|MEETING PLACE:||Hotel Cabanas del Lago in Puerto Varas|
|MEETING TIME:||7:00 PM the evening of itinerary day 1|
|RETURN TIME:||In time for flights departing from Puerto Montt after 2:00 PM on day 9|
|RIVER RATING:||Class IV-V (class V is optional)|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 12 (Please note: Although our minimum age is 12, our partner outfitter sets a lower minimum and younger children may be present at camp.)|
|TRIP LENGTH:||9 days / 8 nights|
|ACTIVITIES:||Whitewater rafting, inflatable kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, biking and fishing|
The Futaleufu is one of Earth’s premier whitewater destinations. Flowing through Chilean Patagonia, far beneath the spires and snow-packed crown of the Andes, the Fu’s steely turquoise waters pass through granite walls and lush hardwood forests. The Futaleufu River fun is rounded out by the luxurious amenities available back at our deluxe base camp – relax in our riverside hot tub, luxuriate with a professional massage, relax with daily yoga classes, enjoy our wood fired sauna, savor the gourmet cuisine prepared by our local culinary experts, try wine tasting at the sunset bar and salsa dancing under the Southern Cross, or just chill out around the campfire with a cup of tea.
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:
Day 1: Santiago / Puerto Montt & Puerto Varas
Arriving in Santiago, pass through customs and then walk upstairs to the third floor in the airport for your flight to Puerto Montt (this flight is not included in your trip). Upon arrival at Puerto Montt’s El Tepual Airport (PMC), you’ll be met by an OARS representative. From here you’ll be transferred to our hotel in the lake-side resort town of Puerto Varas. (Note that arrival airport transfers are only included on itinerary day 1. For arrivals ahead of day one, the transfer can be arranged for an extra cost.)
Situated on the spectacular Llanquihue Lake, with the snow-capped Osorno Volcano rising beyond it, Puerto Varas is one of the most beautiful towns in Chile. Your afternoon is free to explore the area before we meet at 7:00 PM to discuss logistics and enjoy our first dinner together.
Hotel Cabana del Lago or similar
Day 2: Puerto Varas to Chaiten and the Rio Futaleufu
This morning the group transfers to La Paloma Airport, the regional airstrip for our flight to Chaiten. The half hour flight is spectacular, following the rugged coastline of Pumalin Park. Wild rivers flow into deep fjords framed by verdant rain forest wilds that stretch upwards into the rugged snow-capped Patagonia Andes. Just before landing, we get a bird’s-eye view of Chaiten Volcano which several years ago buried much of the town of Chaiten.
We board our bus for a three hour ride to our camp on the Futaleufu River. The drive is gorgeous as the road passes beneath giant snow-capped peaks and hanging glaciers. Along the way, we may have the opportunity to hike in Pumalin Park, one of the largest and most diverse conservation efforts in South America. We arrive at the camp in the afternoon, where your private tent bungalow on a raised platform, complete with river views and comfortable beds, will be waiting for you. Our enthusiastic guides will lead you to your sweet new “home away from home” on the river!
After a short hike or a swim, you may want to soak in the riverside hot tub or enjoy a hot shower. This evening we gather at the sunset bar to introduce the crew and go over the week’s agenda. After happy hour, a hearty dinner will be served. It does tend to cool down quite a bit when the sun sets below the peaks so plan to dress warmly in the evenings.
Day 3: Rio Futaleufu Rafting
We rise with the warmth of the sun, find tea and coffee ready at 7:30 am and have breakfast around 9 am. A pre-breakfast yoga class is available on the yoga platform with river views. Mornings tend to be crisp and dewy so prepare to dress warmly – a fleece and beanie may be ideal. Today is a river day. We will launch our rafts from camp after a thorough safety briefing. In a safe ‘eddy’, a short distance downstream, we’ll do a set of practice rescue drills. This allows the crew in each raft to hone their skills and prepare to raft as a team.
A cataraft and a safety-kayaker are part of our “safety net.” Each raft is captained by a highly trained and intuitive river guide, who guides the boat from a stern-mounted oar frame. The advantage to the oar frame is greater control in pointing the bow straight through bus size holes and 15-foot high “haystack” wave trains, while not detracting from the paddling experience.
The first section that we raft, from camp down to Puente Futaleufu (the Futaleufu Bridge), is only 10 km but offers more rapids per 1000 meters than anywhere else on the river. It is the perfect warm-up run and it is non-stop fun! The rapids of note are “El Cojín” (the Cushion) and “Mundaca”, a local family name.
At take-out we meet our vehicles for a 20-minute ride back to camp. Those who would prefer a “lower body” workout to complement their paddling are welcome to run back or ride one of our mountain bikes from take-out to camp. When we get to camp, you can choose to go fly-fishing, join a kayak class, practice yoga, nap in a hammock, enjoy the sauna, have a massage, go for a hike or soak in the hot tub. As the sun sinks behind the mountains, enjoy a game of chess or cards at the sunset bar. Every late afternoon is “Happy Hour” with an open bar stocked with beer, wines, sodas and fresh juices. We gather together in the open-air kitchen/dining area, the “Galpon”, for a candlelight sit-down dinner featuring locally grown produce and fresh-baked breads. After dinner, enjoy the campfire and the stars before retiring to your cozy tent on your private platform. The sound of the river will lull you to sleep and send you off dreaming of the next day of adventure on the Fu.
Day 4: Rio Futaleufu Rafting
Day two of our rafting extravaganza, our aim is to settle into a river rhythm that will be utilized in order to successfully raft the next few sections of the Fu. After breakfast, we will launch our rafts from camp and have lunch on the river. After we pass the Puente Futaleufu (yesterday’s take-out), we immediately round the corner to meet a continuous cascade of waves known as “Mas o Menos” (More or Less). This is a good stepping-stone towards our first true Class V technical rapid, “Casa de Piedra” (House of Rock), which is right around the next corner. We will get out of our rafts to scout this massive boulder choked rapid from the banks of the Fu.
After this rapid, we will run the remaining Class II-III rapids as our hearts resume beating at their normal rates. We will drift into a nice long, calm section that offers perfect fishing from the rafts as well as a great place to get into some hardshell kayaks. The next three miles we will have a floating happy hour and reach our take-out spot just above Lago Yelcho. Upon return to camp, we will continue to celebrate the day, enjoy the spa and get ready for another fabulous dinner prepared by our jovial crew.
Day 5: Inflatable Kayaking the Rio Azul
Today we become experts at navigating our very own river crafts, known as inflatable kayaks or duckies. We venture up the Rio Azul canyon, finding clear water and gentle Class II-III rapids. They offer a perfect learning opportunity to become a great captain of your own boat.
There is something deeply satisfying about paddling your own boat down river, knowing that your destiny is in your own hands. Of course our highly trained guides will be there to coach you, watch over you and provide safety should you need to be rescued. The Rio Azul is one of the major tributaries to the Futaleufu River and flows into the Fu right above the Terminator section, which is where we take-out. The late afternoon is free to you to relax, fish for trout or go for a bike ride.
Day 6: Horseback Riding and Hiking
Today we get to further explore the beautiful Rio Azul Valley. After breakfast we take a short drive to the stables where we will find our trusty steeds saddled-up and ready for adventurous riding. After a safety briefing, we ride alongside local expert equestrians and our own river guides who will gladly join the posse up a glorious, pristine side valley where the Rio Azul flows unhindered from its glacial headwaters.
We travel far up the valley to where our picnic lunch is prepared and you’ll have the option of hiking to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Patagonia region. After our return journey down the valley, we arrive back to the stables where we bid farewell to the horses and their caretakers. If you’re still up for activity, you may choose to walk or even run back to camp. You will be glad to return to camp, enjoy the soothing hot tub, a cold beer or glass of wine as you wait for another locally prepared meal.
Day 7: Rio Futaleufu Rafting
We will have an early breakfast in camp then travel 25 kilometers up the road to the Rio Espolon where we launch our rafts for the renowned Inferno Canyon day! On the Rio Espolon we have a chance to warm up before it joins and helps form the mighty Futaleufu as it gets squeezed into the narrow Inferno Canyon. This upper canyon requires aggressive Class V paddling and is potentially the most intense section of white water on the river. For people who prefer not to participate in Inferno Canyon, the option to stay back in camp and choose another activity is an option.
Five distinct rapids form a narrow sinuous river passage creating a full-on adrenaline rush. The fourth rapid was until recently the smallest, but due to road building debris landing in the river, has now become nearly impassable at some water levels and may require a walk-around and lining the rafts through it. As we come out of the last rapid, we enter into a long calm and arrive at our lunch stop. Here, folks who chose not to run Inferno Canyon can rejoin the group.
The current remains swift and we cruise many miles downstream arriving at the mandatory portage around the fierce “Zeta” rapid. Our next obstacle is “Throne Room,” a Class V rapid for kayaks and a portage for the rafters. By walking around this rapid, we get a great bird’s-eye view of an almost river wide hole that could destroy a raft. Back aboard our rafts, we are dealt a Royal Flush – a continuous Class IV corridor of rapids does not let up until we get to our take-out spot below the confluence of the Rio Azul.
The late afternoon is spent in camp getting ready for the evening festivities. Our good friends from the nearby farm prepare a very special treat for us—a delicious dinner called “Curanto” that is typical of the south of Chile and the island of Chiloe. We spend the evening by the fire singing and dancing the night away.
Note – rafting Inferno Canyon is dependent on the level of the river and therefore may not be on option.
Day 8: Rio Futaleufu Rafting
Today we call the “summit day,” as we aim to top our already great paddling days with the best day of white water in the world. After a nutritious breakfast, we head up river where we left the rafts yesterday. The views of the snow capped mountain peaks and jagged ridges of the mountain “Las Tres Monjas” (translated, “the three Nuns”) are absolutely breathtaking. A six-kilometer stretch of warm-up rapids leads us to the toughest rapid that we will raft, “The Terminator.” We scout and study our line, then we take the plunge and drop in. “Left turn, right turn, dig it in—hard forward!” are a few of the commands that might be heard. The next three miles are non-stop rapids. After an aerobic workout, we pump through the enormous haystack wave train known as the “Himalayas.” Just when we need it, we float gently into lunch at our base camp.
After lunch, we return to the river to complete the last task for the day, tackling as much white water as possible. We raft the whole section of river from camp to below Casa de Piedra. At take-out, cold beers are waiting. We make a triumphant return to camp to celebrate our days spent exploring the Futaleufu valley and river.
For the evening’s festivities, our beloved culinary team will prepare a typical Chilean Asado—lamb and a pig roasted over a bed of coals, ensalada, potatoes and farm fresh bread. We toast the river and give thanks for our safe passage. Under a bright starry sky, we will spend our last night together as a group on the banks of the mighty Fu with the guides and crew.
Day 9: Chaiten / Puerto Montt / Santiago
This morning after breakfast, we drive three hours to the Chaiten Airport where we catch our flight back to Puerto Montt. In Puerto Montt, transfer to El Tepual Airport for flights back to Santiago or transfer to your next destination – OARS will have a representative on site to assist you with arranging that transfer. Departing flights out of Puerto Montt should be scheduled for after 2:00 PM in case of delays out of Chaiten, often due to weather.
Included in Your Trip Cost
- Skilled, professional guide service provided by our affiliate operator
- 1 night hotel accommodation in Puerto Varas (based on double occupancy)
- 7 nights deluxe camp accommodation (based on double occupancy)
- Roundtrip ground transport from Chaiten to camp on the Futaleufu River
- Meals from dinner on day 1 through breakfast on day 9
- Drinks from the camp bar, including beer, wine and a selection of liquors
- Activities, instruction and related equipment as outlined in the itinerary
- Expedition equipment including personal flotation device, helmet, wetsuit and splash jacket
- Lodging amenities such as linens, towels and hand soap
- Airport transfer to hotel for arrivals on day 1
- 27-oz Klean Kanteen water bottle
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- International roundtrip flights to & from Santiago, Chile
- Roundtrip flights to & from Puerto Montt, Chile
- Roundtrip flight from Puerto Montt to Chaiten (arranged by OARS; itinerary days 2 & 9)
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Single supplement fee: hotel only is always available; single occupancy at camp is per availability only
- Day 9 transfer to your next destination (El Tepual Airport or elsewhere; OARS guide assists on site)
- Airport arrival transfers for early arrivals into Puerto Montt (ahead of itinerary day 1)
- Shampoo & conditioner and bath soap (at camp)
- Massage – $1/minute
- Video of your trip (provided by an independent contractor who accompanies the trip)
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan or mandatory emergency medical & evacuation coverage
- Items of personal nature (an equipment list will be provided)
TRIP PREPARATION CHECK LIST
☐ Consider Purchasing Travel Protection: We recommend the purchase of the OARS Travel Protection Plan to help protect you before and during your trip. A travel protection plan can help with reimbursement of your non-refundable payments in the event you have to cancel your trip due to listed reasons such as a covered illness or injury. Because we begin working to prepare for your trip upon receipt of your deposit and may be turning other prospective guests away while holding space for you, there are cancellation fees that will apply regardless of why or when you might need to cancel. We list the cost for the optional OARS Travel Protection Plan on your trip invoice.
Insurance coverages are underwritten by Arch Insurance Company, NAIC #11150, under policy series LTP 2013 and endorsements thereto. Policies are administered by Arch Insurance Solutions Inc., 855-286-8351, CA license #0I18111, TX license #1787195. Your policy is the contract that specifically and fully describes your coverage. Certain restrictions and exclusions apply and coverages may vary in certain states. Please refer to your policy for detailed terms and conditions; online at: https://www.oars.com/tpp
Consumer disclosures can be found at: https://oars.archinsurancesolutions.com/disclosures
10-Day Free Look Period: This stipulation allows you to cancel your travel protection plan within 10 days from your effective date of coverage or before your scheduled departure date, whichever comes sooner. OARS will refund all of your premiums paid if you cancel coverage within the time specified, provided you have not already filed a claim under the travel protection plan. Effective date refers to 12:01 AM the day after the policy premium is paid.
Please note, we require all participants have a minimum of emergency medical evacuation coverage to participate. This coverage can be purchased as a stand-alone policy, or is typically included in a travel protection plan. If you don’t have proof of coverage at the start of the trip, you cannot take part in the expedition. For a basic policy that includes coverage for emergency medical and evacuation situations, visit www.oars.com/tmp
☐ Trip Forms (online): Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation e-mail for the link to the online forms. If you prefer to fill out paper forms, please let us know right away. If you are reserving within 90 days of departure, your forms must be completed immediately to ensure we can properly plan for your trip.
☐ Reserve flights, shuttles and lodging: Verify with your Adventure Consultant that your trip has met minimum numbers prior to booking flights and/or reserving overnight lodging for the night before and after your trip, if applicable.
☐ Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our 23-minute Whitewater Orientation video before joining us. Watch at https://www.oars.com/experience/safety/ or call 800-346-6277 to request a free DVD. Please don’t leave home without watching.
☐ Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitation you may have as soon as possible. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip.
Payments: Final payment is due in our office 90 days prior to your trip (refer to your invoice for final payment date). Please let us know if you would like us to automatically charge your credit card on file when final payment is due.
Meeting Place & Time
If you arrive on itinerary day 1 and are going from Puerto Montt’s El Tepual Airport to the hotel we use in Puerto Varas, Hotel Cabanas del Lago, you’ll be met by an OARS representative upon arrival and taken to the hotel. The group will meet at 7:00 PM this evening in the hotel lobby for our welcome dinner.
Please note: If you are delayed, catching up can be not only inconvenient but very costly. You may have to overnight in Santiago or Puerto Montt, and you will need to purchase a new ticket to Chaiten and hire someone to drive you from Chaiten to the river. You will be responsible for these additional costs. Remember, a full coverage travel protection policy (as opposed to the minimum required medical evacuation coverage) may cover additional expenses due to travel delays.
Flying to Puerto Montt
The name of the airport in Puerto Montt that you’ll be arriving into is El Tepual Airport (PMC). Airfare to Puerto Montt is not included in the trip price and must be arranged independently. From North America, United, American, Delta and LAN Airlines offer service into Santiago and LAN is the major carrier to Puerto Montt. SKY Airlines is a domestic (Chilean) airline also offering flights from Santiago to Puerto Montt.
Let us know if you’d like assistance with arranging your flight logistics. Our partners at Exito Travel specialize in international destinations and we’d be happy to obtain a quote from them on your behalf.
Please do not purchase airfare until your trip has been confirmed by the minimum number of required guests.
After Your Trip
Services provided by OARS end upon arrival at the La Paloma regional airfield in Puerto Montt on itinerary day 9. The arrival time is dependent on travel this day, from our camp to Chaiten by vehicle and Chaiten to Puerto Montt by air. Once in Puerto Montt, our local representative will assist you with arranging a taxi to your next destination – either to El Tepual Airport for a flight to Santiago (approximately $35) or to your next hotel. Since our guests often depart for different destinations, we do not include this transfer in your trip price.
If you’re returning to North America this day, your flight from Puerto Montt to Santiago should depart after 2:00 PM to ensure you catch the flight. In Santiago, your luggage will need to be collected if you change airlines or may be checked through to your U.S. destination if you’re continuing with the same airline. Proceed to the third floor for international departures.
Essential Travel Documents
U.S. citizens entering Chile must have a passport in good condition, valid for the period of your stay. If you hold a passport from another country, it is your responsibility to check with your embassy for entry requirements and details. If you don’t have a passport, apply for one immediately because the process can be lengthy. If you do have a passport, find it and check the expiration date. Make a photocopy of the photo page of your passport and carry it separately from your passport. If your passport is lost or stolen, a photocopy will help the local consulate speed up authorization for replacement.
U.S. citizens do not need a visa for Chile for stays up to 90 days. For citizens of other countries, please check with the Chilean consulate.
On your flight to Chile, a Tourist Card (Tarjeta Unica Migratoria) will be issued for a stay of up to 90 days. The Tourist Card must be surrendered upon departure. Failure to submit this card upon departure may result in delays until a replacement is obtained. If lost or stolen, the Tourist Card must be replaced by the International Police (website is in Spanish only: http://www.investigaciones.cl/) at their nearest headquarters or at the international airport prior to departure.
Traveling With A Minor
Chile has strict requirements for the entry/exit of minors under the age of 18. Even when the minor is traveling with both parents, the parents will be required to show evidence of their relationship to the child when departing the country. Please carry an original birth certificate or a certified copy of the original. A minor entering Chile as a tourist will generally not be required to present a written notarized authorization from the non-traveling parent(s) at the time of departure if the minor leaves with the same adult companion with whom the minor entered Chile. However, we recommend traveling with a written notarized authorization from the non-traveling parent in order to avoid misunderstandings and ensure a smooth exit out of the country. More information can be found at: http://chile.usembassy.gov/entryandexit.html
Mandatory Evacuation Insurance
We require that you purchase emergency medical evacuation insurance to participate in this expedition. For a policy that includes coverage for emergency medical and evacuation situations, visit www.oars.com/tmp
We strongly recommend that you protect yourself, your belongings, and your vacation through the purchase of a travel protection plan. We offer the OARS Travel Protection Plan to help protect you, your travel investment and your belongings before and during your trip. Travel Protection can reimburse you for non-refundable payments if you should have to cancel your trip for a covered reason such as your illness or the illness of an immediate family member. For complete details go online to: www.oars.com/tpp
In Chile’s native Mapuche, Futaleufu translates as “grand waters” or “great river.” Aptly named, the Futaleufu is a large volume (9-15,000 cubic feet per second) technical river boasting intense stretches of one Class IV or V rapid after another and clear turquoise water unlike any other. Participants have the option of hiking around some of the more difficult and intense descents, but be advised that even the Class IV rapids will get your attention with plenty of excitement!
Paddle Raft with Oar Assist — The most agile of any boat in the OARS fleet, your guide steers the raft with two hefty oars on a rear-mounted frame while the crew wields paddles up front to provide the necessary horsepower. Helmets required. (Four to eight paddlers)
GEOGRAPHY AND WILDLIFE
The geography of Patagonia differs greatly from the rest of Chile, primarily because of the glacial forces sculpting the terrain over the past 800,000 years. South of Chaiten, glacial modeling has created Andean lakes and roaring rivers, such as the Futaleufu. Alternating between vistas of granite cliffs, lush foliage, snow-capped peaks and towering spires, the Futaleufu pours dramatically through a canyon of breathtaking beauty. Hardwood forests showcase stands of old growth trees and condors soaring far overhead are not an unusual sight. Other resident wildlife includes puma, wamule (endangered elk), ibis, salmon and trout. Slot canyons, tributary waterfalls and glacial lakes provide added highlights.
The camp is located downstream of the town Futaleufu, which sits at an elevation of 1158 ft.
Stay on the river in the most exquisite adventure base camp imaginable! Overlooking one of the most beautiful canyons on the Futaleufu River, our base camp proves that camping can be luxurious. Amenities include a riverside sunset bar where we enjoy Chilean wines, a wood-heated sauna, hot showers, flush toilets, 2 massage studios, a riverside hot tub, a fireside sit-down dining area where we enjoy delicious meals made with locally grown produce, and indoor & outdoor yoga decks with spectacular river and mountain views.
Your “home away from home” is a private safari-style tent bungalow atop a wooden platform with views of the river. You will fall asleep in a comfy bed with soft linens and a fluffy comforter to keep you warm as the sounds of the river lull you to sleep.
Our camp provides natural areas for private, quiet reflection and beautifully hand-built structures such as the open-air library, tranquil yoga pagoda and a large reading lounge.
Every late afternoon is “Happy Hour” with an open bar stocked with beer, wine, soda and fresh juice. Then we gather together in the open-air dining area, the “Galpon,” for a candlelight sit-down dinner featuring locally grown produce and fresh-baked breads.
The meals we serve are hearty and delicious, complete with fresh ingredients and a variety of foods. The camp has a permanent kitchen from which our local culinary experts prepare your meals with a local flair, including daily baked breads, pastries and cakes, and using fresh vegetables, fruit, cheese, meats and fish (all produce and meat in the area is organic and chemical free). For many guests, the last night’s dinner, a traditional Chilean Asado featuring locally raised lamb cooked over an open fire, is a highlight of the trip.
We need to know as soon as possible about any dietary restrictions we must consider in planning your trip. If you have food allergies or restrictions, we will do our best to accommodate your needs. However, there may be a supplemental menu fee, ranging from $5 – $25 per person per day, to cover any increase in our costs.
Beyond our standard menu, we can provide options for vegetarian, vegan and many allergy-restricted diets without applying a fee. However, we cannot always provide the same diversity or sophistication for restricted diets as we do for our regular menu. Similarly, certain allergen-free snack foods are difficult or impossible to source in our locations, so feel free to bring your own favorite snacks to supplement our provisions. Please let your Adventure Consultant know if you intend to do so.
We cannot guarantee that cross-contamination from allergens will not occur during meal prep, and reserve the right to refuse service to anyone as it relates to safety, including the potential for a medical emergency caused by a severe food allergy. Also, due to the constraints of cooking for a large group in a wilderness setting, availability of ingredients or specialty items in remote locations, and limited packing space, we are unable to cater to dietary preferences (likes or dislikes).
Beverages / Alcohol
Fine Chilean wine (for which the country is well known) and beer is provided in the evening. Often our camp even offers home-brewed beer, brewed on site. Non-alcoholic beverages are abundant, as well.
You will find some of the purest water on Earth flowing freely in the Patagonia Andes. The water at camp is treated at all faucets. In the cities we recommend that you drink bottled water which can be ordered at all restaurants. Ask for “agua mineral, sin gas” (non-carbonated) or “con gas” (carbonated). Diet sodas are usually referred to as “light.”
Toilets & Bathing
The luxurious camp on the Futaleufu has flush toilets, offers hot showers (indoor and outdoor) and a hot tub.
There is not electricity in the tent cabins, however there are several areas around camp where you can charge batteries, cameras, phones and other devices.
Chile is on the 220V AC system. If you plan to use a device that requires 110-120V, you may need a power converter. Power sockets are type C, I and L, therefore it is likely your devices will require an adaptor. Find more information at http://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/
Bringing the right camera equipment and film will determine the quality of your photographs. If you are an avid photographer, we recommend bringing a good digital or 35mm SLR camera to be used on land. If you wish to bring your camera in the boat, you’ll need a soft waterproof case, a small Pelican case, or you can bring a disposable waterproof camera to use while on the water. (In the more aggressive stretches of river there will be little to no opportunity to take pictures.)
An independent contractor will shoot video and photos and offer them for sale at the end of the trip.
Electronics & Technology
The use of electronic devices, especially music players and flying drones, on your trip may represent an intrusion into the wilderness experience of your fellow guests. We ask that you please be mindful of the impacts to others and respect the wilderness nature of the trip. Please bring headphones if you intend to listen to music during the trip and leave your drone at home.
Many of our guests travel with their smartphone even though there is no cell service. On a trip like this, there is always the risk of water damage to smartphones and other electronic devices, even when they are stowed in a dry bag. If you intend to take your phone with you on the river, consider investing in a small, waterproof container just for your phone.
Once you are at our camp, there is limited communication with the “outside world.” Internet and cell phone service is not available. Our guides carry radios which reach out to an office with phones in case of an emergency situation on the river. They can call out, but we cannot call them. If you have someone that needs to contact you about an emergency at home, they should call the OARS office (800-346-6277) and we will relay the message to you. Keep in mind it could be several days or longer before the message actually reaches you. For your family at home, you should define for them what you consider an emergency and provide them with instructions to call our office in the event one occurs during your vacation.
The Chilean Peso ($CLP) has common banknotes of $500, $1000, $2000, $5000, $10,000, $20,000 and coins of $1, $5, $10, $50, $100 and $500.
Generally, US$500 (in cash, small notes) will be adequate for any shopping and a gratuity. If you’re planning any side excursions, you’ll want to bring more. Remember, Chile is not inexpensive and most things are similarly priced to the U.S. ATM’s are available at the airports and in towns. Check with your bank regarding fees you may incur. You will be able to exchange money when you arrive in Santiago.
While at camp you will have opportunity to buy handmade goods, souvenirs and massage services. We are unable to accept credit cards at camp. Cash is preferred for these items, either U.S. dollars are Chilean Pesos, but we will also accept personal checks.
Credit cards are widely used and accepted. The most commonly accepted cards are Visa, MasterCard and Diners Club. In medium-sized to large businesses, American Express is also honored. Exchange rates for credit cards are very convenient, but check with your bank regarding foreign transactions fees. Some small, rural towns function solely on a cash-only basis, so have cash handy.
During the summer months in Chile (winter months in the northern hemisphere) the time is 2 hours ahead of the U.S. east coast and 5 hours ahead of the west coast. (UTC/GMT -3 hours)
The Futaleufu is home to Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout and Salmon. Guests are welcome to use the fishing gear at camp, but serious fishermen are encouraged to bring their own gear. Fishing can be done from the shores of camp or by boat if there is time – speak with your guides if interested. If you’re interested in a dedicated, guided day of fishing be sure to let us know in advance. There is an additional cost for arranging a guide and associated gear for a day.
Avid fishermen may want to consider a fishing supplement, or add-on, that will provide a personal fishing guide, boat and shuttles while also allowing us to craft an itinerary around particular needs and level of experience within our already action packed adventure week.
A fishing license can be arranged online at www.pescarecreativa.sernapesca.cl or obtained in Puerto Varas if you have time.
For Women Only
Even if you aren’t anticipating your menstrual period, come prepared for it. You can use sandwich-sized Ziploc baggies during the day to store feminine products while you are on the river or hiking, and you can then discretely dispose of the baggies when you reach camp. When possible, we recommend o.b.® tampons, which are 1/3 the size of regular tampons, tuck discreetly into pockets and have less paper wrapping. If you use pads, be sure to bring extras. Many women suggest bringing a small supply of baby wipes. We provide some feminine products on most trips for emergencies.
The Futaleufu River is in Northern Patagonia and although December through March are mild months, the weather can vary from sunny in the mid to upper eighties, to rainy in the sixties and even upper fifties. The nights are generally in the low fifties but can go into the forties and on occasion upper thirties. You will get wet from running rapids or possibly rain and although the river water is 60 degrees, all participants must wear a wetsuit. (We will supply you with a sleeveless Farmer John wetsuit.) The camps have hot tubs and excellent shelter in case of rain.
|Air (High) °F||Air (Low) °F|
You may want to check one week prior to your trip for an up-to-date weather forecast. We recommend you check the weather for the town of Futaleufu.
River Runners Responsibility Code
1. Read the pre-trip literature and arrive at the meeting place on time.
2. Understand the risks: your safety is ultimately your responsibility.
3. Wear the issued and properly–fitted Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times when in the boats or swimming. Wear a helmet when required.
4. Wear clothing and personal protective equipment suitable for the current conditions.
5. Listen to and follow the guides’ instructions.
6. Abide by the managing agency’s rules.
7. No drugs or alcohol during the day; alcohol is allowed in moderation in camp.
8. Minimize your impact on the environment.
9. Treat your fellow guests and guides with respect and courtesy; harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.
10. Your children are your responsibility!
Essential Eligibility Criteria for River Trips
The following are the physical and mental eligibility criteria for all participants on any OARS river trip.
1. Ability to remain seated and balanced while in a whitewater craft while holding on with at least one hand.
2. Wear a Type V Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device (maximum chest size of 56 inches). Wearing leg straps may be required to ensure proper fit. Where required, properly wear a helmet.
3. Ability to independently board and disembark a boat four to ten times each day. This may require stepping into the boat, and then maneuvering your body over and across tubes and fixed objects into a seated position.
4. Ability to independently navigate shoreline terrain, including safely maneuvering around and across boulders, rocks, and slippery and uneven surfaces, under low branches, and around vegetation. This includes the ability to maintain your balance near precipitous ledges or cliffs.
5. Ability to independently swim in whitewater or swift currents while wearing a PFD. This includes being an active participant in your own rescue, including having the ability to (a) keep your airway passages sealed while underwater, and regain control of your breathing when being submitted to repeated submersion under waves or currents; (b) orient yourself to new “in-river” surroundings; (c) reposition yourself in the water to different swimming positions; (d) swim aggressively to a boat or to shore in whitewater; (e) receive a rescue rope, paddle, or human assistance, and possibly let go of the same; (f) get out from under an overturned boat.
6. Ability to swim 100 yards in flat water while wearing a PFD.
7. Ability to assist another passenger who has fallen out of the boat by pulling them back in.
8. Ability to follow both verbal and non-verbal instructions given by guides in all situations, including during stressful or dangerous situations, and to effectively communicate with guides and other guests.
9. Ability to carry personal dry bags and other personal gear (as heavy as 20-30 pounds) uphill from the boats to your camping location and back the next morning, independently, or with the assistance of a friend or family member. (This only applies on multi-day trips).
10. Ability to manage all personal care independently, or with the assistance of a friend or family member.
11. If taking prescription medications, have the ability to maintain proper dosage by medicating independently, or with the assistance of a friend or family member.
12. Ability to remain adequately fed, hydrated, and properly dressed so as to avoid environmental injuries such as hypothermia, heat related illness, sunburn and frostbite.
The above criteria, if not met, will disqualify a person from participating in a river trip with OARS. The criteria exist for your own safety and that of all trip participants. None of the criteria are meant to discriminate on the basis of any physical or mental disability, and are applied uniformly to all potential trip participants, irrespective of the presence or absence of any disability. OARS is committed to making reasonable modifications to any trip for any persons with a disability, so long as they do not fundamentally alter the nature of the trip.
Further Information About Our Expectations of Trip Participants
The following paragraphs are meant to further inform all potential participants of the expectations for all participants in order to promote a safe, enjoyable experience for everyone on a trip. There may be requirements, whether physical or mental, that are not specifically applied “essential eligibility criteria”, but that help our guests understand the reality of being on a wilderness river trip.
Our primary goal is to minimize the risks associated with adventure trips in a wilderness environment. The trip involves physical exertion and exposure to the elements, including cold water and the potential for heat, sun, wind, rain and snow. We have experience accommodating people with a wide range of physical disabilities and/or health conditions. However, individuals who are overweight, lack conditioning, or have other physical limitations or ailments that interfere with the realistic encounters on a wilderness river can endanger themselves, other guests, and the guides. Please consult your doctor if you have medical or health conditions that could impact your ability to participate in this outdoor adventure.
It is very important that each trip participant take an active role in their own safety. You will likely encounter wilderness conditions that you are unfamiliar with, and those conditions may change rapidly. It is critical to pay attention at all times, to be aware of your surroundings, and to avoid taking unnecessary risks. Even a non-life threatening injury in a wilderness setting can become a major emergency for you, and can endanger the entire group. Swimming alone or hiking alone is discouraged. Excessive alcohol consumption or illicit drug use is not tolerated. Using common sense and following both the explicit instruction and the lead of your guides can go a long way towards keeping yourself and the group safe. Some obvious things to avoid in camp and on shore (by way of example) are: walking around without shoes in camp, approaching wild animals, not paying attention to what is above or around your tent site that could harm you, not paying attention to hazards such as poison ivy and rattlesnakes, and walking near precipitous ledges.
River trips, particularly those involving whitewater, are inherently risky. While the risk of a trip is part of what makes it an exciting adventure, you must be entirely respectful of the risk that such a trip poses. It is important that you are confident in your swimming ability, and your ability to stay calm in the event you become a non-voluntary swimmer. Your odds of becoming a non-voluntary swimmer change with the classification of a rapid, boat selection and environmental factors. On class IV and greater whitewater, the probability that you will become a non-voluntary swimmer is significant. A swim in whitewater is much more difficult and physically draining than swimming in flat water. Swimming in cold water can cause a gasping effect on your respiratory system. This can be overcome by focusing on your breathing and calming yourself down. Swimming in cold water will also much more quickly sap your energy and decrease muscle function than swimming in warmer water. While our guides are highly trained and will do their absolute best to rescue you, a successful rescue is greatly hampered by a swimmer who is unprepared for a swim in whitewater, who fails to actively participate in their own rescue, and who is not able to follow directions while under stress. You will receive a detailed orientation talk at the start of your river trip, but you can get a better idea of what to expect by watching a version of an orientation talk here: http://www.oars.com/videos/oars-whitewater-orientation.
Due to the physical nature of this trip, we highly recommend that you engage in regular exercise for at least three months prior to departure to ensure preparedness. No gym membership required! Simple exercises like push-ups, sit-ups and squats go a long way to improving core fitness. Start with these exercises and do three sets of ten repetitions each, three to four times per week. Aerobic training is also easy to accomplish without expensive equipment. Take 30 – 40 minutes two to three times a week and go for a brisk walk, easy jog or bike ride around town. If you have access to a pool, lake or the ocean, swimming is obviously an ideal choice for aerobic exercise. It provides a full-body workout and is training that is useful in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid. It is important to push yourself in the months leading up to your trip by increasing your strength training repetitions and the pace of your aerobic training. Check with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise program to be sure you are medically safe to participate. Starting an exercise program that is more strenuous than you are ready for may result in injury or risk exacerbating existing health conditions. Getting in shape will certainly add to your enjoyment of the trip.
Packing for Your Trip
The information below is subject to when your trip takes place. The need for warm weather or cold weather items should be based on a reliable weather forecast leading up to your trip.
During the day (on the river) – A wetsuit and paddle jacket (splash top) are provided. You’ll want a swimsuit for under the wetsuit and synthetic or merino wool layers under the paddle jacket. Additional layers (tops & bottoms) can be added and subtracted depending on the weather, temperature and how wet you’re getting in the rapids. Warm socks (neoprene or wool) are important to wear inside the footwear you bring for the river. Consider neoprene gloves and a tight-fitting beanie (skull cap) for under your helmet if you’re prone to being cold.
Rain gear is one of the essential items that all passengers should have no matter what time of year you are traveling. Look for jacket and pants that are 100% waterproof, or high quality water resistant. A hooded jacket is recommended as well as good secure closures around your head, neck, wrists and ankles.
Rain gear may be used in camp and on excursions. Ponchos are ok, but tend to be clumsy and not adequate. It is important to have high quality rain pants so the water does not run down your rain jacket and soak your pants.
In camp—After a long day of activities, you will want to refresh and change into clean, comfortable clothing. Soft, loose-fitting shorts or pants, t-shirts, etc. will allow you to truly relax in the evening. You will want to have something dry and warm such as long sleeved shirts, pants, and fleece or down.
During the day—Make sure you have shoes for the river with a substantial sole and adequate foot protection. They should stick well to wet rocks and should not come off in a strong current. You will want neoprene, wool or synthetic socks. River sandals are fine around camp but are not suitable river shoes because they do not protect your feet and may be difficult to swim in should you unexpectedly find yourself in the water. An old pair of sneakers, depending on their condition, may work well. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco®, the official footwear sponsor of OARS guides.
In camp—We recommend wearing shoes in camp due to risk of kicking a rock buried in the sand or stepping on a sharp stick. The athletic shoes or light hikers you bring for hiking can double as your camp shoes. It’s nice to put on dry socks and shoes after a day on the water. Flip flops or similar are OK for wearing in camp, too.
Please note: If you buy new shoes or sandals for the trip, make sure you break them in first!
During the day—Ball caps are nice since they fit under helmets, which are required attire when on the river. Wide-brimmed hats are nice while hiking, but you’ll have limited opportunity to wear one. A tight-fitting beanie (skull cap) can be worn under your helmet.
In camp—When the weather is cool or cold, you’ll want a beanie-style hat to wear in camp. They are the perfect remedy for bed-head as you rise from your bed to secure your morning cup of coffee or tea, or for retaining warmth in the evening hours after the sun sets.
To Avoid Being Cold
Synthetic or merino wool long underwear is a must-have on river trips. It can be worn under shorts, rain gear, T-shirts, etc., then stripped off when the chill of the morning has worn off. It keeps you warm even if it’s wet (which can happen easily), dries quickly and it’s compact enough to be stuffed into your small waterproof bag or daypack after you take it off. It can be layered under your rain jacket and pants. Be aware that cotton items do not insulate when wet; only synthetic and wool materials will keep you warm when wet.
Something warm for your top & bottom: Although the weather will probably be pleasant, you need to be prepared for inclement weather. Bring a good insulated or fleece top and bottom, along with a warm hat and gloves.
Protecting yourself from the sun should be taken very seriously. A hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are a must. In many cases, a long-sleeve shirt is the best method for preventing sunburn on your upper body. Light-weight long pants may also be appropriate to protect your legs. At the end of each day, you will want to have some good moisturizing lotion to replenish your skin from the drying effects of the sun and water.
A good headlamp is a valuable tool because it leaves your hands free. It is especially helpful for evening visits to the hot tub or toilet. There are excellent moderately priced models available.
Bugs & Mosquitoes
Bugs and mosquitoes vary depending on location and time of year. It’s a good idea to come prepared with insect repellent. Long sleeved shirts and pants may be desirable at times.
Equipment and Personal Items:
☐ 1-liter water bottle: durable and reusable
☐ Locking carabiner (for clipping a water bottle or personal dry bag into a raft or inflatable kayak)
☐ Headlamp (or flashlight) with batteries
☐ Sunglasses with securing strap
☐ Sunscreen and lip protection: waterproof & SPF 30 or higher
☐ Moisturizing lotion or cream
☐ Personal first aid kit (Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen, moleskin, eye drops, etc.)
☐ Small daypack or hydration pack
☐ Insect repellent
☐ Spare pair of glasses and/or contacts (water and sand can cause problems for contact wearers)
☐ Cash for gratuities and souvenirs
☐ River shoes (such as those made by Chaco®)
“Aqua socks” strongly discouraged, old sneakers work well
☐ Lightweight hiking, running shoes
☐ Flip flops or similar for camp (or you can use the shoes listed above)
☐ Socks for hiking
☐ Neoprene or wool socks for the river (at least 2 pair)
☐ Swimwear; a two-piece is recommended for women for changing and using the restroom. Tankinis and board shorts are a great option.
☐ Synthetic (polypro or Capilene) or merino wool tops: 3 of varying weights
☐ Long-sleeved shirt (quick drying and light colored to reflect sun)
☐ Synthetic long underwear bottoms: 1-2 light to mid-weight
☐ Medium to heavy-weight insulated or fleece jacket
☐ T-shirts and/or lightweight quick-dry tops: 2-3
☐ Undergarments: quick-drying
☐ Pants for camp and horseback riding (jeans or similar are preferred for horseback riding)
☐ Rain jacket & pants: waterproof (not water resistant)
☐ Socks for hiking and in camp: 2-3 pairs
☐ Synthetic pants (fleece, pile, etc.) to be worn around camp
☐ Warm hat & gloves
☐ Paddle Jacket: we will supply you with one, but you may prefer your own
☐ Wetsuit: we will supply you with one, but you may prefer your own
☐ Neoprene paddling gloves (for warmth and sun protection)
☐ Baseball cap or visor to fit under a helmet
☐ Sarong: useful for sun protection, evaporative cooling, changing clothes, etc.
☐ Small bags: stuff sacs, zip locks or similar for organizing items in your luggage
☐ Camera and accessories
☐ Binoculars: small
☐ Pocket-size Spanish-English dictionary
☐ Reading and writing materials
Find all the gear you need for your trip online in the OARStore and receive FREE SHIPPING in the U.S. + 15% of your purchase helps provide under-resourced youth with outdoor adventure experiences.
Packing Your Gear
We recommend traveling as light as possible without compromising your preparation for inclement weather and cool temperatures. Excess baggage can be a burden to you and to support personnel. On your international flight you may be allowed two pieces of luggage, but please check your airline for current guidelines—it changes from carrier to carrier.
From Puerto Montt to Chaiten and return, we will be taking a small air taxi and there is a baggage weight limit of 35 pounds (about 16 kg) per person, including any carry-on item. Exceeding the baggage weight limit will require that you pay extra fees or leave items behind in Puerto Montt. We recommend traveling with a duffel bag, as some types of luggage are heavy and will add to the overall weight of your belongings.
Each season about two percent of travelers arrive without their belongings. By the time the baggage is located and returned by the airlines, the trip is nearly over. We suggest you pack all necessary river gear—fleece, rain gear, river shoes, etc.—into a carry-on bag. Pack everything else in your travel luggage. If you become separated from your checked luggage, you will have the essential items for your river trip.
We recommend that you leave valuables at home. Once you reach the river we can collect necessary items such as a wallet, passport and credit cards and safely store them until the end of your stay.
Tipping is optional, but appreciated by our staff. If you are wondering how much to tip, you may consider that we operate in a service industry with a host of behind-the-scenes contributors in addition to the guides on your trip. In general, we suggest a gratuity based on 10 – 15% of the trip cost. It is customary on OARS trips for gratuities to be given to the Trip Leader, who will then distribute appropriately amongst all the guides and support staff. You’ll want to plan ahead and have cash – either US Dollars or Chilean Pesos.
In reviewing your statement, you’ll note a $1 per person per day donation to Futaleufu Riverkeeper, a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to ensure the free flow of the Futaleufu River and to protect the natural resources of its watershed. These funds allow Futaleufu Riverkeeper to continue to serve the community and the environment through capacity-building seminars, educational activities and monitoring programs. One-hundred percent of these funds go directly to Futaleufu Riverkeeper and your contribution is tax-deductible. This donation is voluntary and may be removed from your invoice if you choose not to participate. Please notify our office if you would prefer to remove the donation from your balance.
If you enjoyed your trip, consider donating to The Pam & George Wendt Foundation. This organization is a not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization with the express goal of providing opportunities for young people to experience the magic of the outdoors. Visit https://www.oars.com/oars-foundation/ to learn more about how a tax-deductible donation can change young lives for the better.
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Terms & Conditions
Reservations & Deposit
An $800/person deposit is required at the time of reservation. The balance is due 90 days prior to departure.
Cancellations and Refunds
If you find it necessary to cancel your trip, please notify us as soon as possible. The cancellation fee after you’ve made your deposit can range up to the entire trip cost, based upon the number of days prior to your trip that we receive your cancellation notice. We regret we cannot make exceptions for personal emergencies. For this reason, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan (see Travel Protection).
|DATE OF CANCELLATION||CANCELLATION FEE|
|120 or more days prior to your trip||$400/person (50% of deposit)|
|120 to 91 days prior to your trip||$800/person (deposit)|
|90 days or less prior to your trip||100% of the trip price/person|
Requests to transfer a date will be treated as a cancellation, per the terms above.
OARS International and the outfitter Bio Bio Expeditions reserve the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient sign-ups (this trip requires a minimum of 6 guests). In such a case, you will be given a full refund of the tour cost, but OARS International and Bio Bio Expeditions are not responsible for additional expenses incurred in preparation for the trip.
Under most circumstances, if you are of an adventurous spirit and in reasonably good health, you should have no problem enjoying this People with medical conditions, including pregnancy, should have a physician’s approval before taking an adventure travel trip.
We offer the OARS Travel Protection Plan to help protect you, your travel investment and your belongings before and during your trip. Travel Protection can reimburse you for non-refundable payments if you should have to cancel your trip for a covered reason such as your illness or the illness of an immediate family member. For complete details go online to: https://www.oars.com/tpp
Please note, we require all participants have a minimum of emergency medical evacuation coverage to participate. This coverage can be purchased as a stand-alone policy, or is typically included in a travel protection plan. If you don’t have proof of coverage at the start of the trip, you cannot take part in the expedition. For a basic policy that includes coverage for emergency medical and evacuation situations, visit www.oars.com/tmp
Everyone is required to sign a standard liability release before the trip, acknowledging awareness that some risks are associated with the trip. Due to the nature of the activities, a condition of your participation is that you will sign this form and return it to our office before the trip begins. Anyone who refuses to sign the form will not be allowed to participate, and consistent with OARS. International cancellation policy, there will be no refund of the trip fees at that time.
Responsibility – An Important Notice
O.A.R.S. International, Inc., Bio Bio Expeditions and cooperating agencies act only in the capacity of agent for the participants in all matters relating to transportation and/or all other related travel services, and assume no responsibility however caused for injury, loss or damage to person or property in connection with any service, including but not limited to that resulting directly or indirectly from acts of God, detention, annoyance, delays and expenses arising from quarantine, strikes, theft, pilferage, force majeure, failure of any means of conveyance to arrive or depart as scheduled, civil disturbances, government restrictions or regulations, and discrepancies or change in transit over which it has no control. Reasonable changes in itinerary may be made where deemed advisable for the comfort and well-being of the participants, including cancellation due to water fluctuation, insufficient bookings and other factors. There is risk in whitewater rafting, particularly during high-water conditions. Rafts, dories and kayaks do capsize. You could be swept overboard. Your guide will make every attempt to assist, but you must be strong and agile enough to “self-help” and “float-it-out” without further endangering yourself or others. We reserve the right not to accept passengers weighing more than 260 pounds or with a waist/chest size exceeding 56 inches. We may decide, at any time, to exclude any person or group for any reason we feel is related to the safety of our trips. We are experienced at accommodating people with various disabilities. Please give us an opportunity to make you feel welcome. We need to discuss any special requirements ahead of time.
OARS trips occur in areas where unpredictable environmental conditions are to be expected. To moderate dangerous situations for our guests and guides, it is important that all travelers obey the rules and regulations as determined by the managing agencies and the Trip Leader and demonstrate reasonable consideration for other guests and OARS employees. We reserve the right to remove any guest from a trip if, in our opinion, that guest’s actions or behaviors pose a threat to the safety of her/himself or others, or if those actions or behaviors compromise the enjoyment of the trip for others. Should a guest be asked to leave a trip, there will be no refund for the unused portion, nor will OARS be responsible for additional expenses incurred by the guest for accommodations, return transport, change fees, etc. On advancement of deposit the depositor agrees to be bound by the above recited terms and conditions. Prices subject to change without notice.
Bio Bio Expeditions:
Bio Bio Expeditions, a travel partner of OARS. International, is the operator of this trip. Upon arrival, Bio Bio Expeditions staff will meet you and escort you throughout the program. These American and Chilean staff members are the very best and will strive to ensure your complete satisfaction.