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Already, I’ve covered quite the array of adventures we tackled in beautiful Bañosbiking the waterfall route, canyoning through the jungle, and surviving a fiery New Year’s Eve. But I saved the best for last.

For thrills, for laughs, for value and for devastatingly fashionable attire, white water rafting was the best thing we did in Baños. I’ve tried rafting in a few places around the world — Thailand, Honduras, Indonesia, and now Ecuador. This was easily the best trip of the bunch.

At $30 for a half-day trip, I would say my expectations were tempered. There are two opposing fears vying for attention whenever I sign up for a white water rafting trip — one is that I will be way out of my element and in danger. The other is that I will be bored. Honduras leaned towards reckless endangerment, while Thailand and Indonesia inched more in the snooze-fest direction. I’m actually not sure which I am more afraid of.

I had nothing to fear with GeoTours. When we inquired about full day tours, they told us that they were only selling half day tours because at the moment there weren’t enough rapids to make a full day tour interesting — I always appreciate when a company places honesty over income. And I was to be even more blown-away when I learned GeoTours employs some of the most highly qualified rafting guides in all of Ecuador, ones who work the off-season at rafting hotspots in Europe and North America.

Our day started with the most thorough safety-briefing I’ve ever received. Better yet? We were accompanied along the rapids by two safety kayakers, who not only made us feel super secure but also took the amazing photos you see featured in this post.

I admit, when that first baleful of water came slamming over the sides of the inflatable raft,  I gasped at the temperature and started doing a mental countdown of how many hours we had left in the trip. But soon I was too distracted with battling rapids and trying to keep the raft upright to think about silly little things like hypothermia.

This was none of the white water floating I’ve seen peddled to adrenaline junkies before. This was white water rafting.

The safety kayakers were mostly earning their keep as photographers when our guide decided we should try to “surf” one of the rapids. I’m going to play it straight with you guys — I have no idea what that means. But I know that it resulted in six out of the eight in our group going overboard. Before I knew what was happening I was completely underwater, being pulled back into the rapid over and over while I gasped for air inbetween. While it felt like this cycle went on for minutes, I have a feeling in reality it was around ten seconds.

But then I felt salvation — the paddle of the safety kayaker reaching out and pulling me out of the vortex. I grasped the back of the kayak while a gulped air, careful not to overturn my savior kayak mid-rescue. When I looked up I saw the group far ahead of us — they had all floated downriver while I’d been hanging out in the washing machine.

I was thoroughly rattled and amazed how long it took for my heart rate to return to normal. But in the meantime, I had plenty to help keep my mind off my near-death experience (note: some exaggeration may be occurring), such as avoiding other near-death experiences.

Yes, it was quite the day. We spiked our heart rates, we laughed, we captured amazing footage, we made friends (we ended up on an impromptu overnight road trip to Papallacta with two of our fellow rafters!) and our wallets didn’t put up a single protest at the price. If you’re a rafting or adventure enthusiast, don’t even think about coming to Ecuador without checking out the rapids around Baños. Just watch out for the washing machine.

What’s the best place you’ve ever been rafting? And can you believe those prices?!

  • Shaun
    February 24 2014

    I’ve never seen such good photos from outside the raft. Props to the kayakers.. and for taking you out of the washing machine, hah.

    Great adventure, great price, great memories and totally bad ass.
    Shaun recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2014

      I agree, these are some of the best rafting photos I’ve seen outside a magazine! Of course I went in and edited them but the raw files were pretty great!

  • Taylor
    February 24 2014

    you had me at the waterfall post, but this is just a great! I went whitewater rafting in Costa Rica and had an amazing time. the shots are great and looks like you had a great time! I look forward to trying it out 🙂
    Taylor recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2014

      I heard a lot about the rafting in Costa Rica. I’m sorry I didn’t try it out, but I doubt I could have gotten this good of a deal!

  • Corinne
    February 24 2014

    Looks like a complete blast! I haven’t been white-water rafting in South America yet…hmmm.
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    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2014

      Sounds like as good a reason as any to plan a trip 😛

  • Sandra
    February 24 2014

    I agree that while traveling, whitewater rafting can always be a bit of a guessing game; sometimes it is ridiculously fun and other times you calmly float down “rapids” and wonder why you’re wearing all this gear. This one looks like an amazing time though and well worth it – thanks for sharing!

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2014

      And time of year and recent weather is such a huge factor — what was great in February after a storm might be boring in August after a dry spell! Definitely a gamble 🙂

  • Olivia Oyster
    February 24 2014

    What an adventure! Well done to the kayakers for taking such great photos too. I’m off to South America next month and this might just be on my to-do list.

    P.S. Completely normal to exaggerate about near death experiences – glad you survived to share the story 😉
    Olivia Oyster recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2014

      Ha, glad to hear I’m not the only one making a stubbed toe into a near amputation… enjoy South America!

  • Mark
    February 24 2014

    I did the snoozefest in Thailand as well and then I rafted the nile in Uganda. One of the craziest things I’ve done in my life!

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2014

      Wow, ANYTHING in Uganda sounds exciting to me! I think I’d sign up for watching grass grow, if I could just be there 🙂

  • Jen
    February 25 2014

    What an awesome experience you had. Sounds like something I would love to try one day. Bravo to the safety kayakers for these great action shots too (and for rescuing you from the washing machine).
    Jen recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2014

      No kidding! I’m not sure which I was more grateful for… 😉

  • aftri
    February 25 2014

    aftri recently posted..

  • Janice Stringer
    February 25 2014

    Hi Meihoukai,
    It sounds like a great thing to try. This is definitely one I want to do. I was contemplating Scotland. May be good, after all the rain the UK has been having!
    Have you tried coasteering yet, that’s the next thing I would like to have a go at?
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2014

      Hey Janice, no, I’ve never been coasteering — in fact, I’ve never heard of it!

  • Jenny
    February 25 2014

    We loved Baños as well! Such a beautiful place. When we were there everyone was trying to get us to go “puente-ing,” or jumping off a bridge with a rope tied around your waist. We stuck to the rappelling and wonderful bike ride to the pailon del diablo.

    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2014

      Yeah, the puenting was not for me 🙂 I wanted to watch someone do it but no one was jumping when I biked by the bridge. For me? No thanks!

  • tammyonthemove
    February 25 2014

    That looks great. I have only ever done white water rafting in Brazil a few years ago. While it was fun, I was also pretty scared though as our guide didn’t speak a word of English and at one stage he said something in Portuguese which meant that rapids are coming up, but one girl from Australia who claimed she understood him said a waterfall was coming up. Needless to say we were all a bit worried. 🙂 We did end up jumping into the waters of the Amazon at the end though, which was amazing.
    tammyonthemove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 26 2014

      Ha! I can imagine that would be quite terrifying! I never knew you could white water raft around the Amazon! I will totally be looking that up when I finally get there!

  • Rachel of Hippie in Heels
    February 26 2014

    That looks awesome. I love rafting! I think the most intense place I went was in the Nile in Uganda. Some rapids were ungradable (as in no professional had come to make an official grade due to danger…) so we’d have to go around, but then some that we did and they claimed were 5’s were much worse than 5’s I’d done in other countries! It was insanely fun though!!
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 26 2014

      Man, second mention of Uganda as a badass rafting location! Sounds like a must do!

  • Charli | Wanderlusters
    March 3 2014

    This looks like quite the adventure!! We recently went rafting in Queenstown on the shotover river and while it was great fun it wasn’t quite as full on as your trip! Great photos!
    Charli | Wanderlusters recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 5 2014

      I think this one was pretty special 🙂 And yes, kudos to Geotours for the photos! They are amazing.

  • Amy
    March 25 2014

    Such a huge fan of yours! I’m always lurking but decided to comment finally. I think I’m going to have to visit Ecuador and Panama next!
    Amy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 26 2014

      Hey, Amy, thank you so much for coming out of lurkdom and saying hi! I always love to hear from anyone who is reading. Great blog design by the way!

  • larissa
    July 12 2016

    Wow! Your pictures are stunning- some of the best I have seen! It looks like you had a wonderful adventure. Thanks so much for sharing! I had not thought about rafting on a trip but this is awesome!

    • Meihoukai
      July 13 2016

      Thanks Larissa! Baños is an amazing place to go rafting, both for price and for quality. I think it was my favorite rafting experience anywhere in the world!

  • Ray
    October 6 2016

    That’s awesome – the eternal question of “terror or boredom”? lol. Choose terror – at least it keeps you busy and involved. 😉 Thanks for the great post and amazing photography – will definitely add Banos to the bucket list.

    • Meihoukai
      October 15 2016

      Ha! There must be some option in between, no?! If not, I choose terror, I suppose! 😛

  • Christina
    December 12 2016

    It’s nice to hear you enjoyed it. Two safety kayakers and a good safety debriefing sound like they would build confidence.

    • Meihoukai
      December 13 2016

      Absolutely! Still to this day probably the best rafting trip I’ve done. Would love to go back and relive it!

  • James Dutreaux
    January 3 2017

    After reading this post, I really got to get out to Banos. Truly amazing pics and cool people. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      January 11 2017

      It’s a must-go for outdoor adventure lovers! I can’t believe how many thrills you could cram into a week 🙂