Top Paddling Trip Criteria

April 5, 2016

by Peter Reese
Top Paddling Trip Criteria

Thanks to the insights from trusted trip operator, ROW Adventures, selecting a paddling adventure becomes a lot simpler.  Consider their responses to five critical questions garnered in a recent interview by Active Junky. 

1.  What's the profile of a trip participant who chooses RAFTING over KAYAKING or vice versa?

We have a decent amount of crossover between our rafting and kayaking guests. Many guests start on a rafting trip and then choose to try out a sea kayaking adventure, or vice versa.

One big difference is the activity level. On a multi-day rafting trip, the trip can be filled with activity if the guest wants, or they can choose to be a passive participant. On the other hand, a sea kayaking trip is very active, requiring a number of hours of paddling each day.

Another difference is that the guests on sea kayaking trips are usually VERY interested in the wildlife they will likely see, especially the whales. The opportunity to see whales in their natural and wild habitat is a big draw for our sea kayaking guests. In contrast, river rafting guests enjoy seeing the wildlife but focus more on the river itself -- its canyons, history and the remote nature of the trip.

Lastly, because of our sea kayaking tours happen in international locations, kayaking guests are usually more interested in international travel and exposure to other cultures and geographic regions, not to mention encountering language challenges. The cultural immersion is usually one of the highlights for our sea kayaking guests.

In short, sea kayaking guests are typically more active and interested in wildlife, culture, and the sport itself, while rafting guests are more of a mix of activity level, interest in wildlife, and often don’t raft on their own.

2.  How many HOURS or MILES will typically be covered in a day -- and is there time for observing nature, taking photos or relaxing?

On a sea kayaking trip, we typically paddle between 3-5 hours per day, broken up by a lunch break.  This ranges between 8-12 miles, sometimes more based upon itinerary and location. Consulting with an adventure consultant is essential to determine paddling expectations for any tour. During paddle sessions, guests absolutely have the opportunity to stop and take photos of the scenery and wildlife. 

Perhaps most importantly, we stop when whales are around, as we need to respect their space.  This allows time to pause for photos. At the end of the day, guests can hike around the beach camp, play games or read on the beach, or enjoy sipping a fresh margarita while guides prepare dinner. 

For river trips, we spend about seven hours a day on the river that includes a stop for lunch along with hikes and visits to historical sites. While rivers vary, travel usually totals 8-15 miles a day with generous time to observe nature and take pictures. Frequently, calm sections rapids permit reflection as well as photography. Once in camp in the afternoon, guests can relax by the river, fish, hike, sit in a nearby hot spring, play games such as horseshoe, or sip on a beer or some wine while guides prepare dinner.

3.  What are the biggest positive surprises encountered on trips?

For sea kayaking trips:

  • Wildlife encounters - You never know when an Orca might decide to swim right up to your kayak or a curious Gray Whale calf may approach your panga.  
  • Encounters with Nature - bio- luminescence, an incredible sunset, Northern Lights and more
  • How far they can paddle; some guests are concerned about the physical demands but end up surprising themselves with their abilities.

For rafting trips:

  • Guests are pleasantly surprised the camping was much easier than anticipated. Our guide service is incredible. We even have tent-side coffee service.  
  • The deep connection that is made with family, friends, mountains, rivers and guides.  The lack of outside influence, daily life, and electronics allows each guest to connect with nature, themselves and each other. 

For any of our trips:

  • The food - we don't eat hot dogs and hamburgers while camping.  Many people are unprepared and delighted by the type of dishes we serve up.  Eggs benedict, salmon, pancakes, authentic tacos and more.
  • The deep connections they make with family, friends, other guests, guides, mountains, rivers, oceans, beaches, etc. Many guests choose to travel together again after meeting up on one of our tours.  Also, many recount the connection with our local guides as their favorite part of their trip/experience.
  • The lack of outside influence from daily life, electronics, etc. allows guests to connect with nature, themselves and each other.

4.  How do experiences change when the trips extend beyond long weekends?

On a sea kayaking trip (they’re all more than three days)…

  • After 2-3 days, people typically finally relax and let go of the stress of work and life, the extra time simply allows people to fully check out and simply enjoy the moment. 
  • It gives the guests more time to get to know each other and their guides. 
  • It's a real excuse to turn off e-mail and social media!

On a three-day river trip, the benefits are not as profound >

  • Day 1 - drive to the river (cell phone in hand) 
  • Day 2 - no connection to electronics or outside influence  - they are starting to relax and connect.
  • Day 3 - once at the take-out the guest is once again connected to his/her cell phone, email etc.

 At least four days in length really gives a person the chance to become disconnected enough to enjoy their surroundings.  

5.  What three criteria are most critical when selecting an adventure outfitter?

  • Other guest feedback - through websites, Trip Advisor, other rating services.
  • Operating history - how long has the outfitter been operating in a particular area or region.
  • Guides & service – from start to finish, you have to succeed with guides & service. 

Guests want office staff and guides to listen to “what they want” and be able to translate it into “why are they traveling” as its more important that hearing their “what.” Guests also feel more comfortable with more experienced guides possessing the proper training and certifications. Guests want to feel safe while on their trip and are able to trust their guides. And they want the guides to take care of them and bond with them. Guides and service is a very important part of our ROW business. 

We often hear that a trip was amazing, but it was the guides and office staff that made it second to none. The “Humans of ROW,” as we’ve started calling ourselves around the office, are incredibly passionate about the areas we visit and the people we share it with. It is important to us to enrich lives through nature as we build community through travel. This translates into the top-notch service we provide – and that guests notice

Images via ROW Adventures


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