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Every Hero Needs a Guide

rappel maui guide in the wildYou’re The Rappel Maui Hero. They’re the Rappel Maui Guides. Together You Can Do This Thing!

If you aren’t familiar with rappelling, that’s no problem. Most visitors to Maui or Rappel Maui guests are not acquainted with rappelling, climbing or canyoneering.  No worries; beginners welcome! Rappelling  is an adventure for active couples, families, solo travelers and colleagues  who relish the opportunity to explore places that are off the beaten path. It’s also a safe activity, thanks to your guides and other safety measures that go into the activity.

Who Are Your Guides?

They are outdoor lovers with a heart for sharing their home and showing hospitality to visitors. They are also highly trained in the mechanics and best practices of rappelling, along with first aid, outdoor rescue and swift water disciplines.

What Do Rappelling Guides Do?

First, they will spend some time during and/or after the drive explaining some basic rappelling and safety concepts to you. They’ll show you some of the gear that’s used, and how it works. They’ll explain and demonstrate the visual and audio signals used during descents, and why those signals are important. Ask questions, not just about the activity, but also about the island and Hawaii. You’ll learn some cool things about Hawaiian history and nature and you’ll see some beautiful sights along the Hana Highway. Once you’re at the activity site, your guides will help fit you in appropriate safety gear such as helmets, harness, flotation jacket and footwear.  Finally, one guide will demonstrate the rappelling technique before heading to the bottom of the descent to belay you. You will take that first step yourself with the help of the guide that stays at the top.  You got this!

The most important thing that guides do is maintain a full set of safety standards. Safety is the top priority, so listening to their instructions and then following them is the best way to make sure that you have a great day in the rain forest.

What Makes This Activity Safer Than a Day at the Beach?

The things that make any outdoor activity unsafe are a combination of environment and behavior. We’ve outlined what makes rappelling a safe, enjoyable activity at this blog post. Spoiler: it has to do with equipment, location and respecting nature.

What People Say About Their Guides

“Great day with Elena and Anna! Made my wife who is terrified of heights comfortable with the process and she completed all 3 lines! Thank you both! Great adventure on Maui!!!” Tim

“Yes! Do it. Our guides Emily and Janoah were fantastic. Cheering us on all the way down and giggling at us ALL the way back UP to the tool shed. Our experience with Rappel Maui couldn’t have been better, Mahalo” The Colliers 2019

“Taylor and Jamie, I wanted to let you know you two made this experience so amazing for me. I cannot thank you enough. I will not forget our time together even the trip back was memorable Thanks for the Great Times and Memories” Victoria

“Travis and Chris were hilarious, knowledgeable and so professional. We never felt unsafe and had a blast. It was an experience I will never forget.”

“Mike and Naomi were great guides and we could not have had more fun. They prepared us for everything and boosted our confidence. Grandparents, kids and grandkids all had a great experience.” June

“The leaders were the best ever. Safety, fun and overall made my trip the most adventurous and enjoyable.”

“This was our favorite excursion of the whole trip! We had a great time, despite the rain. We were not able to rappel directly down the waterfall, because they were concerned with flash flooding. The guides were very knowledgeable and seemed to enjoy their jobs. This is a tour I highly recommend and would definitely do it again if we are in Maui!”

“The guides were knowledgeable and professional, and they did everything they could to make sure we had the best experience ever, rain or shine! Definitely a must, but be ready for a real challenge!”

“Rappel Maui did not disappoint. Their employees were terrific. Our guides were thorough and made us feel very safe throughout the experience.”

How to Prepare for a Safe Day of Rappelling on Maui

While a Rappel Maui tour is a thrilling but safe activity, there are some natural hazards that exist out in the rainforest. The good news is, with just a little thought and planning, these common risks can be easily minimized and mitigated.

prepared-not-scaredInsects:  While there are mosquitoes in the rainforest, there is no malaria or dengue fever.  If you are particularly sensitive to bites, we recommend wearing pants and a long-sleeved rash guard.  We don’t recommend bug spray, since DEET can damage rappelling gear, and put chemicals into the rainforest streams.

What’s in the Water:  Sometimes longer expeditions take a turn for the worse when canyoneers fail to properly filter or purify their water from natural sources.  Avoiding waterborne illness is easy–don’t drink the water from the streams or falls.  Since there’s plenty of bottled water on your Rappel Maui tour, there’s no reason to do so.

Temperature: Getting too cold or too hot is a common show-stopper for canyoneers from Maine to Hawaii. If you know that you are prone to hypothermia or hyperthermia, plan and act accordingly. Don’t stay in the water if you find it very cold, and bring a rashguard or even a wetsuit top or wetsuit if you know you get too cold too quickly in chilly water.  Drink plenty of water and cool off in the pools if you’re feeling too warm.  Eat a good breakfast and hydrate yourself before your tour. Bring towels and a dry change of clothing with you so that you can return in comfort after a day in the water and/or rain.

Rockfall: Rocks can and do move about in the water, especially when water levels rise rapidly.  They can also be loosened on dry land by a number of factors, including climate.  In this case, we don’t recommend “using your head.”  Helmets save lives, and that’s why everyone wears a helmet, every day we go out, for the duration of the tour. No exceptions.  Listen to your guides always, who will be watching for loose debris.  Lean into the slope and look down (not up) if you hear someone yell, “Rock!”

Swiftwater and Flash Floods: When water levels are high, or there is a threat of flash flooding, we stay out of the streams and waterfalls.  We do dry rappels next to or overlooking the roaring falls on these days, the sights and sounds of which are unforgettable.

The Road to Hana: While we don’t drive you all the way to Hana from the pickup location, we do take the infamous Road to Hana about halfway there. It’s about an hour from the pickup location in Central Maui to the rappelling site, and so if you are prone to car sickness, please do let us know in advance.  There are a few measures we can take to make sure that you’re comfortable at the beginning and end of your epic tour.

There are other hazards associated with canyoneering in general, but there are some that simply won’t apply to you on a Rappel Maui tour.

Hunters and Land Owners:  Since we rappel with permission in a privately-owned valley, we don’t have to worry about angry farmers, ranchers, or Dick Cheney.

Wildlife:  The birds mind their own business, and the freshwater fish are so tiny, you need a little net to catch them. There are chickens and ducks nearby that belong to the arboretum, but they’re more like pets.  There are no snakes, bears, wolves or coyotes. Further, Hawaii is a rabies-free state.

Do you want to talk about your own personal preparation plan? We have our listening ears on from 7 AM-7 PM every day. Call 808.270.1500 or let your fingers do the typing at our Contact page

How Safe is Rappelling a Waterfall?

keep_calm_rappel_square_sticker_3_x_3Sometimes during the same phone call with the person who asks, “How scary is rappelling?” we’re asked, “Is rappelling down a waterfall safe?”
The short answer is, “When you rappel with us, yes!”  The fact is that rappelling is safer than a regular hike down a hiking trail, and as you can read below, safer than the beach.  The 2 guides per 8 guests personalized attention and supervision, safety equipment, and nature of the activity all make a rainforest rappelling tour one of the safest activities on Maui.  Here are some other reasons why a rappelling tour is safe:

Natural vs. Man-Made Hazards

As with any outdoor sport, there are some common hazards and risks associated with canyoneering and rappelling. There are natural hazards, which are limited in number, and include things like rockfall, weather and swift-water current.  All of these dangers can be sensed, monitored or noticed in some way.

And then there are man-made or self-inflicted hazards that are brought on by some failure on the canyoneer’s part. These are much more subtle and numerous, and can include things like inadequate information about the environment, substandard gear, lack of expertise, and many, many other lapses in judgment and behavior.

Rappelling and canyoneering become dangerous when natural hazards, which are always potentially present, meet up with self-inflicted hazards.  In other words, a rappelling team can be its own worst enemies or its own best friends in any adventure.

Your New Best Friends: You, Your Gear and Your Guide Team

When we take new or old friends rappelling, our first safety advantage is the environment. Since we rappel in the same location every day, there are no new routes or anchors to assess, and therefore, there are few surprises.

We already knowCaptain & Clark May, 2014 what the path is like because it’s explored and maintained daily.  When routes change due to weather or water, we close the route until either we can change it, or it has returned to its previous, normal state.

We also know that you don’t go rappelling every day. That’s why there are two guides assigned to each person who’s rappelling: One at the top to get you started, and one at the bottom who’s there as your backup on the brakes, should you fail to brake properly with your rope.  It’s uncommon, but in the even of a mid-descent freak-out or freeze-up, the top guide can pull you or help you back up to the top.

If you’re not the greatest swimmer, make sure you communicate that to your guides. We’ll provide you with a personal floatation device, and we can also provide you with a dry keg in your backpack, which adds additional buoyancy. The guide at the bottom of the falls can make sure that you make it across the pond in good shape.  It’s only a few minutes worth of dog-paddling to the other side.

We know what kind of gear is necessary, and we use and carefully maintain the best gear every time, for everyone.  Whether it’s because of falling rock or stumbling while hiking any surface, we all wear helmets. Helmets save lives.

Your guide team is well-trained and practiced in communicating with each other both verbally and non-verbally using some of the same methods rescue personnel and military units have used for year, decades, centuries.

Many of the hazards canyoneers face in other environments simply aren’t present when we guide our rappelling tours. Again, the rainforest canyon we rappel is visited and monitored every day.

Because the valley we’re visiting is privately owned, we don’t have to worry about trespassing and angering a farmer or rancher.  We already have permission to do our thing.

Rattlesnakes are the bane of many a mountain climber and canyoneer. Luckily, we don’t have snakes in Hawaii, nor are there rabies, malaria or dengue fever.

We conduct tours rain or shine–there will be rain in the rainforest.  But lightning is extremely rare on Maui, and when the rain causes the waterfalls to practically erupt, we rappel existing routes that are near them or overlooking them, so that we can enjoy the excitement of the roaring falls without endangering anyone’s safety. When the water is swift or high, we don’t rappel in it and we don’t swim.

To learn more about some common environmental hazards, how we mitigate them, and how you can prepare for them, check out the post How to Prepare for a Day of Safe Rappelling on Maui.

How the Risks of Rappelling Compare to a Very Common Maui Activity

dangeroussurfWho visits Maui without going in the ocean? That would be crazy, right? Yet there are many more unexpected hazards in the ocean environment, and an overall lack of guidance for those who haven’t spent their lives in the surf. Remember,  you can’t get stung by a jellyfish or bitten by a shark on a rappelling trip.  You won’t get overrun by a surfboard, you won’t step on a spiny sear urchin (the dreaded “wana”), and you won’t get raked over coral by a wave you didn’t see coming.  You’re even less likely to get sunburned in the rainforest environment.  Yet not many people ask, “Is it safe to go in the ocean?”

On a very serious note, Hawaii emergency services and hospitals are plagued with a regular influx of people who have broken or damaged their vertebrae while body surfing, boogie boarding, or just standing in the waves.  Hawaii lifeguards are some of the best in the world, but the ocean is big and the surf is serious, unpredictable business. There are far more swimmers, surfers and kayakers than lifeguards, and unlike a rappelling tour, there is simply no way for them to help each person manage the natural hazards that exist, or the lack of knowledge about the power of the surf.

Safety is our first priority. We don’t do surprises.  When the water is too high or swift, we don’t go in it.  Our equipment, gear and anchor systems are checked and re-checked daily.  Our guides come to the job with years of experience, and receive ongoing training and education from renowned instructors.

Finally, it’s up to you to be your own best advocate, not just for your safety, but for your own enjoyment. Ask questions; be communicative. If you don’t understand or aren’t satisfied with an answer, it’s OK. We’re in no hurry.  Rappel Maui tour sizes are small so that each person can receive very specialized, personal attention from start to finish.  Listening to your guides and focusing on their instructions keeps everyone safe. And, if you decide that it’s not for you, you’re never obligated or forced to rappel once you’re at the edge. If that’s the case, you can continue on the tour as a hiker without having to leave the tour altogether.

But be forewarned:  Focusing on the experience and taking a rappel down a rainforest waterfall on Maui can induce intense feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction, with the possibility of wanting to do it again.

Are you still curious about safety and the other details of a Rappel Maui tour? That’s great! We encourage your questions, since it gives you a chance to prepare for the experience, and therefore get the most from it.  You can read more here at the blog about tour details, or, call us at 808.270.1500 7 AM-7 PM, 7 days a week.