‘Go With The Flow’ defines my entire experience of canyoning in the Gorges du Verdon. What started as a failed attempt to book a white water rafting session ended with me giving something I had never heard of, canyoning is called Aqua Trekking in France, or done before a go and absolutely loving it. Somethings are just meant to be!
After enjoying my own experience so much, I wanted to share the adventure including what to expect, what to wear and what you need to take so that you can plan your own canyoning trip whether it’s in France or somewhere a little closer to home.
Sounds like something you’re in to? Here’s everything you need to know for your own canyoning adventure.
Everything You Need To Know About Canyoning In The Gorge Du Verdon
What Is Canyoning?
Canyoning is an adventure activity where instead of going down a river on a raft you float, climb, scramble and jump your way down. That’s right, you are your own flotation device!
There are three reasons I love canyoning:
- Adventurers of any level can take part, you just need to find the route that’s right for you. Your guide can help with this.
- Canyoning can get you to places where other adventure activities simply can’t take you. Think of secret caves and hidden ravines. It’s all so exciting!
- You can go canyoning all over the world. Whilst some of the best places to go canyoning are in New Zealand and South Africa, you can also canyon right here in the UK.
Is Canyoning Dangerous?
As with any adventure activity canyoning can carry an element of danger. You are at the mercy of the water including all its undercurrents and hidden rocks. It’s vital that you know how to swim to avoid putting yourself and those around you in danger.
I also think for this kind of activity it’s imperative to book as part of a group with a trusted guide. Your guides experience in the local area, ability to lead and capability to spot danger is knowledge worth paying for. Our guide was able to direct us safely down every ripple only because he knew that on that day and with that water level it would be safe to do so.
Amateur Trip: For my canyoning adventure in Gorges du Verdon I booked with Ride The Verdon. These guys know what they’re doing with over 20 years water sports experience. My safety and the safety of the group never came into question.
Is Canyoning Difficult?
As mentioned, canyoning can be done by an adventurer of any level. What I liked about Ride The Verdon was that they graded their activities by difficulty on the website so that you know straight up what to expect. I joined their Classic Aqua Trekking tour, classed as Sporty, but they also have courses for intermediate and beginner levels.
The Canyoning aspect of the Classic Tour wasn’t difficult, however, hiking back from the end of the session was extreme! You really need to be in good physical shape. To put it bluntly, we walked vertically up a cliff edge for what felt like an eternity aka. a 350m ascent over 2km.
When Is The Best Time To Go Canyoning?
Based on my experience, Canyoning in Provence is best done in the Summer months June-August. The water in the Gorges Du Verdon was 14C in August so I can only imagine how cold it would be in winter. Too cold!
A peculiarity of canyoning in the Gorges Du Verdon is that the water level is controlled by a dam making canyoning possible only on Tuesday’s and Friday’s when the dam holds back the water. On the alternate day’s, white water rafting sessions run instead. It’s worth giving whoever you’re booking with a call to check ahead what’s available.
What Equipment Do You Need
There are two important pieces of kit for canyoning: a helmet and a lifejacket. Without either of these, you could get into some serious trouble. You will also be given a two-part 5mm wetsuit, a dry bag and a waterproof barrel to carry your belongings. All the canyoning equipment I needed was provided by Ride The Verdon. It’s worth checking with your guide ahead of your own adventure to see if you need to bring anything extra.
What Your Day Canyoning Looks Like
This is a full day activity, meeting the group at 8.30 am and not returning until the afternoon. You will be exhausted but you will have the biggest smile on your face because canyoning is epic!
After you meet in the car park, your day starts with a hike down to the river. This took about 45 mins. You carry all your own equipment so it’s important not to bring anything that isn’t on the list unless necessary. You can always check with your guide if you’re unsure.
When you get to the river you will have your safety briefing and change into your wetsuit, lifejacket and helmet. It’s now time to get in the water. We spent a good 3 hours in the river. It is cold at first but you soon get used to it.
In the water you’ll meet rapids, you’ll meet rocks and you’ll meet currents. The guides are fantastic at instructing how to tackle each so that you can just enjoy the ride. Our guide Francois also had some fantastic stories about the river and the locals who spent their days beside it. Love a bit of history.
Amateur Tip: There are sections of the canyoning which are much calmer. I encourage you to lay on your back and look up at the edge of the cliffs way up high. It certainly offers a unique perspective.
Throughout the river run you’ll get the chance to jump off some of the bigger rocks. The biggest jump was 7m but you can also try the 5m if this feels like too much.
You’ll finish the trip with a visit to the ‘L’Imbut’ cave where the river disappears underground. A truly unique experience which sees you pulling yourself out of the cave on a rope through the water. This marks the end of the journey. Once out of the water you’ll take an hour rest to eat some lunch and drink some water and prepare for the climb back up the cliff edge.
Plan Your Canyoning Trip In Gorges Du Verdon
How To Get To The Gorges Du Verdon
The Gorges Du Verdon, or the Verdon Gorge, is situated in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France. The easiest way to get there from the UK is to fly landing in Nice, Marseille or Avignon and renting a car. Alternatively, you can catch the Eurostar from King’s Cross to Aix-en-Provence and rent a car on arrival.
The meeting point for the canyoning is in Falaise des Cavaliers, you really will need a car to get there. It took roughly an hour to drive from Castillon where I stayed at Camping Calme et Nature (coming soon).
Related Post: Things To Know Before Visiting The Gorges Du Verdon (coming soon)
What To Bring
We were asked to bring our own lunch and two litres of water. That was it! All the canyoning equipment was provided by the company. I did also pack some sunscreen and my adventure camera, go pros are also allowed, however, as you need to fit all items in a small waterproof barrel there isn’t much room for anything else.
What To Wear
You’re going to get wet so you will need to bring your swimming costume. Preferably, you would be in your cozzie on arrival to make changing into your wetsuit easier when you get to the river.
You will also need to think carefully about your shoes as they will need to be relatively versatile. You are hiking down, hiking up, climbing on rocks and floating in the water. They will need to have a bit of support, a bit of grib and be shoes you don’t mind getting wet. I wore converse.
Aside from this, you can wear what you like to hike to the river and back in. I personally wouldn’t opt for jeans but I’ve no doubt someone’s done it somewhere and come out unscathed.
Are There Toilets?
There were toilets in the hotel near the parking at the meeting place which charged 20c for the pleasure. Aside from this, there are no toilets. We were given the opportunity before getting in the water, and before putting on our wetsuits, to take a wilderness wee. Be mindful that hikers frequent the paths so be sure to find a hidden spot and designate a lookout. Do everything you can not to wee in your wetsuit.
What Will You Eat & Drink?
As mentioned, you will be asked to bring your own lunch as well as two litres of water.
I packed a pre-made baguette, an apple and some crisps in a cylindrical container so they wouldn’t get to bashed about. As I’ve already mentioned, you will be carrying everything yourself so be mindful of this before packing a 5-course luncheon.
How Large Are The Groups?
Our group was made up of only 6 people, however, the maximum number they will take out is 8 people. It’s worth noting that whilst your group will be small there are a number of other groups that will be canyoning at the same time as you. Each guide has their own path down the river though so whilst you might bump into them occasionally you shouldn’t be on top of one another.
You travel in a single file and always look out for the person in front and behind so that you can help them out if they get into difficulty.
Related Post: Provence: A 2-Week Road Trip Itinerary
Sadly, this particular area in Provence has become home to a ravenous caterpillar. It is eating the leaves and killing the trees at an uncontrollable rate. Would-be predators haven’t figured out whether the caterpillars are safe to eat yet which has allowed them to multiply.
Our guide was clearly put out by the speed of the devastation and rightly so. What should be a walk through a forest is a trail through a tree graveyard. Another reminder that we need to respect and look after nature where we can.