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Oar Raft (this is a private trip)
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1. What questions should I ask the expedition company before committing my down payment?
Do you have a wait list for full trips? Can my party be put on more than one wait list (multiple dates)? Will it cost me to be on a wait list? How many people will be on the trip?, How many river guides (boatmen)? How experienced are the boatmen (how many trips have they rowed on this particular river)? What is the age of other clients? Any children? What weather should I expect? Are there any additional charges (bus transportation, permits etc)? How much down payment do you require? What if I cancel, will I get the down payment back? When do I need to pay the balance? What if I cancel after paying the entire amount, can I get a refund? What if I cancel and you fill my spot - any refund?
2. If I can only do half of the Grand Canyon trip (Lee's Ferry to Phantom Ranch or Phantom to Pierce Ferry), which half is best?
They are equally good and both different. For rapids, you will get many fine runs on both sections. For hikes, there are different things to see on both sections. One note, if you are only doing half, will you have to hike in or out at Phantom Ranch? Are you in shape for that? If you are flown out (helicopter), is that expense additional? Another consideration: Calculate the cost per day. A full canyon two week trip will cost less than two half canyon trips.
3. I plan to do the entire 280 mile canyon trip. Should I choose a company that runs upper and lower canyon trips or get on a trip where everyone is doing the entire canyon (a "through trip').
Your choice. If you are on a split trip, when you arrive at Phantom Ranch you will be saying goodbye to some people and meeting some new ones. If you are on the "through" trip you will be with the same people the whole time. We were on a through trip and didn't even stop at Phantom ranch (civilization!).
4. Which is more dangerous, a rowing trip or a motorized "tour boat".
Rowing trips are no more dangerous or difficult than traveling on motorized tour boats. Paddle trips (where you paddle) definitely require more effort on your behalf.
5. How often do rafts (or dories) flip?
I can't find any hard data on this but from talking with boatmen, generally a commercial company will flip one boat each season on average. If for example, there are five trips scheduled and each trip has five rafts (or dories), that would be one flip per 25 boat trips. So the chance of you being on a trip where a boat flips is one in five and the chance that you are in the boat that goes over is one in 25. 4% is quite low odds.
6. If I do end out in the water, what are my chances of survival?
Extremely good if you have your life jacket on. The experienced boatmen are always looking out for each other. You may be in the water, worst case, up to ten minutes. Yes, you will get cold but survive and a great story to tell. The rescue plan is a) First go to your boat, even if it is upside down. Second choice b) go toward a nearby boat and finally, if neither of those options are good, c) swim to the nearest shore
7. Do I need to know how to swim?
No but if you panic whenever you are in water, this trip is not for you. In the water, your life jacket will keep your head (mostly) above the water. In a rapid, you will have to hold your breath at times so you must remain calm. Likely you will be floating near your boat.
8. I am disabled. Can I do this trip?
Plenty of folks with disabilities travel safely on these trips. For a great illustration of this, see the movie trailer for “Right to Risk”. This documentary recounts the 15 day journey of 8 disabled participants with varying levels of disability on an oar trip.
9. Should I get travel insurance?
Good question. Insurance can be expensive and will not cover certain instances that might cause you to cancel (like my girfriend and I broke up and I want half of the money back) but, some insurance policies will cover a refund if you lose your job. If you are not in good health then purchasing an insurance policy might be a good decision as generally you will have to pay months before you go. Review the policy (fine print) and the associated cost before deciding. We had the option to purchase a travel protection plan for $239 per person (14 days). It included evacuation insurance. Note: see # below regarding evacuation only insurance. We did not purchase any insurance.
10. The trip I want is full. What are my chances on a wait list?
Depending on how large your party is, chances are good if you are 1-2 people and are at the top of the list within a couple of months of departure. But check with the company representative on this. He / she will be much more knowledgeable in this area.
11. Should I bring money or credit cards with me on the trip?
Yes. I recommend about $40 - $100 in cash, your driver's license, and a credit card. The cash (bring some small bills) is for incidentals prior to and after the river trip. The credit card and license is mainly if you need to be air flighted out with a medical condition. Also bring one or two blank checks. One can be used to handle gratuities for the boatmen on the last night on the river.
12. What if there is an emergency? Is there a way to make contact with civilization?
On commercial trips there will be a satellite phone that is used for emergencies. Sat phone reception is generally good throughout the canyon. Cell phones will not work in the Grand Canyon. For serious emergencies (well, like broken bones or appendicitis), a helicopter will be called in for evacuation. The landing sites are very limited on the river and it may take a day for the boatmen to find a suitable landing spot. They are all trained in wilderness first aid, some may even be paramedics and many minor issues can be handled without evacuation (example on our trip, cuts, bruises and one person broke a toe). A helicopter evacuation can cost around $2500. Medical evacuation insurance is available for much less than the comprehensive travel plan (above), usually less than $100. (I have seen policies for $15) It might be a wise thing to purchase (we did not). First check with your river company then go online and search for "evacuation insurance". We cannot recommend any company.
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