Spending a day at the Grand Canyon with Wilfred Whatanome, perhaps the most recognised member of the Hualapai Indian Nation, may have some troubling effects on your outlook on life.
Wilfred is connected to the Earth around here. The Hualapai have lived on the West Rim of the Canyon for almost a thousand years, and tribal members like Wilfred are keen to not only keep their culture alive, but to help visitors to the Canyon understand more than just the geology.
|Viator & The Hualapai Nation meet for talks at Eagle Point|
That’s not to say the geology isn’t interesting. But when Wilfred starts talking about the history of his people, about their old customs and folklore, and about being truly happy in your own life, you’ll notice that your attention has shifted away from your surroundings and become more introspective. Which is surprising when you are in the middle of a place like this…
Because all the cliches are in place for a reason: it’s vast, majestic, soaring, serene, mystical, and — frankly — pretty scary. This is not a place you would want to get lost in, especially at night or during winter, when temperatures plummet and those cliff edges are still 4,000 feet above the river.
Anyway, I’m no Grand Canyon expert, but I did learn a bunch of things in my one day escape from Las Vegas that will be helpful to first-time visitors:
- Think carefully about how you want to get there. There are dramatic differences between helicopter, fixed-wing and drive-in tours. Driving down to the Canyon by Hummer will appeal to those who don’t savour a 45-minute chopper or plane ride, others will just want to “get there”, and some will see the flight as a highlight of their day.
- Research which part of the Canyon you want to visit. The West Rim, South Rim and North Rim all offer different experiences.
- Think about what you want to do there. This is closely linked to your decision on which part of the Canyon to visit. Things to see and do include hiking, boat rides, off-roading, horseback rides, wagon rides, and nearby sites such as Monument Valley, Joshua Tree Forest and Hoover Dam. Each tour offers a different combination.
|A gift from Wilfred, on stone from his tribal lands
Viator has a broad range of tours and we’re constantly evaluating the customer experience to ensure we’re delivering what people want. For those who just aren’t sure — and that includes most first-timers, I guess — my advice is to select a tour that includes some time down at the River, not just on the rim; and time with the locals: the Hualapai and Navajo Tribes who are the custodians of much of the Canyon. I was a guest of Sundance Helicopters on their Grand Voyager Exclusive tour. At around $500 per person it’s quite a commitment, but I’m willing to bet you won’t regret a penny of it.