Buena Vista Rafting is one of the many tour operators based in Castellane, a lovely town in the middle of the Gorges Du Verdon. Castellane can definitely be called a small adventure capital, with all the rafting, canyoning and kayaking offered! After shopping around a bit, I joined a tour with Buena Vista Rafting after a recommendation from the camping I stayed at. The recommendation was based on the quality of the guides, their knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Gorges and their good value for money tours. This sounded good to me! Was it worth it? Read this Buena Vista Rafting Review for all details!
The water situation in the Gorges du Verdon
At first, I was very excited to go rafting! I had done rafting multiple times before, mainly in South-America and it had been a while. I heard in town though, that there was not enough water. Which made sense because it had not rained in ages. But then I got to understand the true meaning of “there is no water”. The water situation in the Gorges du Verdon is managed by a barrage. In times where there is enough water, the dam gets opened twice a week. This means that the same day, rafting tours are offered.
But when water levels are low, doors of the dam stay closed and there is little water in the rivers in the Gorge. This means that rafting is not an option, but it does however make it possible to do canyoning and the so-called Aqua Rando tour, which I ended up joining!
Here you can see more information from the EDF about the dams in the Verdon and surrounding areas.
Stunning views of the crystal clear waters in the Gorges du Verdon
An Aqua Rando / Trekking with Buena Vista Rafting
I had never done canyoning before, because I’m a little scared of heights and jumping of high cliffs is not my thing ;-). But when I came to the office of Buena Vista Rafting, the owner explained me the itinerary of the Aqua Rando tour and showed me some pictures. I was convinced! They had an opening on the tour of the day after and I was happy I could join!
We met at 8am with the people who would ride with the tour guides to the start of the trek. The ride took about one hour and was simply beautiful! It was great to not drive by myself and have the chance to look around 🙂 The area of the Gorges Du Verdon is absolutely stunning and I was happy with this sightseeing tour.
When we arrived at the starting point, we met all the other people that had come by themselves. I got grouped together with a Dutch family with one tour guide, and another guide had a group of mixed nationalities. Our group had the size of 7 participants, and the other group I think was 8 or 9 people.
Aqua Trekking – L’Imbut
I joined the “L’Imbut” Tour – a full day tour trekking, swimming and adventuring in the canyon. We had to wear sneakers / runners, and our swimsuit and bring our own lunch/snacks. Buena Vista Rafting supplied us wetsuits, booties, life jackets and a waterproof box to put our lunch in. We all had to bring our own lunch and really wanted to keep it dry 🙂 . When we were all packed up, we started the downhill hike to get into the canyon.
Through the woods we made our way down the cliffs of the Gorges. It was quite a tough hike of about 45 min-1 hour. We already started to think – uh oh, we have to get out of the canyon as well! But it couldn’t kill my mood – check the next happy face picture 😉
Carrying all the gear made the hike a bit more strenuous than it would have been otherwise. On the picture you see me wearing the wetsuit, life jacket and backpack already. At the end of the descent, we ended up on a small pebble beach. Here we changed, got some more instructions and got into the water!
Swimming, Sliding and Jumping
We were lucky to have a beautiful sunny day! It was very windy, but the temperature was good. Still, getting into the water was a bit chilly 🙂 . At first we floated around a bit, while we got used to our gear. We then headed for our first rapid! After a good explanation of our guide Kevin, we took the first rapid without any problems!
We swam a bit further and got eager to try some more rapids! My favourite was the bobsledding 🙂 The rapid would move you close to the cliff walls and take you into the rapid in a quick bend! Super exciting!
Unfortunately at some points there was not enough water, so we had to get out of the water and walk for a bit. This was not too bad, but the swimming was just so much fun! There were some parts as well where we could just float and go with the current. This was great to take a good look at the Gorges and really take in the view.
At some points where the water was deep enough, we were able to do some cliff jumping! It started out gentle, with 3 or 4 meter jumps. The further we got into the Gorges, the higher the jumps got! I made it until about 5 meter, after which my nerves got the best of me ;-). Some of the others in the group loved the jumping and kept going higher and higher!
We got one massive warning in the morning: make sure you close your waterproof box right, otherwise you will have a wet lunch! When we ended up at the beach where we would have lunch everyone look at each other while opening their boxes haha! Good thing it all stayed dry and everyone could enjoy their lunch!
Exploring the caves and a final jump
When we got to the end of this part of the canyon, we thought the trip was over. But Kevin surprised us and took us into the caves! You could feel the water pulling you in, but it was completely safe! The water was definitely colder inside but it was magical to swim in the cave. Floating around a bit and enjoying the scenery. For the brave, there was a HUGE jump waiting! A big hole in the “ceiling” of the cave allowed for a very very high jump. I skipped and watched from below 😉
The swim back was hilarious. The current went fast against us. The better swimmers amongst us made it through the current, and pulled in the others 🙂 We were super exhausted after this! And the way up still awaited us..
What goes up, must come down
Or, in our case, what comes down, must go up! After the pretty exhausting day of swimming, hiking, climbing and jumping we still had to get out of the canyon! After we got out of our wet wetsuits ( 😉 ) and got dressed into dry clothes, we managed to put all the stuff in our backpacks.
We then started the hike up, which was going to take about an hour. Note to future people joining the tour: make sure to pack the backpacks evenly. So not “sharing” with your friends and having all wetsuits in one pack and all lunch boxes in another. The persons with the wetsuits will suffer 😉
The hike was exciting with lots of climbing! I particularly liked the bit where we had to go straight up a wall with help of ropes! It was about 3-4 meter climb which looked daunting but that we managed with the help of the group!
When we made it upstairs again, we had the Buena Vista Rafting van picking us up and bringing us to the parking lot. There we handed in all the gear and got some time to dry up. Then the people going back to Castellane joined the van, for a relaxing ride home 🙂
Buena Vista Rafting Review: to Conclude
I hope you enjoyed this Buena Vista Rafting Review – I definitely enjoyed writing it! I can definitely recommend doing a tour with these guys, whether it’s the Aqua trekking or any other trip. Good guides, good equipment, an amazing day! Great fun guaranteed! Ask me any questions you have in the comments.
@Buena Vista Rafting, thanks guys, for making my stay in Castellane so much more fun!!
Check out their video for a great impression of the trip!