After walking around Baños, visiting over 3 tourism agencies (you’ll find them all over town), we settled on the Rafting-Canyoning Tour offered by Imagine Ecuador. The cost for the whole day, including transportation, food, activities and equipment was $60 per person. It is actually kind of embarrassing to admit but we left the benchmarking to the guys in our group and they chose Imagine Ecuador for the unlimited juice during lunch. That being said, almost every tourism operator will have similar rates/equipment/professionalism level. We paid and they briefed us on the itinerary. We would all meet up at the operator next morning at 8 am to leave for the river rafting in Pastaza river, 40 min away from Baños.
Travelling in groups can be a bit messy, and we were 12, so as you can imagine we were not actually there at 8 sharp. However, around 8:30 we had all chosen our footwear, helmet and wetsuit and were ready to leave! We got into two different vans and headed to the starting point for our first activity: rafting. We all bought a quick bite at the restaurant right next to the tourism agency so we snacked and rested during the trip, driving further into the Amazon basin. Upon our arrival at the riverbed we started getting our gear ready.
We got into our wetsuits, put on our Venus shoes and helmet, and directed to the raft parked outside the river where the guide was waiting to give us instructions. They separated us into two groups of 6, one group was for English speakers and the other group would be directed in Spanish. After a 15 min talk, with training exercises included, we were ready to go. In each raft there are 1 or 2 guides + your group, so you’ll feel very safe and protected. Besides the guide onboard, there are also safety kayakers (who also serve the function of paparazzis) navigating beside each raft in case anyone falls and gets separated from the group.
The river that day was strong, it had been a week with heavy rainfall. Luckily, the skies were blue and we were excited and ready to row. The guide chose two team captains and we named our raft, chanting a cheer for our group! We carried the raft to the river and boarded, one by one. Once we were ready to go, we started rowing as the team captains directed: 1, 2, 1, 2.
We were soon riding waves up to 1 m tall, all caught up in a team effort to be synchronized and keep our raft going. The whole way down the river was a mix of adrenaline, laughter, a few falls, amazing rapids, and overall excitement and joy! Beside us, the lush and oh so green vegetation of the rainforest contrasted with the clear blue skies. The warm sun kept us throwing ourselves back in the river for refreshment. Between goofiness and physical effort, our rafting experience was a success! We parked in the riverbed, carried our raft up to the trailer of the van and got into our dry clothes.
Next on the itinerary was lunch, and by this point we were all looking forward to it! Only 10 min down the road, we got out of the van and sat down at a small restaurant that overlooked the rainforest canopy. The place was very simple and the food was okay, but the view was something right out of a book! Green all around, palm trees and huge trees, the wind slowly blowing and moving the mountain which was an entire wall of green. Small waterfalls made their way down the wall. The sound of the river was enveloping. We had a pleasant meal, enjoyed the nature around us, and were soon back in the van. Canyoning was next.
15 min away from the restaurant we got to an eatery with a viewpoint were the guides unpacked the equipment and handed us wetsuits (different than the ones in the morning), our shoes and our helmets. We got back into our bathing suits, got into the wetsuits and once we were all ready Liz, our guide, gave us instructions. She tied ropes in a palm tree by the parking lot and demonstrated. She showed us how to clip our security line, how to descend when rappelling and how to jump correctly.
By this point, we were all drenched in sweat because the sun was still shining and the wetsuits were very thick. We jumped to a small pond in the back of the parking lot just to wet our heads and we started walking up to the canyon.
Once in the entrance to the canyon, Liz made us all introduce ourselves in a video and we started making our way to the falls.
The first jump was a small one, and we had to fall on our backs because the water wasn’t deep enough to jump right in. After we were all “initiated” in our adventure, we walked up to the second jump, a 10m high fall! Words of encouragement and the adrenaline of the moment were enough for all of us to take the leap (one at a time). Beneath, a guide was waiting with a rope to pull us out at the side were we clicked our harness to the security line. Next up was rappel.
Merely 2m of rapel were followed by a jump, and you could just fall backwards and open your arms, taking in all the adventure. After we regrouped, we continued making our way down the river, walking through slippery rocks and waterfalls. At one point during the adventure, the guide handed us goggles so that we could swim past a waterfall, the water was so clear!
More rappel and jumps kept coming and we were concentrated in our movements and foot placement. We had to take breaks to take it all in. The place was something straight out of a fantasy book, moss covered walls, huge rocks, clear waters, everything was green and fresh. The adventure component sometimes makes you forget where you are, so keep calm, look around, sit, rest and contemplate. Then keep focusing on the activities. Canyoning was a bit more demanding than we thought, but extremely rewarding. By the end, we got to the last jump eager to change into our dry clothes (we had been wet for hours and it started raining in the last waterfall) and talk about we had just done.
Canyoning is not for everyone, it can be a little extreme or even weary for someone who is not in good shape. If you are afraid of heights, or have trouble remaining calm in the water (sometimes you fall close to the waterfall and have to know how to swim in order to get out without a struggle) then it’s probably not the adventure for you. But, if you like the adrenaline, there is nothing quite like this experience.
Overall, the tour was very inexpensive, the guides were well trained and the equipment was in good condition, but above all that, the natural component exceeded all of our expectations. Baños is truly magical. The canyon is revitalizing and full of life.
You can do this with a friend, or even by yourself (you’ll join another group) but if you can, these activities are so much fun when done in groups. You will feel the support when you’re tired, you’ll feel confident having your friends near and it is a great experience that will bring you all closer.
-Transportation (transfer from offices-rafting-town (for lunch, you don’t go back to Baños until later) – canyoning- Baños.
-1 meal (lunch: you can choose between fish, meat, chicken or veg)
-Photos and videos of the whole day
Equipment provided for the day:
-Helmet (1 for the day)
-Venus shoes (1 pair for the day)
-Wetsuits (1 for rafting, 1 for canyoning- includes a jacket)
-Harness (with security carabiners)
What to pack:
-Sun screen: you’ll be exposed to the sun all day. (I can’t stress this enough- I even thought of including a picture of how red I am right now…. ..thankfully the urge passed)
-Repellent: as you go further into the rainforest/near the riverbed and waterfall, the more mosquitos you’ll encounter
-Bathing suit: I actually took two (one for each activity) but you should be good with one (it can dry up while you’re having lunch). *Pro tip: take a bag where you can put your wet bathing suit and keep it separate from the rest of your clothes.
-Water bottle: hydration is key! Always!
-Shorts: a great option so you can be comfy for lunch and then change back into your bathing suit without much of a hussle.
-Comfortable pants: if you don’t have shorts, make sure your pants are comfortable and light. I do not recommend either jeans or tight leggings.
-Comfortable shoes: during the activities you’ll be wearing the shoes given to you by the operator, but they’ll end up soaking. Be sure to take comfortable shoes for lunch/the way back. Sandals are also recommended (easier with all that changing) but it can get a little chilly at night (remember you arrive to Baños at around 6:30-7:00 pm)
-Socks: a pair of dry socks because, shoes.
-Shirt: I took the shirt I was wearing originally + another shirt in case one got wet. It’s better if they are cotton, light, comfy.
-Underwear: if you already put on your bathing suit before heading to the operator in the morning (a lot of people prefer to do so) then don’t forget to take underwear. By the end of the day the last thing you want to be is wet, so a change of clothes is essential
-Spare change: even though your food is included (l meal), you might want to take some money for an ice cream, a coke, or even a bag of chips! After a long day of activity we all got some goodies at the eatery.
-Scrunchies/Head band: a must!!! I forgot mine and it was uncomfortable having to get my hair out of my face during the activities. Also, my hair was a mess afterwards.
-Towel: you’ll be grateful you have it every time you need to change! You can even use it to cover yourself when changing in open spaces. If you have a micro-towel I definitely suggest taking it instead of a regular towel (it takes up less space).
-Light sweater: in case it rains or it gets chilly at night