I am sitting in something that look like a bobsled, although instead of running on snow, the contraption hurtles on metal tracks through a tropical forest. With a white-kunckled grip on a handbrake, I supposedly have control of the speed, but no matter how much I brake, it seems that the sled is going too fast, seemingly far too fast to stay on the tracks through the curves.
I suppose this is just some sort of variation on a typical roller coaster, but I’m not much of a roller-coaster expert. To me, it feels like uncontrolled downhill plummeting with the possibility of being flung out into space. This is the “Jamaican bobsled” at Mystic Mountain, just outside of Ocho Rios.
In Your Bucket Because:
- You’ve never ridden on a ski lift through a jungle before.
- You’re up for some high-speed high-adrenaline fun.
- Good for adrenaline junkie, families, photo buffs. It’s a safe and easy cruise ship shore excursion.
Jamaican Bobsledding: Olympic Snowsport Meets the Tropcial Tourist Industry
In 1988, Jamaican athletes won the hearts of the world by competing in the Calgary Winter Olympics Bobsled event — and the ensuing press coupled with the Disney movie Cool Runnings sparked a mini-industry in Jamaica. The original bobsled is on display in the Montego Bay Airport; two theme parks (the Cool Runnings waterpark in Negril and Mystic Mountain Adventure Park in Ocho Rios) celebrate the unusual combination of bobsledding and tropical vacations; catamarans named “Cool Runnings,” “Cool Cool Runnings,” and other variations ply the tropical waters; and of course T-shirts and other bobsled related souvenirs are available.
Opened in 2008 and located just outside of Ocho Rios, Mystic Mountain’s bobsled is one element of a tropical theme park that includes a zipline, and rainforest ski lift called the Sky Explorer. The adventure park is a quick taxi drive from the main harbor where cruise chips dock, and an equally quick fare from Ocho Rios’s many resorts and hotels. (In addition, formally organized cruise ship excursions make regular visits to Mystic Mountain, and the resorts can book and arrange transport, as well.)
The Sky Explorer and Visitor’s Center
Visitors to Mystic Mountain are greeted by a quad-chair lift exactly like any chairlift on any ski mountain. Of course, the difference is that this particular chairlift, called the Sky Explorer, rises 700 feet above the Caribbean, over palm trees and tropical rainforest, not snow. Visitors can view the rainforest from a unique angle, enjoy stunning views, and appreciate that their tourist dollars have gone toward preserving this part of the forest, which is protected from further development.The visitor’s center is modeled after a traditional Jamaican railway station. There is a small museum-like display including information about Jamaican sports, the environment, history, rum-making, and more. There’s also a lookout with a view of Ocho Rios and the Caribbean, as well as places to buy food, drinks, and souvenirs.
The Mystic Mountain Bobsled
The bobsled takes off from just behind the visitor’s center and rides a 1,000-meter metal track 700 vertical feet down the mountain, reaching speeds of more than 30 miles per hour. Riders control the speed via a hand brake, but the sensation is pure adrenaline. On a wet day, beware: The sleds run much faster. After reaching the bottom of the mountain, the sled is powered back up to the top.
It takes at least one run to truly get the hang of riding the bobsled; those who want to repeat the experience can buy additional tickets when they get back to the top. Cameras are stationed at strategic points on the zipline, the bobsled run, and the chair lift. (On the bobsled run they are positioned at just about exactly the scariest part of the ride). The photos are available at the gift shop and cost $12. I didn’t buy mine, but I’m wishing now that I had: It was, as I recall, the perfect picture of unadulterated terror. Kids, I think, call that same sensation “fun.”
The Mystic Mountain Zipline
The zipline starts near the dismount point from the ski lift. The zipline features 10 ziplines (nine platforms) starting at the top of the mountain and zipping ever lower to end at a platform that is the mid-station of the Sky Explorer Lift. Visitors zipline over the rainforest canopy and limestone cliffs, with a view of the Caribbean.
Tickets are available for various combinations of activities: The Sky Explorer alone, the Sky Explorer plus either the zipline or the bobsled, or all three activities. Add-ons are available for those who want to repeat a bobsled run or add on a zipline tour. If booking a tour from one of the Ocho Rios hotels, ask about a tour that takes in both Mystic Mountain and Dunn’s River Falls, located just minutes away from Mystic Mountain.