian Pearl, my partner mentioned to me several times about a horseback riding experience he had in Mexico that was incredible. We usually do not take the shore excursions but there was one promoted on our next stop of Ocho Rios by Chukka, the tour operator, that looked quite nice.
Some of the copy on the brochure that caught my eye was “Wanted: Thrill Seekers” and “waves of thrilling adventure.” There was some copy about film locations so I thought it could be well worth doing. So we signed up for an 11AM tour time. Of all the public transportation I’ve been on in the islands, this was the most crammed – and it was an excursion tour van!
I promise myself I will not complain on vacation – which I didn’t – and I never like to write anything negative but this wasn’t the best and most enjoyable use of our vacation time. We passed the location where the horseback riding occurs and the driver turned around after going down the road a a few miles further – I think he was buying time from the first tour that probably hadn’t finished.
We went down toward the water very slowly over potholes (only a real problem when you really can’t move more than a few inches – i’m 6 foot and 185 pounds by the way – without bashing into the seat in front of you or the passenger on the side. In all it might have been 30 minutes – possibly less since there was a great delay boarding. There was no expectation to when we would actually do anything and we sat around waiting for a long time. It took a long time for us to get a helmet (i saw no method of cleaning these between tours at all but i will give them the benefit of the doubt). And then we waited after that – again no instruction to do anything. People got off horses and placed them in the rack, we came and took the helmets that had been returned.
After long last we were assigned horses. And I mean we sat around for quite some time – long enough for another couple to down some large drinks – after waiting a long time they thought why not have one – (there was a “bar” there and someone making jerk chicken which attracted flies. We took the horses around in a circle until everyone in our group was matched up and paired back up with their party. Again, this took quite some time. It was in a field and plenty of horse shit around.
We eventually were then led around more fields and the guides pointed out mango trees and some other common things that you see plenty of in Florida. There wasn’t much to say because this was a field with trees and plants and could have honestly been anywhere. After this little ride we then had to remove the saddles so we could take the horses in the water. This was the part I was very excited about – I didn’t need to ride a horse in the heat around some nondescript trails.
The part about taking the horse in the water was truly fun. I really enjoyed it- the horses do not swim – and you do have to kind of dodge horse shit in the water. And that isn’t the easiest thing when you’re on a horse heading straight for a big patch of floating shit. The entire part of the excursion that was in the water was no more than ten minutes. This was a great ten minutes–don’t get me wrong. But was it worth giving up what turned out to be 4 1/2 hours of on shore time? Absolutely not.
The waiting periods were completely unacceptable and other than the ten minutes of riding a horse in the water, completely boring. The excessive wait from when we arrived until when we actually got on a horse was pretty bad. The time spent on a horse couldn’t have been more than 30 minutes – of which twenty was riding a horse in a circle and on a trail that was dull dull dull.
So, next time you’re going to Ocho Rios, do some research and see if the bobsledding, or Dunn’s River Falls (I’ve done that and it was great), or river rafting or any other thing might be something you would rather do. Someone who has never gone horseback riding might find this fun. As I said, the ten minutes in the water were indeed great. But even the most patient of people won’t wait three hours at a theme park in a line for two minutes of excellence on a ride. Jamaica is a great destination with lots of really great things to do – this is not one of them.