Destinations

Aroha Awarau is awed by nature in Nevada

American explorer John Wesley Powell chose the perfect adjective when naming one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. The Grand Canyon, carved by the Colorado River, is certainly grand; it’s also quite majestic and breathtakingly stunning.

A great thing about the Grand Canyon is that it’s close to the razzle-dazzle of Las Vegas, so you have the chance to experience very contrasting environments.

Although many tour operators in Las Vegas offer a Grand Canyon experience, I chose Papillion Grand Canyon Helicopters, who do a fantastic day package encompassing all you will ever need to see and do at the canyon.

A shuttle bus collected my friend and me from our Las Vegas hotel just after breakfast and drove us to nearby Boulder City, 30 minutes away, where we caught a plane for the short flight to the canyon. From the air we were spoiled with incredible views of the Nevada desert and the Hoover Dam, and I took lots and lots of photos.

I’m not much of an outdoorsy person and I wondered if I really wanted to see the Grand Canyon, but as soon as I caught my first glimpse, I was awestruck. oillions of years of geological activity have created a beautifully rugged landscape.

I couldn’t wait to get down from the air and explore in more detail.

After our plane landed, we boardeda helicopter, which gave us more fabulous views of the orange- and rust-coloured canyon walls. It was amazing. The chopper flew 1200m to the bottom of the canyon where, in the depths of nature, we boarded a boat and sailed down the Colorado River, surrounded by stunning scenery. With the scorching heat, it sometimes felt like we were cooking and I resisted the urge to leap into the water.

After our river excursion was over, we got on the helicopter again and flew back to the top, where our final stop was a tour of a Native American village. Here we were treated to a fascinating exhibition of Native American arts and a light lunch.

The next day, we left the Las Vegas Strip once again to check out more of Nevada’s outdoor wonders. First was the Hoover Dam, a gigantic concrete structure in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, made famous in movies like Transformers and Superman III.

Half-an-hour’s drive from Las Vegas, we assembled in the middle of the desert at the Hacienda Hotel, waiting to be driven to the bottom of the dam for a tour and raft excursion on the Colorado River.

The tour was as much of a photographer’s dream as the Grand Canyon had been the previous day, and I marvelled at the wonders of nature as well as man-made engineering. When the two combine as they have in this locale, the result is absolutely awe-inspiring.

Instead of driving straight back to Las Vegas, we stayed in the desert for some peace and quiet. After spending five eventful and party-fuelled nights on the Strip, it was nice to turn down the tempo, and relax in this magnificent setting away from the craziness. At Loews Lake Las Vegas Hotel, located just off the majestic Lake oead, we sat back and relaxed. Two pool areas include a slide for the kids, and a pool with a white sand beach.

From our hotel room, we could see impressively proportioned mansions across the lake, including the home of Canadian singing superstar Celine Dion.

A highlight was the hotel’s oarssa Restaurant, which had the best Japanese food I’ve ever tasted. oarssa’s sushi chef comes from a prestigious line of Japanese chefs – his father was the chef to the Emperor of Japan.

To say the sushi was delicious is an understatement. It’s an out-of-body experience, and after returning home, I’ve tried – unsuccessfully – to find sushi just as good here.

When people think of Las Vegas, they think of casinos, but the area also has a raft of outdoor activities for the whole family.

You certainly get the best of both worlds.

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