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The Trip of a Lifetime?

Before booking this trip, I spent a while searching the web to see what to expect from a rafting trip on the Grand Canyon. Since all I could find were write-ups saying 'this was outstanding' and I was a little dissapointed with the trip, I thought I ought to write my own review.

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The trip started badly, with a 15 hour transfer to get to Las Vegas. For some reason, we flew gatwick-newark and newark-vegas rather than direct. Personally, I am starting to be more prepared to pay a little bit extra for more conveninent flight times, since my spare time is starting to become more valuable!

Phase one was a 3 day stay in Vegas, at the Sahara. Whilst this is an older hotel, and at the far end of the strip, this wasn't a real problem. If you buy a 10 ride pass for the monorail between a group then it's fairly convenient!

The rafting part consisted of 6 full and 2 1/2 days on the river, 14 people on each of 2 37' rafts. We covered 230 miles by raft, and the final 50 miles by jet-boat. This is the shorter of the options offered by most rafting companies, the alternative being a 14 day 'row yourself' version.

The final phase was a 2 day stay in Vegas before heading back home.

A sim that really does save you money abroad

Las Vegas

I hadn't expected to be at all interested by going to Las Vegas. A total of 5 days sounded like quite a long time, and I think I probably don't need to go back, but it wasn't as bad as I expected. Highlights of the stay were a tour of all the rollercoasters (including a day-pass for Speed in the Sahara), Seeing the Blue Man Group at the Luxor (Sit at the front, otherwise you'll miss the excitement!), and indoor skydiving (in a vertical wind tunnel, with a 1000 h.p. fan at the bottom).

The last night of the trip coincided with the 100 year celebration of Vegas, so we headed down to Freemont St. for live music, and a bit of a party (and some gambling!)

The Rafting

The rafting part started at 5am with a long coach ride. I'm not sure who provided the coach, but they were intending to bus us all the way to the North Rim without a break. After some negotiation from the Spice Coordinator, we stopped off for coffee and muffin at a more civilised 8am.

This is by no strech of the imagination a white water rafting trip. Whilst it is advisable to be sitting down almost all the time on the raft, and a hand-hold is sometimes useful, the size of the raft and the skill of the boatman ensures this is very much a tourist trip. If you're looking for adventure and excitement, you're looking in the wrong place!

Our trip was in May, and the first of the season. The water was cold, there was rain on the first day, and most days there was a strong wind blowing along the canyon. When the sun was out, and out of the shade of the canyon walls, it did get very warm, but predominantly, it was cold.

Despite being cold during the day, it was practical to sleep out without a tent on most nights. As soon as the sun set, the wind dropped.

In order to cover the distance, we were travelling up to 70 miles each day, at maybe 10 mph. Breakfast was early, as soon as the sun was up, and we were on the water by 7:30 most mornings. With a couple of brief stops, and a lunch break, we usually reached the evening's campsite by 4pm, just as the sun was setting. In practice, this meant that there was little time during the day to actually get much time off, and even sat on the raft there was constant interruption from the rapids, and the drone of the engine!

Working out what to keep out for the day was difficult. We had an ammo can each, accessible throught the day, and a day-bag per boat to stow things in, which got wet, and was very full!


We were promised endless quantities of gourmet food. Whilst the food was all excelent, and freshly prepared, it was by no means endless. There seemed to be a rush at mealtimes to pile one's plate with enough food, because there was little chance of any being left by the time it came to seconds. I was glad i'd spent 3 days eating well in Vegas before the trip! We managed to drink so much coffee (with breakfast and in the evening) that there was a serous risk that we would run out of propane for the burner. Maybe they're not used to a group of english people with a significant proportion of engineeers, but i thought this was a bit poor!


It gets everywhere. This is not normal sea sand, it is very very fine, having been carried downstream by the river. About 5 cameras suffered on the trip, some terminally. Plastic zip-loc bags seem to help, not just to keep stuff dry, but to keep most of the sand off.


I was expecting to do some walking up from the Canyon, up side canyons etc. As it turned out, most of these off-river excursions were fairly short, and whilst they were very pretty, we never got to a position where we could see anything more than the inner canyon. Althought the descriptions I'd read mentioned days where time is spent off the river, there really isn't time to spend more than a couple of hours each day off the river, and most of this was spent playing in the wamer water fo the side canyons.


At times, it was very cold. Gloves (preferable neoprene), wet-boots and trousers you can wear when they're wet are essential. Take enought warm clothes that you can keep some dry. I only had one pair of long trousers, and by the time we got off the raft in the evening, the sun was setting.


Remember that everyone else will have bought the same things from the same shop - label stuff to avoid confusion!

The guides

The guides were great - they worked very long days, and tried their best to give us as good a trip as they could.

Since going to the Grand Canyon, I've spent a few days driving along the Verdon gorge on the south coast of France. Although it might be slightly less geologically interesting, it is no less impressive, and so much more accessible. Just a 2 hour flight to Nice, and a 2 hour drive from there. Since the gorge is more accessible, there is also plenty of scope for more variety on a trip there.