I took a day’s trip to Lower Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend in April 2018 from Las Vegas. The beauty of these places filled me with a lot of joy. All the adjectives for an amazing experience are what I would use to describe these places.
Let me go in order, for people who might be considering to visit this place.
Before leaving from home[India], I booked the tour on www.tours4fun.com. I paid about USD 120. I like to keep soft and hard copies both with me and that’s what I did for this trip also.
It was a #solotrip to a new place. I called the tour company a day or 2 before the trip from Vegas to confirm my trip and diet preference.
I stayed in a hotel that was one of the pickup points. I think I did a good thing because I just had to get ready and walk out of the #hotel/#casino early in the morning.
It was about 5:30 am, the sun still had to rise and I think I was feeling cold. Did it rain that day? I don’t remember. umm… It was going to be my first tour-bus trip and I was all by myself, various things were running on my mind. ”I hope it’s a legit tour” “I hope I am standing on the right place” since there was hardly anyone standing there at that time. “I hope the bus did not come early and leave” If I remember it correctly, the bus was late. After a few minutes, I saw many other tourists waiting for the bus but when I checked with them, they all came for some other tour. But the staff of the hotel confirmed that I was standing on the right point. Finally, the bus came. It had my name in their records and I hopped in.
It was a nice bus and until this point, I wasn’t aware that the bus was going to have charging points on every seat. I suddenly felt like I am in safe hands and switched back to vacation mode from the high alert mode. The bus had a big Chinese family/ Chinese group. They reminded me of our Indian families who come all prepared with food and open the packets as soon as they hop in the bus and start distributing amongst their group. Felt good. Normal. We had a tour guide who once spoke in English and then Chinese. The guide didn’t give a lot of information about the places but was mainly coordinating.
I think we pulled over at about 9:30 am. Probably it was for freshening ourselves.
A light lunch was part of the package and I had mentioned my vegetarian-no egg diet preference. Everyone got their food but I had to wait until the end of the trip because they forgot to arrange. I bought some food from a place they stopped over for a while plus I had some food on me. The food they gave to me became my meal of another time after reaching back to Vegas. It was good.
We reached here at about 10:30 am and stopped for a bit. This location wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the itinerary. So it was a bonus!! Umm… Could see a bridge, a dam, I believe colorado river and Glen Canyon. There wasn’t much explanation given so I was just looking around the beauty and clicking pictures. Seemed like it was WIP.
Dropped people who wanted to do Upper Antelope, they would be picked up on our way back from Lower Antelope.
LOWER ANTELOPE CANYON
Reached the Antelope Canyon around 11:15 am. It was beautiful. Let me start from the beginning. We were told that the authorised guide of the Canyon would take over from there.
We stepped out of the bus and winds attacked us. Why do I say attack? The wind was carrying sand which wasn’t pleasant to feel. Luckily there was a shed for waiting.
When our turn came, we were asked to stand in queues and given a briefing which I think was important. One has to keep moving inside the narrow and steep canyon. We were asked not to fool around because some people lost their lives doing so. I think we were not allowed to carry any bags also. Cellphones and cameras were allowed.
At about 11:40 am we started by stepping down a metal staircase to reach the bottom of the canyon. Many of us felt like stopping in-between to take the pictures but it is not allowed to do so. It took less than 10 mins to reach down.
Once we are down, we get ample time to take many pictures, the guide helped us take pictures from good angles. She even pointed out different shapes and forms the sandstones of the canyon has taken after being eroded by the floods. When I see the pictures it appears to me like many people in a row are about to kiss. Probably everyone sees different things as per their mind if not imagination.
Refraction of the sunlight, big and small gaps between the canyon from the top, various shapes formed everything gels together and presented a mesmerising view. We have to continuously walk through this site, stopping at various points.
Staying with the group is important and I think the authorities there make sure that people don’t wander around on their own.
We all came up and out of the canyon, happy with our hearts and cameras full of pictures of the canyon.
We reach our bus and the bus guide comes back with his smile and tells us how lucky we were because we were the last one of the day/season to visit the canyon. I think the canyon remains shut during many months of the year as per the weather predictions. I was told that during the rainy season the entire canyon fills up like an overflowing well and the entire area is prohibited for anyone to visit.
For a second I doubted the guide. I thought he tells all his tourists the same story of luck. But then that’s me.
I guess we were inside the canyon for about an hour.
We picked up the fellows from upper antelope canyon and moved to another enchanting place.
Reached here at about 1:30 pm. Before we got down the bus we were asked to visit the place at our leisure. We were also asked to return to the bus on the time given. The guide said, “till wherever you reach at ___ time, start walking back towards the bus.”
It was dry and warm weather. There was about 1 km walk ahead of us. I was alone so I paced faster to reach as far as I could.
I think I had almost forgotten why I was walking until I saw The Horseshoe Bend. I was spellbound. I just wanted to keep looking at it. It was like instant hypnotism. I was being pulled to do various things: take many pictures, take my picture with it, go farther ahead of where I saw many people going, going down the canyon where the river was flowing, sit there. Yes! I just wanted to sit there and soak in all the beauty as much as possible. But I had the ticking time bomb with me given by the guide[to reach back on time]. I took quick pictures from various angles, sat there for a few minutes and then it was time for me to walk back. I didn’t want to. I wanted to sit there.
And then came another windstorm. It was a bad one. Could feel the sand like millions of needles pricking on my body. I think I took out my windcheater and wore it. I was scared for the little children I could see around me but then the storm stopped after a few minutes. I still wanted to be there. If you are into such things then I highly recommend that you go to this place in a private vehicle than a tour so you are not time-bound. I wonder if they do camps on that spot. Will go there again to immerse into the beauty and will find out about the tour that takes all the way down near the colorado river.
So the horseshoe bend is a point where river colorado takes a u-turn and doing so over the years it has formed a beautiful figure of a horseshoe. We see this site from the top of the canyon. The place is so alive, doesn’t feels like a gloomy desert at all even though it is a desert.
I reach back to where my bus was. There were some dirty toilets there. They were like portable boxes. I just told to myself ‘and people say India is only dirty.’ On a positive side, there were toilets to comfort the girl who got her periods.
I don’t remember if there was any other halt after this. I was dropped back to my hotel by 7-8 pm approximately. [The timing I am mentioning here is as per the info on my pictures. I don't remember it myself since it has been 2 years now].
From what I rem faintly, tours4fun website did mention about tipping/ gratuity to the guide and the driver separately. In India tipping isn’t mandatory. We do tip often but it’s never asked on gunpoint. In the USA it almost felt like so. Heard that maybe the workers don’t get paid well, etc. but hey! As if in India workers get paid any better. [May be will write on this topic some other time]. At the end of the tour, the bus coordinator/ guide mentioned about tipping in a jovial tone and everyone gave him the cash when he came to collect it on our seats. I don’t remember if I paid separately to the antelope canyon guide. How much? I think it was a minimum of USD 10/ person. But I think you could tip as per your wish.
IN THE END
This write up is giving you information about the tour I took but I must tell you that these tourist spots are more about experiencing them yourself. It is also for anyone who is planning a trip and is clueless. If you have the stamina, go for the lower antelope versus the upper one. There is a helicopter route also but maybe that’s when I am a little older and don’t want to trek or want another angle to these natural beauties.