Sights and sounds foreign to our experience excite the senses and stimulate curiosity. After night falls, the rhythmic droning of tree frogs give way to the deep roars of howler monkeys and soon the raucous cries of parrots greet the misty dawn. Shifting patterns of green and red accompany the labored wing beat of the scarlet macaw.
Over a thousand years ago, these shores teemed with human life. The Rio Usumacinta and her tributaries watched the rise and fall of Maya civilization. From 200 A.D. to 900 A.D. great cities and ceremonial centers arose in the jungle, the sacred river of the monkey god serving as their highway and method of commerce. Giant cayucos carved from the sacred ceiba tree loaded with goods, tools, crafts and even slaves made their way up and down the tree laden meanders of the Usumacinta.
Dynasties flourished and spread their influence, only to experience the ultimate disappointment of power: decadence, decline, decay and demise. Experts claim that by 1000 A.D the great cities of the Maya were all but abandoned, mysteriously bringing to a close a civilization whose cities housed and estimated 15-20 million people and whose sphere of influence and power stretched from modern day Nicaragua to the American Southwest.
Our journey takes us to two epicenters of the mayan world–the capitols of the powerful jungle city-states of Yaxchilan and Piedras Negras. These sites have contributed immensely to our understanding of mayan culture, daily life, and their writing system. Our itinerary allows for a full day of exploration at each of these fascinating jungle ruins.
No perfect river trip would be complete without whitewater. The first portion of this trip is typified by lazy currents, large meanders and eddies, and patient observation of the rainforest around us for any intriguing flora or fauna that might present itself. The last few days of the trip present us with high volume class II-III rapids, whirlpools and powerful eddy lines.
Two major canyons guard this stretch of the Usumacinta and accompany our exit from the river. The San Jose and San Josecito canyon’s large pockmarked limestone walls tower at heights of up to 2000 ft and secretly covet swaths of inaccessible virgin rainforest. The channel narrows to a fraction of its normal width, and the usumacinta roars as it funnels down through these narrow confines.
The maya considered these gorges to be the entrance to Xibalba, their underworld. You will remember the canyons as a stirring finale to one of the most exciting and stimulating trips of your life.
Prices, Dates and Discounts
2021/2022 Usumacinta Dates:
30th-Jan 4 (6 Days)
9-18 (10 Days)
24- Feb 2 (6 Days)
16-25 (10 Days)
7-12 (6 Days)
15-20 (6 Days)
27- Apr 5 (10 Days)
Double Occupancy: $1999/person
Single Occupancy: $2,200/person
Double Occupancy: $1200/person
Single Occupancy: $1400/person
Rio Shumul-ja full day available before or after your trip! $150/person.
This is one of the best one day raft trips in the world!
Groups of 4 or more qualify for a 10% discount
Call for info: 575-758-2628
Custom dates and trip lengths available year-round for groups of 6 or more.
If there is a date listed above that you are interested in but would prefer a shorter or longer trip please reach out.
Itinerary: 6 Day and 10 Day
6 Day Itinerary
Arrival: Please plan to arrive in Palenque, Chiapas the night before Departure. Lodging this night is included in trip fare.
Day 1:Leave Palenque early, visit Bonampak Mayan site and continue to Frontera Corizal. Spend night at cabins on the banks of the Usumacinta River.
Day 2: Launch river trip. Several hours of floating, lunch on the river, wildlife viewing and local agrarian landscapes. Enter Mayan Biosphere preserve and arrive at our camp at the Mayan city of Yaxilan.
Day 3: River day, keep an eye out for wildlife, especially Scarlet Macaws! Camp at Playa Grande or similar beach.
Day 4: River day. Camp at the late preclassic Mayan City of Piedras Negras. We are now deep in the Peten Wilderness of Guatemala.
Day 5: River Day. Lunch and swimming in the 60 ft. travertine waterfalls at the confluence of the Busiljá and Usumacinta. Enter San Jose canyon and run our first high volume class III rapids. Camp between San Jose Grande and San Jose Chico.
Day 6: Run the last of the large rapids and exit canyon and wilderness. Picked up by motor boat and towed to take out. Shuttle back to Palenque. Direct to Villahermosa available upon request.
*Arrangements for day rafting on the Rio Shumuljá, a visit to Agua Azul, other activities and extra lodging are available upon request.
10 Day Itinerary
Arrival: Please plan to arrive in Villahermosa the night before the trip and spend night at Quinta Real Villahermosa. Lodging this night is included in trip fare.
Day 1: Morning shuttle to Palenque, collect gear, explore town and visit Palenque Ruins.
Day 2: Leave Palenque early, visit Bonampak Mayan site and continue to Frontera Corizal. Spend night at cabins on the banks of the Usumacinta River.
Day 3: Launch river trip. Several hours of floating, lunch on the river, wildlife viewing and local agrarian landscapes. Enter Mayan Biosphere preserve and arrive at our camp at the Mayan city of Yaxilan.
Day 4: Layover day and exploration of Yaxchilan with local mayan guide.
Day 5: River day, keep an eye out for wildlife, especially Scarlet Macaws! Camp at Playa Grande or similar beach.
Day 6: River day. Camp at the late preclassic Mayan City of Piedras Negras. We are now deep in the Peten Wilderness of Guatemala.
Day 7: Layover at Piedras Negras, camp relaxation and guided exploration of Piedras Negras.
Day 8: River Day. Lunch and swimming in the 60 ft. travertine waterfalls at the confluence of the Busiljá and Usumacinta. Enter San Jose canyon and run our first high volume class III rapids. Camp between San Jose Grande and San Jose Chico.
Day 9: Run the last of the large rapids and exit canyon and wilderness. Picked up by motor boat and towed to take out. Shuttle back to Palenque. Direct to Villahermosa available upon request.
Day 10: Shuttle from Palenque to Villahermosa. Guided Service ends.
*Arrangements for day rafting on the Rio Shumuljá, a visit to Agua Azul, other activities and extra lodging are available upon request.
At times we will offer special dates that will be accompanied by Professor Phil Alldritt of the University of New Mexico!
Phil Alldritt is a Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of New Mexico -Taos since 2000. Traveling with a U.S Treasury permits for research and Education he has conducted 62 trips to Cuba since 1999 focusing on the historical architecture of Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad. He is a professional guide for Belize and Guatemala and is a Belizean National Tour guide Instructor since 1985. He is a professional archaeologist and work on projects for National Geographic in Belize (1987-1989) and Guatemala (1993). Also, he was a tour guide for Caiman Expeditions guiding the Mayan ruins and raft guiding the Usumacinta (1987-1989). He lived in Belize for 6 years has a Master’s Degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Arizona. He is speaking fluent Spanish and has completed guide training in Belize, Guatemala and Cuba
- All transport pertaining to trip logistics
- All meals while on the river
- All required safety and rafting gear
- Professional guides and mayan site interpretation
- Lunch on days 1 and 2
- Hotel Lodging from arrival in Villahermosa to departure from Palenque post river trip
- Farewell dinner in Palenque post river trip
- Guide tips and miscellaneous gratuities to locals (we recommend bringing between 2-3000 pesos in small bills on the river trip for miscellaneous tips)
- Any Visa fees you might incur
- Travel Insurance – including mandatory evacuation insurance
- Any pre or post trip travel or activity arrangements
- Dinner in Villahermosa after your arrival
- Dinner in Palenque before departure for Frontera Corozal
- Dinner in Frontera Corozal
- Sleeping Bags (may be rented)
- Alcohol (We will supply 3-4 beers/person/day on the river trip for those that request on the information form. There will also be wine and liquor. If you wish to communicate about this with us we can purchase any extra that yo
- If you don’t have a passport, we ask that you apply for one immediately in order to allow for ample time for processing and for you to receive it. If you do have a passport, find it and check the expiration date to see that it is valid for at least 6 months from the dates of this trip.
- Please make a copy of the photo page of your passport and carry it separately from your passport. It is also a good idea to leave a copy with your emergency contact at home. We also request that you send us a copy to keep on file for emergencies during your trip. If your passport is lost or stolen, a photocopy will help the local consulate speed up authorization for replacement. It is recommended that you do not pack your passport in your checked luggage and instead carry it on your person during travel days in case you asked to present it for any reason.
A visa is required for entry into Zambia. A visa is not required for entry into South Africa or Botswana if the planned visit is for 90 days or less. As this trip also visits Botswana, you will require a double-entry visa for Zambia. A double-entry visa can be obtained at the Livingstone Airport upon arrival and costs US$80.
Depending on other travel plans, or if you plan to visit the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls, you may need a multiple-entry visa for your return to Zambia or a KAZA visa for entry into Zimbabwe. A multiple-entry visa must be arranged in advance. While not required for the our itinerary, you may need one depending on your travel plans. Information and applications are available at: www.zambiatourism.com/travel-info/visa-information and for the KAZA visa at: http://www.zambiatourism.com/media/KAZAvisa-Leaflet-Dec-2016.pdf
Mandatory Evacuation Insurance
We require that you purchase emergency medical evacuation insurance to participate in this expedition.
Call or visit Travel Insurance Services at 800-937-1387 for inexpensive options that cover this requirement. We strongly recommend that you protect yourself, your belongings, and your vacation through the purchase of a travel protection plan.
Please consult the following article or explore some different recommended provider options below:
MEETING PLACE & TIME
You should make arrangements to arrive in Villahermosa, Mexico the day before our departure for Palenque. Accommodations at the Quinta Real Villahermosa that night are covered by the trip cost. Dinner will be on your own that night and we recommend the great restaurant located in the hotel.
Final information with details regarding your hotel and a voucher for your transportation from the airport will be sent by email before your trip.
GETTING TO AND FROM VILLAHERMOSA
There are daily direct flights to and from Villahermosa International Airport (VSA) and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) operated by United Airlines. There are also several flights that layover in Mexico City operated by Aeromexico and Delta.
Let us know if you’d like assistance with arranging your international flight logistics.
Please do not purchase airfare until your trip has been confirmed by the minimum number of required guests and you have paid your deposit.
It is important to remember that while the land activities of this excursion are quite universally accessible that the river portion is through perhaps the worlds most famous commercial whitewater destination. Those considering this trip should be prepared for class IV, high volume rafting. With all of that said, thousands of people raft the Zambezi every year and it has been commercial rafted for nearly 40 years.
The Zambezi is know for being a “flipping river” but a lot of that has to do with client’s sometimes aggressive and adventurous attitude. While not guarantee-able it is absolutely possible for us to have a “no flip” trip if that is what you desire. Often client’s attitudes will change after they get a little bit of experience on the river and realize that it is not as scary as they imagined.
Packing For Your Trip
Camping on the Zambezi River
Camping is a treat for all outdoor enthusiasts. Our Zambezi River rafting overnight trips are not all about the river. We want our guests to enjoy the entire experience, including the camping within the Batoka Gorge. We like clients to get involved with building camp, helping to prepare food and collecting fire wood. All meals are freshly prepared, local beers and local spirits are included.
Zambezi River rafting overnight trips operate in the low water season, usually from August through to the new year. The rains usually arrive mid November and, although we are equipped to run Overnight Rafting trips in the wet season, be aware it there is always a chance of rain in the tropics.
Travel and Camp Gear:
Following is a list of required and recommend items for this multi-day tour through the stunning landscapes of South Central Africa. As part of the trip we will provide waterproof drybags for all of your personal items, camp chairs for fireside relaxation and enjoyment, and tents, sleeping pads and sleeping bags.
We encourage you to also pack for the multiple days that we will not be on the river. Clothing for those days should be your normal casual wear with consideration taken for the climate and the particular activities listed in the itinerary. A good pair of shoes or boots is a great addition.
- Light quick-drying shirt and long pants for sun protection
- Personal toiletries
- Mosquito Repellent
- Water bottle with clip to attach to raft
- Sleeping bag
- Water shoes and Hiking Shoes
- Hat / Sunglasses (with strap / croakies)
- Go-Pro / Waterproof Camera Equipment (at your own risk)
- Personal Medications you may require
- A few lightweight thermal layers for potential chilly nights.
- A small amount of Cash and copy of your passport
- Rain top and rain pants can be priceless in the jungle.
- A large towel and/or a hand towel are great comfort items on a multi-day trip.
- A book or magazine
The fall months in this part of Africa are the dry time of year. There is potential for cool nights and a very low chance of precipitation. That said, we recommend bringing a light jacket for the evenings and a raincoat just in case. In general you should plan for hot and sunny weather and make sure to pack protective clothing for the sun, a hat, sunglasses and eyeglass retainers, and to bring lots of sunscreen and plan to work on your tan!
Our partnership with Safpar Rafting in Livingstone, Zambia was carefully chosen. They are a renowned and respected local luxury outfitter with deep roots in the community and a high emphasis on safety who have been operating these trips for over 30 years and facilitate the experiences of 10,000+ people a year on the Zambezi River and throughout its surrounding areas.
Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana are all stable and secure African nations with large, well developed and regulated tourist industries. Victoria Falls, the Batoka Gorge, Zambezi River and Chobe National Park are all world renowned tourist destinations that attract millions of visitors every year. Victoria Falls is arguably one of the most famous of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World as well as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Some potential problems are traveler’s diarrhea, bug bites, colds, cracked skin, foot fungus, and skin infections. While we take precautions to minimize any potential problems it is important to remember that you are the first line of defense for your own good health. Participants should consult the CDC website for information on traveling in the destination country and visit a doctor well before the trip. In addition to any prescription medications you might require participants should consider carrying some sort of anti-diarrheal medication, over the counter pain meds, and scheduling appointments to get immunizations if you feel it necessary.
Mosquitos are far less common during the drier months and many people find that wearing appropriate clothing (shoes, long sleeves, pants) and repellent in the evenings is sufficient protection. Malaria medications and other vaccinations that are sometimes recommended for international travel (Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus, Yellow Fever, Rabies) are easily obtained by a visit to your doctor. Ultimately these health decisions are up to you. The Center for Disease Control website is a great resource for any research you might want to do.
One of the most common ailments among tourists in less developed countries is traveler’s diarrhea(gastrointestinal problems). You should try to minimize chances of getting it by avoiding potentially contaminated foods before the trip. We recommend our guests carry a supply of anti-dihhreal medication just as a general precaution.
Join us for an adventure that you will never forget!