A friend who had previously been rafting/kayaking with Costa Rica Descents highly recommended this trip. His whole family had received great service a couple of years ago, they raved about their guides by name. The day before our trip we met one of the owners at the office and he took the time to go over the trip with us and was very helpful - excellent customer service. He discussed our ability and the type of rapids so that we felt confident in our choice.
I have worked as a raft guide for 8 full time seasons, am a confident grade 3 kayaker (which is usually equivalent to grade 4 rafting) and have worked in the adventure tourism industry for over 10 years. This was my experience:
Johnny the photographer started the trip by rather aggressively and loudly addressing the minibus of customers, there were some younger children (maybe 10-12yrs) and I got the feeling he was trying to intimidate them and encourage them not to do the upper section. When we arrived at the put-in he turned his attention to the 3 of us who were kayaking. He talked/yelled at me in a very aggressive manner saying that the rapids were too hard and I should raft. I tried to ask questions to ascertain why conditions would have changed and I guess anything other then complete confidence in my own ability to kayak any level of river was taken as a sign of incompetence. He would not answer any questions but instead said that I would be too much trouble. He said that only the first 3-4 rapids were large and after that we would pick up the kayaks and I could kayak the majority of the trip.
At the put in the staff broke up a group of 4 & 6 into 2 groups of 5, the photographer again yelled and threatened us (saying 6 in a boat was unsafe - which was not correct in my opinion) with until a couple split up. The safety briefing was thorough and after adequate paddling practice we started the trip. The guides ran the river safely covering each raft well - a customer fell out at the largest rapid and took a particularly bad swim. The guides addressed the situation very quickly and professionally; and continued to care for the upset woman to a high level.
However, the level of attention given to my 2 friends who were kayaking was minimal at best. One of them is a very good kayaker so perhaps this is the reason; although from the way Johnny spoke I would think that the company would have run tighter with them. I ended up rafting the majority of the trip in the raft as the point to switch to my kayak was almost at the end of the trip. When I switched Johnny came back to yell at me one last time, calling me 'kayaker! kayaker!' instead of my name. He tried to talk me out of kayaking the last part (the first section was well within my ability-so I ignored him as best I could). He said that I couldn't hold up his raft trip etc - as a customer i felt belittled and as a whitewater professional a red flag went off in my head. Then the staff kayakers left - strange after the life or death speech I had just been given.
After the trip we had a beautiful lunch at an eco farm and a very informative and unexpected tour - probably the best part of the whole trip. The photographer then charged my friend $50 for the $30 photo cd. We filled out a feedback form and I have not been contacted by the company (I left my email & stayed beside their office for 3 more days) to address my experience.
The river was low and the guides seemed burnt out. I was constantly passed over for information, staff didn't even bother t introduce themselves. The customer service was terrible, the worst I have received for a long time.I would not recommend this company.
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